Know your Nehru !

published on November 10, 2013

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 8: L.K. Advani’s reference to a book that says Jawaharlal Nehru once accused Vallabhbhai Patel of being a “communalist” at a cabinet meeting has brought rejoinders from the Congress.

Union minister Manish Tewari on Thursday cited dates to challenge the claim by the late author, civil servant Meppally Keshava Pillai Krishnankutty Nair or MKK, whom Nehru had appointed head of the Bhilai Steel Plant in the 1950s to speed up its commissioning.
Tewari tweeted that MKK was born in 1930 and joined the IAS in 1950 while the cabinet meeting where Nehru is said to have made the comment took place in 1948.
“The facts don’t add up and even if another Nair was part of the IAS, it’s questionable whether he would be privy to cabinet discussions,” Tewari wrote.

However, the book, Aarodum Paribhavamillathe —Oru Kalakhattathinte Katha (With Ill Will To None — The Story of an Era), gives MKK’s date of birth as December 29, 1920, and says he joined the IAS in 1949 after passing the exam in 1948.
It also narrates how MKK, a Thiruvananthapuram native, came to knoMKK vouches that much of the information on the purported Nehru-Patel spat included what he knew himself and what he had heard from V.P. Menon, secretary in the ministry of states headed by Patel.

“The two (MKK and Menon) had served in Delhi during the same period and the Malayali camaraderie had blossomed into a close friendship,” said Gopakumaran Nair, whose English translation of MKK’s book is to come out soon.

The family of MKK, who the book says enjoyed the support of both Nehru and Patel, claim the controversy is uncalled for.

Gopinath Krishnan, the eldest of MKK’s three sons, told The Telegraph: “The information has been in the public domain for more than a quarter century and all this furore is needless.”

The book is a compilation of MKK’s articles serialised in the Malayalam weekly Kala Kaumudi. It was published in 1987, the year MKK died, said Krishnan, a former chief engineer with the state-run electronics firm Keltron.

He feels his father’s decision to publish the book only in Malayalam may have limited its reach, and was happy that an English translation was in the offing.

Gopakumaran, the translator and a former employee of the Kochi-based PSU, Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd (Fact), said MKK sounded genuine throughout the book.
“The style is lucid and genuine. He has described the events exactly as he experienced them. He has not tried to sensationalise things even a bit for the sake of ‘good copy’ or to make a hero out of himself,” said Gopakumaran, who had joined Fact as an executive trainee in 1969 when MKK was its managing director.

The comments on the purported Patel-Nehru spat appear in Chapters 19 and 20 where MKK explains the hostile designs of the Nizam of Hyderabad. He says the Nizam and some British officers were working to thwart any attempt by the Indian government to take the state over.

It was MKK’s job that had made him a party to the accession story. Starting off as a divisional accountant in the princely state of Travancore in 1941, MKK joined the army as a civilian gazetted officer and was posted as planning officer at the Secunderabad Ordnance Depot in 1943.

This made him friendly with the Nizam’s top officials and privy to much of the information surrounding the Nizam. The nationalist in MKK saw to it personally that these were brought to the notice of Patel, the then Union home minister.

“The information was sent through a human courier. Although father does not mention the name of the courier in the book, he identified him as one Mr Viswanathan in an article published in another Malayalam weekly in the 1980s. Viswanathan hailed from Kollam in Kerala and was junior to him in the depot,” Krishnan said.

MKK met Patel once during a visit to Delhi. “Patel had the habit of taking a walk around his house at 5am. That was when I reached the house and told his security to pass on a message that I had come from Hyderabad with a very important message,” the book says.
“Patel called me inside and instantly sensed that I should be the man who was sending him the information. After leaving instructions with his PA, he introduced me to daughter Maniben saying, ‘This is our own man’.”

The author brings alive the drama that preceded the army action culminating in the integration of Hyderabad into the Indian Union. He narrates how V.P. Menon worked overtime and devised plans that cajoled and at times threatened the 565 princely states into falling in line.

MKK recounts that Nehru, Patel and then Governor-General C. Rajagopalachari were equally concerned about the anarchy in Hyderabad.
At a cabinet meeting, Patel explained the Nizam’s pro-Pakistan moves and demanded the army be deployed to bring an end to the “reign of terror”.
The book says an infuriated Nehru retorted: “You are a communalist. I will never support your suggestion.”

An upset Patel walked out and relations between the two dipped to such an extent that they would rarely even talk.

As the situation in Hyderabad kept worsening, Rajaji discussed matters with V.P. Menon. The next day, he summoned Nehru and Patel to his residence.
That day, while VP too was on his way to Rajaji’s residence, a civil service officer named Buch waved his car to stop and pushed a letter into his hands.
It was a letter from the British high commissioner and conveyed Britain’s displeasure at the rape and murder of a few nuns in a Hyderabad convent by the Razakar militia a few days earlier. VP handed the letter over to Rajaji.

During the talks initiated by Rajaji, Nehru kept insisting he was more concerned about the international image of the country. That was when Rajaji decided to use the “brahmastra” and produced the British high commissioner’s letter.
That changed the situation and a visibly infuriated Nehru too agreed to military action, the book says.

The differences between Patel and Nehru were not limited to the Hyderabad action, MKK says. Patel was also critical of Nehru’s Northeast policy.
“Patel strongly resisted Nehru’s plans to bring the Northeast under the external affairs ministry, but there was no one else in the cabinet to oppose Nehru. This policy made it easier for Christian missionaries to spread the feeling among the people (of the Northeast) that they were different from Indians,” says MKK.
He also puts some personal onus on Nehru for creating the Indian Frontier Administrative Service to choose the officials to administer the northeastern areas.
MKK argues that the mode of selection was ineffective and this created a band of ill-trained officials whose lack of expertise could be blamed for the rise of separatism in the Northeast.

The author also refers to two purported notes issued by Nehru after Patel’s death. The notes sent to the ministry of states first reached V.P. Menon.

The first note gave the instruction that the Cadillac used by Patel be returned to the external affairs ministry the very next day. The other note said that if any official wanted to attend Patel’s funeral (he had died in Mumbai), they should do so at their own expense.

Menon didn’t tell his officials about the note and personally saw to it that those who wanted to go to Mumbai were given flight tickets at Menon’s own expense. This too angered Nehru and Menon was sidelined after Patel’s death, the book says.
MKK says Patel was affectionate towards Menon and cites as example his reaction after Menon had a spat with a powerful Congress leader.

Click here to Read full Article by G Ananthakrishnan in Telegraph
 

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