India from Curzon to Nehru and after by Durga Das
5 of 5 stars
I would rate this as the best book to understand India’s freedom struggle and to understand the role played by its heroes like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, NetaJi and many others in throwing off the yoke of British empire. The book covers the history of Indian freedom struggle starting from Curzon and Tilak moving on to the phase where Gandhi came to the scene and led from the front to get India its independence and finally covering the Nehru era post independence. The author does not do any hero worship but provides an unbiased opinion of these heroes based on the facts and actual events covered by him as the leading journalist of that time.
The book covers in detail what led to the avoidable partition of India and role played by Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah in carving out an Islamic state which later failed spectacularly and finally metamorphosed into a terrorist state. The book also documents how this division of India was supported by British government and the role played by British leaders like Churchill who allegedly offered Pakistan on the platter to Jinnah. According to the author there were mistakes, omissions, ego clashes which led to the formation of an Islamic state within Indian subcontinent. Gandhi was against it but ultimately had to accept the fact that a section of Muslim population was not ready to live under Hindu rule. Gandhi correctly forecasted that state of Pakistan will remain in continuous conflict with India and the armies of the two nations will be fighting the endless and futile battles. The book also overs the dark side of Gandhi how he betrayed the nation by failing to stop Bhagat Singh’s execution as part of Gandhi-Irwin pact, his puerile fights against the likes of Subhash Chandra Bose, Kriplani, CR to maintain his hegemony over Congress.
The author also provided clues on how Jawahar Lal Nehru was preferred by Gandhi over other much deserving candidates first for the post of Congress President and then for the Prime Ministership of India. The socialist outlook of Nehru led to the state controlled economy in post independent India condemning multiple generations of Indians to poverty and deprivation off basic amenities. The author was well travelled and was in position to compare the policies in India with other states like Japan and Germany and came to the conclusion that approach of Indian government to focus more on heavy industries at expense of agriculture and private enterprise led to the chaos in economic sphere. The author met a number of world leaders as part of his journalistic duties and most had the common view that Nehru had no understanding of economics and made India a beggar nation dependent on outside aid.
The author also covered the 1962 debacle where Indian forces were routed by Chinese Red Army. The book has in the appendix, a letter written by Patel to Nehru forewarning him about the menace of China and how it needs to be tackled. Even after Patel’s passing, Nehru was warned repeatedly by Army Generals and opposition leaders but did not heed to their advice not taking any steps to control the situation finally made himself and whole of India a laughing stock among the polity of nations.
The books also documents how the egoistic Nehru would take the fight with his political opponents to the extreme like when he tried to scuttle the second term for President Rajendra Prasad and how he decided not to even attend his cremation. And how Nehru’s ego came in between and antagonised a number of countries in India’s neighbourhood like Vietnam, Burma, Nepal. Nehru wanted to be treated like world statesman but failed to understand that for that he first needed to make India economically advanced. A leader of a beggar nation cannot expect to be treated as an equal by developed countries. The author also covers the grooming of Indira Gandhi by Nehru and how the stage was set for her to take his legacy forward. This nepotism did not go well with senior Congress leaders and led to the breakup on Congress and set the rot in Congress organisation where rulers started exploiting the masses and led to the widespread corruption in all spheres across India.
The book can act as a great antidote to the propaganda machinary of Congress party and should be preferred over books by Congress acolytes like Ram Chandra Guha who are prone to hero worship. This book is a treasure trove of information on Indian politics and is a must read for anyone who wish to get a fair perspective on the Indian Independence struggle, the resulting partition of India and why contemporary India still lags behind other comparable nations like China, Japan, Germany etc. in both the quality of life of its citizens and robustness of its democratic institutions.