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Pranab Mukherjee’s Memoir: Claims About Nehru

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Posthumously published recent memoirs of former President of India Dr. Pranab Mukherjee have been making news for several reasons.  Pranab da claims that former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had rejected an offer made by then King of Nepal, Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah, to make Nepal a province of India.

Mukherjee attributes this supposedly bad decision of Nehru to his style and temperament. Mukherjee argues that had Indira Gandhi been in Nehru’s position, she would seize upon the opportunity, expanding the territories of India. Mukherjee attempts to portray Indira Gandhi’s style and temperament as aggressive and pragmatic while Nehru’s as timid, naïve and “diplomatic“.

Mukherjee attempts to bolster his argument by citing the case of Sikkim which was made 22nd state in Republic of India through 36th amendment to the Indian Constitution.  Sadly, Mukherjee is confused comparing apples and oranges while his arguments are short on facts.

Sikkim Signed Instrument of Accession in 1950

Supposed scholar and acclaimed statesman Dr. Pranab Mukherjee is clueless of Indian history. Sikkim had been part of India long before Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister. The Chogyal of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal, had signed the Instrument of Accession with India in 1950. This was the same Instrument of Accession signed by nearly 600 other kingdoms such as Kashmir, Bhopal, and Hyderabad.

Representational image.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister who got Sikkim under India’s purview.

However, unlike the other Princely States where monarchs were retired with privy purses, in Sikkim, Nehru had left the Chogyal in-charge.  The reasons behind Nehru’s lenience towards Chogyal Tashi Namgyal can only be speculated. Perhaps Nehru’s Buddhist leanings played into the dynamics of this mountainous border state whose identity Nehru wanted to protect. We also know that Tashi Namgyal was a reformer himself who held free elections and implemented land reforms in his kingdom, and hence Nehru probably saw no need to intervene.

Chogyal Tashi Namgyal had died in 1963 and was replaced by his son Palden Thondup Namgyal. The new Chogyal and his American wife however did not continue the reform traditions of Tashi Namgyal, which required Indian intervention in 1974.

Curious Case of Nepal

King Tribhuvan was deposed by his Prime Minister and hence was desperate for Nehru’s help. While Nehru helped King Tribhuvan regain power, the facts about offer of accession are murky at best. If King Tribhuvan was serious about accession to India, he could have had Nepali parliament pass a resolution. Nehru was already dealing with Naga rebellion at that time.

Contrary to Mukherjee’s assessment, India Gandhi as well as Lal Bahadur Shastri were in Nehru’s place as Prime Ministers. Yet neither they nor any other Prime Minister could seize Nepal, although Nepal went through several political crises since then. After this Nepal episode, Nehru would go on to seize French colonies of Yanam & Puducherry as well as Portuguese territories of Goa, Daman & Diu.

Indira Gandhi’s Style And Temperament

If Indira Gandhi really had the style and temperament as Mukherjee claims, she could have made Bangladesh a part of India in 1972. That would be far more consequential than seizing Nepal since seven Northeastern states are on the other side of Bangladesh, connected to India only by the Siliguri Corridor. The present Doklam Crisis could potentially cutoff that accesses to the Northeastern States.

India did not add a single inch to its territory after Nehru, with the exception of sneaking into Siachen in 1984.  Indira Gandhi could seize Sikkim only because Nehru already secured its accession to India and stationed troops in Sikkim. Further, whatever Indira Gandhi accomplished in Sikkim, Nehru had accomplished in nearly 600 other Princely States.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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, 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.

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