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Condemned to Repeat History

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World Cup Cricket Versus Warfare

I have written about the inability of our “historians” to distinguish between warfare and cricket matches.  In a world cup tournament, a team must win matches, but the finals are what matter.  The winner of the finals gets the cup.  Our experts often treat 1962 Sino-Indian conflict as the championship match for India’s first and longest serving Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.  The foregone conclusion is that Nehru had lost the finals and died while the world cup was taken home by Mao Zedong.

Nehru is often summed up as “did some good things but lost the only consequential China War”.  It does not help that some of our modern historians are really sports writers.  I already discussed this undue importance to the 1962 conflict, the fallacy of India losing that war and the ridiculous assessment of China going home with a trophy.

Trivializing Other Conflicts

Between 1947 and 1962, India entered many other conflicts acquiring territory as well as liberating millions of people whose destiny was held hostage by feudal and colonial rulers.  While Nehru was the Prime Minister during all these conflicts, the credit is cleverly handed to others like Sardar Patel by our modern historians, precluding any consideration to Nehru when 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict is discussed.

But there are glaring cases such as Liberation of Goa from colonial Portugal in December 1961 when India had mobilized 45,000 troops and all three branches of the armed forces.  This does not corroborate the narrative of unprepared armed forces, and of Nehru’s and his defense minister VK Krishna Menon’s incompetence. 

Even if we believe that NATO founding member, Portugal, who colonized Goa for four-and-half centuries was a weak enemy, mobilizing such numbers to strike so decisively in itself must have taken lot of preparation and leadership.  Lt. Gen. Brij Mohan Kaul who is often accused of incompetence even by Congress leaders was the architect of Goa invasion.

So our military men and historians attempt to discredit the liberation of Goa.  Lt. Gen. HS Panag and Congress MP Jairam Ramesh dismissed it as trivial while characterizing it as a distraction.  From their perspective, Goa was like a semi-final or quarterfinal while focus should have been on the championship finals!  If Team Nehru had enough points in that presumed tournament, I suppose India could forfeit such a match by giving up Goa to Portugal in 1961, yet win the world cup against China in 1962.

Panag as well as Ramesh tell us that Goa liberation was detrimental since it supposedly gave overconfidence and hence the loss in the finals.  Wouldn’t Indian Army be destroyed of overconfidence if we were to defeat the mighty Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) in 1962?  Or would that not be an issue since we would have won the championship already?

What Is Gained By Distorting History?

Panag complains that “the liberation of Goa…, by design or default, led to public attention being diverted from what was happening on the northern borders“.  This apparently led to the loss of championship match against China, blemishing the “200 years of unblemished history” of Indian Army.  It appears that the purpose of warfare is to glorify the national army instead of defending national interests.  This is tail wagging the dog!

Think of geography and people of Goa compared to uninhabited Aksai Chin in remote Himalayas where not even grass can grow!  To be sure, the claim by Panag and Ramesh that victory in Goa in 1961 caused defeat later in 1962, is ridiculous in my opinion.  But even if it was true, would India want it any other way?

The real problem for our historians is that, acceptance of Goa Liberation as a military, diplomatic and humanitarian success undermines the mythology that has been meticulously perpetuated over decades.  It disproves the argument that Krishna Menon had destroyed and demoralized the Indian Army.  It also puts holes in the claims that BM Kaul and General PN Thapar (then Chief of Army Staff or CoAS) who were deemed close to Nehru were incompetent.  It also undermines the myth that Prime Minister Nehru was a coward, naïve and dying politically and biologically.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

When likes of Lt Gen Umrao Singh (33 Corps) shied away from the battlefield as PLA prepared for war in 1962, BM Kaul ran into the battlefield.  We are told by experts that this crown of thorns was bestowed upon Kaul because of nepotism and to promote Kaul.  If promotion was what he wanted, Kaul could have sat back in New Delhi in his Chief of General Staff (CGS) chair.  He too could have enjoyed the spoils like Gen JN Chaudhuri who later became CoAS when Thapar had to resign, and offered armchair criticism.

Many have written about Indian Army’s unpreparedness for the war since the requested funds were not given by the government.  But who in Army was making those requests?  BM Kaul himself, being the CGS!  Kaul recounts writing eight letters on the subject to the government.

Here, I am not suggesting that government should have given everything the Army (Kaul) had asked for.  The outcome could not be any different even if the Army got everything they asked for.  I am pointing out that Kaul knew the trap he was walking into.  Yet he did so because the nation needed him.  The message of how Kaul is treated for his service to his country I’m sure is not lost among the Indian Army.

At Walong, Kaul had launched the only counter attack on PLA during that entire war.  Claims that Kaul did not have combat experience are neither true nor relevant.  The outcome of the conflict could not have changed even if someone else was in Kaul’s position.  Congress MP Jairam Ramesh feels that if Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh, who filled in for Kaul while sick for four days during the war, could have defeated PLA if left in command.

It was Harbaksh Singh who handed over Tawang to the enemy without a fight, ordering retreat while appointing Major General AS Pathania as the commander.  Pathania in turn ordered hasty and premature retreat from Se La causing not just large casualties at Se La but Dirong Dzong, Bomdi La and Rupa falling to the enemy like a row of dominoes.

My intent is not to discredit Harbaksh Singh, Umrao Singh or Pathania but to point out the mischief of our historians.  Nehru and Menon are demonized by citing half-truths to point the blame at just a couple of generals that were supposedly favored by Nehru and Menon.

The Eastern Commander Lt. Gen LP Sen who exercised most control over NEFA and made or approved all the decisions before and during the conflict, is conveniently never mentioned.  Because it is neither possible to link Sen to Nehru and Menon nor is it easy to accuse Sen of incompetence who successfully defended Kashmir in 1947, even during the snow covered winter months.

Congress Shoots Itself in The Foot

In their infinite wisdom, Congress has decided to cut their losses by throwing Nehru to the wolves.  BJP’s successful vilification of Nehru helped by liberals bullying Congress to abandon Nehru, must be the cause.   Congress tries to appear intelligent, progressive and brave to accept failures by selling out Nehru.  Congress endorses the narrative that Nehru was stupid and incompetent while arguing that they defeated China several times under Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.

Learning Wrong Lessons

Although indirectly, Panag admits that China could not be defeated in direct military confrontation in 1962 even in best of the scenarios.  That difference in military capabilities had only increased since 1962.  So, decades of propaganda of Nehru’s naiveté, Krishna Menon’s mismanagement and Kaul’s incompetence has all been a sham.  However, neither Panag nor others ever made any attempt to debunk such myths but allowed them to continue since they too enjoyed Nehru being dragged through mud.

Sudheendra Kulkarni argues that Nehru should have made peace with China instead of confrontation.  But he does not explain why nobody else since Nehru made such peace with China in almost six decades.  Since this war of 1962 is thought of as world cup finals, Kulkarni probably thinks nothing could be done at least until next World Cup, except complain.  And we certainly have been complaining for 58 years.

Before 1962, people blamed Nehru for not annexing Aksai Chin.  It was this complaining and jingoism that led Nehru to confront China in 1962 and prevented Nehru from making peace.  Today many complain that India had “lost” Aksai Chin in 1962 war.  It is incomprehensible how India could lose something she never had.  But that’s what we have been conditioned to believe.

It was this sense of deprivation among us that enticed our present political leadership to embark upon ”recapture” of Aksai Chin.  Unlike in 1962, the initiative came from the government who boldly challenged China even though no political pressure was exerted on them.

History Repeats

China launched invasion in October 1962 since Nehru adopted Forward Policy, although reluctantly, towards Aksai Chin.  We are told that Forward Policy was at the least an excuse for China if not the entire provocation.  Today China is on aggression again, and we are being told it is because India has threatened Aksai Chin, again.

India is thus condemned to repeat history.  Instead of blaming long dead Nehru who did not have the benefit of the hindsight, likes of Panag and Kulkarni should wonder why we failed to learn from history!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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