Independence – Any Revolution Needs a Gandhi – Nehru Duo

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Muscat, Oman – Wishing every fellow Indian Happy Independence Day. Historical success of Unarmed Quit India Movement was led by Gandhi. Even the Soviet Union (USSR -Russia) was dismantled by Gorbachev, without firing a single shot. The Peaceful Power change in Russia – without killing – was the ideological change within the Communist Dictatorship narrative, inspired by the Gandhian political theory. Britain had become a thoroughly exhausted power after the first world war. Even in the Second World War it would not have lasted long without the support of the US and the pinning down of Germans at the Eastern Front. At best freedom would have come a few years later, but it would certainly have come. The last attempt to wrest India from the British by force was by Bose’s Indian National Army and Bose called Gandhi the “ Father of the Nation.”

Seventy years on, our Nation and, especially secularism, face a great challenge from the Hindutva fanatics. All of us who believe in what Gandhi died for should take a pledge today that we will defend secularism until our last breath. India will never be a Hindu Pakistan. Akbar, in the new history, has become a villain. Nehru, a vermin because he remains an enduring symbol of secularism. Gandhi’s only sin was appeasing Muslims.

In this backdrop amending the constitution is not even required. Curiously the Congress leadership was never completely Gandhian in all aspects. No one before or after Gandhi perfected the art of mass protests, being in connection with masses. Gandhi was not a political scientist. ‘Hind Swaraj’ is not the product of an academician or of a very mature mind. He was certainly not a flexible intellectual as Nehru. But Gandhi had his limits on intellectual curiosity and flexibility. Gandhi never claimed to be an academician. There had never been a more sincere non-Dalit person than Gandhi when it came to lifting the Dalits out of the morass. The Dalits might think that his methods were patriarchic but then nobody until today had come out with a better solution which would have addressed the problem on a pan Indian basis without kindling the caste cauldron and making the Dalits suffer much more than they did.

We can talk about it seriously as an academic issue but some like to talk about it as “oh look Nehru was a failure.” That’s hogwash. If only such people at least took a look at how scientific institutions were created back then and now. Nehru, the astute scientific mind that he was, figured that 20th century was the nuclear age and in that he had to rely on Bhabha, Sarabhai and Saha. Neither Raman’s institute nor other government institutes. One should remember that in US and USSR such immense controversies over how the scientific institutions should be run continued to happen. Until 1980s US government literally ran a monopoly in telephony with AT&T and Bell Labs. It was government funded largesse that unleashed the semi-conductor revolution and again just like Saha and his friction with Bhabha, whom he once referred as Fuehrer, the scientists at Bell Labs broke up with the then patron saint William Schockley and the government funded model. It is brilliantly told in Jon Gertner’s “The idea factory:Bell Labs and the great age of American innovation.”

Raman got the Nobel and thought he was Lord emperor of science. In Russia government owned science and dictated what science was. In US government aided science and promoted science. Nehru was more in tune with the latter.

One has to look holistically around the world at how societies promoted science and what do they do now. Nehru was both of his time and ahead of it. He created institutions with giants of that time. Later day pygmies ruined it all. Robert S. Anderson’s “Nucleus and Nation: Scientists, International Networks, and Power in India” is a landmark book that explains in great detail how India created its nuclear establishment. Bhatnagar worked with Nehru to facilitate the travel of scientists abroad, to create different rules for scientists in establishments whereby numerical seniority could be over-ridden, availability of foreign exchange for scientific supplies and equipment…In a letter dated February 3rd 1933, that appears titled ‘Darwin and the triumph of science’ in ‘Glimpses of World History, Nehru writes, “The greatest name in their ranks (scientists) to-day is that of Albert Einstein, who has succeeded in modifying to some extent the famous theory of Newton”. In another letter written July 13th 1933, titled “science goes ahead.”

Neither FDR nor Truman had anywhere as close to Nehru a scientific temper. And Nehru made it a point to meet Einstein in Princeton during a visit. FDR was blissfully unaware of anything scientific. Truman, compared to Nehru, was a simpleton.To Stalin science mattered only as much as a tool to create weapons to scare the West. Anderson also recounts how Saha clashed with not just Nehru but Bhabha too for an independent model. They all clashed, ferociously, but they all had mutual respect too. Alas, the poor man lived and died serving his beloved India.

Mousumi Roy
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Mousumi Roy has a Masters (MA - Political Science) from Calcutta University and is a visiting professor of International Relations in Muscat, Oman

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