Facets of Nehru

Print edition : November 06, 2009

EVEN a cursory glance at the contents pages of this volume prompts one to ask which other Prime Minister in India or abroad had the same range of interests as Jawaharlal Nehru. It covers topics from the economy, food and agriculture and the cooperative movement to education and culture, including in its sweep burning issues concerning Indias domestic and foreign policies. This volume, edited by Professor Mridula Mukherjee, Director of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, makes a welcome appearance.

One is struck by the contemporary relevance of very many of Nehrus comments on encounter deaths, for instance. In an earlier volume he had, in a letter to Home Minister G.B. Pant on May 2, 1956 (Volume 33, page 261), wobbled a bit. He now came down unequivocally on encounters in a letter to Maulana Azad dated November 10, 1957. It concerned D.S. Grewal, Superintendent of Police of Karnal.

The charge against Grewal is of shooting some people in cold blood. Whether those people were criminals or not does not affect this charge. The Punjab Police in the past has been guilty on some occasions of thus shooting offenders in cold blood and we have taken strong exception to this Grewals defence is that this was done in an encounter, but from such evidence as we have, there was no such encounter and in fact the shooting was decided upon previously.

Nehru was for a liberal visa policy; for wide discretion to editors; and for an open archives policy. He wrote to his Principal Private Secretary, K. Ram, on November 30, 1957:

I think you have been dealing with this matter. The Home Ministry had decided not to permit these people to see some of our old archives. I did not quite understand this or agree with it. I could understand some special papers not being shown, but for all our old papers to be kept away from some people who were suspected of communist tendencies seemed to me absurd.

The records of the Simla Conference (1914) were denied to Pandit H.N. Kunzru and remain closed in the National Archives to this day. Indian scholars such as Parshottam Mehra had to go to London to study the negotiations on the McMahon Line.

Jawaharlal Nehru was for a liberal visa policy; for wide discretion to editors; and for an open archives policy.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Barred from forming political parties, Sheikh Abdullah and his friends began to discuss revolt against Maharaja Hari Singhs despotic rule from a Reading Room in Srinagar. It became known as the Reading Room Party.

In a city like Mumbai, in former years the Municipal Corporation ran Reading Rooms in which newspapers were made available. They faded away. As president of the Sahitya Akademi, Nehru said on November 6, 1957, the minutes record, that while he was glad to note that a free reading room had been opened by the Sahitya Akademi, he would like that the time during which the reading room remained open to the public should be longer and that it should also remain open on Sunday mornings. There is an adolescent protest by V.K. Krishna Menon at Nehrus mild reproach for his boorish behaviour in the United Nations Security Council. Bakshi Gulam Mohammed, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, kept feeding the Prime Minister garbled reports about the imprisoned leader, Sheikh Abdullah.

On December 30, 1956, he wrote to Nehru. Sheikh Abdullah, who was under house arrest since August 1953, was planning to bring out a pamphlet containing his correspondence with the national leaders. According to Bakshi, in an introduction to the pamphlet, whose publication was to coincide with Sheikhs Abdullahs impending release, the latter had stated that, threatened by the tribal invasion, the people of Kashmir had provisionally acceded to India. Gradually a large section of the people became convinced that they were not getting their due representation in various fields, and the Muslims felt that the State was being treated as a conquered territory. Sheikh Abdullah brought these facts to the notice of Nehru and [Abul Kalam] Azad in 1952 but to no avail.

When he discovered that a majority of the members of the National Conference had been bribed in India and the States Constituent Assembly had lost its representative character, the only solution that appeared to him was a fair and impartial plebiscite. As he made a final attempt to secure the rights of the people of Kashmir by a common agreement among all the four parties to the dispute India, Pakistan, Kashmir and the U.N., a conspiracy was launched against him and he was removed from office and arrested. Sheikh Abdullah also said that India was holding Kashmir by force and in order to give a semblance of democracy to this occupation, the State constitution was finalised and farcical election were held.

Bakshi added that after his release, Sheikh Abdullah was likely to lay stress on the following: holding of a plebiscite enquiry into the events of August 1953; suspension of the Constitution; imposition of the Presidents rule; and holding of election under U.N. auspices.

Bakshi further said that Sheikh Abdullah might try and capture the main mosques in Srinagar to keep a permanent platform alive, and also forcibly take possession of Mujahid Manzil, the National Conference headquarters. Bakshi stated that all the above factors had to be reckoned with and all the moves forestalled. Sheikh Abdullah was released on January 8, 1958. He was rearrested during the night of April 29-30, 1958. Is it any surprise that we are in such a mess in Kashmir today?

Nehrus Note on Tibet to the Foreign Secretary, from Darjeeling on December 26, 1957, belies Chinas charge that Nehru wanted to detach Tibet from China. He pulled up Appa Pant, Political Officer in Sikkim and Bhutan, for his report on Tibet, which he found utterly biased against China.

The series is a boon to students of the times and reveals the man who strode through them like a colossus.

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