“A nation that forgets its history or its geography does so at its peril”. — V P Menon, secretary of the Ministry of States (V. P. Menon, was an Indian civil servant who played a vital role in the partition of India and the integration of independent India, during the period 1945-1950. (http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ V._P._Menon)
pays for Nehru’s folly
A Surya Prakash
Republic Day is a day of celebration, but it also has its poignant moments, especially when the President confers gallantry awards on brave soldiers who lay down their lives in the line of duty. Often those who are honoured are young men in uniform who make the supreme sacrifice while pushing back militants trained in Pakistan-occupiedand sent into to indulge in murder and mayhem. While we salute the latest batch of martyrs, we need to reflect on the events that led to occupying one-third of the State and setting up the base to carry on a relentless proxy war against us.
One such event, which has cost the nation dear, was India’s fateful decision to complain to thewhen invaded in October 1947. Two books that have hit the stands in recent weeks throw fresh light on this historic blunder committed by India’s first Prime Minister . While leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the then Home Minister, wanted firm and swift military action to throw out the invaders, Nehru’s pusillanimity led him to beseech the world body and later to meekly submit to the UN Security Council’s advice to end military action. The ceasefire, ordered by Nehru, prevented the from completely regaining the lost territory and was instrumental in the creation of a geographical entity that is known the world over as Pakistan-occupied .
The fact that Nehru’s moves vis-à-viscaused much disappointment and even anger among political leaders and Army commanders is reinforced by new evidence available in Air Marshal (rtd) KC Cariappa’s eponymous biography of his father Field Marshal KM Cariappa, India’s most distinguished soldier, and Prof Makkhan Lal’s Secular Politics, Communal Agenda — A history of Politics in from 1860 to 1953, the first in a three-part series that covers events up to 2007.
According to Air Marshal Cariappa, the Government went against the advice of both military commanders who were directly involved in the operations: “Father was then the General Officer Commanding-in- Chief, Western Command, and Maj Gen Thimayya was the operational commander. They were convinced that capture of Muzzafarabad, now the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, was imminent. The Army, however, was ordered to suspend all offensive operations with effect from January1, 1949 even though the enemy continued fighting.” Field Marshal Cariappa had later said that the Army had its ‘tail up’ and was “confident of clearing most ofand re-investing “. But orders were received to cease fire. “He ( Field Marshal Cariappa) said the Army was very disappointed by the decision, but orders were orders.”
This has been corroborated by other sources as well. For example, long years ago S Nijalingappa, former President of the Congress, had told this writer of his chance meeting with Maj Gen Thimmayya at Teen Murti Bhavan, the official residence of the Prime Minister, around the time Nehru was contemplating a ceasefire. According to Nijalingappa, the General told Nehru that the Army needed two weeks more to regain lost territory but the Prime Minister was adamant. The General found Nehru’s attitude inexplicable. He left Teen Murti Bhavan in disgust.
Air Marshal Cariappa also reproduces Lt Gen SM Shrinagesh’s comment on thefiasco. According to him, “Lt Gen Cariappa was ordered not to carry out offensive operations which would threaten Pakistan’s security” and the air force was told not to attack vital bridges used by ! “The language which the RIAF used on receiving these instructions had to be heard to be believed.”
Air Marshal Cariappa says a few years hence his father asked Nehru the reason for the ceasefire. Nehru, on hindsight, conceded that the ceasefire order ought to have been delayed. He reportedly told Cariappa, “Quite frankly, looking back on it now, I think we should have given you a few more days, ten or fifteen days more. Things would have been different.”
Many of Nehru’s colleagues in Government were also distressed by the complaint to the UN and all that followed. This included Sardar Patel, BR Ambedkar and several others.
In his book, Prof Makkhan Lal says that thoughinvaded on October 22, 1947, Nehru had information in September about Pakistan’s aggressive designs but did not initiate any pre-emptive action. Prof Lal says that but for Sardar Patel’s decisive action (getting the Maharaja to sign the Instrument of Accession and air-lifting troops to in the early hours of October 27), would have lost forever.
This view is reinforced by the reminiscences of VP Menon, who was then Secretary in the States Department, and NV Gadgil, a Minister in the Nehru Cabinet. Prof Lal quotes Gadgil as having said, “I am afraid Nehru is responsible for the prolongation of the problem through his willingness to compromise at every stage… Had Vallabhbhai been the man to handle thequestion, he would have settled it long ago. At least, he would never have settled with a partial control of . He would have occupied the whole of the State and would never have allowed it to be elevated to international importance.”
As we grieve with the families of those brave soldiers who lay down their lives defending India’s territorial integrity, we need to ask ourselves as to what we need to do to put an end to this constant bleeding thatis subjecting us to. We can make a beginning by getting to the truth about . In order to do this, we must trash the mythology that prevails about Nehru’s infallibility and greatness. We must also firmly reject attempts by historians patronised by the Nehru-Gandhi family to dwarf the contribution of Sardar Patel, Ambedkar, Field Marshal Cariappa, Gen Thimmayya, VP Menon and others, in their effort to sustain the myths they have created about Nehru.
While chronicling the integration of 554 princely states to form the Indian Union, Menon had said that since the time of Mahmud Ghazni, for eight centurieshas been subjected to periodical invasions from the North-West. Ghazni led 17 of these incursions. Keeping up this tradition, the very first act of the new state of was to launch an invasion from the North-West.
Yet, Nehru, much against the advice of military commanders, allowedto retain part of the looted territory, thereby jeopardising India’s security forever. Recalling this, Menon warned, “A nation that forgets its history or its geography does so at its peril”. It is never too late to heed this warning. But in order to do so, we must first get our history right and then remember it.