“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed- if all records told the same tale- then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”– 1984, George Orwell
Public memory is short. The way the Left and the Congress came together in late Seventies in the aftermath of Emergency, splitting the political and the intellectual spaces between the two of them, made this possible. This allowed the lies to propagate and propaganda to continue, even after the Party lost power owing to massive corruption charges and a pronounced alienation from the people at large. Hitler hired one propagandist to carry on twisting the history. Congress hired the entire Leftist muscle of the mind to create a fake history with Nehru sitting on the top of it as a paragon of virtue, defender of democracy and a fake-God of Free-thought. The dictatorial streak of Nehru had started before independence when the Congress declared itself to be sole spokesperson of the Indian people, suppressing any other voice. The biggest cruelty of the Congress is not only the Authoritarianism it brought in to Indian democracy, rather the fact that it continued to whitewash it. This whitewashing allowed it to remain oblivious to its own wrong-doings and still pose as the great liberator of free thought in India, even with its baggage of Emergency by Indira, Press Act of Nehru, Postal Bill of Rajiv Gandhi and draconian Article 66A to control the internet under Sonia Gandhi.
The chain of dictatorial tendencies continued unabated in their small ways, wherever they came to power, on state-level, through cynically cobbled-coalitions. In MP and Maharashtra, College Principle and Professors were arrested for taking a political line which the Government did not like. There was no hesitation, never a second thought. Still riding on the Nehru’s image carefully crafted by the sycophantic brigade as a benevolent democrat, Congress continued to attack the current Narendra Modi government, without any concrete evidence to back their charges. Today when a well-known media personality, Arnab Goswami is hounded by the Police in a state ruled by the Congress under coalition, at a time when it is failing miserably in controlling COVID-19, when it is stuck in serious charges of incompetence on account of Palghar Lynching, on the charges of release of Curfew passes to supposedly untraceable Wadhawan brothers to go for a Picnic during the lockdown; it is pertinent for us to trace the steps back to where it all began.
It is always important to start from the beginning. As we all know, Nehru was selected the leader of Congress, positioned to be the President of Congress at the time when Independence of India was around the corner. This placed Nehru in the right place to be the first Prime Minister of India and the head of caretaker Government. Unfortunately, it seems that the fact Nehru was a selected leader, at least at the time of independence, not an elected one, in contrast to Sardar Patel who held the Party and the people with him, played on the mind of Nehru. It is also possible Nehru was being honest in an alleged self-portrait he is said to have written anonymously in the Modern Review before 1947, when he wrote about himself that, “he has all the makings of a dictator in him—a vast popularity, a strong will directed to a well-defined purpose, energy, pride, organizational capacity, ability, hardness, and, with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and a certain contempt for the weak and the inefficient.”
The dictator Shri Jawaharlal Nehru mentions here was let loose, within three years of Independence and one year of India becoming a Republic with a democratic Constitution. The Constitution, labored over by leading luminaries from different ideologies over one year was created with the solemn ‘resolve to place before the world a model of Constitution which will ensure to everyone Freedom of action, Freedom of thought, Freedom of belief and Freedom of Worship.’ The Constitution came into effect on 26th of January, 1950. Soon after that, Pandit Nehru put on his heavy boot and started marching towards crushing the very fundamentals which he spoke of eloquently at the time the Constituent Assembly began writing the Constitution.
The first Congress Government already had around 28 Communists in prison when the Constitution came into effect, under Bombay Public Security Act. A petition was moved immediately and on 8th of February, 1950, the Bombay High Court released the 28 Communists. Nehru was shocked to be suddenly deprived of the cruel claws of the colonial British laws which became defunct under the Indian constitution. An inflamed Nehru immediately wrote that the Communists ‘constituted a danger to the existence and security of the state which cannot deal with them under the provisions of ordinary laws.’ Enthused by the release of their Comrades in Mumbai and sick of torture and eventual killing of two of the communists in Salem Prison on 11th of February, 1950, 200 Communists held in Salem Prison began protest and went on Hunger Strike. This resulted in a scuffle between the Prison Authorities and the Prisoners. What happened next is shocking. On 12th of February, 1950, 200 Communists were locked in a hall and the Police opened fire. 22 died and around 107 were grievously injured. Who thought a Jalianwalla Bagh will be brought in by the Congress Government in free India within days of implementing a democratic Constitution? Later this too would be wiped off from public memories much like the 2011 midnight attack of Delhi Police under Sonia Gandhi led Congress on protesting citizens in Ramlila Maidan.
Romesh Thapar, a Communist from well-heeled family running a Leftist magazine Crossroad took this up. He wrote- ‘One more proof that the Congress rulers are afraid of the truth. Their ways are the ways of Hitler and Mussolini.’ Crossroad was banned by the Nehru Government. Romesh Thapar approached the Bombay High Court. Around that time the Hindu Right began to question the Partition. Mahant Digvijaynath of Gorakhpur and then President of the Hindu Mahasabha demanded the annulment of Partition and reunification of India and Pakistan. The RSS mouthpiece attacked Nehru government on Nehru-Liaquat Pact and on its stance on Enemy Properties. Shri KR Malkani was the Editor of Organiser (Later first man to be arrested during Emergency brought in by Nehru’s daughter, Indira). Pre-censorship was imposed on The Organiser. On 13th March, 1950, Malkani wrote- ‘Surely the Government does not hope to extinguish a volcano by squatting more tightly on the crater.’ On 10th of April, 1950, Malkani and Brij Bhushan approached the Supreme Court. Organiser was represented by Shri NC Chatterjee, former President of Hindu Mahasabha and father of the Communist leader, Somnath Chatterjee. The left and the Right in this rare occasion came together to uphold the democratic spirit of India with Organiser and Crossroad, both landing in the Court seeking justice.
Shri PR Das, a former Judge, admonished the Congress under Nehru- ‘We have in India today a One-Party state just as Hitler’s Germany was a One-Party State and Stalin’s Russia is a One-Party State’. All this while the wheels of petty politics moved fast. In a rush to bring in an abolishment of Zamindari, the Bihar Government brought in a shoddily drafted Bihar Management of Estates and Tenures Act. Compared to the similar bill in UP under Shri GB Pant with extensive 340 plus clauses, Bihar Bill had fifty clauses, and was lopsided to favor small landlords. The smaller landlords (mostly Congress supporters) were to get twenty times their land earnings as one-time settlement, while the larger ones were to get only three times. Court was approached and Patna High Court declared the bill unconstitutional. The rush was under the pressure to make changes to meet the election deadlines set by Nehru. Initially, elections were proposed to be held on May, 1950. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Shri KC Neogy resigned in protest against Nehru-Liaqat Pact. While Nehru could have brushed their resignation as Right Wing unreasonableness, but at the same time, Nehru’s Finance Minister and an Independent John Mathai too resigned, protesting Nehru’s Authoritarianism. He was a non-political appointee and a brilliant Scholar. Nehru at that time was on Vacation at the Naval Ship, INS Delhi. He lamented, not at the loss of a brilliant mind, but rather at the disruption to his vacation.
Pressure from the Courts on obvious transgression on Intellectual liberties, failure to implement poll-promises, diminishing political clout, was further aggravated by Community Government Order in Tamil Nadu which reserved seats in education and employment based on communities, split between Christians, Non-Brahmins, Muslims and Brahmins. In June 1950, two petitioned were filed against the GO calling it unfair. TN Government also faced heat on closing down the People’s Education Society and claiming in the court that ‘it was prerogative of the State to declare any association unlawful and imprison their members.’ The Indian Criminal Law Amendment (Madras) Act was declared void by the high court. An active judiciary upholding the principles of Democracy was too much for Nehru to bear right after his near dictatorship found feet in Nasik Congress in August, 1950 where he swore to ‘fight resolutely against Hindu communalism’ and ‘discourage vehemently any criticism of Pakistan’. UP, Bihar, Maharashtra and Madras- all were slipping. In Bihar, Government imposed a ban on Bharti Press for its newsletter Sangram. Shail Bala Devi approached the HC and the order was quashed. Master Tara Singh was in Prison and Punjab too was up in arms. In December, the only person who could put some checks and balances on the despotic Congress chief, Sardar Patel passed away. Nehru now had free hand. His mind was made up.
Immediately after this, Nehru wrote to the CMs, on 31st of December, 1950- ‘We have to make clear that no individual in India, whoever he may be, can challenge the authority of the State or Parliament. We are not going to tolerate any defiance to the State’s authority.’ Nehru then postponed the elections and decided to make his final move towards what is called as the First Amendment of Indian Constitution. In US, the first amendment of Constitution was made to uphold the absolute right to free speech; In India, under Nehru, it was to restrict free speech. What was worse was the provision of Ninth Schedule which placed acts under the dictatorial vault of 9th Schedule outside judicial purview. Dr Rajendra Prasad tried to dissuade Nehru as he wrote with sadness that it is ‘an irony of fate that the part which stands above every other part of the constitution is first to be assailed.’ He also wrote that there was no case for amendment to the fundamental rights. He mentioned that the judicial censure in most cases is not because constitution is bad, but because the laws were drafted poorly. But Nehru will have none of it.
On 12th May, 1951, at 9:31 AM, disrupting ongoing debate on Representation of People’s Act, Nehru presented the first Amendment. Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee led the opposition’s attack urging people to take a stand across party line against this ‘encroachment on the liberty of the people of Free India.’ Rajendra Prasad again tried to discourage Nehru. Nehru, stubbornly and brusquely responded – ‘It would be exceedingly unfortunate if the public became aware that the President held a contrary opinion to that of the Cabinet in such a matter.’ Matter went to Standing Committee with instruction to immediately revert. On 29th May, the word ‘reasonable’ was added to restrictions to free speech. Nehru was opposed to it since this was subjective and could cause a lot of litigation. Nehru declared that if the Constitution restricted his functioning, the Constitution itself will be junked. Congress MPs cheered. One MP from TN claimed that Indians were inferior to the British and therefore should not have unfetter rights of freedom. The opposition was bludgeoned mercilessly and the bill was passed 246 to 14. UP MP KK Bhattacharya’s request for free vote was refused by Nehru and he resigned. Acharya Kriplani had already resigned on 18th of May. Nehru got his first amendment backed by a subservient Congress. The day ended amid ominous dark clouds looming over the Parliament and thunderstorms descending on Delhi. Only thing that stood hanging that day were words of caution made by Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee-
“For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in the memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was a time.” Let us remember these words when a journalist is called and grilled for hours on the charge of calling Sonia Gandhi by her pre-marriage name and asking her to comment on the cold-blooded lynching of two Hindu saints in a state ruled by her party, a common citizen is allegedly kidnapped and beaten for hours by the goons of an NCP minister, a hospital is refused an FIR by her Police when attacked by a Congress leader. One doesn’t need to like Arnab or his journalism for that. This is not the matter of person. It is a matter of principles. Let us remember to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there is time.