Narratives: a distorian view

By Chiranjib Haldar

“Congress communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh tweeted ‘Nehru didn’t dictatorially insert Article 370 in Constitution. It was discussed, unlike notebandi. Patel, Ambedkar & Shyama Prasad Mukherjee didn’t object. Ayyangar who had worked in J&K drafted it. Nobody resigned over it…’ The war of words on Kashmir’s accession and Nehru’s role may be proof that Karen Rijiju and the present regime is deliberately recasting the Nehruvian mould which post-independent India has always lauded.”

A distorian is defined as a person who distorts, rather than honestly reports, history. The dictionary also terms a person who under the guise of reporting history, engages in a diatribe, debunking or moral defenestration as a distorian. In the recent political furore over Union Minister Karen Rijiju’s salvo at Jawaharlal Nehru’s five follies in Kashmir, a tug of words has broken out between the BJP and Congress. While Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has taken a dig at Karen Rijiju’s distorian perspective on Kashmir’s accession, the later has asserted that Nehru’s quintet of blunders is still being rectified by Prime Minister Modi. The row started with an article by Rijiju in which he held Nehru responsible for ‘rejecting’ Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession request in July 1947 and grave mistakes which cost India dear.
Nehru being vilified by the current regime is nothing new, umpteen ills befitting the nation have often been indirectly or directly foisted on out first Prime Minister. But eulogising Maharaja Hari Singh ‘takes the cake’ and the Congress has cast shenanigans at Minister Karen Rijiju for exalting the former Maharaja. The bone of contention between Congress and BJP is Rijiju’s blatant assertion that ‘Seven decades were lost due to these Nehruvian blunders & India paid a heavy price…finally history took a turn in 2019 when India First was the only guiding principle.’ He also blamed Nehru for rejecting Hari Singh’s accession request and instead pitching for special status. Congress ideologue Jairam Ramesh’s jibe has only exposed Rijiju’s ‘distorian’ notion.
Sclerotic thinking reflects the mental silos of a few. And when wisdom overrides fiction, the latter gets brushed under the carpet. The quintet of blunders attributed to Nehru may be plain bashing of India’s first Prime Minister which suits the ideology of the current dispensation. In his diatribe Union Law Minister Karen Rijiju opines ‘…Seven decades passed since those tumultuous years. India has since paid a heavy price for Nehru putting family, friendship and personal agendas above national interest. The world got a lever to pin India down…’ Is that a fair assessment in retrospect or ideological plain speak to disseminate and distort facts, rather keep the chaff and grain instead of separating them?
The slugfest extraordinaire on Kashmir and Nehru’s role may be ample proof that majoritarian India has been gently enthroned. An ethic unflinching in its determination to impose itself, embody a particular viewpoint and vacate all others. It thus becomes the essential arbiter and convinces us that we have bid sayonara to the original idea of India.
The story on princely states and Kashmir starts on April 19, 1946 when Mountbatten recorded that he was disappointed with Nehru’s ‘inflammatory speech’ at Gwalior, giving an ultimatum to the rulers to either join the Constituent Assembly or to be treated as hostile. He bluntly told Nehru that he ‘considered his speech to be both mistimed and unfortunate.’ So, why the BJP and Congress are sparring over Nehru and his role in Kashmir? Kiren Rijiju lambasts Nehru’s blunders and how the present dispensation is still rectifying them. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Gujarat said, ‘Sardar saheb (Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel) persuaded all the princely states to merge with India. But another person handled this one issue of Kashmir’, an obvious riposte to Nehru. The Congress has hit back accusing the BJP and its ilk of whitewashing history.
Congress communications in-charge Jairam Ramesh tweeted ‘Nehru didn’t dictatorially insert Article 370 in Constitution. It was discussed, unlike notebandi. Patel, Ambedkar & Shyama Prasad Mukherjee didn’t object. Ayyangar who had worked in J&K drafted it. Nobody resigned over it…’ The war of words on Kashmir’s accession and Nehru’s role may be proof that Karen Rijiju and the present regime is deliberately recasting the Nehruvian mould which post-independent India has always lauded. Some have equated it with the old Goebbelian formula of reiterating deceit till it appears as the truth. Or is there more to this slugfest? It is pertinent to revisit the timeline of that tumultuous October, 75 years later. On 24th October, 1947 Mountbatten received a ‘desperate appeal’ from erstwhile Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh for help. On 25th October, 1947 the Defence Committee chaired by Mountbatten met and asked V.P. Menon, Secretary, States Department to visit Kashmir to assess the situation. The very next day, on 26th October, Menon reported to the Defence Committee. Lord Mountbatten decided that Kashmir’s accession was a legal requirement before sending Indian troops to repel the marauding invaders. Till the Kashmir issue was taken to the United Nations on Mountbatten’s advice on 1st January, 1948, Menon was Sardar Patel’s confidante and comrade-in-arms. No emissary was sent by Maharaja Hari Singh to Nehru in July, 1947 as is being narrated. The moot point to grasp is that V.P. Menon and Sardar Patel were handling Kashmir and not Nehru. Hence the blunder as attributed to Nehru is more of a fallacy.
The political furore over Nehru’s role in Kashmir’s accession has brought a number of skeletons out of the closet. Highlighting Nehru’s quintet of blunders has more to do with the erosion of centrist philosophy. An alternate political narrative is taking centre-stage and an aberrational brand of nationalism which was never the cornerstone of India’s psyche seems to have gained traction.
(The writer is a commentator on politics and society.)

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