Republic Day Special Series

SHARAD JOSHI'S BOOK: Ch. II, Part 3

 

WHAT WENT WRONG WITH INDEPENDENCE?

CHAPTER II: Self-Criticism and Self-Deception (Part 3)

The requirements of introspection

Self-criticism is not an easy task. To turn inward and admit to one's own mistakes requires tremendous integrity and strength of will.

 

The terrible situation of the country today has to be considered seriously and in totality. The country has been on a downslide in the fifty years of independence: how has this happened? Why did a country with the heritage of a man like Gandhi go into decline even while his disciples were in power? How did the martyrdom of those valiant young men who walked undaunted to scaffolds go to waste? How did the freedom fighters turn so easily treacherously corrupt? 

Fifty years have been completed since the British departed from this country. On this occasion, it behooves us to analyze the nature and content of the freedom movement itself and the character of the post-independence period regime and put forth some clear thoughts about why independence went wrong and why the first republic has crumbled.

The diagnosis should be comprehensive

In the discussions on the gains and losses of independence some very strange and mutually contradictory points have been expressed.

Some recommend greater democracy, others dictatorship; some prescribe greater devolution of power, others more centralisation. Some think that in the period after independence education has been ignored; others that a proper foundation of roads, transportation, water, energy, and economic services has not been laid; poverty has been overlooked; the backward sections have been neglected, etc. There are those who blame linguistic reorganisation of states and even adult franchise. They have also forcefully stated that in the future these flaws have to be remedied to set the nation on the right path. This is the equivalent of prescribing cold pills for a deadly disease. 

There may be some truth in all of these diagnoses and prescriptions, but the entire list does not explain sufficiently the seriousness of the patient's condition. It also leaves important questions unanswered. How could basic things such as education, infrastructure and social development be so grossly ignored? If they had not been ignored, would the terrible situation the country finds itself in today have been avoided? And finally, if these flaws can be remedied will the country go ahead on the path of progress? The answer to these questions is "No." The diagnoses of the disease and the remedies given by those who have attempted to draw the balance sheets of independence are scanty and hardly of any help to understand today's situation.

Don't spare the guilty

There is another strange aspect of these exercises of supposed serious reflection. It is universally agreed that after independence some gross blunders were made, but those who were in power during the period of independence and who are responsible for the downfall are all venerated like demi-gods! There is not even a breath of criticism against them. The country has gone to rack and ruin in the fifty years of independence, but the Nehru dynasty which ruled for 38 of those fifty years is held in high respect for their competence and moral character. Even the future, many insist, lies in following the path shown by Pandit Nehru , Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi! The explanation that this is because of the Indian tradition of speaking no evil of the dead, is unconvincing. People say nasty things about Mahatma Gandhi himself. But one dare not say a word against the Nehru dynasty that actually presided over the downfall. It is clear that those who draw the balance sheets lack either integrity or the calibre necessary for such a serious exercise.

Is the tragedy exclusively post-Independence?

Those attempting this analysis of the gains and the losses since independence fall into yet another error. They attribute all the degeneration that has occurred to the years following independence. The Indian freedom movement is supposed to have been carried out according to the great principles of Mahatma Gandhi in which a whole people struggled dedicatedly under his leadership, suffered hardships, accepted sacrifices and even gave up their lives, forcing the English to give independence. It was in the period following independence that the principles of the freedom movement were eclipsed and the country's decline began. In brief, the logic is that before the 15th of August 1947 everything was high and noble, and that the rot set in only after this. This could not be true. Whatever happened after independence must have had its seeds, however sparse, in the period of the freedom movement itself.

Did the downfall begin only after independence? Pandit Nehru, after all, was Gandhiji's most beloved disciple and heir. He himself was prime minister for 17 years after independence. At least in that period, the country should have advanced. Why didn't this happen? All these questions will have to be faced with rigorous self-criticism and much more. It will also be necessary to examine the relation between the decline after independence and the happenings before independence. The reasons for the frustration of independence will also have to be sought in the time of the freedom movement. If it should turn out that the inspiration of the freedom movement was basically false, this bitter truth must be faced without hesitation if a genuine self-criticism is to take place.

If the inspiration of the freedom movement was basically false and dishonest then it is understandable that we are reaping as we sowed. On the other hand, if we are convinced that the freedom movement was pure and true, then we will have to analyze exactly what went wrong after independence and search for the villains who schemed to frustrate the sacrifice of martyrs in the freedom struggle. We will have to analyze why they could carry their vile plans to successful conclusions. The kind of logic that says Gandhi was good, Nehru also was good and so were the Gokhales and Tilak who preceded them, but even then independence went wrong represents intellectual prostitution. 

An analysis of the post-independence collapse must observe three kinds of precautions. It will not do to give a ticky-tacky diagnosis of the disease of the country; we need the certainty of ending the country's adverse fortune through an effective remedy for a properly diagnosed disease. No individual should be spared, however high his prestige. Finally, there should be no negligence in the blunt dissection of the trends in the freedom movement.

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