Archive for August 10th, 2010

Subhas Chandra Bose (1897- 1945)
Patriot, freedom fighter

One of the brightest jewels of the Indian national Movement Subhas was fated to remain for long unrecognized for the simple reason that he didn’t kowtow the official position of Congress, which in effect was what Gandhi had in mind. Gandhi’s association with Motilal led him to push Nehru as the leader than Subhas. Owing to his stature in the eyes of the people Gandhi could get away with a serious error in judgment. As we shall see Gandhi’s meddling was to prove disastrous for emerging India. For one thing the dynastical rule of Gandhi family and corruption would take the mainstream. Subhas did provide a viable alternative to the leadership of Jawaharlal that was often wanting in decisiveness or vision. While Nehru took the Centrist position Bose took a Left position.
It is one of the ironies of history that Subhas Chandra Bose was out of the mainstream as events were inexorably marching towards an inevitable Partition, beginning with Khilafat movement of the 20s. Gandhiji fell in with the communal stream while ‘Desabandhu’ Chittaranjan Das resisted it (The Bengal Pact of 1923). Bose sided with Das. Had it been accepted by the Congress secularism would have had a chance in practice than in name to the Indian Congress politics. In 1947 Bose was away while Viceroy Mountbatten with a view to his place in history was ready to partition India and take Britain out of India. Nehru and Vallabhai Patel went along with the division as fait accompli. A patriot of Patriots as Gandhiji qualified him would not have accepted freedom as a gift from the British and instead would have fought as he did even allying with the devil in order to realize it. (Ack: The Hero who walked alone’ Nikhil Chakravarty-The Hindu, Nov16-1997)
During his visit to London he presented his views on India’s freedom struggle at several public meetings. At one he was told by an Englishman thus, ‘Remember, the sun never sets on the British Empire.’
‘Even God does not trust the British in the dark’ was his reply.
Note: there is a similar quote attributed to Duncan Spaeth. ‘I know why the sun never sets on the British empire: God would not trust an Englishman in the dark’.
A common epithet thrown at the English has been ‘perfidious Albion’.’ The English are…perfidious and cunning…’ (Leo de Rozmital-1456)
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
Indian savant, monk

His visit to the US was to attend the Parliament of World Religions held at Chicago on September 1893. His noble presence and command of English and not to mention the beauty of his message electrified the audience. He helped build a bridge of understanding between India and the West.
At a dinner party Swami Vivekananda spoke as the spirit of Renaissance his hopes and dreams for resurgent India. A bore across the table kept of interrupting him and at one point he wanted to know the difference between a monk and a monkey.
With a grin the warrior monk finished him off saying, ‘Very slight, just being at different sides of the same table.’
John Mathai(1886-1959)who served as the Finance Minister in the Nehru cabinet had to face the ire of Ramanath Goenka who was a MP, over the budget he had presented in the House. He complained that it lacked the brains and Mr. Mathai retorted, ‘Brains, alas, are not sold in the black market.”
In 1937 Homi Modi(1881-1969) was speaking in the Central Assembly over the proposal to increase the excise duty on foreign liquor. He admitted he smoked and drank but he made it clear that he didn’t know what to do if the duties are further increased.
Satyamurthi commented, ‘Go in for toddy.’
Calmly Modi answered him, ‘No thank you, like everything swadeshi, toddy goes to my head.’
In the 30s while discussing Child Marriage Bill Baijnath Bajoria opposed the Bill which raised marriage of the girls to eighteen, Homi Modi wanted to know, ‘Would you prefer two girls of nine to one of eighteen?’
Once N.M Joshi a labor leader began his speech prefacing,’Mr. President, I don’t understand…’ Modi quipped, ‘That is the trouble with you.’
In a moment of prescience Homi Modi could see through the humbug of the World leaders who vowed at the end of WWI that peace would last forever. He observed, ‘Having fought a war to end all wars, they have created a peace to end all peace’. He was indeed proved right.

George Nathaniel Curzon
Viceroy of India (1899-1905)

Lord Curzon epitomized the British Empire at its heyday. Perhaps his career would explain precisely what was wrong with the British Raj. His contemporary and schoolfellow, Oscar Wilde, described him as one who was mediocre, ‘desperately pursuing a second class degree and then a second-class career.’ It was into his hand such immense power over 300 million Indians the British government had let, – and he created needless controversies one of which was the Partition of Bengal. It was a dry run for yet another Partition that would in 42 years recur with vengeance.
This anecdote concerns him at a time Lord Salisbury hosted a party in honor of Li Hung Chang (1823-1901) at Hatfield his family estate. Curzon was also present. The Chinese envoy asked him how old he was. Curzon replied that he was thirty-six.
‘Dear me,’ the visitor said, ’exactly the same age as the German Emperor.’
After a pause he continued, ‘The German Emperor, however has, six sons. How many have you?’
Curzon informed the Chinese that he was only recently got married and so far none.
In reply Li Hung Chang incredulously asked, ’Then what you have been doing all this time?’
Curzon later admitted that neither then nor subsequently could he find an appropriate answer.

U.N Dhebhar (1906-1977)
Indian politician

India politics is ever played with a Gandhi in mind. For old timers who were caught in the Pre-Independent freedom movement of course Gandhi would mean none other than the apostle of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi. Of the politicians who made Gandhian principles ring true by deeds UN Dhebhar is second to none. In 1947 he was the Chief Minister of Saurashtra and in 1955 he became the President of the Congress Party.
Mr. Dhebhar was compassionate and self disciplined to make Gandhian precepts fit for any occasion and an example of this may be seen during a tour through the drought-hit areas as the CM of Saurashtra. A senior officer, a scion of a princely family, accompanied him. Passing through the outskirts of a village he saw a young girl drawing water from a dirty pond. He stopped the car and asked the girl why she was filling her pitcher from it. She replied that water truck had not come around for a couple of days.
Dhebhar questioned the officer who blamed on the breakdown on the vehicle. The CM asked for a glass of water from the same pond and ordered the officer to drink it. The officer said, “How could one do this?”
“If you cannot do you expect the people to do so?” Dhebhar insisted that the officer to remain there till he fixed the problem. The CM rode off. Meanwhile the news got around that a senior officer was present in the village. The water truck soon arrived on the scene. (Ack: V. Gadgil-Commerce)
benny, Nehru’s father

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Jew-baiting in Europe was pervasive right from the time the powers- that- be found the Jews a convenient scapegoat. The rulers of principalities funded their wars with the money extorted from the Jews. Torquemada for example comes to mind. Jews were banished from the Catholic Spain. France was not free from this prejudice. That was then.
In the late 19th century France was rocked by a scandal. In its wake their deep seated fear of Jews came to the fore. I cite the collapse of the company that floated the Panama Canal project. In 1888 the company formed by Ferdinand de Lesseps went under with a loss to stockholders, most of them small bourgeois investors, of $300,000,000. From inquiries and trials that followed an endemic corruption in which several cabinet ministers, some 150 members of Parliament and nearly every important newspapers had been bribed off. The company wanted to avoid a crash and money spent at the right quarters allowed the company to stave off an immediate collapse. For the time being. Of these corrupt people only one was found guilty and prosecuted because his conscience prick made him confess! Now the question is how come anti-semitism suddenly became the news of the day? The politicians and corrupt law-givers wanted to save their hides,- and also face, one would think.
The Jews as a nation was a nation within the national life of Russia and as elsewhere, in France also.
There cannot be smoke without fire. In fact there were three Jews who on behalf of the company actually handled the bribing of influential people. In the mass hysteria surely l’affaire Dreyfus was waiting to happen. The man on the street as a result of corruption,divisions lost faith in the Third Republic and in those who ran the Republic. Of course politicians who used the Jews as smoke screen may have escaped immediate retribution but their actions would surely bring disaster. How else one can explain the utter fiasco under which France met the challenge of rising Nazism?
Within a span of six weeks during the balmy May-July days of 1940 the world’s second largest empire were utterly brought to their knees. France may have prided in her culture and civilized way of life but all these would give way to a Fascist dictatorship and an epitome of Totalitarian Political system. Who genuflected shamelessly before the Moloch but the father figure of the French Army, the one and only Philippe Petain?
It is poetic justice that Army caved in when the nation needed them most. The Army had long before their debacle lost their morale in the Dreyfus case.
In 1894 throwing Dreyfus to the wolves in order to protect the Army made the country split in the middle. The Left and Right veered to extreme positions. For the Army, the Catholic Church and the conservative majority it was not the question whether Dreyfus was guilty or not but that it were better that he suffered than sacrifice the prestige and honor of the French Army. With such persuasive argument France walked roughshod over the individual liberties of some individuals as though their lives didn’t count. On a flimsy charge that will never stand in a court of law Captain Dreyfus was publicly disgraced. La Libre Parole a paper noted for her anti-semitism commented next day: “It was not an individual who was degraded here for an individual crime. The shame of an entire race was bared in its nakedness.”
When a nation has sacrificed its moral force what morale can an army muster in case of emergency? When the House has developed a cleft down the middle what hope is left for the inmates? In the face of the national crisis the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris led the prayers and hoped as with the people for a miracle. It was of no use since the Army was sapped by dreams of glory and of the past than of the present.
Curtailing individual liberties of even one person do carry its measure of seeds of poison. If the nation could make short shrift of one it stands to reason there shall be many more cases similarly repeated elsewhere. The accumulated poison shall spread through wind, water, rivers and oceans that in the end will create catastrophe.

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