Like other nations, Indians too believe that they inherently are capable of lot more than what they have been. This is a virtue that was leveraged by reformers and revolutionaries, over the centuries, those who brought about social, economic, and political changes. However, it is a problem when the goal is not to reform but blame someone for supposed miseries.
For years, our historians perpetuated the theory that the weakest link in our history was the first and longest-serving Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Indians are conditioned to believe that they would be the most powerful and wealthiest nation in the world, only if someone else became the first Prime Minister. By deploring the actions of this Papala (sinful) Bhairava (as we say in Telugu), we plan to return to the path of prosperity.
Nobody acknowledges that Nehru died 56 years ago and that India had plenty of time for course correction, even if we believe that he destroyed thousands of years of prosperity in his 17-year tenure. This is because our historians have convinced us that Nehru’s mistakes were not just disastrous but irreversible!
Our historians tell us that Nehru committed blunders by listening to shady advisors while ignoring the wise and patriotic ones. Nehru reportedly thus erred committing the nation to a path spiralling decline.
One who falls in this trap is doomed to accept any narrative, however irrational or improbable it may be. The historians, thus, put themselves in a position to use Nehru to write the history to suit their agenda, whether to sell books or to make us foot the bill for tall statues of those who supposedly salvaged our destiny from Nehru’s misrule. Whether the ignorance is too profound or the history mafia is too powerful, even the Congress Party, which is run by Nehru’s namesake family, believes and perpetuates these narratives.
In the case of Kashmir, for example, Nehru supposedly made an irreversible mistake of approaching the UN Security Council. We are also told that an irreversible military and political disaster took place in late 1962 concerning China. Once we accept such a premise, any accusation seems reasonable. As self-contradicting and illogical as these arguments might be, we are overwhelmed by the supposed scale of harm.
In the USA, the members of armed forces tend to be (right-wing) Republican. It probably is valid in India as well. After all the right-wing cries for nationalism which are represented by the armed forces. We see many retired officers joining the witch-hunt of Congress governments, especially of Nehru.
We are told that the armed forces were victims and survivors of evil Nehru regime. We are led to believe that Nehru disliked the armed forces and that he sabotaged them at every possible opportunity.
But the evidence proves otherwise. Nehru gave the armed forces a “long rope“. The irresponsible and treasonous behaviour by then generals like KS Timmayya, SPP Thorat and JN Chaudhuri would be unthinkable and intolerable under any later government. Under Nehru, these generals were not just tolerated but indulged. Timmayya even received a civilian honour of Padma Bhushan and the post-retirement job of commanding UN Troops.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh narrates Timmayya discussing the happenings of the Ministry of Defense over scotch with then British High Commissioner. JN Chaudhuri who moonlighted for a foreign-owned newspaper, regularly supplying them the military secrets, became the Army Chief in the aftermath of 1962 War.
Then Defense Minister VK Krishna Menon made unprecedented and unparalleled contributions to the military preparedness of the armed forces as well as to their welfare and of their families. Yet our military historians and Congress leaders alike portray that Menon had persecuted, demoralised, and tried to destroy the armed forces. The purpose of this narrative is to absolve the Indian Army of their poor performance in the 1962 War and to exempt from any need to reform themselves.
Is this false history helping the nation? While historians are unduly critical of Menon’s propensity to offend, they conveniently are ignorant that Menon went out of the way to make amends. I cringe when retired generals call for removing even token memorials that exist for VK Krishna Menon. Would anyone dare to make such statements against a North Indian leader? Such betrayal and ungratefulness are disappointing.
In 1962 Sino-Indian War, the only battle where India launched a counterattack on mighty Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) of China was at Walong under the command of Lt. Gen. Brij Mohan Kaul. Rest of the time, the army either just took the beating or ran away. Yet, alleging BM Kaul’s proximity to Nehru, our historians have hounded this great soldier and patriot, unjustly blaming the poor performance of the Indian Army on Kaul.
Generals who offered armchair criticism of Nehru’s and Menon’s supposed misdeeds are heaped praises in popular literature despite their incompetent and unbecoming actions. This attitude of ours has discouraged our generals from risk-taking, who brag like Uttar Kumar during peacetime but save their career when it is time for war.
We are told that Subhas Bose and Sardar Patel who already receive way too much recognition than they deserve, need to be praised even more. Yet, when we complain that our great leaders are sidelined and even demonised, we are branded as crybabies.
Did dragging VK Krishna Menon through the mud help India in any way? Did India ever have a competent Defense Minister who puts heart and mind to the defence of the country and welfare of the soldiers, after Krishna Menon?
All the Defense Ministers since 1962 have just been spokespersons who keep the chair warm. By handing the credit of VK Krishna Menon’s contributions to the likes of YB Chavan and Jagjivan Ram who made no original contributions, our historians have condemned us to mediocre defence ministers.