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Disservice to Nehru

Published : Jun 15, 2012 00:00 IST

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The volume leaves out some major happenings in Indian history.

THE trustees for the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund have done grave injustice to the memory of that great man, Jawaharlal Nehru. Ever since the first editor of this series of volumes, Sarvepalli Gopal, passed away, they have appointed and changed its editors arbitrarily and fancifully.

Two retired public servants, well past their prime and in rather poor health, were made editors. Prof. Mushirul Hasan, a successor, did a good job. The volumes came out with impressive rapidity. The task was taken away from him for no apparent reason and assigned to Prof. Mridula Mukherjee. There was a steep decline in the frequency of publication. It is no excuse that she was Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library. Prof. Mushirul Hasan also was Vice-Chancellor of the Jamia Millia. In any case, any one who accepts a task is expected to be aware of the claims of the work in hand. That said, in both cases the volumes called for no complaint in the selection of documents.

Prof. Madhavan K. Palat is a well-regarded area specialist on Russia. The volume reveals his limitations as editor. Anyone familiar with the events of that important period will notice that some major happenings are not reflected here. For instance, every single volume in this series had a section, large or small, on Kashmir.

Prof. Palat is wrong in imagining, as he apparently does, that the issue will disappear by ignoring it altogether. That was a phase when Sheikh Abdullah's prosecution preoccupied Nehru. But the Sheikh figures not even in the index.

And, the index is eccentrically drawn up. There is no entry for the Nizam. Turn to Hyderabad and you find Hyderabad, Nizam of, see Ali, Mir Osman under which entry you discover the eccentric ruler, his name duly abridged by the omission of the suffix Khan. The dust jacket makes a bid for sensationalism and originality by listing some eight vignettes from this volume. This is wholly out of place in such works.

Despite that, there is of course much for the student of history to draw upon, including the early warnings of China's maps.

Every scholar knows that secondary sources are cited only in the absence of primary ones. It is flattering to find this reviewer's book India-China Boundary Problem 1846-1947 cited on when the McMahon Line was drawn. But it is just not right. Palat should have cited official records.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Jun 15, 2012.)

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