India Forum Archives
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
  A series of what-ifs

Posted by: muddur Aug 15 2004, 09:46 AM

What If Patel Was PM? muddur: Modifiying the thread title description to "History As Entertainment" and posting in full as the article URLs recycle. -Viren

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 06:49 AM

The most interesting country in the world has produced historians who are earnest, historians who are studious, historians who are dull. Let's get beyond their petty battles, to present history not as ideology, but as fun. RAMACHANDRA GUHA To study the past as it was is also to speculate about the past as it might have been. What if Hitler had successfully invaded Britain in 1940? Would German now have been the language of international commerce? What if Lenin had died on the train that took him back to his homeland in 1917? Would Russia now be a constitutional monarchy on the British model? And, closer home, consider these intriguing questions: what if Mohammed Ali Jinnah had died in 1958 instead of 1948? Would Pakistan then be as solidly established a democracy as India? And what if General Yahya Khan had allowed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to take office as prime minister of Pakistan in 1970, to honour the popular mandate in his favour? Would there yet have been a Bangladesh? For generations, professional historians were trained to rigorously eschew questions such as these. The founder of modern historiography, the 19th-century German scholar Leopold von Ranke, dismissed the idea that history "ought to judge the past and instruct the contemporary world as to the future". The historian’s job was "merely to tell how it really was". For Ranke, the "strict presentation of the facts" was the "supreme law" of history. This was an exact, dreary and impossible credo. For were not the same facts susceptible of multiple interpretations? And the same individual too? Winston Churchill did more than anyone else to safeguard the freedoms of the British; without him the island-nation might have been delivered into the hands of the Nazis. But the same Churchill was a vicious opponent of freedom for coloured peoples. As Leonard Woolf once pointed out, if the British government had been prepared to grant to Indians "what they refused in 1940 but granted in 1947—then nine-tenths of the misery, hatred, and violence, the imprisonings and terrorism, the murders, flogging, shootings, assassinations, even the racial massacres would have been avoided; the transference of power might well have been accomplished peacefully, even possibly without Partition". British historians venerate Churchill; Indian historians tend to deprecate him. What goes for individuals goes for political events as well. A Marxist historian would judge the Russian Revolution very differently from a conservative one. The American Civil War was seen very differently on either side of the Mason-Dixon line. Over the years, there have been historians who, dinosaur-like, stuck doggedly to the Rankean ethos. They aspired to make history a ‘scientific’ discipline, professedly neutral as well as objective. But others were more daring. They understood that while a historian is not a novelist, the facts he gathers have to be interpreted, and then judged. Indeed, the best historians, or at any rate the most readable ones, have been splendidly opinionated. For all this, the professional historian remained a Rankean in one respect; while he might provide an alternate interpretation of what had been, he would not speculate as to what might have been. He would not ask the ‘What If’ question. This was one Lakshman-rekha he wouldn’t cross. In the past decade, however, this line has been crossed by scholars working in Britain and the United States, countries in which there is a huge market for popular history, as conveyed by books and more so by television. Here, the historian is somewhat less out of tune with the popular sensibility. And the fact—the word is inescapable—the fact is that individuals are asking themselves ‘What If’ questions all the time. We know well how our personal lives are determined by chance and contingency. A meeting at a party leads to a long-lasting (and happy) marriage, but what if a headache had made one stay at home instead? Would one have then made a disastrous alliance? We ask such questions of one another, and now we have been encouraged to ask such questions of historical figures and historical events as well. In 1997, British scholar Niall Ferguson edited a collection called Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals. A couple of years later, Robert Cowley put together his What If?: The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been. Cowley followed this with More What If? Eminent Historians Imagine What Might have Been. The success of these books makes the appearance of a volume entitled ‘Still More What If?’ a near-certainty. Among the questions asked (and answered) in these books are: what if there had been no American Revolution? What if Britain had stayed out of what became the first world war? What if John F. Kennedy had lived? What if Pontius Pilate had spared Jesus? What if Napoleon had successfully invaded America? What if the US hadn’t dropped the atom bomb on Japan? All interesting questions, each productive of rich disagreement and fine literature. But none with any real relevance to India and Indians. Our history would have been much the same had Jesus and John F. Kennedy not met violent deaths, or had Japan finally surrendered only after a land war in 1945. The same cannot be said of the questions posed, and answered, in this issue of Outlook. Here we have a compelling array of Indian ‘What Ifs’, a whole range of possible ways in which our history, our politics, our society, even our music, might have turned out very differently from how it actually has. As the authors of these essays would cheerfully admit, their answers are anything but definitive. I have not read them as I write this, but I know that my own answers will naturally differ with those here provided. ‘What if India had not been partitioned?’ My answer: within a decade, there would have been a bloody civil war on the question of the national script. Hindu and Muslim politicians would have agreed on a common language called ‘Hindustani’, but each would have insisted on their own script: Devanagari in the one case, a modified Arabic in the other—both holy, associated with the Word of God, to be fought for to the death. ‘What if Vallabhbhai Patel, not Nehru, had been India’s first Prime Minister?’. My view: the Congress would have become more right-wing (and pro-Hindu), with Nehru leaving to start an opposition party which, with his charisma (which far exceeded Patel’s), would have swept to power in the first general elections. So, I fear, this most remarkable and simultaneously most reviled of modern Indians would have become prime minister after all. The essays here printed will be educative as well as entertaining. But they will not, indeed cannot, be authoritative (as the Letters pages of future Outlook issues will doubtless show). At the same time, while the range of questions asked here is very wide, it is by no means exhaustive. Consider three of my own favourite questions, unasked in the pages that follow. The first of my questions is: What if Jayaprakash Narayan had accepted Jawaharlal Nehru’s invitation to join the government in 1953? The previous year, JP’s Socialist Party had been humiliated in the general elections. But Nehru, as the progressive leader of the winning party, was surrounded by a bunch of crusted old reactionaries. As Time magazine wrote in July 1951, after attaining Independence, the Congress "found itself without a unifying purpose". It had grown "fat and lazy", and harboured "many time-serving office-holders, not a few black-marketeers". Nehru knew this, which is why he sought to reach out to the Socialists who were themselves former Congressmen. He asked JP and his brilliantly gifted colleagues to return to the fold, to help him give the party, and nation, a unifying credo built around secularism and economic development. I have long thought it a pity that JP refused. For the socialists were men and women of idealism and courage. If they had joined Nehru’s government, then perhaps India would have eradicated illiteracy within a decade and brought about real land reforms. And perhaps our foreign policy would have been genuinely non-aligned (for JP had no illusions about the Soviet Union), and more sensible of the Chinese threat (which JP recognised far in advance of Nehru). My second question: what if India had signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1997? The hawks in Delhi argued that to sign the treaty would be to succumb to "nuclear apartheid". For them, white people did not have a Divine Right to the bomb. The government listened to the hawks, refusing to sign the treaty, and tested the bomb the following summer. I personally think they should have listened to the handful of dissenters who wanted us to sign. For then, the Pakistanis would have had to sign as well; after which their N-facilities would, for the first time, have been opened to international inspection. Signing the ctbt would have de-escalated tensions in the subcontinent. As we now know, even from a strictly strategic point of view, not to sign the ctbt and to test the bomb were mistakes. For we’ve nullified our advantage in conventional weaponry, and succeeded only in internationalising the Kashmir issue. come now to a third misjudgement, committed by a foreigner this time, but one from which Indians think they have benefited. I refer to the fateful decision, taken at Lord’s Cricket Ground on a sunny June day in 1983, by Gordon Greenidge not to offer a shot at a modest medium-paced delivery bowled by the amiable Balwinder Sandhu. The ball went not outwards (as the batsman expected) but came in, to clip the off bail and start an unexpected slide. But what if Greenidge had played a shot? Then West Indies would have won their third World Cup in a row. Our cricketers were lucky in Greenidge’s error, and luckier still in its coinciding with the spread of television. Recall that at the time Indian hockey was not doing badly at all. We had won the 1975 World Cup, and the 1980 Olympic title. If Greenidge had not been bowled looking on, might not hockey have instead benefited from the television boom of the ’80s and beyond? Wouldn’t the money that has since poured into cricket been spent rather on better facilities and more attention for hockey, this in turn encouraging ambitious and athletic young men to take to the sport? In sum, if Greenidge had been more alert, then hockey might still have been India’s national sport. And India’s most ubiquitous face, smiling at us from road hoarding and television commercial, might have been Dhanraj Pillay rather than Sachin Tendulkar. I can hear the howls of protest already. Admirers of JP will say that I wanted him to sell out to the state. Militant (and militarist) nationalists will ask how Mother India can defend itself without the Hindu bomb. And gentle lovers of cricket will wonder why I, a cricket writer myself, would wish that this most glorious of games were relegated to a marginal place in our national imagination. I do not know what the editors of Outlook expect of this issue, but my own hope is that it will help make Indian history more appealing to the common man (and woman, and child). For at least in the matter of entertainment, we have been poorly served by our historians. This, without question the most interesting country in the world, has produced historians who are earnest, historians who are studious, historians who are dull. So let’s get beyond their petty battles, to present history not as ideology, but as fun. Guha’s books include Savaging the Civilised and A Corner of a Foreign Field. He is now working on a history of free India. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tel Aviv 1952: What if pacifist Albert Einstein had accepted an offer to be Israel’s second President? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Gondwana 96 m BC: What if continental drift sequence hadn’t happened? Would India be part of Australia?

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 06:51 AM

What If We Had A Uniform Civil Code? It would have removed one of the most potent causes of inter-community misgivings in India. India would have been a modern, democratic and truly secular republic. CHANDAN MITRA A few things wouldn’t have happened if a uniform civil code (UCC) had been introduced when the Constitution was promulgated in 1950. For instance, there would have been no need for a separate Hindu Code Bill in 1955, which led to a virtual showdown between the community’s conservative and liberal sections, represented by then President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, respectively. Nehru would not have been accused, perhaps unfairly, of pushing the enactment through primarily to facilitate daughter Indira’s divorce from estranged husband Feroze Gandhi. In later years, Khalistani separatists wouldn’t have agitated for declubbing the community from the purview of Hindu personal law. Their grouse was largely that under Hindu personal law, even married daughters are entitled to a share of the father’s property. Additionally, Catholic practices relating to marriage, adultery and divorce wouldn’t have been a cause of agitation in Kerala and other parts of South India. Consequently, equal treatment of women would have been the norm rather than the deviation among all religious denominations. Most significantly, promulgation of a uniform civil code from Day 1 would have removed one of the most potent causes of inter-community misgivings in India. Hindu leaders would not have been able to point to the Muslim ‘privilege’ of taking four wives. Further, the scourge of triple talaq would not have been permissible under law. And, of course, vote-bank politics would not have encouraged Rajiv Gandhi to overturn the court verdict in the Shah Bano case, thereby entitling divorced Muslim women to alimony at par with similarly placed Hindu women. India’s claim to being a sovereign ‘secular’ republic would have not been confined to the token introduction of this term (along with the even more phoney ‘socialist’) by Indira Gandhi during the draconian Emergency regime. This country would have been able to assert with pride that its Constitution is among the most progressive and egalitarian in the world; that its women are equal to its men in every sense, not only on account of their right to vote. Instead, we condemned ourselves to a society that wallows in double standards, where even the law, before which every citizen of the republic ought to be equal, is compelled to differentiate between communities. Worse, politics would not have taken the road to communal polarisation with consequences that we have all witnessed, especially since the Shah Bano verdict was cast aside in 1985 by the Congress using its brute majority in Parliament. The paradox is that those who flaunt their ‘secularism’ with the exhibitionist zeal of a peacock strutting about on monsoon eve are brazenly hypocritical when it comes to the uniform civil code. In a recent TV debate, the secular icon of the English-language media, Javed Akhtar, made the astounding pronouncement that he had voluntarily accepted the UCC (mixing it up with the Special Marriages Act). His claim to living within the purview of the ‘UCC’ was that he divorced his first wife before marrying again. After extolling the virtues of his own action, Javed proceeded to insist he would never recommend the same code for his co-religionists. His only objection to the UCC was that the BJP favoured it. This is another myth carefully spun by the ‘secularists’. Long before the BJP or even its parent party, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, was born, the makers of India’s Constitution had strongly recommended the formulation of common rules of marriage and succession. That’s why the directive principles of the Constitution specifically enjoin the state to move towards the enactment of a UCC. In other words, it is its sacrosanct responsibility to implement it, just as it is the state’s bounden duty to provide free, compulsory education to all children till the age of 14. It’s often argued that since the directive on education hasn’t been implemented, why should the UCC? But the state has made continuous effort to provide education, resulting in India’s literacy rate crossing 70 per cent. With respect to UCC, we have regressed. And that despite at least three categorical pronouncements by the Supreme Court directing the Union government to move towards its framing. Those ‘secularists’ who cheer the apex court’s interventions in cases related to the Gujarat riots are openly abusive of the same court’s observations on the UCC. Had the uniform civil code been introduced at the outset of our republican journey, these hypocrites would have, no doubt, been agitating for its repeal today. Why did the makers of the Constitution stop short of framing a UCC? Probably because it appeared too complex an exercise, particularly in relation to the Hindu community. In Kerala alone there were 53 different caste-based succession practices in existence when the Hindu Code Bill was brought in Parliament. But Nehru’s resolve saw the Bill through and over time these practices gave way to a common law. This is not to suggest Hindus are more enlightened than others. Aberrations still happen. Every month horror stories surface of village panchayats delivering death sentences on runaway couples who defy strict caste codes. But these are what they are—aberrations that cannot detract from the reality that 84 per cent of Indians are now equal in the eyes of the law. However, the law is compelled to turn a blind eye towards the medieval practices that prevail with regard to the others, especially India’s largest minority. Ironically, the Islamic republics of Pakistan and Bangladesh have overcome the resistance of their fundamentalists and modernised their marriage and succession laws. In India, it is not the conservatives but misguided, politically motivated secularists who stand in the way of implementing a sacred constitutional dictum. Indeed, India would have been a modern, democratic and truly secular republic had the Constitution makers foreseen the rise of this class of hypocritical secularists and enacted a uniform civil code in 1950. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Chandan Mitra is editor, The Pioneer, and a Rajya Sabha MP. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Washington D.C. 1964: What if the US hadn’t lifted its segregation laws? Would it be an apartheid state?

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 06:57 AM

What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn't given in to the bigots in the Shah Bano case? What if the Babri Masjid had not been unlocked by Rajiv Gandhi in 1986? What if Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses had not been banned? SUNDEEP DOUGAL The Secularism Roundtable: Despite a historical mandate, and the support of the largest number of MPs ever, the Rajiv Gandhi government in the mid-1980s made a series of decisions that changed the contours of Indian polity, polarising it in profound ways... What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn’t given in to the bigots in the Shah Bano case? Balbir Punj, convenor, BJP thinktank: Rajiv Gandhi’s yielding to mullahdom was in fact a continuation of a ‘secular’ trend set by his predecessor and maternal grandfather Nehru who legislated the Hindu Code Bill to reform Hindu society. But he left the Muslim society undisturbed in its medieval mindset. We could have had a uniform civil code (UCC) by now but for such capitulations. Kamal Faruqui, member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board: It is mischievous to suggest that Rajiv capitulated to the mullahs. He honoured the wishes of the common Muslims. Had he not got Parliament to pass a law upturning the SC judgement, it would have led to not just riots and a serious law and order problem but also to a state of siege in the minds of the Muslim community. They would have been left sulking, hurt, insecure, and betrayed. It would have been a black chapter in Indian history. Mushirul Hasan, vice-chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia University: The whole problem with the political strategies of all parties is the assumption that it is only the theologians who represent the communities and their interests. They are not just seen as deliverers of votes, but also taken to be the authoritative spokesmen of the community. This was a clear opportunity lost because there was a very strong body of opinion within the community which approved and welcomed the court judgement, and this is where by backing the modernists and the liberals at that time—which is what Nehru did at the time of the Hindu code bill—the Congress would have emerged much stronger. KF: That the majority of Muslim women were in favour of the SC judgement in the Shah Bano case is just a canard spread by some so-called feminists and self-styled liberals. They were, all combined, at best a minuscule minority. BP: The so-called liberals and secularists did a great disservice to the nation and all those whose causes they claim to espouse so passionately by allowing this blatant cynical act to happen. It is because of their mealy-mouthedness that the Muslim community remains caught up in a time-warp and the women continue to remain oppressed. That would have eased to a great extent. MH: It did trigger a vigorous debate which led to a fair degree of introspection. There would have been no discussion that is taking place today about the procedural aspects of talaq, and the status and the role of women in Muslim society. It led to a reappraisal of the existing attitudes and the interesting thing is that the most vociferous critics today are relatively quiet. This would not have happened. BP: All this could have happened 20 years ago. We would possibly even have by now progressed to a UCC and not all be wringing our hands in frustration. In fact, we would not have had any politics of vote-banks and keeping the Muslims backward as a strategy. Muslim women would not continue to be treated in this medieval-minded way. MH: Yes, had the Congress not capitulated, the politics of communalism would not have gained salience in the short run. There would have been one stick less to beat the Muslim community with and the constant demonising of them as medieval-minded etc. The bjp and allied outfits presented the Shah Bano case as yet another example of "Muslim appeasement". They were not interested in the status of divorced Muslim women or the Muslim women in general, what they were interested in doing—which they did very successfully—was to exploit this.But I think the introspection, debate and discussion engendered as a result is a significant beginning, a significant change indeed. What if the Babri Masjid had not been unlocked by Rajiv Gandhi in 1986? MH: It’d be very hard to dispute the interconnection between the Shah Bano case and the opening of the Babri locks. The sequence of events would have been much different if this dormant symbol was not reinvented by some very clever person or persons and turned into use as a trumpcard. If these two incidents had not happened, the bjp would not have emerged as a political force that it did. Despite very substantial presence of the rss and its very extensive networks, till the mid ’80s, the ideas of Hindutva or Sangh’s divisive ideology was not gaining any acceptance in the intellectual climate. BP: First of all, it has been a functioning temple at least since 1949. The gates were not opened out of conviction but as a counterpoise to having given in to the mullahs in the Shah Bano case. It was not dormant but had always been a live symbol and issue. History shows that Hindus had never given up their demand on the site. Legal cases had been going on, only to be forever delayed. Justice delayed is justice denied. The lid of Hindu patience was blown off which resulted in the demolition of Babri. A section of Hindu society got tired of this snail-paced judiciary and pulled down the disputed structure. The rest is history. Rajiv Gandhi’s opening the doors or leaving them locked would possibly have affected the chain of events very little. KF: It is very clear that it was a functioning mosque till 1949 when statues were smuggled in. But the fact is that there were no riots between 1949 and 1986 when the then PM was misguided by some over-smart advisors that this act would placate the Hindus who had been fed the lie of "Muslim appeasement". The Congress would not have lost the trust of the common man—Muslim, Hindu or others. MH: What is certain is that but for this issue, the process of eclipse of the BJP brand of politics would have been complete. From a Congress hegemony, despite the results of 1984, we were headed towards a genuine multi-party system. This mobilisation allowed the BJP to create a substantial constituency that has remained intact to a very large extent because they were able to capture political power in some states—and thanks to the wider acquired legitimacy because of erstwhile socialists like George Fernandes and other so-called secular leaders—from a party of two MPs when the gates were unlocked. This would not have been possible otherwise. BP: The gates would in any case would have had to be opened at some point in time or the other. It was a historical inevitability. Those who say that the BJP would not have emerged as a political power are living in a fool’s paradise and indulging in wishful thinking. In 1984, the BJP was reduced to two seats because of the Delhi riots and the Congress-sponsored pogrom of Sikhs and the fear psychosis that had been built up in the country. The BJP already was a potent force and its rise to power was inevitable. KF: Look at the tremendous cost that has been paid by the country. The lives of many innocents, regardless of religion, including children and women, would not have been lost because of resulting riots and chaos. Apart from the atmosphere of fear and insecurity, the whole country’s collective energy would not have been dissipated and diverted to a local issue that has not only created a tremendous rift among communities who had lived peacefully for centuries, but also cost us loss of international face. India would have shone even brighter, because real issues such as education, poverty, reforms in personal laws, population, economic growth could have been focused on instead. BP: The real lesson of history is que sera sera—what is to happen, shall happen. Events at an appropriate time will break through a different door even if the first remains locked! The difference is only technical rather than real. What if Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses had not been banned? KF: I think the ban on Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was totally valid. Had the ban not been placed, there would have been not only riots but bloody riots. It would have been unimaginable. The law and order would have collapsed. Just thinking about it is scary. It was an intolerable offence. BP: Even the Marxists in West Bengal who proscribed Taslima Nasrin the other day were against this ban. It was a result of ‘secular’ advice to Rajiv Gandhi. ‘Secularists’ fear that anything remotely critical of Muslims can lead to a bloodbath on the streets. KF: For Muslims, the status of the Prophet is supreme. Even those who call themselves very modern and liberal cannot tolerate any insult or even a perceived insult against the persona of the Prophet. They are willing to lay down their lives if they feel that he has been insulted, mocked, or made fun of or shown misleadingly. We do have freedom of speech, but it should not be confused with freedom to abuse or to hurt the religious sensitivities and sentiments of the devout. This applies to all religions, not just Islam. BP: ‘Secularists’ have shunned a debate on any religious or theological aspect of Islam, while Hinduism and Christianity have been scrutinised under the microscope of rationality. By this ban ‘secularists’ tightened the lid on a possibility to relieve this claustrophobia. KF: Some Christians may laugh or be liberal about a film on Jesus Christ. But the so-called liberal and secular Hindus, in particular, cross all limits in depicting or discussing their revered persona and Hindu gods. I fully sympathise with those whose feelings are hurt. Such shocking and mocking articles about revered Lord Rama or Lord Krishna or others should be equally stopped. BP: There are books more critical about Islam, not due to their style, but substance. But the point is not about hurting anyone’s religious sentiments deliberately but of rationality and promoting interpretations in keeping with modern times. Let us not create an atmosphere where any and everything can be banned on charges of real or perceived or claimed hurt. What is to stop anyone from demanding that their feelings are hurt too? Where do you draw the line? The whole discourse got vitiated because of this ridiculous ban. KF: Not banning would not have changed anything. Controversies are always there and I am totally against those involving the painter Husain, for example. He has absolutely no right to hurt any sentiments by his obscene paintings. In fact, the Holy Quran explicitly prohibits doing any such thing which might cause hurt to any religious sentiments. Not just Islamic. It is true that the Sangh parivar and others have been able to politicise even this sensitive religious issue, but that is in their nature.Even if somehow the law and order machinery could have coped with the protests, just imagine the hurt and hatred such a thing would have left in the hearts and minds of Muslims.Imagine 150 lakh hurt people who feel that their ultimate object of veneration has been insulted. BP: A debate on various aspects of Islam could have got initiated had the book not been banned, and it would actually have resulted in promoting better understanding and openness and given confidence to the Muslim community at large. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Based on separate conversations. For full texts, please click here: Mushirul Hasan, Balbir Punj, Kamal Faruqui, Syed Shahabuddin -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- England 1509: What if the Catholics could divorce? Would Henry VIII have turned England Protestant? England 1611: What if the medieval ban on translating the bible from Latin had not been eased?

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:00 AM

What If Rajiv Hadn't Unlocked Babri Masjid? Fundamentally, his decision didn't alter the Ayodhya equation. But, then, his successors didn't continue his equitable and pragmatic Ayodhya policy. KOENRAAD ELST In 1985, prime minister Rajiv Gandhi gave in to the Muslim zealots in the Shah Bano affair. Overruling a secular court’s decision that repudiated wife Shah Bano was entitled to alimony from her ex-husband, he enacted a law abolishing the alimony provision in conformity with the Sharia. Since India, unlike purely secular states, already had religion-based civil codes, this concession merely brought the minor matter of alimony under the purview of the prevailing arrangement. More importantly, it prevented riots. Only months later, Rajiv restored the balance by giving the Hindus something as well: he ordered the locks on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid in Ayodhya removed. Until then, a priest had been permitted to perform puja once a year for the idols installed there in 1949. Now, all Hindus were given access to what they consider the birthplace of Rama, the prince posthumously deified as an incarnation of Vishnu. Fundamentally, this decision didn’t alter the Ayodhya equation. Architecturally, the building was and remained a mosque while functionally, it had been and continued to be a Hindu temple. That is why in my opinion, not taking this decision wouldn’t have changed the Ayodhya developments except in their timing. The different players, their strategies and resolve all remained the same. The Babri Masjid Action Committee and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad would have gone about their "business" just the same. However, the VHP would have been forced to continue pushing the rather petty demand for removing the locks rather than move on to the more ambitious and mobilising the next step of planning the construction of a new temple. Most probably, the BJP would likewise have reaped smaller dividends from such a campaign. In 1989, it might not have jumped as high as 86 seats. Conversely, the Congress might not have lost the north Indian Muslim vote to the Janata Dal. In 1989, it could have remained just strong enough to cobble together a coalition rather than leave the initiative to the unwholesome and unstable Janata-BJP-Communist combine. So, at the level of party politics, Rajiv’s decision may have made a big difference. On the other hand, the presence or absence of locks might have made little difference to the kar sevaks who brought the structure down in 1992. Then again, with a Rajiv Gandhi government returning to power in 1989, there might have been no reason for this extreme move. The Hindus might by then have gotten their sacred site without a fight. After all, in a situation where both Hindus and Muslims were laying claim to the site, Rajiv’s decision in 1986 was important because it allowed for only one interpretation: he favoured the Hindu claim. This was logical, for the site has a sacred significance for Hindus as the putative birthplace of Rama, while it had no special status for Muslims. Historical documents confirm that Hindus continued to go on pilgrimage to the site all through the centuries of Muslim occupation, while no Muslim ever went on pilgrimage there. Admittedly, a Muslim lobby had been formed which insisted on reoccupying this Hindu sacred site. The existing Congress culture notoriously knew how to deal with such problems: give the Muslim lobbyists some ministerial posts, some public largesse for their institutes or a raise in the Haj subsidies and they will come around. A small application of this approach was the annulment of Syed Shahabuddin’s announced march on Ayodhya in 1988 in exchange for the governmental ban on Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses. A similar but bigger concession might have annulled the Muslim claim on the Ayodhya site. It would not have been the most principled policy, but it would have avoided a lot of communal blood-letting. This pragmatic approach was thwarted midway. This time the intellectuals played a crucial role. After the locks had been removed, India’s Marxist intellectuals unchained all their devils in order to prevent the full restoration of the site as a Hindu pilgrimage centre. In particular, they started insisting that there had never been a Hindu temple at the site before a mosque had been imposed on it. This was a strange claim to make, for two reasons. Firstly, it was untrue. Until then, all parties concerned had agreed that the mosque had been built in forcible replacement of a temple. What is nowadays rubbished as "the VHP claim" was in fact the consensus view. Thus, in court proceedings in the 1880s, the Muslim claimants and the British rulers agreed with the Hindu claimants on the historical fact of the temple demolition, but since it had happened centuries earlier, they decided that time had sanctioned the Muslim usurpation and nullified the Hindus’ legal claim. Further, numerous documents and several archeological excavations confirmed the history of the temple demolition (with the court-ordered excavations of spring 2003 removing the last possible doubt). Secondly, the question of the site’s history was besides the point. The decisive consideration for awarding the site to the Hindus, both for the Hindu campaigners themselves and for Rajiv, was not the site’s sacred status in the Middle Ages, but its sacredness for Hindus today. It is the Hindus of 1986 or indeed of 2004 who have been going on pilgrimage to Ayodhya, and they are as much entitled to find a Hindu atmosphere there, complete with Hindu architecture, as Muslims are entitled to find an Islamic atmosphere in Mecca. The VHP has been blamed for politicising history, but it was its opponents who complicated matters by bringing in history, and false history at that. Nonetheless, the Marxist historians had their way. In their shrill manifestoes, these secular fundamentalists denounced the Hindus’ perfectly reasonable expectation that a Hindu sacred site be left in the exclusive care of the Hindus. They did this with such titanic vehemence that the pragmatists were thrown on the defensive. Rajiv didn’t give up, though. In 1989, he allowed the shilanyas ceremony, in which the first stone of the planned temple was put in place. In 1990, as opposition leader, he made Chandra Shekhar’s minority government organise a debate on the issue obviously on the assumption that this would confirm the Hindu claim. And so it did, for the anti-temple historians showed up empty-handed when they were asked to provide evidence for an alternative scenario. In a normal course of events, i.e. without the interference of secularist shrieks and howls, this would have set the stage for the peaceful construction of a new temple in the 1990s, with some compensation for the Muslim community, the conflict would have been forgotten by now. Instead, the sore has continued to fester. In 1991, Rajiv was murdered, his successors didn’t continue his equitable and pragmatic Ayodhya policy. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Elst, Belgian Indologist, is the author of Ayodhya : The Case Against the Temple.) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:02 AM

What If Netaji Came Back? Had he played his cards well, displayed organisational rigour and ideological flexibility, he may well have become the prime minister of India's first non-Congress government. SWAPAN DASGUPTA Among the nationalists who deviated from the path set by Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose was among the tallest. Although marginalised after his resignation as Congress president in 1939, Bose acquired a legendary status with his escape to Germany and his subsequent emergence as head of the INA in Southeast Asia. Militarily, the INA was an appendage of the Japanese army but politically it symbolised uncompromising opposition to British imperialism. Bose’s intransigence was in contrast to the Congress’ on-off militancy. Bose’s disappearance in August 1945 was a relief to many. The British were saved the problem of having to try Bose for treason. Had Bose been put on trial, the ferocity of popular reaction would’ve been many times greater than that witnessed during the 1946 INA trials. The implications of a defiant Netaji using the court to posit an uncompromising Indian nationalism would have been far-reaching. Yet, in 1946, the British had already decided to leave India to "God and anarchy". The primary casualty of Bose’s re-emergence would have been the Congress and, particularly, Gandhi’s anointed leader, Jawaharlal Nehru. Netaji’s jackboots would have become the alternative to both the Mahatma’s charkha and Nehru’s genteel socialism. For the Congress, the absence of Bose foreclosed a monumental challenge which would have reshaped post-Independence politics. In 1946, India was sharply polarised along communal lines, with Hindus backing the Congress and Muslims rallying behind the Muslim League. Bose’s approach to the communal tangle was similar to that of Nehru. First, he saw anti-imperialism as the bond between communities. Second, his faith in a novel blend of National Socialism and Communism involved the creation of a centralised state with centralised planning. He wouldn’t have been sympathetic to Jinnah’s insistence on confederation as the alternative to partition. The atmosphere of hate was, however, too intense for Bose to have made a difference. The slogan of Pakistan was so appealing, a chunk of INA’s disbanded Muslim soldiers became Jinnah’s new stormtroopers. For all his charisma, Netaji would have been powerless to prevent the march to Pakistan, even in Bengal. Bose would, however, have counted in independent India. In 1947, the anti-Congress forces were fractured and leaderless. There was a small Hindu Mahasabha, an energetic Socialist movement and a Communist Party that lacked nationalist credentials because of its opposition to the 1942 Quit India movement. In addition, there were Congressmen who were at odds with the conservative Gandhian leadership of Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari and G.B. Pant. The Gandhians would’ve resisted Bose’s re-entry into the Congress, as would have Nehru who perceived a threat to his leadership. This would have left Bose little choice but to organise a radical alternative. He would have attracted the socialists, a few who had gravitated to the cpi and a section of the disaffected middle-classes. Bose would have had appeal in Partition-affected states like Bengal and Punjab too where Gandhism never really struck roots. In addition, he’d have commanded some support among Muslims and in the erstwhile Madras and Bombay states to emerge as the main pole of populist, anti-Congressism in the 1952 polls. Within the Congress, the threat of Bose would have strengthened the conservative Gandhians led by Patel. A vulnerable Congress, fearful of the Bose threat, would have reached out to the Hindu Mahasabha and the princes to compensate for the loss of the socialists. The regroupment would have added to Nehru’s difficulties. Nehru would have been left with two choices. Either he’d have to accept his loss of primacy, reconciling himself to being the socialist showpiece of a conservative Congress. Alternatively, he could trigger a split and team up with the cpi (which hated Bose passionately).Indian politics in the 1950s would have become a riveting triangular contest, involving the leftist Nehru, the populist Bose and the Gandhian Patel. Bose was just 48 when he disappeared. In the normal course, he would have had at least three decades of public life before him. Had he played his cards well, displayed organisational rigour and ideological flexibility, he may well have become the prime minister of India’s first non-Congress government.

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:04 AM

What If Godhra Hadn't Happened? Would Naroda Patiya have burned, would Ehsan Jafri have been killed, the Best Bakery been destroyed and Bilkis Bano been raped? SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN Sometime in the run-up to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, the UP police made a sensational discovery. A house used by RSS supremo Guruji Golwalkar had been raided and two locked trunks recovered. When B.B.L. Jaitley, the inspector general of police, opened the trunks, what he found shook him to the core. There before him lay a detailed district-by-district, qasbah-by-qasbah blueprint for the physical elimination of the province’s Muslims. Jaitley took the trunks to Rajeshwar Dayal, the seniormost civil servant in the home department at the time, who promptly conveyed the gravity of the discovery to G. B. Pant. The documents "revealed incontrovertible evidence of a dastardly conspiracy to create a communal holocaust.... The trunks were crammed with blueprints of great accuracy...prominently marking out the Muslim localities.... Timely raids conducted on the premises of the RSS had brought the massive conspiracy to light," recalled Dayal in his autobiography, A Life of Our Times, published in 1998. He sought the immediate arrest of Golwalkar on conspiracy charges but the chief minister, to Dayal’s disgust, prevaricated long enough for Golwalkar to go underground. Soon thereafter, Dayal was drafted into the Indian Foreign Service and the matter of the steel trunks was given a quiet burial. That plan may never have been put into action but the clerical efficiency with which the RSS and its kindred organisations have sought periodically to target Muslims for attack suggests the parivar’s penchant for planning and organisation has continued down to the present. What happened in Gujarat from February 28, 2002, is a case in point. Far from being a spontaneous mass reaction to the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra the day before in which 58 Hindu passengers died, the killings across most of Gujarat seemed scripted. So well chosen were the targets that it is almost as if there was already in place a plan to do something dramatic as part of the ongoing Ayodhya agitation, probably in order to polarise the state on communal lines in the run-up to state elections that the BJP might have had some difficulty winning on the basis of its actual performance. If Godhra hadn’t happened, would it have been necessary to invent it? I don’t know, but the Godhra incident itself is so shrouded in mystery that it is almost as if the official narrative which emerged within minutes and hours of the train being consumed by fire is an invented one, conveniently conjured up to provide the "rationale" for the pogrom which had simultaneously been ordained. It is difficult to ask ‘What if Godhra had not happened’ when we still do not know what exactly happened at Godhra. The official account, as put out by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, is that a large Muslim mob assembled on the railway tracks outside Godhra station stopped the Sabarmati Express and launched a premeditated attack on coach S-6, killing 58 passengers. The official chargesheet says one or more members of the mob boarded the coach and poured some 60 litres of petrol inside before setting it on fire. This dastardly attack, according to the BJP’s narrative, in turn provoked a "reaction" throughout Gujarat which claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 Muslims. Had Godhra not happened, the Muslims would not have been killed. Action-Reaction. When a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake. I regret what happened after Godhra, A.B. Vajpayee told the party faithful at Goa in April 2002, "Lekin aag lagayi kisne? (Who lit the fire?)". These Newtonian certitudes begin to break down when we consider the holes in the official account. Passengers who were on board the targeted coach, and let there be no doubt that an angry mob was attacking S-6, have testified before the ongoing Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry that they saw no one from the mob entering the coach and pouring petrol inside. The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report makes it clear the liquid could not have been thrown from outside. It says no trace of petroleum hydrocarbons was recovered from the burnt coach, raising questions about the identity of the flammable material which destroyed the coach that morning. How the train caught fire, whether or not there was intent—and if so, on the part of who—are questions which nobody can answer. Why the BJP government never conducted a comprehensive scientific probe to solve the puzzles raised by the FSL report is a mystery. Had Godhra not happened, would Naroda Patiya have burned, would Ehsan Jafri have been killed, the Best Bakery been destroyed and Bilkis Bano been raped? These questions are deeply problematic because they are tainted by the bankruptcy of the Sangh parivar’s moral arithmetic. When you have an organisation like the VHP whose cadres are capable of the most horrific violence, when you have a police force that is willing to let innocent citizens be attacked, and when you have chief ministers and prime ministers who offer post-facto justifications for genocide, it is a dangerous delusion to believe the Gujarat violence occurred because of Godhra. The Gujarat violence happened because the government wanted it to. Godhra was just the excuse. Godhra has infected our polity in a particularly pernicious way because the incident marked the first time that revenge was elevated to the status of moral code and official policy in such a blatant and sustained manner. When Rajiv Gandhi justified the 1984 genocide of Sikhs with his callous throwaway remark about the earth shaking when a big tree falls, it evoked widespread revulsion. Mention 1984 and even the most die-hard Rajiv loyalist today appears to display a certain shabby shame-facedness at the idea that the killing of Indira Gandhi by two Sikhs or the motivated rumour of Sikhs distributing sweets could somehow justify the monstrous killings which followed. But the Sangh parivar and BJP leaders today continue to believe that Godhra fully justifies the mass killing of Muslims which followed. I am not looking for expressions of remorse or guilt. That would be foolish, apart from being quite irrelevant. What I want to see are some signs that the Indian polity has learnt the lessons of Godhra and after and will never again permit genocide. And what I see is simply not enough. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Siddharth Varadarajan’s edited volume Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy, was published in 2002

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:05 AM

What If Advani, Not Vajpayee, Had Been PM? Psesudo-patriotism would have defined the flawed and short-lived Advani regime. He would have replicated Charan Singh, a man at ease with his petty prejudices, small ideas and intellectual banality. HARISH KHARE If in 1998 L.K. Advani instead of Atal Behari Vajpayee had become the prime minister of India, he would have been a rather natural choice at that moment in our history. In ’98, Advani had the image of a leader with bark and bite; he deemed to hold out the promise of the kind of stern leadership that would have answered the nation’s yearnings at that moment of grand national confusion, created by the conniving and conspiring men and women in the Congress. On the other hand, Vajpayee was the natural choice of all those vested interests who wanted to have a working government in Delhi that would let them keep on plying their chipped wares. By training and temperament Advani did not—and Vajpayee did—possess a Brahminical equanimity that Indian civilisation had valued. And though Vajpayee had not tasted power in any real sense of the term till 1998, he was always an "insider", having a good working relationship with Indira Gandhi and later with Rajiv Gandhi whereas Advani had joyfully nursed his outsiderness. So, if somehow circumstances had conspired to park Advani at the country’s most powerful political office, he would have replicated Charan Singh, a man at ease with his petty prejudices, small ideas and intellectual banality. Like Charan Singh, Advani has never felt the need to negotiate his way out of his limited political patch, circumscribed by the Sangh parivar’s cultivated sectarianism. Like Charan Singh, he would have made a gratuitously combative chief executive. Though both Vajpayee and Advani can be said to be the product of the same RSS mumbo-jumbo factory, the two had very different defining life experiences. Vajpayee always belonged—culturally, politically, and emotionally—to the Hindi heartland; he never had doubts about his roots and his rootedness. For Advani, 1947 was the defining experience, subconsciously locking him in pain and bitterness of dislocation (from Karachi) and violence of the Partition. It was that experience that rendered him psychologically scarred and shaped for decades his personality, politics and predilections. Moreover, Advani has led a rather prosaic life. The ordinariness of that life would have proved a mixed blessing to him at the helm. As a man who has had a very stable, honest and seemingly satisfied family life, he would have been far less vulnerable on account of this or that family member. Nonetheless, the same ordinariness has bred a bleak austere reflex not prone to settle for a compromise, especially with the corporate crook. If, for example, he had allowed the cbi to raid the Reliance offices, he would have stood by his officers rather than give marching orders to the director when the sh1t hit the fan. So, an Advani innings would ipso facto have been characterised, for better or for worse, by his personality. That means he would have looked for "loyal" rather than competent ministerial colleagues and bureaucrats to man key positions. Vajpayee would certainly have been his foreign minister; he would have probably preferred Bhairon Singh Shekhawat rather than Murli Manohar Joshi as home minister. But he would have neither attracted nor empowered officers like Brajesh Mishra and N.K. Singh as his principal aides. Nor Soli Sorabjee as attorney-general. Advani would have brought his ignorance of economic issues to South Block and most certainly would have allowed the likes of S. Gurumurthy and Nusli Wadia to play the extra-constitutional finance minister. Given his visceral awe of the uniformed officer—police or military or in mufti—his administration would have cultivated a spuriously manly tinge. Advani has fixations of a sub-inspector: there is no problem that the ‘havaldar’ cannot sort out. All the coercive instruments available to the Centre—RAW, IB, CBI, Enforcement Directorate, etc—would have been merrily used to soften up rivals and warn friends, in and out of the BJP. In particular, he would have gone after Sonia Gandhi in the belief that her Bofors cupboard was overstuffed with politically charged skeletons. Advani would have stumbled into a conflict with Pakistan. He would have most certainly carried out Pokhran II. As it is, it was a collective decision and the BJP gang had come to power with its mind already made up. But it is doubtful if Advani would have been able to handle nuclear power with responsibility and restraint. His statements after Pokhran II and before Pakistan’s Chagai tests (on May 27 and 30, 1998) offer a clue to his possible behaviour. Within days of our nuclear tests, he had, on May 18 called a grand "strategic" meeting on Kashmir and pronounced that the proxy war in Kashmir emanated from the simple fact that "Pakistan has remained unreconciled to the non-theocratic and non-denominational principle on which the Indian nationhood rests." He invited Pakistan to "realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world." In less than two weeks, Pakistan went nuclear, leaving Advani fuming against "pseudo-liberals" at home "who would like to hand over Kashmir and buy peace." He would have insisted on treating the Kashmir issue as a law and order problem and would have driven the separatist leadership into an anti-India phalanx. As a man who is happy with the clever tacticians from the Sangh parivar stable, Advani would have allowed himself to try to overcome the limits of numbers and allies by breaking out of the coalition paradigm. He would have artificially created a "crisis". In particular, he would not be able to handle pressure from the VHP on the mandir issue; the resulting aggravation of communal tension at home would have mentally set him up for a tendentious confrontation with Pakistan. Psesudo-patriotism would have defined the flawed and short-lived Advani regime. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Harish Khare is Associate Editor, The Hindu

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:07 AM

What If Reforms Had Taken Off 13 Years Earlier? It wouldn't have made us a developed country by now. But from refusing-to-develop country (RDC) we would have moved to the willing-to-develop country (WDC) category. BIBEK DEBROY China started liberalising in 1978. What if India had liberalised then, since increasingly in the late ’70s, it was becoming clear that costs of state intervention exceeded the benefits? And there was the Alexander committee in 1977, the Dagli committee in ’78, the first Tandon committee in ’80 and the second Tandon committee in ’81, all wanting liberalisation. What if we had followed those recommendations then? Beyond ibm and Coca Cola not exiting, what if we had liberalised 13 years earlier than we did? One must be careful. In asking this question, there is a presumption that reforms began in 1991 and everything before that was a deluge of state intervention. That’s not really true. Reforms did begin in the second half of the 1970s and gathered momentum in the second half of the ‘80s. There is continuity to the reform exercise, although what has happened since 1991 is undoubtedly more comprehensive. There is a second problem. Reforms are a bit like sex. People talk about it and think about it all the time. But not too many people do very much about it. In the post-1991 world, barring the external sector, the financial sector and removal of entry restrictions in manufacturing, how many reforms have actually been implemented as opposed to being talked about? How many reforms that benefit the poor, including public sector delivery in physical and social infrastructure, have happened? Having said that, we know economists are fallible about predicting the future. Their track record in predicting the past is better. So it’s fun to indulge in reverse crystal ball gazing. Reforms have an external sector component and a domestic one, although the two are linked. Suppose we had liberalised imports, exports, exchange controls and foreign investments in 1978; scrapped the rupee payment system as having outlived its utility; and, not introduced the draconian fera of 1973? For a start, we wouldn’t have stuck out like perpetual outsiders at the Uruguay Round (1984-86) of trade negotiations, if not at the Tokyo Round (1973-79) itself. More importantly, India’s exports would have done significantly better. This is despite the information technology, outsourcing and software (or services) export boom being due to exogenous circumstances and impossible to replicate in the early 1980s. A comparison with China’s manufacturing export success is pointless, because we wouldn’t have removed small-scale sector reservations. Nevertheless, exports would have done better. They didn’t do badly towards the fag end of the 1970s. But most of the ’80s (except the very end) were a lost export decade and so were the first few years of the ’90s. That wouldn’t have happened and India would presumably have said no to aid without waiting for the 1990s. Our share in world exports of goods would today have been 1.5 per cent. The picture doesn’t improve as much if we look at the GDP, which people relate to more easily. Real GDP has grown at around 5.5 per cent since the Sixth Plan (1980-85) and there is no evidence to indicate it has increased post-reform. The Eighth Five Year Plan (1992-97) did better at 6.7 per cent, but after the Ninth Plan’s (1997-2002) 5.6 per cent, that seems to have been an aberration. There is thus a temptation to argue that nothing would have changed even if we had reformed in 1978. However, as a general proposition, we can argue that the slowdown happened during the ninth plan because reforms decelerated. And if we are talking about reforms starting in 1978, we hopefully have in mind reforms without deceleration. Ipso facto, the trend would have been higher than 5.5 per cent—6.5 per cent at least, if not higher. Over a 24-year period (since 1980), that one percentage difference is not to be sneezed at. Assuming the same population trends and the same exchange rate, India’s per capita income today would have been $650 rather than $500. Break that 24-year period into eight years of 6.5 per cent, eight years of 7 per cent and eight years of 7.5 per cent, and you have a per capita income figure of almost $725 or Rs 33,000 at current exchange rates! That’s the opportunity cost of lost growth. Actually, it gets worse. The exchange rate wouldn’t have remained the same. The rupee would have appreciated against the US dollar. The relationship between population growth and economic development is generally complex. The rate of population growth has slowed in the 1990s, at least in parts of India, and it would have slowed down faster. Factoring these in, we probably would have been around $800 (Rs 36,000). But still short of China’s $1,000. Poverty ratios depend not only on per capita income growth, but the composition of growth and other things. But with that higher growth, the poverty ratio today would have been a far better 15 per cent, not the 26 per cent shown in official figures for 1999-2000. The literacy rate would have been 75 per cent, and not 65 per cent. Instead of 67 per thousand, the infant mortality rate would have been 40. But in domestic reforms, we would have continued to dither. For instance, had FDI in media been opened up way back in 1978, the media scene today would have been transformed. However, such large-scale liberalisation was improbable, though not impossible. India isn’t China. The satellite generation, driving part of the demand for liberalisation, would also have been missing. Nevertheless, India would have been further ahead on development. Not reforming in the late 1970s meant India became a refusing-to-develop country (RDC). Reforming in the late 1970s wouldn’t have made us a developed country by now. But from RDC we would have moved to the willing-to-develop country (WDC) category. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- (Bibek Debroy is the editor of the just-published Agenda for Improving Governance.) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:08 AM

What If We Had Embraced America? Try as I might, I can't think how India would have lost on any dimension if it had taken the right turn in the early '60s. India's destiny is to be a world power, alongside China and America. SURJIT S. BHALLA In 1947, India gained independence from the colonisers who had ruled us for over a hundred years. While Jawaharlal Nehru’s love affair with the British was touching—and psychologists can help explain this obsession—it is still a mystery as to why he did not take to the economic policies of the master. Instead, he somersaulted to the exact opposite of what the masters believed in and embraced the economic framework of Russia. Why, if we bought the political freedom (democracy) line from the British, and loved them for imparting this freedom to us, did we also not buy the notion of economic freedom from them? Instead, almost literally, we bought the Russian/Stalinist model of deep and mindless control over economic freedom. Not being a psychologist, but observing what happened from Nehru onwards, this ignoble act was undertaken in order to satisfy the urge to control. In that important sense, Nehru was not at all the great liberal he is mythologised to be by the cadre of so-called Nehruvian liberals, and India has paid a heavy price for it. The liberals claim that if the British economic freedom model had been followed, we would have been "lackeys" of the leader of the free world, the US, and hence that path was not worth undertaking. I have never understood how being a Russian lackey, supporting the complete suppression of political and economic freedom, and supporting the invasion of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan somehow made us "independent" of Russia. Nor did the world understand this hypocrisy, especially when it was accompanied by the non-proverbial begging bowl. In diplomatic circles, even today, India is reminded of its rather dubious role as a "non-aligned" leader. It is certain (as the recent Iraq experience has shown) that America would have graciously accepted our criticism of their role in Vietnam, and certainly accepted it more than the complete non-acceptance of any criticism by Russia. But a far heavier price was paid by India in terms of its most important obligation—the removal of absolute poverty or the shirt on every back that Nehru so poetically talked about. While admittedly a counter-factual forecast, it’s likely India’s per capita growth between 1960-’80 would have been at least 4.5 per cent per annum, rather than the stingy 1 per cent annual Hindu rate that was delivered to us by the Nehru-Stalin economic policies of control. Now one can quibble about the exact magnitude, but recall that India itself, between 1950 and 1960, registered an annual per capita growth rate of 2.6 per cent; Pakistan (a US ally) growth rate during this period was almost 3 per cent; Korea was 5.4 per cent; Taiwan close to 6 per cent. China has followed the US model since 1978 and its per capita growth rate has averaged close to 8 per cent. Today, our per capita growth rate is close to 4.5 per cent. By the early ’80s, we would have eliminated absolute poverty and our present population growth rate of 1.6 per cent per annum would have been observed that much earlier. And we would have easily grown at 6.5 per cent, per capita, for the last 20 years—our target for the next twenty. Which means India’s per capita income today would have been $10,000, about 20 times higher than what we observe, and about 10 times higher than China’s today. That is the price unsuspecting Indians have paid because of its leaders’ indulgence for the Soviet, rather than the US, model of economic development. There are several additional reasons why the "liberal" path to hell was so wrong. Most importantly, the Russians were least like us; the one society that closely resembles ours is America. We are just as aggressive, arrogant, ugly, confident, entrepreneurial, greedy and capitalistic as any American. And we speak better English than the natives. Ask any of our Sikhs and our Patels and our Jains and our Reddys and our Chettiyars on this planet and you will know what I mean. We pride ourselves in being secular and heterogeneous; the Americans, like us, believe that religion is a private affair and heterogeneity is the spice of life, and a good economy and an even better polity. We strongly believe in democracy; the Americans showed to the world that democracy could work. We strongly believe in fairness as the Americans do; because of the Russian-scarcity model, we are all corrupt and even the judiciary needs a code of governance. Would adoption of the American model have been without its attendant problems of "cultural imperialism"? What about India being flooded by beef-eating McDonald’s, junk food, pizzas, Coca-Cola, Hollywood, rock and roll, jazz, MTV, blue jeans, American beer, computers and windows? Indian, especially tandoori chicken and dosas, and Chinese food is more universal than McDonald’s. The latest food-fad-rage in the world is another Indian export: vegetarianism. India loves blue jeans so much that it soon will be its biggest maker. India soon will have the largest collection of software firms in the world. Every Indian loves a pizza, and loves it even more when guzzling it down with Kingfishers and blaming the Americans for their imperialism. And with all our Russian alignment, we still prefer our Scotch to their vodka. But wouldn’t baseball have replaced cricket? Ahh, spare a thought for the detractors. Did adoption of the Russian no-freedom model mean we got converted into expert pole-vaulting gymnasts? Is ice-hockey a sport even known to the sports-loving editors of this magazine, let alone a billion other people in India? The more likely scenario is that America would have adopted cricket sooner, and made our cricket board even richer. And our cricketers would have won more games, perhaps even some finals, because the money would have been more merit-oriented! Try as I might, I can’t think how India would have lost on any dimension if it had taken the right turn in the early ’60s. India’s destiny is to be a world power, alongside China and America. Perhaps us going the wayward Russian way was a cia strategy which actually succeeded! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Surjit Bhalla is the author of Imagine There’s no Country.

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:10 AM

What If All PIOs Return Home Tomorrow? How long could they stay in that airconditioned building? Would they have 24 hour water and electricity? Would they - or we - cope? Would people would make fun of their accents? Would they not be NRIs anymore? SANJAY SURI Anjali Patel felt defeated as never before after check-in at the special Air India counters at Heathrow Terminal 3. She had always said she loves going to India, but it was different this time on a one-way ticket. She felt overwhelmed by feelings, overcrowded with thoughts. What stood out in her miserable confusion was the thought of losing what had become her caste status. NRI was a hated being in India, she knew. But hearing complaints about NRIs had always brought the pleasing confirmation that an NRI had leapfrogged the caste structure to the top. You had only to leave India for good to become a super-Brahmin. Returning for good meant she would lose that status when she landed in Ahmedabad in about nine hours. Like the rest she had complained often about heat and flies in India. But how much they all talked about this at home, at weddings, at celebrations at the 27-gam Charotar Patidar Samaj. Wasn't it that sense of being better off than Indians in India that had helped them all survive England? She thought of all the incompetent whites who had been promoted above her in her 28 years at the bank. Those attitudes, those looks, those things left half said. The British had become such masters of insults within limits of correctness. British? English, she should say. Because she too had been British, at least her passport had said so until it all changed. The newspapers had still not stopped screaming about it, but was it such a surprise that just after winning the election the Conservative Party had declared itself actually to be the British National Party? In this last election the racist thug, who she had never really encountered, had become one with the polite English she encountered every day. The House of Commons had passed a law to evict all non-whites, and the House of Lords approved it in record time. Prime Minister Nick Griffin who had unanimously been invited to lead the Conservative Party had Big Ben painted white the day after he took over. "They should have had a white scaffolding as well," her sister had said when they went to Westminster like so many others to see what was going on. Strange, but how the British seemed now to love Asians with a one-way ticket out of London. They were at their civilised best. "It's this awful democracy, dear," Mrs Smith had remarked in the lift. "We shall so miss you." She had not replied. She did not feel the need to be polite any more. She could see that the Air India woman in the blue printed sari was shuffling some last-minute papers before the departure announcement. They had flown in staff from India to handle the rush; two million passengers in just a few weeks. And how 800,000 of them had turned out to be illegals; finally they had to surface since they couldn't bleach themselves. Maybe it meant something to them that they were returning on discounted tickets, they were not entitled to government of India benefits under the FNRP (Forced NRI Returnees Programme). The government had its reasons to subsidise tickets, even though flights back to London were all coming empty. No one wanted their pictures taken by a white Big Ben. The returnees were bringing billions of dollars in hard currency. Special industrial programmes had been set up where this money would come in handy. The returnees had been offered a share in a choice of promising trade and investment enterprises. Smart new housing had been set up with '24-hour water and electricity guaranteed with own security'. Anjali Patel had bought a three-bedroom flat in one of these new airconditioned buildings in Ahmedabad that everyone was talking about as NRI Nagar. But she could just hear the Gujus add in the same breath how they are not really NRIs any more. Her two teen-aged boys had been given admission at a new expanded college.She had read about all the opportunities they'd have. How they could do better and have a better life than in England. And she had read how the new white economy of England was heading for collapse. But that wouldn't help her, just as the collapse of the Ugandan economy hadn't helped them after they had all left in 1972. True, the pound was down already from 80 rupees to 68, and falling. The Asian exodus had tripped up England, and the rest of the world was turning away from it as well. This was the broad silver lining. If the pound was not to the rupee what it used to be, then what was the point of England. India was rising in relation to England, but not so fast that the old associations were all gone. She could hear what the sniggering of resident Indians already. Nothing like India, they'd say, just because they were there. How long could they stay in that airconditioned building? People would make fun of her boys' accents, she felt scared there would be fights. Did she imagine it, or did everyone in the departure lounge seem to have similar thoughts. But it was too late now. The woman in the blue sari had taken the mike; "This is a boarding call for Air India special swadeshi flight 999 to Ahmedabad?"

Posted by: Viren Aug 18 2004, 07:12 AM

What If India Had Won The 1962 War Against China? Tibet would have been liberated; the loss of face would have made China retreat into its shell instead of becoming an aggressive imperialist....and of course India's Marxists would have been defanged. RAJEEV SRINIVASAN Indians have been conditioned to believe that we had not a ghost of a chance against China in 1962; but that’s simply not true. If the Indian government had not been so blasé; if the military leadership had not been so ineffectual; if the Indian Air Force had not been grounded, ill-advisedly; well, all historic ifs, but the outcome would have been very different. China’s army is a lot less than invincible, as the battle-hardened Vietnamese proved by thrashing it in 1979. Even the timing was propitious for India, yet we fumbled. In 1962, China had just experienced four years of decreasing foodgrain production and a major famine. Chinese supply lines to the Indo-Tibet border were stretched thin, and could have been disrupted from the air. If only the Indian political and military leadership had not been criminally negligent—which is why the Henderson-Brooks Report on the war has been suppressed, for it would implicate too many in high places—India could have won. The end results would have been dramatic: Tibet would have been liberated; Indians would not have been starry-eyed about China; the loss of face would have made China retreat into its shell instead of becoming an aggressive imperialist. Tibet was an avoidable catastrophe. First is the decimation of a vibrant Indic culture, that of the Tibetan Buddhists. They have been doubly unfortunate. For, Tibetan Buddhism owes its traditions to the few monks who escaped being beheaded by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1197 when he sacked Nalanda. And now, in a repeat, they are being exterminated once again, this time by fascist Han Chinese. In 1962, China was quite weak militarily. If India had created a coalition with Western powers, who worried about the Soviet-China axis, the Han Chinese could have been ejected, and Tibet saved from genocide. The Americans would have cooperated; in those Domino Theory days, they even trained a group of Tibetans for a guerrilla resistance movement back home. India, instead, chose to be gullible "useful idiots", in Chou En-Lai’s dismissive phrase. However, in addition to altruistic concern for a sister culture, India would have gained concrete things from Tibetan freedom. The plateau is the source of many of the rivers in Asia, and benign Tibetan control over them would have given much of Asia water security: the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Irrawaddy all originate there. Instead, China plans to divert the Brahmaputra northwards from Tibet. If so, the Ganga-Brahmaputra doab would dry up, and civilisation as we know it would end in North India. This is a national security issue of the highest order, and Indians ignore it at their peril. Chinese dams across the Mekong are already causing drought in downstream riparian states like Laos and Cambodia. The Chinese deliberately created floods on the Brahmaputra in Arunachal not too long ago. There is every reason to believe China will proceed with diverting water, ignoring India’s objections. This water war India could absolutely have avoided by routing China in 1962. Similarly, Chinese nuclear missiles in Tibet’s high plains, as well as the dumping of nuclear waste therein, both have serious security and environmental implications for India. On a more subtle level, the ‘loss of face’ to China would have had incalculable value in geopolitics. At that time, China was viewed with disdain. They got into the UN Security Council only because Nehru, in his infinite wisdom, gave them the seat offered to India! Bizarre experiments with fundamentalist Leninism/Stalinism, including the Great Leap Forward, caused most observers to view China as a freak show. The bonhomie with the Soviet Union was showing signs of wear; the experiments in collectivisation had not brought the expected benefits; the Great Leap Forward (1958-62), an attempt at using vast amounts of manpower to rapidly industrialise the country, was a colossal failure, and instead created a famine in which as many as forty million perished. China was vulnerable, its self-image mauled by colonialism, as despised gwailo (foreign devils) had ruthlessly penetrated their hitherto smug, supercilious land, the allegedly impregnable Middle Kingdom. The British, through judicious use of opium, and the Japanese, through military might, had shown Chinese their imperial pretensions counted for nothing in the real world. A stinging defeat by India would have so seriously hurt Chinese self-esteem that they would not have dared to dream of dominating Asia. They would not be bullying all their neighbours, as in irredentist adventures in Xinjiang, Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh, Spratlies, Mischief Reef, and the Senkaku Islands. Their Sino-Islamic axis, aimed at containing India, would have been stillborn. And they would not have been proliferating nuclear technology so openly to North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, etc. To consider the psychological effect of such a defeat, just look at India. Even though Indians are not quite so worried about ‘face’, the loss damaged the Indian psyche. The shock of betrayal, and the Macaulayite history of defeat that we imbibe through textbooks, have caused Indians to see themselves as losers. The Chinese would have been far more humiliated after a defeat by India. There would have been more fringe benefits. Everyone respects power and the will to use it. India’s case for the Security Council would have been much stronger. The containment of China through alliances with Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan and Russia would have proceeded apace. Pax Indica in the Indian Ocean would have given India a choke-hold on critical shipping routes transporting Persian Gulf oil to China. India would have acceded to the non-proliferation treaty as a nuclear weapons state, instead of being bulled by the offensive Chinese-drafted Security Council Resolution 1172 condemning the Pokhran II blasts. Another side-effect—and in a way, this might have been the greatest benefit to India—would have been the defanging of India’s Marxists. These evangelists for the Church of Marx would have been laughed out of court if they plugged the sayings of Chairman Mao immediately after China had been defeated by India. This would have prevented Marxist infiltration into academia, institutions and the media, which urgently need to be de-toxified from their baleful influence. Furthermore, both West Bengal and Kerala would have been spared decades of under-development and degeneration. Thus, winning the 1962 war would have made an enormous difference to India. But there is no mistaking the civilisational conflict between India and China. In this millennia-old Grand Narrative, 1962 is a mere skirmish. India colonised Asia softly: with a few exceptions, without military conquest or migration. China colonised by demographic warfare. Indic ideas went everywhere—West Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet; even China and through it, Korea and Japan. The ideas were enormously influential, and they included religion and philosophy, martial arts, mathematics, language, architecture and mythology. China, on the other hand, depended on demographic thrusts: periodic emigration of Han Chinese took their culture and their industrial arts with them. They were looking for survival, for lebensraum: for China has poor land, and either too little or too much water. This process has continued to the present, with the large Chinese diaspora. The last word in this monumental competition has not been written.China may be leading right now, but India is surely no pushover any more. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Rajeev Srinivasan is a columnist for

Posted by: Viren Aug 20 2004, 07:54 AM

In "What If Advani, Not Vajpayee, Had Been PM?", Harish Khare says:

So, if somehow circumstances had conspired to park Advani at the country’s most powerful political office, he would have replicated Charan Singh, a man at ease with his petty prejudices, small ideas and intellectual banality
If Advani was anything like Charan Singh, he'd have done to ABV what Charan did to Morarji Desai. Advani had his failings as a Home Minister but Charan Who? Singh! Then he goes on to add:
both Vajpayee and Advani can be said to be the product of the same RSS mumbo-jumbo factory
When read in the backdrop of Khare's other article 'Go Arjun Go' (posted by acharya in another thread), the "mumbo-jumbo factory" comment reveals the author's bias. Then he adds,
It was that experience that rendered him psychologically scarred and shaped for decades his personality, politics and predilections.
So I guess it would best fit to compare Advani with Nehru (rather than Charan) if one were to read
In particular, he would have gone after Sonia Gandhi in the belief that her Bofors cupboard was overstuffed with politically charged skeletons.
As Home Minister he didn't do that so why as a PM would he have done so? Khare's logic boggles my mind. Then Khare adds:
Within days of our nuclear tests, he had, on May 18 called a grand "strategic" meeting on Kashmir and pronounced that the proxy war in Kashmir emanated from the simple fact that "Pakistan has remained unreconciled to the non-theocratic and non-denominational principle on which the Indian nationhood rests." He invited Pakistan to "realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world." In less than two weeks, Pakistan went nuclear, leaving Advani fuming against "pseudo-liberals" at home "who would like to hand over Kashmir and buy peace."
As if Pakistan would not have exploded their borrowed material if Advani had kept his trap shut!
In particular, he would not be able to handle pressure from the VHP on the mandir issue; the resulting aggravation of communal tension at home would have mentally set him up for a tendentious confrontation with Pakistan.
Mandir issue to "tendentious confrontation" with TSP! What's that got to do with price of tea in China? Talk about stretching one's imagination.

Posted by: rajesh_g Aug 20 2004, 09:33 PM How about this ? What If We Stop Asking Loaded Questions For A Change ?

Posted by: Viren Aug 20 2004, 10:59 PM

rajesh_g: Someone told me after reading this series that it's like 'what if my ma had b@lls? She won't be ma she'd be pa'. laugh.gif There some very interesting view points listed in these 'what-if' scenarios listed above. The exercise if you read carefully, exposes the myths the dorks are using to justify their stance. The series to an extent even expose the peverted logic and shallow facts these so called respectable scribes use which we might not read otherwise in their trash that's dished out daily. To give you an example from the link you've provided above, Irfan Habib says

Secularism means you rely on reason, not religion.
So is the 'right' actually wrong for religious reasons while the secularvadis are right because they use religion without reason? History shows as to how religion is presicely what is used by the so called secularvadis to divide the nation under the guise of 'secularism'. See it seems to me it's okay for Mr Habib to bring in religion as long as you aren't identified as being on 'right'. He goes to say:
I don’t expect by 1955 it would have mattered very much. In fact, the defeat of the rightist forces in the first general elections signifies that the Hindu right did not have much political support
He dosen't go into the facts about why the political base was weak given the fact that at the time most of the 'rightist' forces were banned while the opposing victors were cashing on the events of the time. He adds:
And, of course, economic development would have greatly suffered, because they didn’t have any notion about how to build up industry
Ramakrishna Dalmiya (in his Some Notes and Reminiscences) has list of several industralist such as Birla and himself supporting the "right" - so the notion that these guys didn't know about building industry doesn't fly. And we are all familiar with how the Nehruvian era economics reduced us to watching our planes laden with gold fly offshore in '91 to pump the reserves. Next read his:
Muslim women were better placed than Hindu women before the Hindu Code. In fact, in the Hindu Code women were being just given as much rights as Muslim women, only half the share, but Parliament amended it. Women’s rights would have obviously suffered because all these Hindu right elements were against the Hindu code.
What Irfan doesn't talk about is how pesudo-secularsist agenda has ensured absolutely zilch progress for Muslim women - be it the Rs.35 alimony to a aging women type case or the recent talaknamaha issues or any other gender specific issues in Muslim Personal Law. You'll see in most of the articles listed above the authors have really let their imagination fly and used goobledigook to justify their opinion. We can speculate a lot of what ifs - personally favorites being: - what if one Mohandas Karamchand was not ejected out of the first class compartment in South Africa or - what if Prithiviraj had taken Ghauri to task when he defeated him - what if Cleopatra's nose was a bit shorter/longer wink.gif etc...

Posted by: Viren Aug 20 2004, 11:08 PM

What If India Were Really To "Shine"? Will we be happier? Will all of us have a job, a house, a car, a driver and even 3-D mobile phones (whatever they will be)? Or will we all be divorced, drunk, fat, cramped for space, lonely and in debt? ADITYA JHA There will be more women studying and more women working. So, there will be more "love marriages". Many of them will be "inter-caste". This will drive national integration and remove the caste divide. No amount of legislation can achieve this as much as economic progress will. As women will become financially independent, divorce rates will jump up. And those who are fond of saying "This generation is not willing to compromise", will do well to remember that everyone will be doing all the compromising at the work place; with their boss, with their colleagues, with their missed promotions and with their small increments. And, as more and more children will be born, whose parents (or, ex-parents) speak different languages, English will become the dominant language of India. Valentine Day will become an Indian festival, coming exactly on the full moon after Makar Sankranti. South India will celebrate it one day before North India. There will be many more vehicles on the roads. But the amount of road will remain the same. The growth rate will be enough to get you a vehicle, but not enough to create funds for infrastructure after greasing the mandatory pockets. Flyovers-in-construction-forever will be the dominant visual of the country. They'll take up most of the driving space. Driving will become such a pain that everyone will have a driver. Supply will not be a problem. In fact, it'll be the career of choice for most educated youngsters who can't get into a call center. Eventually, half of India may be working in call centers and the other half may be their drivers. But it sounds too far fetched. All the marginal farmers couldn't have committed suicide. Call centers will not be called call centers. They'll not even be called BPO. A new, more respectable term will be created. Something like "Global Business Enabling Hubs". China will not replace India as the call center capital of the world. They'll learn English but it'll sound like Chinese because they don't have a culture of laughing at the other person's English accent, like we have. Analysts miss this important competitive advantage. Even Patna will have an IIT. There will be over 500 of them in the entire country. American TV channels will make programs on how IITs produce the best call center employees in the world. Maids will still be available. But, since most of the unemployed women will have a son or a brother who speaks English, and is a driver or a call center employee, it'll be beneath the dignity of the family to have them work as maids. So, they'll become expensive; like everything else except the drivers. And they'll be called Domestic Supervisors. The houses will get smaller. They'll be full of gadgets which we will not use but will be forced to buy by the marketers. Most of the gadgets will be more intelligent than us. Life will be busy with important things like being stuck in the traffic. Watching music videos on a 150-inch wall projection, alone, will be the preferred mode of relaxation. Because the house will be small and the screen so big, everyone will have a perennial headache. This will bring down the population growth rate. It'll also drive up the drinking. More drinking will lead to more divorces which will lead to more drinking. Prices of alcohol will stabilize, but that of water will shoot up. We'll consume our annual domestic quota of power in the first 3 months with all the gadgets in the house. There'll be a thriving black market in the energy sector. Designer candles will be a boom industry. There will be no "native place" for children to go to. Paying for petrol will take up 20% of our combined (or divorced) salary. Everyone will have a minimum of 6 credit cards.At any given point, three of them will be over the limit. Will we be happier? On one hand, many more of us will have a job, a house, a car, a driver and even 3-D mobile phones (whatever they will be). On the other, we'll be divorced, drunk, fat, cramped for space, lonely and in debt. I don't know. But, it'll be a great time to be young and not be worried

Posted by: Viren Aug 20 2004, 11:15 PM

What If India Were Really To "Shine"? Will we be happier? Will all of us have a job, a house, a car, a driver and even 3-D mobile phones (whatever they will be)?
While the car/house owner basks in the India shine, the driver might actually be pissed off that he's driving a car while the owner is frolicking around the town shopping and enjoying kebab-sharab in fancy restuarants. And then he'll go out and in next election and vote out those buggers who didn't get him a car laugh.gif No joke, but there was interview with the taxi driver from Mumbai published in the aftermath of the last election results which was something like this.

Posted by: Viren Aug 24 2004, 08:42 AM

Ambedkar wrote: "I think good will come out of the death of Mr Gandhi. It will release people from bondage to supermen, it will make them think for themselves and compel them to stand on their own merits." Harsh words... M.V. KAMATH Had Nathuram Godse failed to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi and the latter had lived a few more years he would have been the most frustrated man in India, marginalised and feeling totally unwanted. By early 1946, he had begun to sense his ebbing authority. His most devout followers had begun to desert him. That year he wrote to his friend Ghanshyamdas Birla: "My voice carries no weight in the Working Committee. I don’t like the shape things are taking and I cannot speak out." In March ’46, when Gandhi was away in Bihar, the Congress Working Committee reluctantly, as Judith Brown put it, but realistically resolved that partition of the Punjab would be the only solution to the growing violence. Gandhi was deeply hostile to any partition on communal grounds and asked for an explanation from both Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel. Wrote Nehru: "I feel convinced and so did most members of the Working Committee that we must press for this immediate division so that reality might be brought into the picture." Patel said the decision was taken only after the deepest deliberation, and told his guru: "You are, of course, entitled to say what you feel is right." Pained beyond description, Gandhi told one of his prayer meetings: "Whatever the Congress decides will be done; nothing will be according to what I say. My writ runs no more.... No one listens to me any more.... I am crying in the wilderness." By May ’46, Gandhi began to feel so frustrated he no longer wished to live to be 125. The day before he was assassinated, on January 29, 1948, in what was generally later referred to as his last will and testament, he summarised his vision of a Congress that wasn’t a power-seeking political party but a body of servants of the people "whose main labours would be in the villages". As he saw it, the Congress had outlived its usefulness and needed to be disbanded. He would have been ignored, ignominiously, writes Judith Brown in her biography of the Mahatma: "(He) was acutely aware that there was little need of him now. He spoke of being a ‘lone voice’. He wondered aloud what place he had in this new India and had stopped aspiring to a long life, because he now felt so helpless... unable to serve his country." Gandhi had named Nehru as his successor but he was increasingly getting disillusioned with his leadership. By mid-December ’47, he launched a weak attack against the Congress rule, saying: "We have to develop in us the power that non-violence alone can give." He urged his listeners at his prayer meetings: "Today we have forgotten the ‘charkha’.... Today we have a large army...our expenditure on the army has increased is a tragedy and a shame. For so long we fought through the charkha and the moment we have power in our hands, we forget it. Today we look to the army." Gandhi urged reduction of defence expenditure, drastic reduction of all government salaries and preferred volunteers to employing high-priced civil servants. He had become an anachronism and had he lived, there would have been bitter arguments between him on the one hand and Nehru and Patel on the other. Even on Jammu and Kashmir, Gandhi had his ideas. Writes Stanley Wolpert in Gandhi’s Passion: "Gandhi’s peaceful solution for Kashmir, formulating an honourable way for India to extricate itself from the costly, deadly war, was completely ignored by Nehru. Not only did Nehru silently reject Bapu’s wise and kind offer, he also resented Gandhi’s daring to intrude into the one foreign policy area Nehru coveted most as his own personal domain." Later in his biography, Wolpert adds: "In its proliferation of arms and in its foreign policy New Delhi has for the most part turned away from Bapu’s ideal course and life’s teaching." By ’47 he had cut himself off from Wardha as years earlier he had cut himself off from his very first Indian ashram at Sabarmati. To those who lived there he wrote to say they should regulate their lives as they thought best. Writes Brown: "He evidently felt that, for all their good intentions and acceptance of his ideals, they had all failed to exhibit the true quality and power of non-violence. He told them: ‘I am afraid you must give up all hope of my returning early or returning at all to the ashram.’" By ’47, he had come to the conclusion that he was not wanted by anyone anywhere, be they his ashramites, Nehru, Patel or the Congress Working Committee, and worst of all, the people at large. It was a pathetic situation. Gandhi would have opposed the taking of Hyderabad and Goa by force, the Five Year Plans, the building of huge dams, the upgrading of the army, in fact everything Nehru stood for. He would have been an embarrassment to Nehru and Nehru would have been an embarrassment to him. His assassination, in a sense, for all the grief it evoked, must have come as a relief to both. It would be sheer hypocrisy to say living in free India would have brought happiness to Gandhi. On the contrary, he would have been seen as an enemy of progress. Nehru would have felt he was working with his hands bound. What Ambedkar wrote about Gandhi’s death to Laxmi Kabir, who he was subsequently to marry, thus gains relevance: "My own view is that great men are of great service to their country, but they are also at certain times a great hindrance to the progress of the country. Mr Gandhi had become a positive danger to this country. He had choked all the thoughts. He was holding together the Congress which is a combination of all the bad and self-seeking elements in society who agreed on no social or moral principle governing the life of society except the one of praising and flattering Mr Gandhi. Such a body is unfit to govern a country. As the Bible says that sometimes good cometh out of evil, so also I think good will come out of the death of Mr Gandhi. It will release people from bondage to supermen, it will make them think for themselves and compel them to stand on their own merits." Harsh words and only Nehru would be able to answer to them. For good or evil, Gandhi’s end set India on a new path. (M.V. Kamath’s autobiography, A Reporter at Large, has been just published. )

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