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‘Respect Gandhi If You Will, Don’t Sentimentalise Him’
The distinguished professor of history now trains his lens on modern Indian history, discussing his book at length
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An outstanding Marxist scholar, historian and essayist, and editor of the New Left Review since 1962, Perry Anderson is k nown for a rich, incisive body of work spanning European history, the contemporary world, the Western Marxist tradition and intellectual history. The distinguished professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, now trains his lens on modern Indian history. His latest book , The Indian Ideology , just published by the Three Essays Collective, is a scathing critique of the dominant celebratory discourse of the Idea of India, or the lionising of the democratic stability, multi-cultural unity and impartial secularity of the Indian state as a miracle. His three recent essays on the subject in the London Review of Books have already generated considerable debate. In an e-mail interview with columnist and writer Praful Bidwai, Anderson discusses his book at length. Your new book The Indian Ideology is just out. What prompted this first foray into Indian terrain? I was working on the contemporary inter-state system, and after writing about the US, Russia, China and Brazil, and India was the next step. How would you sum up the book? You could say that, very roughly, it advances five main arguments that run counter to conventional wisdom in India today. Firstly, that the idea of a subcontinental unity stretching

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com news. hagiographic. that Indian democracy is not contradicted by caste inequality. based on hers? Tidrick’s biography of Gandhi is an extraordinarily careful. Javeed Alam. the ideology remains in place. some of them more dangerous. Benjamin Zachariah. that the idea of a subcontinental unity stretching back six thousand years is a myth.(he) was entirely Sumit Sarkar. but regard as reconceived Hindu essential reading not just about India. but rather enabled by it.com/article. The problem here is not. that Nehru’s legacy to Republic was far more ambiguous than his admirers will admit.outlookindia. Aijaz Ahmad. You’ve explained that one of the reasons why. I would have liked to discuss movement by Ranajit Guha’s Domination without Hegemony at some length. in which disagreeable realities are draped with decorous evasions or periphrases .aspx?282832 The principal catastrophe of 1947 lay in the Congress 2/9 . With more space. damage he was Radhika Desai and others . F acebook social plugin www. But this is the mainstream discourse of the state. Arvind unaware of the Verma. haven’t you ignored or under-rated the sharply critical. who are critical of the Indian state’s claims to be uniquely democratic. He was gripped by a set of regressive personal fixations and phobias. but the mechanisms of piety. confined to her work. was impervious to rational argument.com The capital city has yet again been panned for being unsafe for women. even iconoclastic thrust of writings by many Indians that are a far cry from the self-congratulatory imaginary of the ‘Idea of India’? I wouldn’t say so. though. political power in general. so thoroughly blanketed by silence that most Indians are unaware of its existence. a systematic deconstruction of them hasn’t previously been attempted. The first would be that. was your shock at the reception of Kathryn Tidrick’s work on Gandhi. Tidrick concentrates on the relationship between Gandhi’s self-perception as a world-saviour— his religious beliefs— and his politics. and the rest. Zoya Hasan. calm and courageous work. but Congress. There are. multi-cultural unity. The silence covering it in India is an intellectual scandal which reflects poorly on local opinion. Firstly. That.2/26/13 Gandhi was gripped by regressive personal phobias. but any serious student of this historical figure. much more is said than this. as most politicians do. Still. had a very limited intellectual formation. admittedly without the scholarly apparatus of the full version now published by the Three Essays Collective. would be one surmise. suffusing it with a a brilliant work that I don’t entirely agree with. The hope of the book would be to set the ball rolling for less general piety about them. even on many who might disclaim subscription to it. but also his personal sincerity and selflessness—he did not want power for himself. But that does not exempt him from criticism. The book aims to show its limitations. . and entirely unaware of the damage he was doing to the national movement by suffusing it with Hindu pietism as he MOST VIEWED MOST COMMENTED Bawdy Guards Delhi Diary A Town Comes To Mourn Battle Cries Nothing Learnt Objection Sustained One Big Shakedown What Makes Modi Unacceptable Lucky Friday The 13th 20 Best Hindi Film Songs Ever Find us on Facebook Outlookindia Like Outlookindia shared a link. instead of writing simply about contemporary India.outlookindia. do I think all those whom I cite as voices of the Indian Ideology are pure prisoners of it. other ideologies in India. Secondly. This is a crude summary. calling a spade a spade is bound to be jarring. It’s only in this climate of deference that my treatment of Gandhi could be regarded as sacrilege. book about Gandhi—it’s even entitled Great Soul—tells the same story. and I believe hasn’t yet been the object of a systematic critique. To any sensibility accustomed to this kind of verbal emulsion. to one degree or another. But as an overarching set of tropes about India. Achin Vanaik. in each case. although this or that strand in the Indian Ideology may be questioned.who are highly critical of much in doing to the national today’s Union.. and his achievement in making Congress a mass party. Nor. of course.outlookindia.aspx?artid=790869 11. according to the Solo Woman Traveller Survey 2013.‘human rights abuses’ for torture or murder. the media and the intelligentsia. but extremely respectful. that primary responsibility for Partition lay not with the Raj. The second thing which may be disconcerting is really a question of tone. I single out not only his remarkable gifts as a leader. you’ll see that there are plenty of references to Indian scholars—Upendra Baxi. She doesn’t really explore his role as a mass leader and tactician of the independence struggle. To inter-connect these as a dominant discourse throws each of them into a sharper and more critical light. Not just I. about an hour ago Outlookindia http://news. is the diffusion of a culture of euphemism. In his own way he was a great man. Thirdly. Pranab Bardhan.. secular and respectful of diversity were upset when your text first appeared in the London Review of Books. How do you read these reactions? My guess— it’s not more than this— is that the upset could be due to two things.com/ items. Quite a few people. indeed. which many in India would regard as a savage criticism. How far is your own account of Gandhi.. at any rate. the reception of Joseph Lelyveld’s much more superficial and not very political. which celebrates the democratic stability. Actually. RECENT Why then did you call your book The Indian Ideology— what do you mean by the term? ‘The Indian Ideology’ is another way of describing what is more popularly known as ‘The Idea of India’. would have more to learn about his outlook from her work than from any other extant study of him —the vast majority of Gandhiana being. Because it dismantles some of the legends Gandhi propagated about his time in South Africa. ‘hostiles’ for rebels. ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will. Delhi Most Unsafe City: Solo Woman Traveller Survey | news. Obviously. Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai today. and impartial secularity of the Indian state as a national miracle. Lastly.outlookindia. If you look at the book. since they can often themselves express criticisms of a good many aspects of Indian reality. One of the effects of the Indian Ideology. had limited intellectual formation.957 people like Outlookindia. was impervious to rational argument. More recently. Fourthly. of course.. that Gandhi’s injection of religion into the national movement was ultimately a disaster for it. you start by looking at the struggle for independence. we have his grandson complaining that it ‘belittles’ him.

especially among the middle class. in refusing to accept that it was not the only legitimate political force in the subcontinent. It’s true that Indian secularism fails by the criterion you employ—the status of Muslims. claiming many others. doing that. it’s more democratic’. Yes. Greater heterogeneity does not necessarily mean lesser toxicality. This is a bluff. it is longer in hierarchical cruelty. It is enough to think of the existence of sati. and little more. Partition. or applaud Indian bombers taking off to conquer Kashmir. But there is little doubt that the principal responsibility for the catastrophe of 1947 lay in the folly and arrogance of Congress.B. one has to take cool stock of all this. are popular traditions inherently more tolerant www. without any popular consultation whatever. But Hinduism isn’t a confessional faith like Christianity or Islam. the central fact is that Partition itself—the moment of truth for Congress —was decided top-down. Nowhere more so than in his inconsistencies on satyagraha itself. whatever its persuasion. substantively Hindu. As a historian. not skate over it as Gandhi’s apologists continually do. by saying ‘don’t over-personalize things. forsaking cowbelt Jinnah miscalculated completely— accepting point-blank Muslims. not the leaders. It’s more akin to a label for a compendium of different practices. and then change it from one day to the next. far from unlimited as a mass movement: it never really included poor peasants. has many claims to be the most contemptible accepting Partition single act in the annals of the Empire. could afford to and needed to be generous in its dealings with the weaker Muslim community. and ending up with what he himself called a moth-eaten Pakistan. It was the political elite that called the shots. Misra. rituals and practices than the two big monotheistic Nehru’s foreign creeds. multifarious to be called such. But any implication—standard in contemporary Indo-apologetics . abandoning the Muslims of the cow belt. but to a largely unacknowledged extent. was sometimes more repressive of labour. The masses reverently invoked in this kind of objection had no say in the matter. This doesn’t mean that exigencies of Hinduism as such is therefore a figment of the imagination. He is to be respected. Mountbatten’s conduct in ramming through Partition at break-neck speed. just because it was stronger. the attempt to evade or deny a phenomenon by dissolving it in some looser and wider category. and when it came to power in the provinces in late thirties.2/26/13 lay in the Congress folly of not realising that it was. But too often a defensive reflex comes into play here. The complete latitude he gave himself to declare as truth whatever he happened to say at any time. untouchables or the great bulk of the population in the princely states. workers. Doesn’t a focus just on Gandhi and a few other top leaders ignore the popular agency driving the struggle for independence of some 300 million people? It’s difficult to imagine any credible account of Congress. Hinduism is indeed a less unified conglomerate of texts. ignoring Kashmir. There is always a gap between the High and Low—elite policy was largely and folk— traditions in any religion. replete as it was with so point blank. as well of religious minorities. at the behest of Nehru and Jinnah Patel. on the grounds that it is all too sideshow.outlookindia. and strategic advantage. After 1945 British policy towards India was Assam. The annexing Kashmir. a Hindu party. This is not just a foreigner’s standpoint: it is the considered verdict of an Indian historian like B. ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will. but in composition and outlook an overwhelmingly Hindu party. beliefs. and in Hinduism it is much driven by the wider than in Christianity and Islam. still as the word of God shining through him. or anything that threatened it from the left. he was perfectly willing to contemplate violence —not only to send Indian peasants to their death on the Somme in the service of their colonial masters. splitting the national movement in its hubristic claim to monopoly over it. with all his blindness.aspx?282832 3/9 . while washing British hands of the unimaginably bloody miscalculated: consequences. claiming Assam. but calmly to envisage communal slaughter—‘civil war’— in the subcontinent as preferable to expelling the British.com/article. You absolve the British or the Muslim League from any responsibility in the disaster? Certainly not. For when it suited him. Nor. As for the Muslim League.think about the masses. Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai the national movement by suffusing it with Hindu pietism as he reconceived it. The British governor of Madras actually had to tell Rajagopalachari to moderate the zeal of his crackdown on ‘sedition’. But there is no need to sentimentalize him. You suggest that the Indian state that came into being after independence has been nominally secular. Confronted with irrefutable evidence of just how badly the Congress high command bungled the achievement of independence. Shorter in scriptural authority. based on a set of scriptures. But can the dynamic of the national movement be reduced to the individual choices and actions of its leaders? Congress had a significant base. shuffling away from any forthright acknowledgment of its All else was a presence and power in India. although it may not have had a sustained universal mass appeal. is a defensive gesture of the kind the French call noyer le poisson or ‘drowning the fish’—that is.that it is thereby better should be resisted. So wouldn’t it be more appropriate to describe India as an upper-caste-Hindu dominated state? That would better capture the status of low castes. socially speaking. it should be said. That aside. Hinduism as a faith is certainly dissimilar in structure from Christianity or Islam. a common reaction is to change the subject. whom the state brutalizes. The high command made sure of that. The reality is that Congress was. than the Raj itself. represented the community that. Until more recently most Hindus probably lacked a subjective sense or self-perception of being Hindu. or— safeguarding his in another fashionable version— a fabrication of the British. and other non-Hindus. ignoring actuated by concern for imperial amour-propre and fancies of Kashmir. from the late twenties onwards. set a disastrous example for his followers and admirers. that’s elitist . in composition and outlook.

But polls in Malaysia have always been rigged within a corrupt Lebanese-style ethnic power-sharing system.aspx?282832 4/9 . if these form a far smaller proportion of the population. India pressed that Israel be invited—it was Pakistani opposition that stopped this. it should be said. one armed with moral rather than military force. What can be said with confidence is that the imprint itself is systematically denegated in the Indian ideology. Yet by any objective standard. but there is also far more torture. as well as a more spirited fight against the forces of Hindutva than Gandhi put up? It’s true The Indian Ideology doesn’t say much about these sides of his record. It was Nehru. inside and outside India.com/article. But this was such a general feature of post-colonial states that it is difficult to feel it was a particularly distinctive achievement on Nehru’s part. if elementary education continued to be as grossly neglected as it was under Nehru. Jamaica or Mauritius would score higher than any of this trio as examples of parliamentary freedom. Nehru’s performance emerges as rather a shabby one. Nor. for example. he led what was always essentially a Hindu party. but the same can be said. there is no independent electoral commission. when he occasionally toyed with scraps of religion). and public cultural institutions at home. it is worth spelling out how little it corresponds to the evidence. Nehru insisted that it be modelled on meetings of the Commonwealth (sic). when he raised hackles in Congress. But as a ruler. That’s a question for specialists in comparative religion. is among the worst stains on his record. Doesn’t your critical account of Nehru miss his progressive embrace of a mixed economy. and the Indonesian PM Sastroamidjojo had to make a special trip to Delhi five months later to persuade Nehru to accept the idea. rather than comparative spirit. When the five countries met in Bogor in December to plan the conference. it was less substantial than his socio-economic record.covered from above by leaders of Congress. of course. this was not an Indian initiative. In that sense. are popular traditions inherently more tolerant than elite versions: there is plenty of European evidence to the contrary. from which Bengalis on both sides of the frontier have suffered ever since. Alas. Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai of the existence of sati. the balance-sheet would not be significantly altered. it is a commonly heard view today that his foreign policy was Nehru’s best legacy. That said. and undoubtedly resisted Patel’s drive to purge the bureaucracy of any trace of Muslim personnel. Yes. think of Nehru as a principled champion of Afro-Asian solidarity and the spirit of Bandung. In fact.2/26/13 ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will. polls are indeed freer than in Malaysia. whose sensibilities he had to accommodate— ditching Ambedkar without compunction. and had as many reservations about Soviet communism. and railroaded this through. A day before the conference opened and the arrival of all the delegations had arrive. Three leading examples will suffice. So while it is true that you can find firmer expressions about Hindutva in Nehru than Gandhi. On the third day. this doesn’t mean his actions were necessarily better. Since a mythology has grown up around these. as I have written. however. state-led development. He did not admire American capitalism. He was. Was the subcontinent historically different? Maybe. They welled up from below. maybe not. You bracket India with Malaysia and Sri Lanka as other countries that have held regular elections since independence. Ceylon was not unwilling. So isn’t Indian democracy a unique achievement within the Third World after all? It is unique. and the Hindu share of the massacres that accompanied partition was not due to any notable influence of the RSS. Tamils have indeed been long disenfranchised in Sri Lanka. The record was not all bad. the central fact of modern times remains that it split on communal religious lines. The Bandung Conference of 1955 is often credited in large measure to Nehru. most of this is an illusion. as Vivek Chibber has shown. But too often this is taken in a vainglorious. world peace and nuclear disarmament in the face of US pressure? Wouldn’t you have to concede that his foreign policy was a major achievement. promoting non-alignment. Your formulation may well be close to the right one. for similar reasons of Kashmiris. Nehru intervened to block a resolution. he was indeed ideologically non-aligned. People. calling for ‘the right of the people of Algeria to self- www. Nehru was personally as secular as you could wish (until the perhaps the very end of his life. But had I written about them. What about his originality in positioning India as a new kind of power.outlookindia. but nor was it in any way remarkable by comparative standards. with effective disenfranchisement of the Tamils. But if one looks at the actual facts of Indian foreign policy in this period. It is enough to think of what Japan or Korea achieved in the equivalent phases of their development to see how meagre was the balance-sheet in India. though not infrequently— Bihar and Hyderabad . it is also true that Sri Lanka has a much longer record of political alternation in government than India. who had little power by then. But India and Burma were both sceptical. mildly Fabian in outlook. and the lot of the least advantaged is much worse. that joined forces with Mookerjee and the Mahasabha in 1947 to whip up the Hindu chauvinist campaign against a United Bengal. by reason of the size and poverty of its electorate. As to Hindutva. Burma. not Gandhi. Only Pakistan was strongly in favour. India and Pakistan. and did want state-led industrialization and public universities and technical colleges. In Sri Lanka. which welcomed it. In most of the Union. The public sector created under him was no challenge to private capital or Indian big business. Politically. It was proposed by Indonesia at a meeting in Colombo in April 1954 attended by the leaders of Ceylon. it’s true that calibrating the precise nature and extent of the Hindu imprint on an Indian state born out of religious division is no easy task. telling the British he would not permit such a thing unless the whole province belonged to ‘Hindustan’. a state of war and emergency has prevailed for decades. while higher education has remained to this day extraordinarily unequal—witness the number of Muslims who have ever made it into the top institutions—as it had to. though of course it would have to be unpacked in more detail. His sabotage of the chances of an inter-confessional Bengal.

That would not have happened in Nehru’s day. over the opposition not only of China but of virtually every other country. But it came with two lastingly negative ones— a pair of albatrosses that still hang. What was the major foreign-policy operation conducted in the name of Nehru’s lofty principles of Non-Alignment? Dispatch of the Indian contingent to the UN operation in the Congo. The other was Sir Abdur Rahman. Zhou Enlai did not permit such a wedge to be driven between Beijing and Moscow. in Algiers. When. India still groans under his brood. ‘he was a congenital hardliner with little talent for compromise. to the relief of Delhi.235 page judgement— as victor’s justice. the Indian representative on the UN Special Committee on Palestine. But these are the unsung heroes of the time. the example he set at the UN. the Algiers meeting was aborted. There are at least two cases where the country’s honour was signally and bravely upheld. I don’t provide any full portrait of him. The first was his seizure of Kashmir. in both cases— a supportive scholar has observed— because the generous payment for such services has helped defray the expenses of domestic operations. close to a decade later. the sad reality is that foreign policy for him was largely driven by the exigencies of safeguarding his annexation of Kashmir. At the national level provincial level was another matter— parliamentary government stood. The reality is that what mattered to Nehru were the endless Commonwealth meetings of the period —he must have attended close to a dozen: there were seventeen between 1944 and 1969. since he took the diametrically opposite line to the CPI’s staunch support for the Raj during the Second World War. making a mockery of Nehru’s position at Bandung. was simply that Russia was now not only a counterweight against China. though it is doubtful how far Delhi itself had much to do with them. In the event. ghost-written by Bunche. declaring this was ‘agitational language’ (re-sic). Rajeshwar Dayal— previously India’s envoy to the UN and subsequently head of its Foreign Service. who was in charge of the whole ONUC operation from September 1960 to May 1961— that Lumumba was deposed. Half a century later. In The Indian Ideology. stinking. The second was the curse of dynastic rule. apart from hoping that Israel would be present and Algeria not mentioned? Essentially. had a narrow conception of the national interest. There. A. around the neck of the country. where Bose found protection in Nazi Germany and assistance from militarist Japan? Don’t your references tend to idealize him? Bose is a bugbear not only for liberals. what had become India’s main objective? To force Russia into the gathering as a bona fide Asian ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will. that he declared these were superfluous. abducted and finally murdered in February 1961. and see her installed. which had never had any interest in it in the first place. G. whose blistering minority report on the majority’s proposed partition of the area. That was where diplomatic energy really went. One was Justice Rabhabinod Pal. Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai country. What of Suez? Here too. Since this inglorious start. or for that matter of www. it is often retrospectively imagined that Nehru played a fearless anticolonial role in attacking the Suez expedition. is a comprehensive historical rebuttal of the claims of Zionism that reads as topically and truthfully as if it were written today. primed for the next step up. which became the West Bank of India. the impossibility of any honest discussion of which has poisoned Indian intellectual life ever since. you counterpose Bose to Nehru. At a couple of points in your book. and won a good deal of admiration for his constructive role at it. The reason for this somersault. You don’t think he left any valuable legacy for India today? Nehru both preserved liberal democracy in India. the Indian judge on the Tokyo Tribunal. Temperamentally. but India’s crucial safeguard in the Security Council against inconvenient resolutions on Kashmir. To have done that would have not gone down well in the Commonwealth club. the first of its now innumerable ‘peace-keeping missions’ of ill fame. but otherwise expressed tactful support for the objectives of the Conference. before the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion. But wasn’t Nehru a principled anti-fascist.outlookindia. with no claim to office other than blood-line. That was Nehru’s positive legacy. he saw the Conference as a means of separating China from Russia. it was instinctive in him to take his daughter around with him on official voyages throughout the world. India has made a specialty of dispatching troops under the flag of the UN as a trade-mark of its foreign policy. and did not reflect on the consequences of his decisions’. Today. and there could be no question of it. calling for ‘the right of the people of Algeria to selfdetermination’. of which his admirers childishly try to absolve him. who in 1948 bluntly denounced its findings— in a 1. a second Afro-Asian Conference was finally being planned to follow the first. He even thought another of these meaningless sops to British post-imperial vanity more important than presiding in Delhi over the signal for war with China. Much more significant was his refusal to supply arms to Egypt when Nasser appealed to him for material help in the spring of 1956. Noorani’s verdict is not unjust. as President of Congress. but for communists in India. where policy on the Congo was determined throughout by Washington. If there were many distortions and limitations of it — and there were—these were not so much a departure from the general pattern of capitalist liberty as typical of it in rich countries too. intact. this time charged with trafficking in gold and drugs. detaching it from Communist solidarity in favour of his version of Afro-Asian kinship. and it is true that not all Indian officials were as willing to do Western bidding as Dayal.aspx?282832 5/9 . under his rule. So far as Nehru is concerned. Himself possessed of a strong sense of entitlement from his father. What were Nehru’s own aims. that cost him nothing—he was on the same side as Eisenhower.2/26/13 day. When consideration of arrangements for further meetings of an Afro-Asian bloc came up at the conclusion of the Conference. and corroded it. Extenuating circumstances will no doubt be found by Nehru’s admirers for all three of these episodes. But these were verbal pronouncements. Nehru intervened to block a resolution.com/article. it was under the watch of one of Nehru’s trusties. and the example it has set. But as a political legacy. after all. Indian troops are once again stationed in the Congo. with a frequency rivalled only by Pakistan. was little better than his addiction to the charades of the Commonwealth in London. so little regard did Nehru have for the idea of building it as a serious force.

as Kerala and West Bengal. Nehru always spoke vaguely of socialism. or for that matter of Ambedkar. Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai War. at opposite ends of the Union. You attack the spread of dynastic politics in India as the creation of so many family firms. as Aung San and many anti-colonial leaders in South-East Asia did. Damodoran pointed out in a very fine. In the case of the much larger communist movement. That must be the starting-point of any explanation. But these are only speculations. Nehru. Bose certainly had his own weaknesses and share of blindness. followed by the insurrectionary Ranadive line— Zhdanov’s directives to the Cominform in the background— of 1948-50. deported to far harsher conditions of imprisonment in Burma. What accounts for that? I could answer that the Indian left was marginal to the leading developments I discuss. was devoted to that prospect. like the rightward shift within the middle-class? No. I simply note that where religion fuses with the nation in any independence struggle and ensuing construction of a post-colonial state. Christianity and Islam weakening the grip of Hinduism in a society marked both by relatively high levels of literacy and particularly vicious forms of caste discrimination. as if it had no choice in the matter. It is a mistake to elide the two. the left confronts a far more difficult terrain—I point to Ireland. from the time of Third Period in which it was formed. which they catastrophically failed to do after the War. illustrate the ensuing handicaps an independent Indian socialism laboured under. without exception. this was not just the tactical burden that Indian Communism had to bear. The Indira Gandhi Conference of 2010 (keynote address from Manmohan Singh).com/article. whom I contrast with Gandhi. and so visited retribution on Congress for its fate in the long run. through to the ‘People’s War’ backing the Raj of 1941-145. Congress leading the way. The most obvious lacuna in your treatment of recent Indian history is any analysis of the Left.outlookindia. with predictable effects on the political vitality of Indian communism. was out. it is a separate degeneration in its own right. are thoroughly undemocratic. In The Indian Ideology. The careers of Narayan and Lohia. Even if dynastic politics operates as a cost-cutting mechanism of name-recognition for purposes of electoral mobilization in very large. there has been very little resistance to crude forms and of neo-liberalism within the Indian elite and liberal intelligentsia. so they cannot be viewed as an objective necessity absolving the monarchism of Congress. I don’t provide any full portrait of him. Any radical redistribution of income. but by then the socialist tradition as a positive alternative had effectively petered out. But he cannot be dismissed because he fought with the Japanese. no one on the left—or anywhere else in the political spectrum—has yet explained. weakening the foundations of Indian democracy as a whole? You are right both about the lack of internal democracy in all Indian parties. self-critical interview back in 1975. so far as I know. I wouldn’t link the Indian Ideology to any crude form of neo-liberalism. Most of those who give expression to it uphold the value of free markets. political determinants at work in West Bengal. indeed from early on was valued by Gandhi partly as a figure who could neutralize more radical currents within the party. Turning to the other end of the political spectrum. The key question which I don’t tackle in the depth it requires is why the left has historically been so weak in India. There is a big difference between cadre parties like the CPM and the BJP. but not unbridled maximization of profits or privatization of all areas of economic life. By and large that might be so. other Communist parties—the Vietnamese. The CPI was born in a period of high Stalinism. This is the conundrum that. and targeted for assassination when he escaped from Calcutta in 1940. against them. In India. speakers agreed. which are both. even if the lot of the poor would really benefit most from faster growth powered by deregulation and lower taxes. which is why Indian Communism took durable mass root in two such dissimilar states. as the victim of a partition presided over by Nehru and Mookerjee which depressed and marginalized it within the Union. who were treated comparatively with kid gloves when they were detained by the British. The British knew perfectly who was more dangerous to them: not Gandhi or Nehru. the socialist component of the left had the additional difficulty that within Congress. But isn’t the deeper problem that all Indian parties. But none of this answers what I believe is the real analytical problem. Indian-style. and the internal regime which this created in parties dependent on the CPSU set in place traditions that continue to this day. but it’s not an adequate reply. and nowhere else (if we set aside the more recent and restricted growth of Naxalism in adivasi communities). Do you think this is related to the Indian Ideology or to other factors. But dynastic rule is not just an extreme expression of this. the Chinese— had to contend with the same manipulations from Moscow and came out of them much better. But as K. Pant and the rest—was that he really did fight for inter-confessional unity in Bengal. we still have to remember that the BJP has not required such blood-lines. and its implications for the political system as a whole. Narayan’s great eventual achievement was to bring down Nehru’s daughter. and on to the debacle of Dange’s leadership in the early sixties. it would probably be fair to say www. and Congress or the DMK. It was also an organizational one. which gathered together some of its spirits. Moreover. That said. and actually achieved it in the INA. What distinguished him from the other Congress leaders of the period—Gandhi. as some of its defenders argue. poor constituencies.aspx?282832 6/9 .2/26/13 ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will. Proper explanations are still wanting. the result would necessarily have been more complex than brief references to them could be. as Joya Chatterji has shown. More typical is rather the hope for a socialdemocracy. but Bose. Patel. Israel and India as parallel cases— than where this is not the case. One could speculate that connexion with an exceptionally dunder-headed little CPGB in London was a further drawback. Had I done so for either. subordination to the twists and turns of the Soviet party was obviously a fetter. each beginning in Congress and intellectually more impressive than their coevals. which are undemocratic but not dynastic. But temperate measures of social justice were in order. One might speculate that cultural determinants have been at work in Kerala.

A shorter. 2012 at 10:41pm Post a Comment You are not logged in.. For these to find a positive outlet. it would probably be fair to say that true exponents of a radical neo-liberalism are quite at ease with the Indian Ideology.outlookindia.. All the same. holding out a beacon for emulation to the rest of the world. please log in or register If you w ish your letter to be considered for publication in the print magazine. Cholas..aspx?282832 7/9 .. the Ideology is in many ways very similar to the outburst of narcissism in the European Union a few years ago. and the nation-state is a more storm-proof structure than a quasisupranational confederation.com/article.. The current obstacles facing the elite consensus around neoliberal reforms will no doubt be overcome..INDICA (story of India)!!!go figure..2/26/13 ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will. if without investing as much in it themselves. Perry Anderson talks about India as a single political entity as we see today.hold your breath. India certainly ows it to the British for its birth as a single political and national entity Reply · 1 · Like · January 19 at 7:36am Top Commenter · Melbourne. if you look at it through the lens of your book? As a discourse of self-congratulation of the Indian Union. Cheras. Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai growth powered by deregulation and lower taxes.. because they are late expressions of an Indian nationalism that is no longer anticolonial but proto-imperial. Comment Kathiresan Sivanandan · Alagappa Chettiar College of Engineering and Technology Don't get emotional..you could still maintain your anonymity. but please desist from using unpublishable sobriquets and handles www. like us on Faceb ook for important and fun stuff TRANSLATE INTO: Select Language Pow ered by Translate 7 comments Add a comment. edited version of this appears in print Like TEXT SIZE 1. Only in a space cleared by its exit could a more natural political dialectic develop..silly. the overblown rhetoric of Indian miraculism is liable to puncturing from events too.silly. w e request you to use a proper name. But their arrival is unlikely to mitigate social tensions. the condition of a serious refoundation of the Republic. The comparable tropes in India will not burst so easily.. then. Rightly or wrongly. its life-span is in good measure dependent on a biological lottery beyond prediction. They were known only as Mauryas. The economic crisis has since made short work of these vanities. During Chandragupta's days there were many "India"s including the present day Pakistan with so many regional kingdoms and territorial chieftons. ‘Children! Always cling to nurse/ for fear of finding something worse’ is a poor motto for adults.. the shortest pathway would be the removal of Congress from the scene. and a front of progress worthy of the dimensions of the country gradually emerge.K. Pandiyas and so on. That said.. Nobody called themselves Indians. If India did not exist 3000 years ago (at least culturally) then how the heck could Megasthanese (Greek Amabsador in ChandraGupta Maurya's court) write a big fat book titled...1k Send Tw eet 89 COMMENTS PRINT 15 FILED IN: AUTHORS: PRAFUL BIDWAI PEOPLE: PERRY ANDERSON | JAWAHARLAL NEHRU | M. and India probably wont exist in the near future (though he did not explicitly stated that)... when figures like the late Tony Judt were explaining that contemporary Europe was a paragon of political and social virtues. GANDHI TAGS: CONGRESS | HISTORY | SECULARISM | DEMOCRACY | IDEA OF INDIA | PARTITION 1947 | HINDU-HINDUS-HINDUISM | MUSLIMS | ELECTIONS | HINDUTVA SECTION: BOOKS SUBSECTION: INTERVIEWS PLACES: INDIA Follow us on Twitter for all updates. Australia Prasanth Nambiar · Silly.. How would you see the future of India. no point arguing with such Arundhatis!! Reply · View 5 more F acebook social plugin 1 · Like · November 10.. Victoria. But anyone who wishes to see a freer or more equal Union should be hoping to consign it to the past..silly. w ith full postal address . why did I waste my 15 minutes reading this trash??!!! I should have skipped it the moment I saw ' Marxist historian'! This douchebag thinks India did not exist 6000 years ago. Like any dynastic incrustation of old.

something desired by multinational mining interests and their Western backers.. Anderson errs in making statements like “the complete latitude he (Gandhiji) gave himself to declare the truth. international leader. Gandhi can be said to be a product of dialectical spiritualism. TORONTO A Marxist like Anderson cannot but say such things about Gandhi... Write No Evil. including the closet variety and 4) right-wing Hindu nationalists. 3) apologists of the Empire. fail to understand that political opinion in old. What is most annoying in this pile of arguments is the complete ignoring of Muslim intellectuals and politicians in the Congress. H. VARUN SHEKHAR.2/26/13 PUBLISHED DAILY MAIL ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will. Homogeneous cultures in European countries or. RAMKUMAR P. SAN DIEGO In Anderson’s work. 2) Zionists and supporters of Israel. he will belittle Hindus who’ve survived and fought. one of whom assassinated Gandhi. as Gandhi rejected requests for support for creating Israel by force. he has done something that historians like Bipan Chandra and S. D. that too a foreigner? He will try and desecrate the soul of India. While he is a product of dialectical materialism. Anderson even has to weigh in on India’s role in the Congo in the early ’60s! What a pompous ass! India’s efforts were highly appreciated.com/article. Gopal studiously avoided. What do you expect from a Marxist. VANCOUVER What ‘myths’ has Anderson punctured? And why do Indians need some Britisher to puncture anything. especially to generations of Indians fed on lies that Nehru was a great visionary patriot. Which is why he can’t comprehend Gandhi in his fullness. It betrays an unawareness of the dynamics of mass movements in a country like India.. NAGABHUSHANA. GRENOBLE Roughly four groups hate Gandhi: 1) Marxists and Communists. 2012 See No Evil. By subjecting Nehru to reasoned.. or comment on anything to do with Indian history? Just because he knows the sacred fellow traveller texts doesn’t mean he knows India. diverse societies like India involves caste-based selfinterest and a certain religious zeal.. Indian historiography is still a hagiography of Gandhi and Nehru. Japan. Gandhi wasn’t perfect.”. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan? Maulana Azad? KIRAN.don’t sentimentalise him’.. VIRUPAKSHA. India was criticised by some in the West. Nov 12). The best line was this: “(this) family has no claim to the office other than bloodline”. Anderson has offered a rich and thought-provoking contribution to the historiography of the freedom struggle. www. India prevented the secession of Katanga province from Congo. BRAHMBHATT. honest historical scrutiny. I wasn’t surprised by what Perry Anderson had to say in his interview (‘Respect Gandhi.outlookindia. the accumulated myths and cobwebs of modern indian history are discussed using the only method that human intellect has discovered: the historical method. even while sympathising with them for the horrors the Jews went through. The interview shows him up as mediocre at best.aspx?282832 8/9 . Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai HAVE YOUR SAY 1 NOV 26. say. B. PONDICHERRY Anderson’s book seems a one-sided rant with the abject attentionseeking goal of provoking Indian liberals. RAGHAV PANDEY. mostly by Congolese Africans. JAIPUR It was revealing. Perry Well.S. what they should have been done a long time back. PUNE Generally a good critic. For this. possibly because Gandhi rejected Communism for India as early as 1920. SHIVAMOGGA Perry Anderson is certainly not one of the breed of classical British historians whose work have always been gleefully used by the Hindu Right. To view south Asian politics without these is like trying to understand Euro politics without militarism and nationalism. but how the hell do people like Perry so accurately psychoanalyse people they have never met? ABHISHEK PRAKASH. set a disastrous example. especially with their preoccupation with a ‘Hindu golden age’.

aspx?282832 9/9 . PARIS ‘Respect Gandhi If You Will... it would be unfair to judge Anderson on the strength of this one conversation. but he has failed to understand Gandhi’s personality and ideas in their evolutionary nature. 2012 Half-Understood Apropos the interview with Perry Anderson (‘Respect Gandhi if you will. There are foreign scholars like Gene Sharp and Geoffrey Ashe who disagree with him and don’t hold Gandhi responsible for all of the Congress’s mistakes.2/26/13 NATHAN RAO. KANPUR PERMALINK Comments Policy ABOU T U S | C ON TAC T U S | SU BSC R IBE | AD VER TISIN G R ATES | C OPYR IGH T & D ISC L AIMER | C OMMEN TS POL IC Y OUTLOOK TOPICS: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Or just type in a few initial letters of a topic: go www.’. Perry’s opinion on Nehru too is very biased. Nov 12).com/article. Don’t Sentimentalise Him’ | Praful Bidwai PERMALINK 2 DEC 03. VISHWANATH TANDON.outlookindia.