for Kashmir issue’: Indian politics and history will be lost if not documented properly

 

NEHRU_GANDHI_AFPOn 131st foundation day of the Indian National Congress, Congress leaders faced the embarrassment of its publication printing information that the party considers as “unhistorical” or “untrue”. The article not only questioned the role of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru but, even commented on incumbent party supremo Sonia Gandhi, something that is nothing short of blasphemous in all political parties.

Over the decades, sensitivity to history writing and, history as understood by generations is coming under greater scrutiny. Instead of leaving it to intellectual questioning and debate, history in India has now become a political tool which politicians of every shade and background use to create or question a popular narrative. While questioning “established” facts most politicians and leaders seem to have scant regard towards creating a resource-bank of firsthand information that would be used by future historians. If political leaders shy away from recording facts of major events as they witnessed at first hand then, why blame history writing later.

In 1966, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library started an oral history project to get men and women, who were either prominent figures connected with the freedom movement or were close to them, apart from people who were associated directly or indirectly with personalities and events. Over the last 50 years, NMML has collected a variety of audio recordings but, a quick scan through the list and one will find few political leaders and no senior civil servant of recent times to have recorded their version or views on events and people.

Though details of transcripts are not available online other than former Marxist Chief Minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu and former Prime Minister VP Singh no other prominent leader agreed to be questioned. The only top civil servant to be part of the project was Dharam Vira. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s powerful principal secretary PN Haksar donated his private papers to NMML but they are kept under “closed” category as Haksar did not want his papers to be made public until several years later.

India’s foray into coalition politics, rise of BJP and regional parties, decline of Congress Party as a pan-India party are historic processes that need first person accounts. Most Indian leaders either don’t pen memoirs or even agree to share firsthand accounts.
A file image of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru from 1942.

It is unlikely that VP Singh gave out details on government formation after the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 elections, Bofors probe, HDW submarine deal, and later formation of National Front and United Front coalition governments. At least, there is some archival material available.

Narasimha Rao whose elevation as prime minister saw the emergence of the first non-Gandhi-Nehru family member to the top post, and during whose tenure Hindu Right wing forces grew leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid, has no recording. One has to rely on his fictionalized work ‘Insider’ for any insight into his turbulent tenure as PM from 1991-96.

Sadly, there is no recording of CPI(M) veteran Harkishan Singh Surjeet who, played an important part in bringing together different parties under the banner of National Front or United Front. In fact, such was the reticence of some of them that when I broached the subject initially with VP Singh and later AB Bardhan of CPI some years ago, both stoutly refused to entertain any such idea of sharing their “insider view” of events that shaped Indian politics in 1990s. No BJP leader has mustered courage either. Imagine that the first BJP-led coalition of Atal Bihari Vajpayee has had no leader other than LK Advani and Jaswant Singh writing at the end of their tenure. However, major gaps exist in understanding what happened and what transpired in meetings during 1999 hijack of an Indian Airlines aircraft to Kandahar or the Kargil War.
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‘Nehru to be blamed for Kashmir issue and Sonia’s dad was a fascist soldier,’ says Congress mouthpiece

Contrast this reluctance and reticence to record what they saw, heard and were part of, with politicians in US and UK. Presidents at the end of their term seek out institutions and scholars to share their stories and experiences of events and people. University of Virginia’s Miller Centre has a rich repository of material collected through interviews with presidents and members of different administrations. There are presidential libraries that record and preserve personal accounts of major events that shaped US and world history.

In India, over six decades after independence even government documents and papers are kept under lock and key, and historians have a tough time accessing original papers. There is no law that automatically makes government papers available to people after a certain number of years. Historian Sunil Khilnani was the only one in recent years to have had complete access to Nehru Papers and Indira Gandhi Papers courtesy Sonia Gandhi, the custodian of their private papers. Most others have not been lucky.

Political parties and their leaders need to open up and share experiences, document them, and create a record for future generations if they want more balanced and “correct” view of history to be written. Their inputs would immensely contribute to understanding of how India has shaped in the last decades. Until that happens they should stop complaining.

Source From;Firstpost

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