Jingoism—from Jana Sangh to BJP

Print edition : April 18, 2014

Deen Dayal Upadyaya, Jana Sangh leader. In early 1962, he was confident that the Indian forces would drive the Chinese out. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

BRIGADIER JOHN DALVI truthfully wrote: “1962 was a National Failure of which every Indian is guilty. It was a failure in the Higher Direction of War, a failure of the Opposition; a failure of the General Staff (myself included); it was a failure of Responsible Public Opinion and the Press. For the Government of India, it was a Himalayan Blunder at all levels.” ( Himalayan Blunder; 1969; page xv). It is “a personal narrative” of 7 Infantry Brigade. Dalvi was captured as prisoner of war.

In 1958, Acharya J.B. Kripalani declaimed in the Lok Sabha: “We had believed that in a non-violent India, the last thing the government would contemplate would be an increase in the military budget, but I am sorry to say, and I think it would disturb the soul of the father of the nation [Gandhi], that in recent years there has been an increase of about [Rs.1,000 million] more than in the previous year, and then in the supplementary demands there was an increase of [Rs.140 million]…. May I ask why we are increasing our military establishment?” (Maxwell, page 190, the Penguin edition, 1972).

Yet, his Praja Socialist Party (PSP), the Swatantra Party, the Lohia Socialists, all consistently pressed for military actions against China to expel the “aggressor” from “our territory”. Leading the pack was none other than the Jana Sangh’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The BJP is the Jana Sangh itself, dissolved in 1977 and revived in 1980 under a false label.

On September 12, 1959, Vajpayee tabled a motion in the Lok Sabha demanding that “(a) More effective steps should be taken to meet Chinese inroads into Indian territory than hitherto adopted and to this end: (i) China be asked to vacate aggression by a particular date line, (ii) China be informed that negotiations in respect of any border adjustments can be held only subsequent to such vacation, and that too only on the basis of the McMahon Line, and (iii) Circulation of Chinese Maps which have falsely depicted parts of India as Chinese territory, and of Chinese magazines, or other literature, which have been publishing such maps, be banned in India; and (b) Immediate steps be taken to reinforce our northern defences and develop transport and communication facilities in border regions for better protection of the area.” (Lok Sabha Debates, 12 September 1959, Cols. 8001-8002).

In August 1960, the same stand was taken at the Jana Sangh’s General Council meeting in Hyderabad when its president demanded military actio n by India as an “imperative for our national dignity and our sovereignty”. The party resented that Prime Minister Nehru had allowed “a clear case of aggression” to be converted into just a “boundary dispute” by avoiding the use of the word “aggression” and by agreeing to examine at an official level the matter regarding the border. “The situation today simply stated in this; China continues nonchalantly to consolidate her illegal hold on Indian Territory while India continues to look on in abject helplessness.” (Motilal A. Jhangiani; Jana Sangh and Swatantra; Manaktalas, Bombay, 1967, pages 66-67).

The Nagpur session of the Jana Sangh in January 1960 called for the military expulsion of the Chinese and advocated: “(1) recognition of Tibetan independence; (2) the withdrawal of Indian support for China’s admission to the United Nations; (3) a close watch on ‘pro-Chinese elements’ in India; and (4) increase in India’s military capacity. While these demands have changed in detail or have been more strongly emphasised they remain the basic posture of the Jana Sangh’s successor toward Communist China. The visit of Zhou En-Lai to Delhi in April 1960 gave the Jana Sangh an opportunity to address a memorandum to Nehru as to the evil designs of the Chinese on India.” The Jana Sangh was against holding the Nehru-Zhou En-lai summit and demanded that no concessions be made in the talks (Craig Baxter; The Jana Sangh; University of Pennsylvania Press; 1969; page 199). Two days before his arrival in New Delhi, several thousand Jana Sangh volunteers went to Nehru’s residence waving placards that proclaimed: “Invaders, quit India; no surrender of Indian territory; down with Chinese Imperialism” (Maxwell; page 155).

Nath Pai of the PSP was not one ever to be left behind in jingoism or demagogy. “May I ask one small question of the Prime Minister? If the setting up of a base on our territory by the Chinese Republic [sic], he does not think will lead to wars why should we be worried that destroying the base set up by them will lead to war?” He lived to see in 1962 the sheer folly of this question which he so confidently posed in the Lok Sabha on November 28, 1961.

The Jana Sangh president Deen Dayal Upadhyaya saw to it that he was never left behind in this contest in jingoism. Early in 1962 he asserted boldly: “Jana Sangh is confident that our armed forces are quite competent to turn the Chinese out. The government [sic] apprehension of a world war, if there happens to be an armed conflict in Ladakh, is nothing but an aberration of a weak mind”(Upadhyaya in S. L. Poplai (ed.); 1962 Elections, page 57). As late as on September 24, 1962, the Jana Sangh was demanding that the government issue an ultimatum to China ( The Hindu; September 25, 1962). One wonders if Upadhyaya or Vajpayee—L.K. Advani was a nobody then—had the slightest knowledge of military affairs or had made the slightest effort at educating themselves in these matters. It was an utterly irresponsible behaviour inspired not by a concern for the national interest but for petty political gains.

As Maxwell remarked, “On the Right, the Jana Sangh probably reaped some benefit from the nationalist emotions aroused by the border war, and from the sense of national humiliation, more lasting, that followed it. But the influence of the Sino-Indian dispute on the political balance within India was far from radical, and probably it did no more than accelerate trends already in progress” (page 484). Large sections of the Congress and the media were infected.

Remember the National Democratic Alliance government’s Defence Minister George Fernandes’ denunciation of China in 1998 as a main “threat” to India? He attacked the Nehru government for speaking “the language of capitulation before China”. Invited to deliver the D.R. Mankekar Memorial Lecture in August 1998, he launched into a tirade against China to the embarrassment of former Indian diplomats present there. Its upshot was his sponsoring a new edition of Mankekar’s The Guilty Men of 1962 (1968), which was worse than badly written. It was a shoddy piece of work. Mankekar did not disclose to the reader what he disclosed to Maxwell, who wrote in the Preface to his book: “D.R. Mankekar, in his research for a history of the post-independence Indian Army, was similarly given access to unpublished files, and I am grateful to him for allowing me to quote from his original transcription of a crucial memorandum.” That was Nehru’s memo of July 1, 1954, ordering India’s official maps, which showed the boundary in Ladakh as “undefined”, should be altered to show a defined boundary which was not open to discussion. Maxwell suspected Mankekar had been accorded access to the Brooks report.

The latest in the series is the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi’s denunciation of China, on February 22 as an “expansionist” power. This was said at an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh. (It was North-East Frontier Agency in the relevant period, 1959-1962). To think that this is the man the BJP wants to send to the Annual Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly and to talk to the heads of government of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

A.G. Noorani