Sunday, November 17, 2013

India's Iron Man - Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, by Balraj Krishna

Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel: India's Iron Man (India's Bismarck: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel), by Balraj Krishna

One-line review: His stupendous achievements dwarfed only by the apathy of an ungrateful polity and dishonest historians.

Short review: Unless we learn the path we took and who led us down the path, we can never truly hope to correct course and tread towards a brighter future. Blind hero-worship of flawed frauds and idolatry of insidious ideologies cannot ever be the basis of writing history. That is hagiography. This short book on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the iron man of India, is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding what was, what happened, and why we are here. If we today breathe in a united and independent India, we have one person - Sardar Patel - to thank more than anyone else.
The backbone of Gandhiji's Satyagraha would pour his blood into a newly independent India to breathe life into a nation gasping from the treacherous and repeated back-stabbings by a departing colonial power. For the Sardar to succeed, at each step he had to fight not only a scheming Lord Mountbatten, but also a vacillating Prime Minister in Pandit Nehru. When Lord Mountbatten wanted India to refer every single dispute with the princely states to the United Nations, appealing to Pandit Nehru's egoistical want to get appreciation from the west, it was Sardar Patel who put his foot down and ensured that these disputes were resolved internally, and quickly.

Sardar Patel worked tirelessly to cajole, threaten, persuade, and out-maneuver hundreds of princely states into acceding to the Indian Union. The one state where he was overruled by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was Kashmir, when in December 1948 the state was taken out of the charge of Sardar Patel and placed "under the charge of Goplalswami Ayyangar." The one state where Lord Mountbatten and Panditji kept arguing for patience led to the avoidable deaths of over twenty thousand people and innumerable crimes against humanity was in the state of Hyderabad.

When the British sought to inject chaos into a nascent independent nation by proposing the dissolution of the Indian Civil Service, Sardar Patel would turn that into an advantage.

What is not much known is that Mahatma Gandhi had Sardar Patel to be the nation's first Prime Minister.

Or that Sardar Patel had argued for a free market economy.

Or that Sardar Patel had warned of the grave danger that Chinese communism posed to India's external security.

This short book, while starting somewhat abruptly, provides a lucid account of those fateful years when India's fate as a coherent nation lurched in the balance.

If Indians live in a free state today, Indians have Sardar Patel to thank more than any other person.

Long Review:

Sardar Patel the Satyagrahi

Penning hagiographies to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, has been a profitable venture for several self-proclaimed historians and historiographers of the Marxist, Leninst, Fabian Socialism, Communism and all other discredited ideologies. It has fetched both instant and lasting rewards and recognition for this tireless tribe of fiction peddlers. While undeserving rewards and recognition going to the dishonest is in itself an undesirable outcome in any society, what makes this intellectual dishonesty particularly damaging is that it on the one hand casts an undeserving halo on Panditji and on the other hand blinds us to the stupendous achievements of Sardar Patel. If Mahatma Gandhi could rouse an entire nation with the power of Satyagraha, it was Sardar Patel whose organizational genius made that Satyagraha practical. If the British Empire was thwarted in its designs to balkanize India, it was because of the single-handed acumen of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
If Indians today live in a united and democratic India, they have Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to thank more than any other person.

Balraj Krishna's short book on Sarda Patel starts somewhat abruptly and tentatively, but gets into its groove and is un-putdownable by the second chapter when he gets down to describing Sardar Patel's scintillating and tireless work in the pivotal satyagrahas at Bardoli, Kheda, Borsad, and Nagpur, that led Yusuf Meherally to say this about the Sardar:
"The Mahatma has found a lieutenant that those Emperors (Ashoka and Akbar) would have given a kingdom to get."
Sardar Patel had initially been openly "skeptical and critical about Gandhi's ideas and plans". However, once he came under the "magnetism" of Gandhiji, gone was his "lucrative legal practice" (unlike Pandit Nehru, whose legal practice had floundered from the start, and the failure of which historians would labour to attribute to Panditji's distraction with the freedom struggle), and "western dress and lifestyle".

Once he had plunged into the freedom struggle, Sardar Patel proved his mettle in the satyagraha of Kheda in 1918 - over the issue of land revenue. An excessive monsoon had "completely destroyed" kharif crop, "while an epidemic of rats and other pests had heavily damaged the rabi crop." Gandhiji wanted a postponement of of the revenue due. The British summarily rejected the petition submitted to the Bombay government to intercede in this matter.  F.G. Pratt, Commissioner of the government of Bombay (the state of Bombay encompassed the present day states of Maharashtra and Gujarat) described the agitation over the issue of land revenue thus - "In India, to defy the law of land revenue is to take a step which would destroy all administration. To break this law, therefore, is different from breaking all other laws. ... If you fight about land revenue today, the whole country will fight about it tomorrow."

The British first responded with threats, followed those up by confiscating the cattle of the peasants, and then by "confiscation and auctioning of their lands." Commissioner Pratt then tried the age-old trick of flattery, deception, and threats, playing the role of good cop. and bad cop all by himself. He called Gandhiji "Mahatma", said that "Mahatma Gandhi is my friend", but also condescended in the same breath that ".. in matters of administration and land revenue assessment, his knowledge is limited", and then held out the threat in his speech to the 2000 odd peasants who had been called for a meeting that "[M]y words are final orders. They are not my personal orders, but they are the orders of his Excellency Lord Willingdon...."

Sardar Patel, who had been at the meeting as an observer,sent by Gandhiji, took the invitation by Pratt to share his opinion to hoist the Commissioner on his own petard - "... Mr. Pratt who said on that occasion that the millhands should always follow Gandhiji's advice and, if they do, they would not fail to get justice. I also say likewise that if you follow Gandhiji's advice in this matter, you are sure to get justice at Mr. Pratt's hands." Three months later, the government announced its decision to "suspend assessment till the next year", after which Gandhiji and Patel "announced termination of the satyagraha from 6 June."

While Gandhiji had to face the disappointment of the failure of the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920, Sardar Patel "alone ... kept alive Gandhi's spirit through three of his satyagrahas: Nagpur, Borsad, and Bardoli." The Nagpur satyagraha was over the issue of the "honour of the national flag - the Tricolour". The Borsad satyagraha was over a punitive tax of over Rs 2.40 lakh imposed on the villages to pay for additional police forces to protect against two dacoits of that area - Babar Deva and Ali. In reality, "the officials were in collusion with the two dacoits" and the police got a share of the booty!
The Bardoli satyagraha was the most prominent one of these, where Sardar Patel led close to one lakh peasants in a completely non-violent, peaceful struggle against the ruinous enhancement of land revenue by 30% in 1926. It is here that Sardar Patel's organizational prowess was in full display:
"The battlefield covered 92 villages. He had horse-riders to bring him messages from the remotest ones." He had a "personal secretary to conduct his correspondence, as also to look after the dissemination of war information; ... an editor of publications, patrikapati. There was an ambassador, who toured India to brief opinion-builders... A war bulletin, Larat-ni-Patrika, carrying Patel's speeches and satyagraha news, was published daily... Outside Bardoli, every important Gujarat town and village received the war bulletin."
Such was the Sardar's oratory, that Madhav Desai, Gandhiji's principal secretary, said that he had never before "heard such brilliance in his language, or seen such indignation in his eyes. ... The villagers were moved by the extraordinary eloquence of his speeches and by his astonishingly simple yet effective popular similes and analogies."
In the end, the British government agreed to appoint an inquiry committee, reduced to 5.7%, from 22%, the recommended increase in the settlement rates, restored all confiscated lands, ordered the "release of all prisoners, and reinstatement of the patels and talatis who had resigned." Praise from all quarters was forthcoming, including from Subhash Chandra Bose "forejudged the Bardoli satyagraha as the 'precursor of the larger fight that [Gandhi] was to wage in 1930' - the Dandi March.".

The Dandi satyagraha, better known as the Dandi Salt March, would shake the British Empire to its roots - a simple act of making salt from seawater, in defiance of colonial law. Mahatma Gandhi would walk "241 miles" from Ahmedabad to Dandi. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel went in advance to the villages on that path to lay the groundwork for the satyagraha. Such was the British government's fear of Sardar Patel, that he was arrested at Ras and sentenced to three months' imprisonment. But before his imprisonment, Sardar Patel had made several speeches, including Broach (Bharuch), where he took apart every single canard spread by the British. He was particularly caustic when he took on the British's claim that they were "trustees in India." To that Sardar Patel asked,
"But whose trustees? Who had gone to England to crown them and invite them here?"
After his arrest, he was taken to Borsad, where, according to Sardar Patel, "The Magistrate did not know under which section he was to convict me. He took about an hour and a half to write out a judgment of eight lines."

Sardar Patel the Congressman

As we move to Sardar Patel's party organizational skills, we learn that it was Sardar Patel who was Mahatma Gandhi's choice in keeping the Congress party united till the goal of freedom had been attained, and it was up to Sardar Patel to pull up "defaulting partymen, and to smother revolts even by stalwarts."
"Had Patel not used - judiciously, democratically and promptly - his 'muscle power', the Congress would have gone the way of the All India Trade Union Congress, which had been founded by the Congress in 1920 but slipped into the hands of the Communists manoeuvring under the direction of the Communist International."
A potential disaster for the Congress party was barely averted by Sardar Patel, which came in the form of a young Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his fascination with communism - which was quite fashionable in England those days. Even though Mahatma Gandhi had tried to woo Panditji away from socialism by "appointing him, without his prior consent, as the next president of the Lucknow Congress in April 1936", Subhash Chandra Bose wanted the Congress to embrace socialism, and he appealed to Panditji's ever-hungry ego by writing to him that "you are the only one to whom we can look up to for leading the Congress in a progressive direction." Pandit Nehru needed no further persuasion, and got "radical" resolutions passed - that included the "collective affiliations of trade unions and peasant leagues with the Congress". A calm Sardar Patel however saw each and every one of these resolutions fail at the All India Congress Committee. A defeated and churlish, but not chastened Pandit Nehru gave vent to his frustration "in his address as Congress president at Lucknow on 14 April 1936", where he "charged the Congress with a "sense of disunity."" Panditji made an appeal for "pure Communism". All this resulted in an anguished Gandhiji to write:
"Jawaharlal's way is not my way. I accept his ideal about land, etc. But I do not accept practically any of his methods. I would strain every nerve to prevent a class war."
Gandhiji also saw through Pandit Nehru's trickery of trying to take the high moral ground, and wrote to him:
"Your statement ... has given much pain to Rajen Babu, CR and Vallabhbhai. They feel, and I agree with them, that they have tried to act honourably and with perfect loyalty towards you as a colleague. Your statement makes you out to be the injured party.
They have chafed under your rebukes and magisterial manner, and, above all, your arrogation of, what has appeared to them, your infallibility and superior knowledge. They feel that you have treated them with scant courtesy...
You are in office by their unanimous choice, but you are not in power yet. To put you in office was an attempt to find you in power quicker than you otherwise have been."
While Pandit Nehru "sobered" up after this stinging rebuke, future events would sadly show that he imbibed neither the economic wisdom of C Rajagopalachari, nor the decisiveness and keen astuteness of Sardar Patel, nor the simplicity of Gandhiji, nor the passion for strong action of Subhash Chandra Bose, and would lead the country down the glorious path of socialism once he became Prime Minister. Panditji would, like all 'great' leaders of this country, have the last word while Sardar Patel lived, by shouting at him the epithet of being a "total communalist", and after his death by ordering that any civil servant wanting to attend Sardar Patel's funeral would have to do so at their own expense.

In Spite of Spite

When it came to leaving India, the British were nothing if not spiteful and vengeful, though mostly in predictably sly ways. They saw in India a hostile colony that needed to be broken up to prove to the world that it was unfit to govern herself - which would act as a post-facto justification for its colonization, a continuation of the "white man's burden". Their role in the matter of princely states and their attempt to destroy the administrative service are but just two pieces of evidence here. Second, they saw in Pakistan an ally that could help the colonial power keep a foothold in the area and provide continued access to the oil-rich lands of Iran and the mideast. Third, to ensure that Pakistan emerged as a viable state, they wanted a substantial part of India to go to Pakistan - much more than has been generally known. Then there is the considered British policy of encouraging Hindu-Muslim rioting and animosity in the belief that it acted to relieve pressure off anti-colonial sentiments in the people.

In each of these cases, it was Sardar Patel that almost single-handedly thwarted the great game of the British.
Let us briefly cover these, as described in the book.

In October 1946, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, then Secretary of State for India, proposed that all further recruitment to the ICS (Indian Civil Service) be terminated with immediate effect, rather than wait till Independence. This would have meant a "breakdown in administration" and "would have made transfer of power neither smooth nor trouble-free". Sardar Patel foresaw the need for an all-India civil service that would be "efficient, disciplined, contented" and would be a "sine-qua-non of sound administration under a democratic regime." He decided to take up the Secretary of State on his suggestion and proposed that "The sooner the Secretary of State's control is ended and the present structure is wound up, the better." He decided that the ICS would manage the transfer of power, and a new civil service - the IAS - would succeed the ICS. Sardar Patel wanted an all-India service, while some politicians, like Gobind Ballabh Pant "favoured a provincial civil service whose members could be under their control "in order to ensure their pliability."" Weren't these same sentiments expressed by the ruling party of Uttar Pradesh in 2013 - when they wanted all IAS officers to be sent packing from the state so that state officers - pliable and compliant - could run the state??!!

By way of advice for the nascent IAS, this is what Sardar Patel had to say about the erstwhile ICS:
"Perhaps, you are aware of a saying regarding the Indian Civil Service - that, it is neither Indian nor civil, nor imbued with any spirit of service..."
However, what Sardar Patel said to the first batch of IAS probationers on 21 April 1947 merits attention:
"You predecessors had to serve as agents of an alien rule, and even against their better judgment, had sometimes to execute the biddings of their foreign employers..."
The irony of what the IAS has been reduced to now would not have been lost on the Sardar.

The Indian Independence Act of July 1947 was basically a white paper that laid down the terms under which India would be broken up into hundreds of warring states, for ever condemned to battling each other, to be served to the world as a grim reminder of what happened to colonies that dared to see themselves as capable of living without the benefaction of the colonial master.

The British wanted all of Punjab - undivided Punjab - to go to Pakistan. Sardar Patel took that challenge by the horns and had a resolution passed, on 8 March 1947, without Gandhiji's consultation or forewarning, but with Pandit Nehru's backing, asking for the "division of Punjab into two provinces, so that the predominantly Muslim part may be separated from the predominantly non-Muslim part. Patel's was not a call for India's partition, but a forewarning to the Punjabi Muslims of the consequences of the League's demand for Pakistan."

Sardar Patel's rationale for accepting freedom even if it meant partition was two-fold: without resorting to violence, the Muslim League and its call for partition could not be resisted. Second, without partition, "there was bound to be long drawn-out communal strife in cities, to some rural areas, and even regiments [of the army]."

As per the Cabinet Mission of mid-1946, the British evisaged a strong de-facto Pakistan as Group B, comprising of "undivided Punjab, Sind and the NWFP on the west, and Group C comprising the whole Bengal and Hindu majority Assam on the east", 560 princely states with the option to accede to India or Pakistan or remain independent, and a fragmented, weakened India. Encouraged by this proposed scheme, "Muslim migrants from India to Pakistan had expressed" their future hopes in this slogan:
"हंस कर लिया पाकिस्तान , लड़ के लेंगे हिंदुस्तान (hass kar liya Pakistan, lad ke lenge Hindustan)"

Even Maulana Azad favoured this plan since partition would otherwise "weaken the position of the Muslims in the sub-continent of India", as did Panditji, who was ready to give this plan a chance. Sardar Patel alone though of this plan as "worse than Pakistan".

Then began the task of integrating the princely states into India. Which fell upon Sardar Patel.
During his visit to the east, where there were 41 princely states in Orissa and Chattisgarh - "the biggest had an area of 4000 square miles and a population of 10 lakhs; the smallest, 46 square miles and a population of 20,000", a 21-year old prince "started his speech with the words 'My people want...' Patel snubbed him with the remark: 'They are not your people, Your Highness. They are my people. Leave them to me.'"

When some princes tried to delay things by resorting to legal arguments, Patel retorted in anger: "Your Highness may consult lawyers, but I make the law."

Thus by December 14, 1947, these first set of princely states had merged with India, and within 18 months all but two of the more than 500 princely states would merge with India. The princely states of Rajasthan also signed the Instrument of Accession, and in the words of Sardar Patel, fulfilled "the desires and aspirations of Maharana Pratap."

When the non-Travancorean Diwan of the princely state of Travancore declared his intentions to be independent and appoint a trade agent to Pakistan on 15 August 1947, Sardar Patel decided to intervene, and directly telephoned the "Maharaja and asked him, ... "Who's standing in your way" The Maharaja felt rattled. He communicated to Mountbatten his decision to accede to India."

The princely state of Jodhpur proved a slighter tougher fish to fry for Sardar Patel, but whose resolution ultimately foiled Jinnah's plan to thrust what the Sardar had called "a dagger thrust into the very heart of India" - the accession of Jodhpur and Bhopal, along with Baroda to form an "independent federation ... with ultimate accession to Pakistan." The young Maharaja of Jodhpur was rattled by a gentle admonition from Sardar Patel, that "if he did not behave as he should, Patel would have to act as a guardian to discipline him." The Instrument of Accession was duly signed.

Junagarh however presented the first real challenge to Sardar Patel, since it acceded to Pakistan on 15 August 1947, and a possibly delighted Lord Mountbatten wrote to the King:
"My chief concern as Governor-General was to prevent the Government of India from committing itself on the Junagarh issue to an act of war against what was now Pakistan territory."
Lord Mountbatten desperately wanted to avert a war between India and Pakistan. Not because of any real concerns about the loss of life in such a war, but because the Pakistan military commanders had conveyed in writing that "a declaration of war with India can only end in the inevitable and ultimate defeat of Pakistan." Pakistan was Britain's baby. It had to be nurtured and protected.

Here it was Sardar Patel who objected, not Pandit Nehru, to the "forcible dragging of our 80 percent of Hindu population of Junagadh into Pakistan by accession in defiance of all democractic principles." Jinnah was confident that Lord Mountbatten would not let India take any precipitate action, who "seemed concerned not so much with Pakistan's perfidy as with how to deter India from any physical action", and equally sure that a vacillating Pandit Nehru would be incapable of any swift decision, and would pursue "his usual policy of soft peddling." Jinnah had in him a strong ally in the form of Shah Nawaz Bhutto (the father of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto), the diwan of the princely state of Junagarh.

Fortunately, for India, despite Lord Mountbatten's long talks with Sardar Patel, "world opinion, though important, did not weigh much with him". Junagarh precipitated matters by claiming the states of Babariawad and Mangrol as part of Junagarh, treating their accession to India as invalid, and sending troops there. Lord Mountbatten "suggested reference to the UNO" and "that the Central Reserve Police, and not the Indian Army" be sent. Sardar Patel rejected both suggestions, and "was firm that the operation be handled by the Indian Army". No help arrived from Pakistan, and the Nawab of Junagarh fled to Karachi, "together with his family, many of his dogs, and all the cash and negotiable assets of the State Treasury." Lord Mountbatten wanted this pending issue of Junagarh to fester until "greater problems were resolved." Sardar Patel kept Lord Mountbatten "tactfully in the dark", and moved troops into Junagarh before Mountbatten came to know.
"A plebiscite, as Patel had promised, was held on 20 February 1948. Out of a total of 201,457 registered voters, 190,870 exercised their franchise. Only 91 cast their vote in favour of accession to Pakistan."
Hyderabad would prove to be Sardar Patel's biggest and most serious challenge. Not Kashmir, since Pandit Nehru had divested Sardar Patel of the charge of the state of Kashmir, and would later deftly steer it into a sixty year long morass of unmitigated horror.

Lord Mountbatten favoured an independent Hyderabad. His friend, Walter Monckton, was the Nizam of Hyderabad's constitutional advisor, and had tried to get for these Muslim princes "separate membership of the  Commonwealth". Monckton and Mountbatten were of one mind - "the statutory independence of Hyderabad." All of Monckton's efforts in the service of Hyderabad - "landlocked in the belly of Hindustan" - was to "avoid executing an Instrument of Accession." He wanted "the negotiations to continue for Hyderabad for as long as possible after 15 August... the longer they continued the better for us". When in October 1947 Sardar Patel got "completely fed up and wanted to break off the negotiations", it was Lord Mountbatten that pleaded for more time to be given for negotiations. In November, despite Sardar Patel's objections, a standstill agreement was signed between India and Hyderabad.

The Nizam wanted to annex the mineral rich state of Bastar, demanded that Goa be made part of his state, Britishers be recruited for his state forces, and much more.

Again, Lord Mountbatten wanted India to "adopt ethical and correct behavior towards Hyderabad and to act in a way as could be defended before the bar of world opinion". Sardar Patel wrote to Lord Mountbatten that he saw "no alternative but to insist on the Nizam's accession to the Dominion of India" and that any delay would only "create the impression that advantage lay in holding out rather than in coming in".

Lord Mountbatten made one last attempt to secure for Hyderbad the most favourable terms he could pen, just a month before his departure from India. It was so "heavily weighed in favour of Hyderabad" that even Monckton thought it would "be a miracle of India accepted." India did. Lord Mountbatten played on Sardar Patel's emotions, and in a moment of weakness, when the Sardar spoke of the "debt India owed" him {Mountbatten], Lord Mountbatten asked in return of that debt that Sardar Patel sign that document. It was, thankfully, an obdurate and stubborn Nizam who rejected that very draft! And so, the day after Lord Mountbatten's departure from India, a cheerful Sardar Patel would tell KM Munshi "caustically" over the phone, "Tell him [the Nizam] that the [Mountbatten] settlement as gone to England."

"Patel also publicly stated:"
"The terms and talks which Lord Mountbatten had have gone with him. Now the settlement with the Nizam will have to be on the lines of other settlements with the States. No help from outside, on which he seems to rest his pathetic hopes, would avail him."
Even as "the atrocities of the Razakars" became "utterly irresponsible, and loot, murder and rape" went on "in more than one district", Laik Ali spoke of having "decided to refer its case to the United Nations", and "gun-running from Goa by land and from Karachi by air" accelerated, Pandit Nehru was reluctant to send in the Indian Army. At one cabinet meeting to discuss the issue, Sardar Patel walked out, and five minutes later so did V.P. Menon. This finally shook Nehru "out of his complacent mood", and "it was decided to send troops into Hyderabad."


There was something about Kashmir that Pandit Nehru deeply and personally disliked. Nothing else can explain his numerous decisions to condemn that paradise on earth to more than six decades of unremitting terror and chaos - all through a deliberate policy of vacillation, pusillanimity, lies, deceit, and petty politicking.
Even after the accession of the Maharaja of Kashmir to India on 26 October 1947, Pandit Nehru "vacillated" in approving the airlifting of troops to Srinagar.
"According to Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw, then a brigadier in charge of military operations: "Panditji's long exposition about accession of the State and the United Nations was cut short by the impatient Sardar Patel with the question: 'Jawahar, do you care for Kashmir, or not?' 'Of course, I do,' thundered Panditji. The Sardar turned to me and said, 'Go, you have your orders.'""
Troops were airlifted the very next morning.

Lord Mountbatten and the dying British Empire would get their triumph in Kashmir. Lord Mountbatten would fly to Lahore, "unbriefed and unauthorized", to offer Jinnah the option of a plebiscite. He would then force, if Panditji needed any forcing from the Lord, "to honour his offer of plebiscite to Jinnah." If this was not enough, Lord Mountbatten made sure he got Panditji to agree to the plebiscite while Sardar Patel was away from Delhi. Truly a more honourable duo of gentlemen would be difficult to find.
Sardar Patel's "unofficial comment" to taking the dispute to the UN was:
"Even a District Court pleader will not go as a complainant."
He would later put down his opinion in a letter to the Arthur Henderson, the British under secretary of state:
"Unfortunately, it is my experience that the attitude of an average Englishman in India is instinctively against us..."
So how would Sardar Patel have solved the problem of Kashmir? Swiftly, and with pragmatism. He was in favor of letting the Kashmir Valley go to Pakistan - not Jammu or Ladakh, in exchange for East Pakistan - "Both countries would benefit from such an arrangement." Once partition happened, and the issue of Kashmir continued to fester, Sardar Patel had, in November 1948, as acting Prime Minister while Pandit Nehru was away in Europe, said this to Air Marshall Thomas Elmhirst, chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee:
"If all the decisions rested on me, I think that I would be in favor of extending this little affair in Kashmir to a full-scale war with Pakistan... Let us get it over once and for all, and settled down as a united continent."
More than six decades later, three wars, and more than a hundred thousand lives lost to terrorism, the import of Sardar Patel's words would not be lost on any person.

What sort of a relationship and affinity Pandit Nehru had with Sheikh Abdullah that blinded him to his duty and facts remains quite unclear, but to Panditji, Sheikh Abdullah was his "old friend and colleague and blood-brother." Such was Panditji's allegiance to Sheikh Abdullah, that he had "bluntly told the Kashmiri Pandits at the annual session of the National Conference at Sopore in 1945":
"If non-Muslims want to live in Kashmir, they should join the National Conference [of Abdullah], or bid goodbye to the country [Kashmir] ... If the Pandits do not join it, no safeguards and weightages will protect them."
Half a million Kashmiri Pandits would, some forty-five years later, pay for Panditji's sins, and be ethnically cleansed out of Kashmir - their home for thousands of years.

And it was not even as if Kashmir was a single, homogeneous region. Far from it. You had "Dogra Hindus of Jammu and the Buddhists of Ladakh" to begin with, the two regions forming "half the state's population and over 89% of the area." Then you had the "border Muslims, the Bakarwals, the Gujjars, and the Paharis." Panditji cared for none. Except Sheikh Abdullah.

Before we can even attempt to try and solve festering problems facing the country - like that of Kashmir for instance - it calls for an honest and frank discussion of history. Unless we can strip away the patina of false heroism and fraudulent ideology from events and personalities and evaluate events on their factual basis alone, we cannot hope to take the steps required to correct mistakes. An important stepping stone has to be an open discussion on the role played by Pandit Nehru - as an individual as well as contrasted with Sardar Patel.

Book Details:
Paperback: 305 pages
Publisher: Indus Source Books; 1st edition (July 30, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8188569143, 8188569240
ISBN-13: 978-8188569144, 9788188569243

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© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.