Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nehru, Modi, Eelam: Aravindan Neelakandan's Canard

Aravindan Neelakandan's latest blog on Nehru is an admirable exercise in manipulation of facts. Neelakandan is a proponent of strident Hindutva with a website named, what else, ''. Nehru and Gandhi are probably the most hated individuals by Modi's prospective voters.

Neelakandan seeking to justify a Modi regime sought to 'expose' Nehru on the occasion of, of course, Nehru's birthday. He alleges that Nehru signed a pact with Sri Lankan Prime Minister John Kotelawala that made thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils 'stateless'. Neelakandan's new found love for Eelam has an agenda. He quotes Nehru's comrade V.K.Krishna Menon that Nehru signed the pact with little thought of what it would do Tamils and he did so to win international acclaim. Then Neelakandan conflates Nehru-Liaquat pact as a similar effort that 'paved the way for genocide of Hindus in Pakistan'. All those pacts led to, Neelakandan alleges, the genocide of Hindus in what was East Pakistan in 1971 and in Sri Lanka in 2009. In the passing he takes refuge in Rajaji's criticisms of Nehru.

When the sun set in the British empire they left behind countries that were mangled and mired in problems. The British had imported cheap labor, by the thousands for many years, into Sri Lanka from Tamil Nadu. Its a thorny issue with grey areas. Sri Lankans felt that indentured laborers who came as immigrants should go back to India, irrespective of how long they had lived in Sri Lanka. Many were there for generations. Before Indians jump indignantly let us remember why Assam erupted into a violent revolution. If one looks, just cursorily, at the Assam agreement one could see how draconian it was. Sri Lanka acted likewise by asking India to take back all immigrants. Nehru had been in dialogue with Senanayaka first and then Kotelawala.

Nehru invited Kotelawala to Delhi for talks. After three days of talks Jan 16th-18th 1954 they signed a pact that was a tortured document about what kind of people Sri Lanka would accept as citizens and who, India, should take back. Fairly Sri Lankan Tamils were not happy. Thats a fair criticism. But Neelakantan goes further in alleging that Nehru was villainous.

Writing on the Nehru-Senanayake talks Valli Kanapathi Pillai writes in 'Citizenship and Statelessness in Sri Lanka' that Nehru "refused to compromise on the interests of the Indian Tamils for the sake of bilateral relationship. In all the negotiations that Nehru had with Sri Lanka over the Indian Tamils he resisted any suggestion of large scale repatriation of Indians".

Kanapathi Pillai does quote Vytilingam, as cited by Neelakandan, that the Tamils felt 'they have been tied hand and foot and delivered to John Kotelawala'. Pillai also extends his criticism that Nehru had initiated a change in stance with Kotelawala and for the first time accepted 'repatriation'. Pillai is categorical that this was done for 'bilateral relations'. The pact was a complete failure and Pillai lays the blame all around for that. The next big pact was the Sirima-Shastri pact which took the repatriation agreement to new levels.

In the course of history such deal making is common. It is distasteful but it is done. The crux of the issue is that Nehru did not 'sell out' Tamils to get a feather in his cap from the international community as Neelakantan alleges.

What Neelakantan does not place in context is the precarious nature of the Indian state in 1954. Barely 7 years after Independence and a steady stream of communal riots until 1950 posed serious threats to the very survival of the nation. By alleging that Nehru sold out Tamils Neelakantan moves to the real objective of painting Nehru as one who sold out Hindus in the Nehru-Liaquat pact.

On the Nehru-Liaquat pact Neelakandan is certainly on far slippery ground. His usual technique is to find a good factual nugget and then use the credibility thus gained to propagate an unrelated falsehood. Neelakandan, an open Hindutva proponent, sought to establish that Nehru was a habitual 'sellout' and used the messy Sri Lankan example to establish a pattern for his more important allegation that Nehru laid the groundwork for genocide of thousands of Hindus. I need to wash my hands for typing that sentence.

Nehru wrote to Clememt Attlee on 20th March 1950 and it bears some extensive quotes. Citing that Muslims hold high positions in Indian government Nehru contrasts it with Pakistan, "In Pakistan the Hindus did not and do not occupy any important place", "the party itself is communal and thus there is not even a chance for a non-Muslim to influence its work or decisions". Referring to India's efforts to bring back Muslims from areas that they fled from Nehru contrasts with Sind 'practically no Hindu population left, except for the their services were required...Sind was thus added to the West Punjab and the Frontier Province as an area where the minority problem had practically been solved by the elimination of the minority".

After signing the pact with Liaquat Nehru addressed the parliament at length. "As I sat hour after hour, discussing these matters of grave import with the Prime minister of Pakistan, I saw an unending stream of unhappy, fear-stricken refugees, uprooted from their home, facing a dark and unknown future. I experienced their sorrow and misery and I prayed for guidance as to how this could be stopped". It was "essentially a human problem in which human lives and human suffering were involved in a measure that was almost unthinkable".

The partitioning of India created a humanitarian disaster that was unprecedented in history and thankfully never seen again either. 10 million lives were uprooted in a mass exodus of Hindus and Muslims across the sub-continent. The wounds festered for long. And 3 years, when the Nehru-Liaquat pact happens, is nothing in the time scale of a nation's wounded history. Both countries were ready to erupt into war and civil wars. In 2013 we cannot even fathom those perilous days.

India had far more minorities than Pakistan did and any lesser secular leadership than Nehru could have easily seen the country descend into horrific bloodshed that could possibly have torn apart a nascent country.

Nehru-Liaquat pact centered around the right of refugees to return home, be provided safe conveyance for visits to dispose property, minorities to be assured, in both countries, of liberty. Nehru addresses the concern that Pakistan was a theocratic state and cites Liaquat's assurances of a modern liberal constitution. Liaquat did indeed write the 'objectives' for Pakistan. Then Nehru speaks of India's secularism. "This (secularism) does not mean that religion ceases to be an important factor in the private life of the individual. It means the state and religion are not tied up together".

Worried over the war mongering of Pakistan Nehru writes a really long 7 page letter to all chief ministers on August 1st 1951. Nehru recounts a vast public meeting, attended by 200,000 according to his estimate. It was raining heavily yet people stayed  to listen to their leader. Nehru writes that he spoke to this vast crowd about the recent war mongering by Pakistan and how India had nothing to be afraid of by detailing the steps taken by India. His "comparison of the 'clenched fist' of Pakistan with the Asoka Chakra, our symbol of peace and righteousness, evoked the loudest applause". Then Nehru goes on to give a summary of how UK and USA are molly coddling Pakistan. The letter gives a history lesson too. (I hope Neelakantan loves Nehru's fondness for Asoka Chakra)

Here is a leader who addresses a parliament at length laying out the rationale for a treaty while completely aware of how venal a theocratic state can treat its minorities. When a neighboring country rattles its saber Nehru addresses the common man, counseling caution, unlike Modi in Trichy. Then he proceeds to write a lengthy letter to state chief ministers like a CEO would write to his chief officials. Actually Nehru treats the CM's with respect and as equals. Sadly his daughter and grandson learned none of this. This is the man that Neelakandan says laid the foundations for genocide of Hindus.

It is instructive to compare Patel, Modiu's hero here. To Modi and his voters it is an article of faith that Gandhi out of partiality toward Nehru foisted him to Prime Ministership and that if Patel had been PM India would have, without a doubt, fared better.

The only decent biography of Patel is by Rajmohan Gandhi. Neelakantan might disagree with the book because the author is Gandhi's son. Patel is an honorable son of India who rendered a great service to the country at a time of great peril. However Patel was not Nehru. Rajmohan quotes a report from Hindustan Times where Patel says "every loyal muslim must be treated as a brother". Rajmohan quotes it approvingly to illustrate how well disposed Patel was towards Muslims. Little does Rajmohan, a hindu, realize how grating to a muslim's ears must the words be. What does Patel mean by 'loyal muslim should be treated as brethren". Till today one can hear those words. Why did not Patel tell Muslims "every loyal Hindu will be your brethren". A Hindu's loyalty is axiomatic and is assumed. A Muslim's loyalty is a  pre-requisite to be treated as brethren.

Angered by the exodus of Hindus from Pakistan Patel wrote to Nehru "we would have no alternative left except to send out Muslims in equal numbers". Thankfully Nehru, as PM, discredited that shameful advice. But Patel, the Sardar that he is, corrected himself and stood by Nehru to support the pact with Liaquat.

Patel and Nehru are a good tag team. Unfortunately Patel died too soon in 1950 barely when India's constitution was adopted and the country became a republic. During the constitutional debates Patel ridiculed that there 'should be no restrictions on the Press, the lathi or the bullet'. Patel wanted, Rajmohan writes, 'citizen's right of speech and action to be balanced by society's right of order'. Of course Nehru stood for greater individual freedom. Where Nehru, enamored by Soviet collectivization, was eager to grab farm land, Patel stood firmly against it.

It takes a really malicious mind to connect Liaquat-Nehru pact with Hindu's killed in East Pakistan in 1971. East Pakistan was engulfed in total civil war where not just Hindus were killed. The civil war condition created a refugee crises prompting Indira Gandhi to act decisively. Vajpayee then called Indira Gandhi as 'Durga devi'.

Yes Rajaji opposed Nehru particularly on the economic policy front. Rajaji correctly labeled Nehru's economic vision as 'license permit raj'. Rajaji and K.M.Munshi formed the libertarian Swatantra party. Their declarations read like the campaign rhetoric of USA's modern day GOP replete with references to 'small government'. Later the same Rajaji would join hands with DMK to defeat Congress. I'd love to know if Neelakantan liked that too.

Rajaji in fact paved the way for DMK with his ill conceived plan to close down schools to address budget deficit. He compounded a bad policy with an ill thought out statement that children need not idle at home due to shortened hours at school but could help out parents in their chores. Rajaji's bete noire EVR made political hay by alleging, incorrectly, that Rajaji, a brahmin, was telling non-Brahmins to go do their parents jobs. Kamaraj, a non-Brahmin illiterate, who succeeded Rajaji invested in education and revolutionized primary education in Tamil Nadu for generations to come. Rajaji's ideas of laissez faire government would not have suited a nation born after centuries of colonial rule and still wracked by casteism.

I cannot comprehend the depravity to which a mind can subscribe to when it ties the tragic 2009 Sri Lankan civil war to a failed bill of 1954. In a mind clouded with prejudice and hatred complexities of history, facts and truths are inconveniences. The tragic denouement of a people's struggle for rights should be rightfully blamed on both Sinhala leadership and most importantly on Prabakaran a Frankenstein's monster unleashed by India under Indira Gandhi.

Neelakandans diatribe is suffused with logical inconsistencies. By tarnishing Nehru as one who cared nothing for Tamils he only supports the Dravidian ideology of separatism which too alleged that Delhi does not care for Chennai. As a votary of Grand India I am sure Neelakandan would recoil with horror at that idea.

The mask falls off when Neelakandan tars British TV channel that exposed Sri Lankan war crimes as having an insidious agenda of some commercial gain. If Channel 4 wanted commercial gains they would rather not expose Rajapakse. A simple logic like that is inconvenient to his vitriolic narrative.

The worst part is where Neelakandan, with no basis, alleges that Prabakaran's outfit was funded by Western Christian organizations. Western Christian organizations are a perpetual bogey for a Hindutuva proponent. Prabhakaran's funding apparatus was based on extortions, drug trafficking, the elaborate web of fundraising by expatriate diaspora. But then why bother with truth when it would spoil a hypothesis.

Neelakandan cites obscure quotes to show that Modi and RSS were Eelam supporters. Just recently the BJP was in favor of Manmohan attending the Sri Lankan hosted Commonwealth summit going against the prevailing sentiment in Tamil Nadu, including the state unit of BJP. BJP was in favor because, they too, overlooked local interest in the name of bi-lateral relations and strategic needs.

Neelakandan is no fool. He is a very intelligent man who works with a laser like focus on promoting a militant Hindu regime. He, as RSS and BJP wants, has to tear down Nehru and Gandhi to erect the edifice of a Hindu theocratic state. The most indomitable force that stands in his way is the cosmopolitan secular outlook of Nehru and Gandhi. This is why Neelakantan and his ilk assiduously undermine the very idea of 'secularism' a vital glue that holds together a nation. Advani coined the term 'pseudo secularism' and reaped votes.

The faults and vote bank politics of Congress is being exploited to the hilt by Neelakantan to not just getting Modi elected but to a complete re-ordering of Indian society. India is a very unique country. Many accommodations and compromises that were done for the sake of minorities was to address a tortured birth and a situation that had no parallel in history. Let us not forget that Hindu's too were molly coddled by way of reservations, specious tax laws and the like.

People like Neelakandan should not be ignored as 'oh well thats him. Don't take him seriously'. People like him should be exposed, consistently and without fail, for what they truly are. Fascists.


1. Citizenship and Statelessness in Sri Lanka - Valli Kanapathipillai. Its actually available as google book.

2.Refer to page 244-253 in thius excellent collection of 'Documents of Sri Lanka Foreign Policy:1947-65. This contains exact docs of the Nehru-Kotelawala pact, Sirima-Shastry pact etc

3. Nehru's letter to Attlee, Speech to Parliament, letter to chief ministers were from "The essential writings of Jawaharlal Nehru" Volume 2 Edited by S.Gopal & Uma Iyengar. Refer pages 341-351 and 363-369

4. Patel's quotes were from "Patel: A Life" by Rajmohan Gandhi. Refer pages 497-500.

5. Assam student revolt

6. Another corroboration of Kanapathipillai's material is by a less regarded journalist at

7. A short intro on Nehru-Liaquat pact by a Pakistani web site

7. Aravindan Neelakantan's blog


Rajasankar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ananth said...

I promised Aravindan Neelakandan that I would write a rejoinder, but your reply says what I wanted to say with a rare elegance. I will still write in detail about the much talked about pact but that will merely be to honour my commitment. It may not stand in comparison to your piece!
P A Krishnan

Athenaeum said...

@Ananth: Sir thanks for your generous compliment. I loved your article in Hindu. Within a miserly space you had underscored the greatest achievements of a man.

Athenaeum said...

@Raja Sankar

What you, citing Ambedkar and Mandal, cooly refer to as 'exchange of populations' is a horrific mind numbing suggestion. Indians don't have any idea about the scale of horrors during partition which was just in North India. If 'exchange of populations' was done Abdul Kalam, darling of BJP, would have had to be emigrated from Rameswaram to Lahore. It would have completely tore apart India or Hindustan as Aravindan Neelakandan loves to call it. Just google Margert Bourke White pictures of partition and answer to yourself if 'exchange of population' is a benign idea. I'll reply in detail in my next blog.

BTW what do you mean by "When the opponent is trying to kill you, talking about peace is not the way. Buying a gun and making arrangement of security is.". Pakistan is a sovereign state. How they treat minorities is NOT and should NOT be India's example to follow. What you are suggesting only leads to two choices. Either Nehru should have invaded Pakistan or ejected Muslims out of India. Both would have not only been disastrous or a shame. What Nehru could do and certainly he did was to ensure that India was peaceful for all.

Rajasankar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yogeshvar said...

Interesting to notw that the author usus such oxymorons as 'Hindu Theocratic'!