This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Jay Velury. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Did Pandit Nehru And VK Menon Destroy The Indian Army?

More from Jay Velury

We often read about the Indian Army’s 200 years of unblemished history and their near destruction under former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former Defense Minister VK Krishna Menon. We are told that the military was revived under later PMs Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi and that it has been going strong since. This myth is so widely accepted that even the Congress Party believes and perpetuates it, selling out Nehru with no qualms.  

“Glorious Past” of the Indian Army

When people accuse Nehru of destroying the Army, they think very highly of the British colonial rulers. British Indian Army was indeed a strong fighting force who kept India under slavery while defending against Afghan attacks from time to time.

But the claim that the British Indian Army had an unblemished record for 200 years or that it was “Asia’s most powerful fighting force” are overstatements. We know that the British Indian Army failed multiple times in Afghanistan and was on backfoot against the Japanese during the second world war.

Whatever might be the record of pre-1947 Indian Army, during Partition, the Indian Army had to part with one-third of its men who not just became part of the Pakistani Army, but the biggest enemy, requiring most of the remaining force to counter it. The Navy and Air Force ceased to exist because the British took all the hardware that remained after the war. 

Even before the departure of British hardware, in 1947 India had to rely on civilian aircrafts to deploy troops and supplies to Kashmir. Today we hear arguments that India could have won in 1962 if the Air Force was deployed. How could India acquire such a powerful Air Force in the first place if it was not for Nehru and Krishna Menon?

So, the claims of Nehru and Krishna Menon weakening the military are false. The military that was inherited by Nehru and Krishna Menon was very weak, whatever the glory of the British Indian Army had been. Further, since the Indian Army lost two-thirds of the housing built in what had become Pakistan, the military families had an acute shortage of housing. Through Operation Amar and other projects, Krishna Menon provided housing to the soldiers.

A Period of Adjustment

The Indian Army was an arm of British oppression in pre-1947 days. While the Jallianwala Bagh massacre is well known, the British Indian Army helped the British government check on the freedom struggle and its leadership. Post 1947, the situation was not the most comfortable for the officers of the Indian Army. 

The outlaws and traitors under British rule have suddenly become the government themselves. These were the same people the Army had lathi-charged, spied on and put behind bars. So, the animosity towards not just Nehru but VK Krishna Menon who oversaw the smooth transition of political power to the civilian leadership needs to be considered.

Whether there could be a military coup in India, as was the case in Pakistan or Bangladesh, is considered speculation of no merit in the modern-day. But the truth remains that Pakistan was void of inspiring political leadership after the death of Jinnah and assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan. The Pakistani Army filled that vacuum.

Fortunately, there was no shortage of such civilian leadership in India even after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. It was a source of disappointment for our military leaders who saw their former colleagues do bigger and better things in Pakistan.

Contempt for Khadi Clad Leaders

The officers who ascended through the British ranks were loyal to the crown to whom they owed their careers and comfortable lifestyle. Even after independence, these officers continued their loyalty to the British, although they drew their paychecks from the Indian Republic. Indeed, old habits die hard.

In his book, Confrontation With Pakistan, Lt Gen BM Kaul wrote of his colleagues’ eagerness to please westerners. Kaul expresses displeasure over the top-secret Brooks-Bhagat Report being handed to British-Australian journalist Neville Maxwell while it had been inaccessible even to the Indian Parliament. 

Sam Manekshaw hanging pictures of Robert Clive and Warren Hastings in officers’ dining room is well known. In his book Himalayan Blunder, JP Dalvi contemptuously refers to the politicians as “so-called freedom fighters”. Officers such as BM Kaul who readily switched their allegiance from the British to the new khadi-clad leadership were looked down upon as sycophants, traitors and snitches. References were made to them as “generals in Nehru jacket”. 

Manekshaw’s reported unflattering comments about the political leadership got him into trouble and court-martialed, although the charges were dropped later. Those that criticise the prosecution of Manekshaw need to understand the widespread indiscipline among the ranks of the Indian Army at that time, as well as the public uproar against such behaviour. 

Neville Maxwell and TJS George narrate opposition leaders such as JB Kriplani citing newspaper reports of such indiscipline during parliamentary debates. Kriplani accused Menon daily of his incompetence to discipline the military. Menon had thus become a punching bag for both the military and political class.

Menon could not indefinitely tolerate the childish behaviours of the likes of Manekshaw. He had to draw the line and even make an example. Fortunately, Manekshaw’s behaviour changed in the aftermath and he served India well under khadi leadership.

Eagerness to Please the British

General Thimayya
General Thimayya.

In his biography of VK Krishna Menon, Jairam Ramesh writes of then Army Chief, General Thimayya, discussing the ministry of defence’s happenings with his neighbour and British High Commissioner Malcolm MacDonald, over scotch. It appears that much of that information was false while Thimayya seemingly wanted to impress MacDonald by reporting what the latter wanted to hear. 

For example, Thimayya reportedly told MacDonald that Menon was plotting a coup against Nehru. This was triumphantly reported in Pakistani Newspapers, although Ramesh himself could not prove such a coup. Thimayya was indulging MacDonald by trash-talking Krishna Menon.

Adoration for the Britishers and eagerness to please them was not just limited to the military men of that time. Many other Indians who were not part of the freedom struggle indulged in such behaviour as well. Ramesh describes the cordial relationship and indiscreet discussions with MacDonald by then Vice-President Dr S Radhakrishnan.

By all accounts, Thimayya agreed with Krishna Menon that Pakistan was the enemy and that Aksai Chin was not worth picking a fight with China. It was only after Krishna Menon began implementing the Forward Policy against his own better judgement in 1959 that they parted ways.

Yet, as Ramesh reports, Thimayya gave exact opposite arguments to MacDonald. He must have done so because that was what MacDonald wanted to hear. At that time, the British government wanted India to join the Cold War, hand over Kashmir to Pakistan and jointly fight Communist China — none which neither Nehru nor Krishna Menon was willing to do. 

According to Ramesh, Thimayya complained to MacDonald that Krishna Menon did not take the Chinese threat seriously and that Menon was too obsessed with Pakistan. In early 1962, that same Thimayya would publicly declare that enmity with China was untenable and that a peaceful negotiated political settlement be found to the Sino-Indian border crisis, which had been Krishna Menon’s position all along.

You must be to comment.

More from Jay Velury

Similar Posts

By Kamal Singh

By Zahira Bano

By Ishmeet Kaur Mac

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below