Frequently Asked Questions Part 1: Socialism, Birth, and Partition

  • Posted on: 24 January 2017
  • By: Neha

Frequently Asked Questions Part 1: Socialism, Birth, and Partition

Out of the filth floating about freedom fighters the current regime deems as ‘anti-national’ on the skin of the Internet sewers, a good 80% is easily disproved by either common sense or a quick search on the internet. However, there is of course ‘intellectual propaganda’, where even those who do not get their history lessons from Whatsapp tend to believe in. These often prey on vague subjects, such as ancestry, or trying to pin the blame of a catastrophic event on a single person. This will, hopefully, be the beginning of a historical FAQs section, where common misconceptions about Nehru’s (and possibly other cabinet members) dealing with the country are addressed. These are questions adapted from legitimately asked queries on sites such as Quora or Twitter, with any sources being referred at the end of each piece.

  1. Why did the Prime Minister move into a socialist model immediately after Partition rather than open trade like the USA? Was it purely Communist influence or appeasement?

Neither. For this you have to envisage the state of India before and during Independence. Even though the British controlled most of the assets; the Indian landlords (zamindars) continued to exploit the peasants. There were ineffectual and exploitative taxes like “hathiana” and “motorana” to maintain upkeep of the landlord’s vehicles and elephants. As you can see, the land and wealth share in pre-Independence India was extremely unequal, and even though we could try and jump into modernity in other senses (such as the electoral system and votes for all, unlike other new democracies), we had to fix inequality before we could focus on development.

Hence, the socialist-style system which the PM had appreciated on his trips to Russia was adapted for the Indian system, in which both land and wealth had to be shared out among the landlords as well as those who work on the land. Of course, this system was not perfect as it was mostly the OBC agricultural workers who benefited and the Dalits were again left behind, however it was a system far better than jumping straight into capitalism and free markets, ensuring the oppressed stay oppressed.

The socialist system also substantially profited the development India had to scrabble up to (to match other large countries), and the planning committee took a leaf out of Japan and Russia’s books, learning that state intervention was most beneficial in countries that industrialized late. However, their economies weren’t ravaged by 200 years of British colonization, hence state control was needed at that early stage even more in India. Lala Rajpat Rai especially, was in awe of Japan’s method of industrialization for at the pre-colonial stages, they were on somewhat a similar level of development as India. Hence, the concept of ‘Planning’ was treated with utmost importance with the Five Year Plans (referred from now as FYP).

First was of course, agriculture, with agrarian reforms, state sponsored seed and fertilizer - but the government realized that for agrarian reform to further, the industry had to improve. Thus with the second FYP, industrialization was the focus which is where socialism comes into play again. By nationalizing the crux of the second FYP, the industry, the planning committee ensured a healthy competition among states as to who could produce the most steel as well as a traverse into international relations; giving steel factory contracts to Germany, Britain and Russia.

The Nehru-Mahalanobis model (the latter had gone around the world to recently industrialized countries to observe the workings) focused on industrializing India as quick as possible with as much government control as possible, due to the aforementioned exploitation of privatized resources. It’s important to recall that India suddenly had a huge gorge to jump across after independence, and jumping into full free market capitalism would possibly be the worst thing to do in a country full of peasants. Inequality would worsen, the landlords who had been pampered under the British, would continue to exploit the working classes and development would be near impossible if large industries like steel were completely privatized. State control is paramount to a new nation, especially one that’s markets were desecrated by centuries of trade interference and colonial profiteering. Hence, the first Prime Minister did not impose a socialist system to ‘appease’ Communists: he did it to spark the beginning of a slow, uphill climb out of financial oppression.

 

  1. Nehru was a Muslim. Not just a Muslim, but the descendant of a Mughal. True, or false?

False. If you trace the family tree as far as possible, you can reach up to the late 1600s. Nehru’s family was Kashmiri, Kashmiri Brahmins to be exact - and the oldest known ancestor Raj Kaul, born at an estimated 1695, was a Sanskrit and Persian scholar in Kashmir. Kaul is a prominent Kashmiri surname that lasts till this date, hence any question of them having changed their name from a Muslim name is also false. Raj Kaul’s house was by the side of a canal (essentially, nahar, which would evolve into nehar, neharu, nehru) and that’s how the surname Nehru was derived. He had a son, Vishva Nath Kaul who then beget Mansa Ram Nehru, followed by Lakshmi Narayan Nehru, a lawyer and scribe with the East India Company.

Then came his son, Ganga Dhar Nehru who was with the police in Delhi, and was a good horseman and fencer according to reports, followed by Motilal Nehru, a lawyer - and his life is quite well known, of course. There is absolutely no question of this ancestry being anything but Kashmiri Hindus; as the family were all of the practicing religious sort up to Motilal, who was somewhat lax when it came to religion but still a traditionalist. Even Nehru himself, an avowed agnostic, kept to Hindu calendar dates and fasts even as he was in prison, and remembers his wedding as being on an auspicious day, decades on. The entire family, up till Nehru and Kamala were wed strictly within the Brahmin castes as well. They were also, ironically, displaced Kashmiri Pandits - something that several people making up false claims about his ancestry fail to consider. Indeed, it seems that the man was far more traditional than certain right wingers currently!

 

  1. We were wronged during Partition, and that is purely because of Nehru. True or False?

False. You have to first consider that Partition was not just Nehru and Jinnah having an arm wrestle over a table. The primary players were, as you mentioned - Nehru (and Patel and the rest of the Congress), Jinnah (and Liaqat and the Muslim League), Mountbatten - and the crucial one you’ve missed: Radcliffe. Nehru and Jinnah (and their respective parties) had their respective faults in negotiation, but during the course of the talks they usually cancelled each other out, as both obviously wanted more for their country and were often unwilling to back down.

Allegations were levied almost immediately after the Radcliffe award (the final boundary decision) was presented. One was the allocation of Ferozepur: leaked documents showed that it was to go to Pakistan, but ended up being given to India. This led to Radcliffe’s aide being considered a Hindu-sympathizer by the Pakistanis. Those who allege from Pakistan also claim that Nehru and Mountbatten ‘teamed up’ against Jinnah, which is exactly the opposite (ironically) of those who allege from India saying Mountbatten and Jinnah teamed up against Nehru. Those on the commission itself weren’t exactly free from blame: Christopher Beumont, Radcliffe’s aide, began accusing Mountbatten of ‘dictating’ the decisions.

Radcliffe was sent directly from Britain with absolutely no knowledge of India and before he left India he burnt all his papers: hence, most of the only ‘evidence’ that we have are from historians on either side of the border (both probably biased) and of course, Mountbatten himself - who wasn’t exactly the most reliable source of evidence, as he had a famed tendency to make himself look good.

One of the primary flaws of Partition that flew around was the commission’s consideration of ‘Other Factors.’ Of course, Partition wasn’t supposed to be a mere geographical divide, and people and emotions were involved - hence Radcliffe claimed to consider ‘Other Factors’ which historians guess could be communal tension, existing boundaries et cetera. However, it could be said that these ‘other factors’ weren’t exactly taken into consideration much by the British: and Mountbatten himself admitted decades later “I’ll tell you something ghastly. Reasons behind this divide weren’t deep seated at all…” Another was the drawing of borders around economic rather than geographical or communal lines: an example would be of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in undivided Bengal being given to Pakistan, which Nehru and Jinnah both argued against in their own interests, and Mountbatten and Radcliffe agreed with.

Another flaw was the ‘delaying’ of the award by Mountbatten. The award was completed by August 12th, as per deadline - yet Mountbatten forced both the Indian/Pakistani leaders and Radcliffe to delay it: why? The Indian side of history claims that Mountbatten didn’t want the English government to look responsible for the bloodshed, and the Pakistani allegations claim Mountbatten was siding with Nehru, and delayed the award in order to induce the raja of Kashmir to side with India rather than Pakistan.

Flaws with the partition cannot be pushed exclusively on Nehru, nor Jinnah - both were negotiating on behalf of their country and as there were equal representatives of both the Congress and Muslim league; it often turned into shouting matches that had to be resolved by Mountbatten. The latter of course, characteristically portrayed himself as the benevolent peacekeeper - but he certainly had the interests of His Majesty’s Government first in his eyes, and only second came the Partition. One could also say he had a slight leaning toward Indian interests; especially in giving northern Punjab to India (a direct corridor to Kashmir). However it’s also paramount to note Mountbatten can in no way be blamed exclusively either, as the remainder of the flaws rests on the Commission’s tendency to look at everything from a ‘best case’ scenario and a rush to the deadline rather than years of preparation and survey. India, Pakistan, and Britain inched slowly toward independence, but launched itself headlong into Partition without time or experience - and I think that fact is where the majority of consequences arose from, rather than blaming a single person party.

 

Sources:

India’s Since Independence: Bipan Chandra

India after Gandhi: Ram Guha

Nehru-Mahalanobis Model, Economical and Political Weekly Archive Aug 1990

 

 Incomplete Partition: The Genesis of the Kashmir Dispute – Alistair Lamb

How Mountbatten Bent the Rules and the Indian Border: Simon Scott Plummer 

The Transfer of Power, 1942-47: Nicholas Mansergh

Mountbatten and the Partition of India: Larry Collins & Dominic Lapierre

The author can be contacted on twitter handle @nehrwho

 

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