Friday, April 22, 2011

The Unsung Heroes of Modern India : V P Menon

 He was an Indian civil service officer. He was the constitutional advisor to the last three viceroys during British rule. He was the only Indian in Mountbatten’s core team. In Independent India he became Secretary of the Ministry of States. And more importantly, he was the person who along with Sardar Patel achieved the integration of Indian states.

He was Vapal Pangunni Menon. To his friends he was known as V P Menon. Menon played a vital role in shaping Independent India’s fate, but he never received the recognition he deserved. He came from a very humble background and yet reached the heights of the Indian Government Services. Born in Kerala in 1894, Menon joined Government service in 1914. Later, Lord Wavell appointed him Secretary to Governor General. In 1946 he was appointed political reform commissioner to the British viceroy. Though he had the confidence of Government and successive Viceroys, he was a staunch Indian patriot & had confidence of political leaders as well, especially Sardar Patel.

When Mountbatten arrived in 1947, Menon was not included in his core team. Mountbatten had orders to hand over the power latest by June 1948. After Gandhi’s proposal of calling Jinnah to form interim government failed, Menon was the first person to accept that some form of Pakistan is going to be a reality. But Menon opposed the plan of Mountbatten according to which power was to be transferred to the provinces for an interim period. According to this plan provinces had the right to decide, whether to join India, Pakistan or to be Independent. Mountbatten’s plan was the plan of balkanization of this sub-continent with India, Pakistan, and hundreds of princely states. But history had chosen V P Menon to decide the geography of this sub-continent.

After all these events, Menon went to Shimla, where Nehru & Mountbatten were to meet in May 1947. There he informed Mountbatten, of a new approach to the problem, which he had discussed with Sardar Patel in December 1946. Then on the 10 of May 1947 Menon presented his plan to Nehru in front of Mountbatten. The broad outline of the plan was that the Muslim majority areas should be separated from India and power should be transferred to the two separate Governments. He felt that it was better for the country to be divided than to let it scourge in the never ending civil war. On the 3 of June plan suggested by Menon was formally accepted by all leaders. After this, Menon’s task was to prepare & finalize the draft of ‘India Independence Bill’. Actually there were hell lot of events happened in between May & June. Scores of articles will be needed to cover all those series of events, and that is not possible here. So I am just giving you the glimpses of those events.

Menon’s second crucial contribution was related to the accession of princely states. Menon worked as Sardar Patel‘s right hand in the Home Ministry. He took the charge of the Secretary of the States Department on 5 July. Initially he was not sure whether to join Ministry or not because India’s Independence was his life’s ambition and since India was going to be Independent, he thought of retirement. But Sardar Patel persuaded him to join Ministry for the integration of the Indian Union.

Menon (third from right) advising Patel (second from right)

 Menon drafted an Instrument of Accession for the princely states. He used all his diplomatic skills while negotiating with princes. Initially many Maharajas were unwilling to sign, but eventually they surrendered to Menon’s tactics. By the time of transfer of Power, all except three states, signed the Instrument of Accession. These 3 states were Junagadh, Hyderadabad, & Kashmir. Later Junagadh and Hyderabad surrendered because of strong leadership of Patel, diplomacy of Menon, & threat of Indian Army. But the case of Kashmir was very unique. Hari singh, Maharaja of Kashmir had not signed the Accession Instrument. When Pakistani tribes invaded Kashmir in October 1947, Menon immediately went to Srinagar to discuss the situation with Maharaja. He came back to Delhi, had a meeting with Mountbatten & flew back to Jammu. When he again returned to Delhi, he had with him the Accession papers signed by Maharaja. It was only after these accession papers that Indian Government was able to send troops to Kashmir, and it became an inseparable part of India. His third major achievement was to control the communal riots which followed immediately after the partition. Menon along with Sardar Patel and Mountbatten worked hard to stop the riots.

After Patel’s death in 1950, Menon went into background as he was not close to Nehru. Later he became Governor of Orissa. In 1952 he retired from the service and shifted to live in Bangalore till his death in 1966.

By the policy of Accession Menon had ensured the unity of India. Later he expressed this feeling in his book ‘Integration of the Indian States’ as “My feeling was one of profound thankfulness to God. The threatened fragmentation had been averted and the whole country had come under one political umbrella.”We often heard that the British brought this country into one political umbrella, it’s a fallacy. Rather, it was the duo of Patel & Menon who understood the need of hour and stitched together this union in record time. If Menon had not shown his skillful diplomacy, sharp acumen, this country could have led to civil war. Without Menon India of today would be a very different nation. We can never forget what he has done for this country during that crucial decade of 1940s.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Unsung Heroes of Modern India : Introduction

Friends, I am writing this series of articles which is titled as “The unsung heroes of Modern India”. First of all I would like to thank Shubham Verma for his kind support and encouragement in writing this series. In each article I will write about a personality who played a paramount role in the making of Modern India. We all have read a lot about pre-independence leaders of our country be it political, social, or religious. But there is little knowledge about the post-independence heroes. I wonder, will the architect of modern India be ever recognized by the fellow citizens or will their contributions be lost in vain?

 This series intends to reveal the arduous work done by such personalities. We all owe to them for their service to rebuild this country. In 1947 Britain left this country in the desolate valley of despair, and to bring it out from that valley to the mountain of hope was not an easy task. But then again, we were and we are a resourceful country, and the greatest resource of India, or any country, for that matter, is its people. Britain looted every precious thing from us except people, and in people lies our greatest strength. I cannot but quote famous American Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words-

”Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honour's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.”

And there can be no better time to quote these lines, when our economy is booming; we are getting recognised all over the world for wealth. But the point which I want to make is that we are not emerging because of wealth, we are emerging because we have men, who are ready to sacrifice, who are ready to work hard. In today’s materialistic world, where money is getting precedence over everything, it’s hard to believe that money is just a bi-product of talent.

What we are today is because of the efforts of various personalities from different fields and in this series you will become aware of such personalities. If even a single person gets inspired from these stories and feels motivated to do something for the country I will consider these stories worthwhile. And this will be the real tribute to them………………

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011


 भारत क्या है? क्या मानचित्रों में दर्शाई गई भोगोलिक सीमायें भारत को परिभाषित कर सकती हैं? और यदि ऐसा है तो क्या विभाजन के बाद का भारत अधूरा भारत है? भोगोलिक सीमायें तो विभाजन के पहले भी परिवर्तित होती रही हैं. और एक प्रश्न यह भी है की विभाजन के बाद कौन सा हिस्सा भारत कहलाने का हक़ रखता है?
निश्चित तौर पर यह जनसँख्या, क्षेत्रफल, और भोगोलिक विशेषताओं के आधार पर तय नहीं किया जा सकता. परन्तु यहाँ पर एक प्रश्न यह भी उठता है की, क्या हिमालय के बिना भारत की कल्पना की जा सकती है? क्या गंगा-यमुना के बिना भारत के अस्तित्व को आकार दिया जा सकता है. परन्तु, यदि हम चीजो को विस्तृत रूप में देखे तो हम पाएंगे की इन प्रश्नों का उत्तर भारत की वर्तमान भोगोलिक सीमायें देती हैं.

सिन्धु नदी का बहुत थोडा हिस्सा आज भारत में प्रवाहित होता है. सिन्धु-घाटी सभ्यता के अधिकांश अवशेष सीमा के उस पार है, परन्तु इससे भारत की सभ्यता-संस्कृति में कोई कमी नहीं आई. इसी प्रकार हिमालय का एक हिस्सा जैसे कैलाश-मानसरोवर आज भारत में नहीं है, परन्तु फिर भी आज का भारत एक संपूर्ण भारत बना हुआ है, या बनने को अग्रसर है. तो यह तो स्पष्ट है की मात्र भोगोलिक सीमायें भारत को परिभाषित नहीं कर सकती.
कोई भी देश ईंट-पत्थरों से नहीं बल्कि वहां के लोगों से बनता है. भारत भी भारतीयों से बना हुआ है, परन्तु जब भारतीय विदेश में जाकर बसते हैं, और यद्यपि वह कई जगह बहुतायत में भी है, तथापि हम उसको भारत नहीं मानते. आज जो पाकिस्तानी है कल वो भारतीय हुआ करते थे, परन्तु आज उनकी निष्ठा भारत-राष्ट्र के प्रति न होकर पाकिस्तान के प्रति है. हम जनसँख्या के आधार पर इस राष्ट्र को परिभाषित नहीं कर सकते. इतनी बड़ी जनसँख्या के चले जाने के बाद भी भारत, भारत है. किसी के होने-न होने से भारत के गुण-धर्म में कोई परिवर्तन नहीं आया है.

तो ऐसी क्या चीज है जो भारत को भारत बनाती है?
क्या है वो चीज जो भारत को अक्षुण रखे हुए है?

वह है उसका अटूट विश्वास. अटूट विश्वास उन सनातन मूल्यों में, जो भारत को मात्र एक राजनितिक इकाई न होकर एक जीवंत राष्ट्र बनाते है. भारत किसी स्थान-विशेष का सूचक नहीं है, वह तो विभिन्न प्रकार के के गुणों के सम्मिलन को दर्शाता है. जब हम भारत को भारत माँ कह कर अपना सम्मान जताते है, तो हम किसी व्यक्ति-विशेष या स्थान-विशेष के प्रति अपना सम्मान नहीं जताते, बल्कि हम उन गुणों के प्रति अपनी निष्ठा जता रहे होते हैं जो भारत को भारत बनाते है. यह गुण कई प्रकार के हैं जैसे धार्मिकता, अध्यात्मिकता, बंधुत्व-भाव, समानता, राष्ट्र-आराधना आदि. इन गुणों में भी सिरमोर है धर्म-अध्यात्म. यह भारत की USP है. भारत के लोगों में धर्म के प्रति एक विशेष आग्रह होता है.( यहाँ धर्म से तात्पर्य किसी एक विशेष धर्म से नहीं है.) भारत की विशेषता तथाकथित धर्म-निरपेक्षता नहीं बल्कि सर्व-धर्म सापेक्षता है.

यही वह मूल्य हैं जो भारत को संसार में एक विशिष्ट स्थान दिलाते हैं. जिस भी राष्ट्र की निष्ठा इन मूल्यों में है, वह भारत कहलाने का अधिकारी है. संसार में जहाँ-जहाँ यह आदर्श हैं, वहां-वहां भारत है.