Three Questions That Defy Simple Answers

Continued from “Best Prime Minister We Never Had”

Despite the wise counsel of Michel de Montaigne, the eloquent exponent of French Renaissance, that “sowing questions”... “make(s) the world teem with uncertainty”, it is sometimes necessary to indulge in the exercise, especially when the domain of dead certainties make uncalled for encroachments on rational debate. (One of such categorical assertions is to unhesitatingly declare Sardar Patel as one of the authors of the Partition of India. This indeed has been the reaction of some readers of the previous piece.)

May I pose two questions to my readers which will validate the relevance of the more relevant, third question.

May I begin with Question No. One, which in fact is a widely used instrument of management development used by practitioners of organizational development – a profession that I once belonged to. It is:

Who Killed John Doe?

Background Sheet

Read the following information below and then complete the information at the end of the sheet.

John, age 54, was dead on arrival. His wife drove him into an emergency room at 2:00am, but even before she pulled into the driveway his tortured breathing had stopped. Successive attempts by hospital staff to revive him failed.

John’s doctors said he was sorry. He could not make house calls as there was shortage of doctors and he was putting in an eighty hours workweek. Besides, Mrs. Doe had called at 1:00 am on Christmas morning. The doctor had told her to rush to the hospital.

The hospital administrator was sorry. When the patient had asked to be admitted in the morning, his condition was not acute. The patient had used up his insurance benefits for the year and had no other resources. The hospital had exhausted the charitable reserve fund and was required to limit admissions to “Paying” patients or those who required emergency and acute care.

The caseworker form Department of Health and Social Services was sorry. She had explained to the patient that the state health program would cover him only after he had incurred one hundred dollars in medical bills. If he entered the hospital without incurring the amount in the bill, the entire hospital stay would be disallowed for coverage by her office. It was the law.

The people who made the laws said they were sorry. They had to balance the state’s budget at the time when highway costs and educational expenses were going up. Originally the bill to establish the medical benefits would have cost the taxpayers an estimated eighty thousand dollars annually. By strategic amendments, such as the one that discouraged John’s admission, they saved the taxpayers three-fourth of the cost of the original bill, nearly 6 million dollars.

The people who elected the lawmakers were sorry. They had not wanted their taxes raised, so the voted for the candidate who promised to contain expenses and reduce wasteful govt. expenditure. When a few political leaders announced that taxes would have to be increased to continue human services, the votes sent letters to their representatives to prevent any such increase.

Mrs. Doe was sorry. She was sorry that her husband died on Christmas morning and she was also sorry that they had not saved more for their old age or joined more comprehensive insurance plans offered by the union.

She especially regretted____________________________________
(You complete the sentence)

Instructions: Most Responsible for the death – Rank 1 and so on…

Complete individual ranking first. Then discuss the case with a few others who also do their personal ranking.

Individual Rank Team Rank

John Doe
Hospital Administrator
Mrs Doe

The purpose of the exercise is to determine what we deem as the boundaries of individual responsibility and where and to what extent the institutions we live in, impinge upon it, and condition and control it.

And all of us have different views. American Republicans will straightforwardly declare John Doe as the culprit while Democrats may see in it a case to defend Obamacare.

I look forward to the considered opinions of my esteemed readers.

Question No. Two

Who’s Responsible for the Mahabharata War?

Duryodhan’s Overweening Ambition
Ineffective Dhritarashtra
Intense Sibling Rivalry
Draupadi’s unforgiving resolve
Proclivity to gamble
Karan-Arjun Rivalry
Lord Krishna, who alone could have avoided it

Certainly not anyone of the above may be cited as the universally agreed reason for the Mahabharata War, and all the death and destruction wrought by it. The story is far too familiar to need a brief.

Do the same ranking as per Question One

And finally to Question No. Three

Who’s Most Responsible for the Partition of India

John Bull
MA Jinnah
Veer Savarkar
M K Gandhi
Jawaharlal Nehru
Vallabhbhai Patel
Islam’s Inability to Coexist with Other Faiths

It will be most interesting to have a survey of the views and perceptions of our readers.

Here is a backgrounder for the third and most significant question relevant to the reassessment of Patel – the basic theme of this essay.


How the East India Company came to rule large areas of India with its own private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions, is all too well-documented. I take all that for granted. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 after Clive won the Battle of Plassey. It lasted till 1858 when, following the collapse of the 1857 Revolt, the Government of India Act 1858 was passed. Consequently, the British Crown assumed direct control of India and with that began the new phase of British Raj.

Lest there should be another challenge to the British rule, the Empire builder busied themselves devising and perfecting – as only the Brits can – tools and techniques to divide and rule the Indians. The first seeds sown that later blossomed into the full-fledged Pakistan Movement was the Two-nation theory initiated, obviously at the British initiative, first of all by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan – knighted by Her Majesty for his bold initiative – and the effort of the Muslims to ingratiate themselves to the new rulers.

The Pakistan Movement acquired the initial shape with the formation of the Muslim League in 1906, followed by the vision of Sir Mohammad Iqbal of a homeland for the Muslims floated in 1930. That led to the Pakistan Resolution of 1940, and the League gaining from strength to strength to finally attaining a separate homeland for the Muslims of India.

The first blossoms of separatism appeared in1906 when the British announced their intention to establish Legislative Councils. The Muslims were egged on to represent for special representation for being loyal subjects. A 35-member delegation representing various regions of India and led by that wily fox, Aga Khan III called on the Viceroy, Lord Minto to plead for special deal for the Muslims. That indeed suited the British policy of divide and rule.

Unwittingly, Viceroy’s wife, Lady Minto let the cat out of the bag by her entry in the Diary she maintained. On the evening of October 1, 1906, she received a letter from a high-up official whose name is not disclosed in the Diary, which read:

I must send Your Excellency a line to say that a very big thing has happened today, a work of statesmanship that will affect India and Indian history for many a long year. It is nothing less than the pulling back of 62 million people from joining the ranks of the seditious opposition. ( I’ve highlighted statesmanship – the new name of Machiavellianism.)

(Jaswant Singh’s study Jinnah has more interesting details of the above-referred Diary entry on pp 51-52 of his book. He points out how the system of communal franchise got embedded via the Montford Reforms. He quotes Lord Olivier, Secretary of State for India in the Labour Government under Ramsay MacDonald, who admitted it in as many words:

No-one with any acquaintance of India affairs will be prepared to deny that on the whole there is a predominant bias in British officialdom in India in favour of the Muslim community, partly on the ground of closer sympathy but more largely as a make-weight against Hindu nationalism.

Now tell me, dear readers, what is the share of responsibility of John Bull in the Partition of India, which they were desperately keen on to achieve their long-term strategic vision of the region that India is a vital part of.

Lahore Resolution

The Lahore Resolution (sometimes called the “Pakistan Resolution”, although it does not contain that name), is the next – may I add –— logical step in the Pakistan Movement. It fully embraced the Two-Nation Theory and called for a union of the Muslim-majority provinces in the northwest of British India, with complete autonomy. Similar rights were to be granted the Muslim-majority areas in the east, and unspecified protections given to Muslim minorities in other provinces. The resolution was passed by the League session in Lahore on 23 March 1940.

Meanwhile, in 1939 Indian nationalists were angry that British Governor-General of India, Lord Linlithgow had, without consultation with them, brought India into the war. The Muslim League supported the war, but Congress was divided. At the outbreak of war, the Congress Party had passed a resolution during the Wardha meeting of the working-committee in September 1939, conditionally supporting the fight against fascism, but were rebuffed when they asked for independence in return.

World War

World War II sparked a crisis in relations among the British, the Congress and the Muslim League. The British expected India once again to provide much-needed soldiers and materiel for the war effort, but the Congress opposed sending Indians to fight and die in Britain's war. After the betrayal following World War I, the nationalists saw no benefit for India in such a sacrifice. The Muslim League, however, decided to back Britain's call for volunteers, in an effort to curry British favor in support of a Muslim nation in post-independence India.

The Quit India i.e, Bharat Chhodo Andolan, or August Kranti as it is popularly called was a civil disobedience movement launched in India in August 1942 in response to Mohandas Gandhi’s call for ‘Satyagraha’ . The All-India Congress Committee proclaimed a mass protest demanding what Gandhi called “an orderly British withdrawal” from India. The call for determined, but passive resistance appears in his call to Do or Die, issued on 8 August at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Mumbai in August 1942.

The British were prepared to act swiftly. Almost the entire Congress leadership was imprisoned without trial within hours: some 60,000 were imprisoned and the Congress leadership lost all contact with the masses.

In retrospect, it was, according to many, a grave error of judgment of Gandhi. The Muslim League had a field day while the Congress leadership languished in prisons.

Towards the end of war, public opinion in Britain had swung against the distraction and expense of maintaining an empire. Winston Churchill’s party was voted out of office, and the pro-Indian Independence Labour Party was voted in during 1945. Labour called for almost immediate independence for India, as well as more gradual freedom for Britain's other colonial holdings.

The Muslim League under Mohammed Ali Jinnah, launched afresh the public campaign in favor of a separate Muslim state, while Jawaharlal Nehru of the Congress pleaded for a unified India.

As independence neared, the country began to descend towards a sectarian civil war. Although Gandhi implored the Indian people to unite in peaceful opposition to British rule, the Muslim League sponsored a “Direct Action Day” on August 16, 1946, which resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Calcutta. This touched off the “Week of the Long Knives,” an orgy of sectarian violence that resulted in hundreds of deaths on both sides in various cities across the country.

In February 1947, Attlee announced on the floor of the House of Commons that the British government would grant independence by June 1948. The new Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten pleaded with the Hindu and Muslim leadership to agree to form a united country, but they could not. Only Gandhi supported Mountbatten's position. With the country descending further into chaos, Mountbatten reluctantly agreed to the formation of two separate states, and moved the independence date up to August 15, 1947.

Thereafter, inevitably – almost inexorably – events unfolded leading to the Partition of India egged on by Jinnah’s insatiable ambition and Nehru’s desperate hurry to take over the reins of office from the departing British.

Continued to “Reading the Writing on the Wall”

Sardar Patel Assessed (All the Links):


More by :  H.N. Bali

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Views: 3509      Comments: 12

Comment Mr. Ashby, do I have to repeat Dr. Johnson? - Sir, I have found you an argument but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.Have I misquoted? I don't think you will be able to detect. On another occasion I remember to have advised you to learn your mother tongue well. You seem to have forgotten it.

02-Nov-2013 20:12 PM

Comment For your benefit I am quoting extensively from an essay entitled The Perils of Partition by Christopher Hitchens published in the March 2003 issue of the Atlantic Monthly -

'The public, or "political," poems of W. H. Auden, which stretch from his beautiful elegy for Spain and his imperishable reflections on September 1939 and conclude with a magnificent eight-line snarl about the Soviet assault on Czechoslovakia in 1968, are usually considered with only scant reference to his verses about the shameful end of empire in 1947. Edward Mendelson's otherwise meticulous and sensitive biography allots one sentence to Auden's "Partition."
Unbiased at least he was
when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this
land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically
at odds,
With their different diets and
incompatible gods.
"Time," they had briefed him in
London, "is short. It's too late
For mutual reconciliation or
rational debate:
The only solution now lies in
separation ..."
Dutifully pulling open my New York Times one day last December, I saw that most of page three was given over to an article on a possible solution to the Cyprus "problem." The physical division of this tiny Mediterranean island has become a migraine simultaneously for the European Union (which cannot well allow the abridgment of free movement of people and capital within the borders of a potential member state), for NATO (which would look distinctly foolish if it underwent a huge expansion only to see two of its early members, Greece and Turkey, go to war), for the United Nations (whose own blue-helmeted soldiery has "mediated" the Cyprus dispute since 1964), and for the United States (which is the senior partner and chief armourer of Greece and Turkey, and which would prefer them to concentrate on other, more pressing regional matters).

Flapping through the rest of the press that day, I found the usual references to the Israeli-Palestinian quarrel, to the state of near war between India and Pakistan (and the state of actual if proxy war that obtains between them in the province of Kashmir), and to the febrile conditions that underlie the truce between Loyalists and Republicans—or "Protestants" and "Catholics" —in Northern Ireland. Casting aside the papers and switching on my e-mail, I received further bulletins from specialist Web sites that monitor the precarious state of affairs along the border between Iraq and Kuwait, between the hostile factions in Sri Lanka, and even among the citizens of Hong Kong, who were anxiously debating a further attempt by Beijing to bring the former colony under closer control.

There wasn't much happening that day to call a reader's attention to the Falkland Islands, to the resentment between Guatemala and Belize, to the internal quarrels and collapses in Somalia and Eritrea, or to the parlous state of the kingdom of Jordan. However, there was some news concerning the defiance of the citizens of Gibraltar, who had embarrassed their patron or parent British government by in effect refusing the very idea of negotiations with Spain on the future of their tiny and enclaved territory. I have saved the word "British" for as long as I decently can.
In the modern world the "fault lines" and "flash points" of journalistic shorthand are astonishingly often the consequence of frontiers created ad hoc by British imperialism. In her own 1959 poem Marya Mannes wrote,
Borders are scratched across the
hearts of men
By strangers with a calm, judicial
And when the borders bleed we
watch with dread
The lines of ink across the map
turn red.
Her somewhat trite sanguinary image is considerably modified when one remembers that most of the lines or gashes would not have been there if the map hadn't been colored red in the first place. No sooner had the wider world discovered the Pashtun question, after September 11, 2001, than it became both natural and urgent to inquire why the Pashtun people appeared to live half in Afghanistan and half in Pakistan. Sir Henry Mortimer Durand had decreed so in 1893 with an imperious gesture, and his arbitrary demarcation is still known as the Durand Line. Sir Mark Sykes (with his French counterpart, Georges Picot) in 1916 concocted an apportionment of the Middle East that would separate Lebanon from Syria and Palestine from Jordan. Sir Percy Cox in 1922 fatefully determined that a portion of what had hitherto been notionally Iraqi territory would henceforth be known as Kuwait. The English half spy and half archaeologist Gertrude Bell in her letters described walking through the desert sands after World War I, tracing the new boundary of Iraq and Saudi Arabia with her walking stick. The congested, hypertense crossing point of the River Jordan, between Jordan "proper" and the Israeli-held West Bank, is to this day known as the Allenby Bridge, after T. E. Lawrence's commander. And it fell to Sir Cyril Radcliffe to fix the frontiers of India and Pakistan—or, rather, to carve a Pakistani state out of what had formerly been known as India. Auden again:
"The Viceroy thinks, as you will
see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his
company the better,
So we've arranged to provide you
with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two
Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final
decision must rest with you."
Probably the best-known literary account of this grand historic irony is Midnight's Children, the panoptic novel that introduced Salman Rushdie to a global audience. One should never employ the word "irony" cheaply. But the Subcontinent attained self-government, and also suffered a deep and lasting wound, at precisely the moment that separated August 14 and 15 of 1947. Rushdie's conceit—of a nation as a child simultaneously born, disputed, and sundered—has Solomonic roots. Parturition and partition become almost synonymous. Was partition the price of independence, or was independence the price of partition?

It is this question, I believe, that lends the issue its enduring and agonizing fascination. Many important nations achieved their liberation, if we agree to use the terminology of the post-Woodrow Wilson era (or their statehood, to put it more neutrally), on what one might call gunpoint conditions. Thus the Irish, who were the first since 1776 to break out of the British Empire, were told in 1921 that they could have an independent state or a united state but not both. A few years earlier Arthur Balfour had made a declaration concerning Palestine that in effect promised its territory to two competing nationalities. In 1960 the British government informed the people of Cyprus that they must accept a conditional postcolonial independence or face an outright division of their island between Greece and Turkey (not, it is worth emphasizing, between the indigenous Greek and Turkish Cypriots). They sullenly signed the treaty, handing over a chunk of Cyprus to permanent and sovereign British bases, which made it a potentially tripartite partition but also inscribed all the future intercommunal misery in one instrument: a treaty to which no party had acceded in good faith.

But it seemed to be enough, at the time, to cover an inglorious British retreat. And here another irony forces itself upon us. The whole ostensible plan behind empire was long-term, and centripetal. From the eighteenth to the twentieth century the British sent out lawyers, architects, designers, doctors, and civil servants, not merely to help collect the revenues of exploitation but to embark on nation-building. Yet at the moment of crux it was suddenly remembered that the proud and patient mother country had more-urgent business at home. To complete the Auden version:
Shut up in a lonely mansion, with
police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep
the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task
of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his
disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost
certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check
them, no time to inspect.
The true term for this is "betrayal," as Auden so strongly suggests, because the only thinkable justification for the occupation of someone else's territory and the displacement of someone else's culture is the testable, honorable intention of applying an impartial justice, a disinterested administration, and an even hand as regards bandits and sectarians. In the absence of such ambitions, or the resolve to complete them, the British would have done better to stay on their fog-girt island and not make such high-toned claims for themselves. The peoples of India would have found their own way, without tutelage and on a different timetable. Yet Marx and Mill and Macaulay, in their different fashions, felt that the encounter between England and India was fertile and dynamic and revolutionary, and now we have an entire Anglo-Indian literature and cuisine and social fusion that seem to testify to the point. (Rushdie prefers the phrase "Indo-Anglian," to express the tremendous influence of the English language on Indian authorship, and who would want to argue? There may well be almost as many adult speakers of English in India as there are in the United Kingdom, and at the upper and even middle levels they seem to speak and write it rather better.)
The element of tragedy here is arguably implicit in the whole imperial project. Ever since Rome conquered and partitioned Gaul, the best-known colonial precept has been divide et impera—"divide and rule." Yet after the initial subjugation the name of the task soon becomes the more soothing "civilizing mission," and a high value is placed on lofty, balanced, unifying administration. Later comes the point at which the colonized outgrow the rule of the remote and chilly exploiters, and then it will often be found convenient for the governor or the district commissioner to play upon the tribal or confessional differences among his subjects. From proclaiming that withdrawal, let alone partition, is the very last thing they will do, the colonial authorities move to ensure that these are the very last things they do do. The contradiction is perfectly captured in the memoir of the marvelously named Sir Penderel Moon, one of the last British administrators in India, who mordantly titled his book Divide and Quit.
The events he records occurred beyond half a century ago. But in the more immediate past it was Lords Carrington and Owen—both senior graduates of the British Foreign Office—who advanced the ethnic cantonization of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was Lord Carrington who (just before Nelson Mandela was released from prison) proposed that South Africa be split into a white Afrikaner reservation, a Zulu area, and a free-for-all among various other peoples. It was Sir Anthony Eden who helpfully suggested in 1954 that the United States might consider a division of Vietnam into "North" and "South" at the close of the French colonial fiasco. Cold War partitions or geopolitical partitions, such as those imposed in Germany, Vietnam, and Korea, are to be distinguished from those arising from the preconditions of empire. But there is a degree of overlap even here (especially in the case of Vietnam and also, later, of Cyprus). As a general rule it can be stated that all partitions except that of Germany have led to war or another partition or both. Or that they threaten to do so.

Pakistan had been an independent state for only a quarter century when its restive Bengali "east wing" broke away to become Bangladesh. And in the process of that separation a Muslim army put a Muslim people to the sword—rather discrediting and degrading the original concept of a "faith-based" nationality. Cyprus was attacked by Greece and invaded by Turkey within fourteen years of its quasi-partitioned independence, and a huge and costly international effort is now under way to redraw the resulting frontiers so that they bear some relation to local ethnic proportions. Every day brings tidings of a fresh effort to revise the 1947-1948 cease-fire lines in Palestine (sometimes known as the 1967 borders), which were originally the result of a clumsy partition of the initial British Mandate. In Northern Ireland the number of Catholic citizens now approaches the number of Protestant ones, so that the terms "minority" and "majority" will soon take on new meaning. When that time arrives, we can be sure that demands will be renewed for a redivision of the Six Counties, roughly east and west of the Bann River. As for Kashmir, where local politics have been almost petrified since the arbitrary 1947 decision to become India's only Muslim-majority state, it is openly suggested that the outcome will be a three-way split into the part of Kashmir already occupied by Pakistan, the non-Muslim regions dominated by India, and the central valley where most Kashmiris actually dwell. In all the above cases there has been continuous strife, often spreading to neighboring countries, of the sort that partition was supposedly designed to prevent or solve. Harry Coomer (Hari Kumar), the Anglo-Indian protagonist of Paul Scott's Raj Quartet, sees it all coming when he writes to an English friend in 1940,
I think that there's no doubt that in the last twenty years—whether intentionally or not—the English have succeeded in dividing and ruling, and the kind of conversation I hear ... makes me realise the extent to which the English now seem to depend upon the divisions in Indian political opinion perpetuating their own rule at least until after the war, if not for some time beyond it. They are saying openly that it is "no good leaving the bloody country because there's no Indian party representative to hand it over to." They prefer Muslims to Hindus (because of the closer affinity that exists between God and Allah than exists between God and the Brahma), are constitutionally predisposed to Indian princes, emotionally affected by the thought of untouchables, and mad keen about the peasants who look upon any Raj as God ...
This is the fictional equivalent of Anita Inder Singh's diagnosis, in The Origins of the Partition of India 1936-1947:
The Labour government's directive to the Cabinet Mission in March 1946 stressed that power would only be transferred to Indians if they agreed to a settlement which would safeguard British military and economic interests in India. But in February 1947, the Labour government announced that it would wind up the Raj by June 1948, even if no agreement had emerged. Less than four months later, Lord Mountbatten announced that the British would transfer power on 15 August 1947, suggesting that much happened before this interval which persuaded the British to bring forward the date for terminating the empire by almost one year. Also, the British have often claimed that they had to partition because the Indian parties failed to agree. But until the early 1940s the differences between them had been a pretext for the British to reject the Congress demand for independence ...'

Mr. RD Ashby, I hope, will understand this. The essay contains many more examples of the good work of the British, including what they did to Ireland and GBS's views on it.

02-Nov-2013 03:33 AM

Comment There are some who are not only deaf and dumb but also blind.

01-Nov-2013 23:05 PM

Comment Silence on my part is the only possible response to deafness. Readers must make up their own minds on the issues raised. I will give you a helpful tip, one learnt from experience of a panel discussing an issue before an audience. There are some members of the panel who turn their faces towards other members of the panel when speaking, confronting them, and hoping thereby to overpower them; there are enlightened members of the panel who address the issue facing the audience, conveying the power of the truth of their opinions dispassionately. The tip is. the more you make it a personal issue to win an argument the less truthful you will inevitably be.

01-Nov-2013 11:31 AM

Comment Rdashby, Your continued silence after my latest remarks is amusing indeed. Let me quote your comments on the poem Africa –

‘To ask for forgiveness is for something known to be wrong while committing the action. African slavery was not defined as a wrong, but as a right, in the period of history it was practised. To ask forgiveness is therefore not the issue here, rather the boot is on the other foot: it is the African that should forgive what can only be regretted by a later generation of Europeans who cannot be expected to apologise on behalf of their ancestors; since even if they did, it would not undo the wrong as presently perceived of their past actions by both parties.

I might add, this a recurring fallacy when dealing with historical actions by one party on another that were considered right at the time. The argument is applied to India, America, and Australia, and the Far East, which countries have been 'exploited' by Europeans in the past, the latter acting at the time in a manner considered right and for the good of their king and country. In the light of today, and democracy, their actions are judged exploitative and inhumane, and their descendants are expected to apologise. No, rather the ex-colonial countries should forgive the actions of European ancestors, and not expect an apology from their blameless descendants in modern times, nor seek to blame the latter for the former's actions so as to extract an apology.

I'm afraid Tagore has fallen into the trap of the fallacy, though he inadvertently refers to the rightness of the motive in the minds of the former colonials in the third stanza commencing 'At that very moment...' Of course, as an Indian with experience of colonial exploitation in the historical memory, he is writing sympathetically, but rather letting his emotions rule his judgment.’

And here was my reply which very effectively silenced you –

‘Thank you, dear rdashby, for your comments. I agree with you – value systems change over time and it is wrong to judge past events applying later moral standards. In the present case, however, it must be remembered that that the slavery was wrong and inhuman was realized at the time when it was being widely practiced by the European colonizers – there were not only black slaves from Africa but also white slaves from the European countries. This will be born out by the history of anti-slavery movement. It is also a fact that the 2nd World War had its roots in colonialism and exploitation of the colonies and Tagore was not alone to hold this view. I would request you to please read John Strachey’s 'Capital' which is an abridgment of Marx’s magnum opus. In chapter 31 (Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist) Marx shows the 2nd stage of development of the capitalist society. Commenting on this chapter Strachey wrote – “ In Britain the new capitalist class got hold of their initial capital, which set them up in business, not only by taking the land from the people, but also by colonial plunder. Marx lets himself go in describing the process by which the 17th and 18th century merchants plundered the world. The basis of their operations was slavery and the slave trade. Whole continents were pillaged of their inhabitants for the benefit of the British, Dutch, French and Spanish merchants. It was one of the most frightful processes that have ever taken place in human history. It needs a strong stomach to read this chapter. But these are historical facts which cannot be denied, and which it is vital that we should face.”

Tagore’s poem was written in 1936 when the poet was 75 and Strachey published his book in 1940 when he was 39. Between them there was a gap of more than a generation. Tagore was not wrong.’

I wish I could quote from my article on Lord Curzon to show again how wrong you are.

The partition of India is the parting gift of the British.

31-Oct-2013 18:46 PM

Comment I would request Mr. R D Ashby to read my article on Lord Curzon at and also recall the views we exchanged on my translation of the Tagore poem on Africa at

30-Oct-2013 01:35 AM

Comment DK Bohre:
Atrocities committed by persons or parties on those under their power are always to be deplored, but retrospectively. As President of India with a thirst for retributive justice you would be better engaged pursuing the thousands of Muslims and Hindus who perpetrated mutually executed massacres of innocent civilians at the time of Partition. I dare say the rare atrocities of British officers on Indians during British Rule would pale into insignificance by comparison.

I wasn't born yesterday, despite your hoping. To deny the British a civilising motive in Empire building, as was the religious motive of the Portuguese, is to lack a grasp of history. It is the very civilising force of British Rule that eventually formed India's legislative structure, and the manners of its educated society, the use of its language, to this day. Not to mention the form and discipline of the armed forces, including the regimental band. It is to the British that we owe the concept of breakfast. lunch. tea, and dinner! - and the structure of the daily routine from waking to retiring. For many generations, the British intermarried with Indians to prove commitment to the future of India: my own father was an example, as late as 1943. In my own experience of Indians serving under the British, the latter were considered sahibs and memsahibs, earned terms of respect.

29-Oct-2013 23:00 PM

Comment I am sorry to say that Mr Rdashby's knowledge of history is very poor and biased. The English are past masters in the game of 'divide and rule'. He should read Auden's famous satirical poem on this theme.
As for railway etc. - they were primarily investments by British businessmen for earning profits. Is Ashby aware of the scandals over such investments in Britain itself at the early stages of introduction of railways?

29-Oct-2013 18:36 PM

Comment Mr DH Bohre:

There you go again, blaming the British. By the way, burglars have no intention of developing a place, even for their own convenience, creating a magnificent infrastructure, including the railway system on which Gandhi himself travelled, and which served the comprehension of the whole of India as an independent entity. Even as a wry comment, nowhere made, the British must be thanked for that! But to go back to the originally cited:

>Now tell me, dear readers, what is the share of responsibility of John Bull in the Partition of India,<

It may be less ambiguously interpreted as John Bull's 'share of responsibility in the Partition of India' for granting India independence!

28-Oct-2013 09:00 AM

Comment RDASHBY,

Had I been the first Prime Minister or First President of India, I would hvae initiated prosecution against many British officers that miused their power till Aug 1947, just because they were protected by the ruling class, as it happened in Germany againt German officers after the fall of Hilter.

One such criminal was Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer, who was responsible for killing thousands of unarmed civilian protesting against British in April 1919 A.D.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
28-Oct-2013 04:41 AM

Comment Mr. RDADHBY,

"there is no gratitude expressed, even in a nuanced manner"...

Suppose a few burglars enter your house, assault you and other house members, disrupt the house, loot it and then they decide among themselves to leave the house because it would be waste of time anymore...


Would you deplore their arrival and condemn their activities inside your house


will you express gratitude for leaving your house ?


I think no where in the world the British former colonies celebrate the British rule there neither they express gratitude for leaving their land.... Naturally.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
27-Oct-2013 16:01 PM

Comment >Now tell me, dear readers, what is the share of responsibility of John Bull in the Partition of India,<

In this careful analysis of the problem, from your point of view this rhetorical question has only one answer. But the answer is a direct allocation of blame, which, given the preponderance of the issue as being between two radically opposed national groups, Hindu and Muslim, is shaded to 'a share of the responsibility'. It is, I regret to say, symptomatic of an immaturity that plagues India's leaders even to this day, long after the British have gone: the finding of relief and the seeking of solutions to problems by finding someone to blame. In the British statutory withdrawal from India without a shot being fired, fulfilling the Indian hope of independence at a stroke, there is no gratitude expressed, even in a nuanced manner, considering Mountbatten's final appeal for a united India - only an inverted blame for leaving the two national groups to resolve the issue who, from the evidence, simply did not have the maturity to do so and on whom the blame squarely lies.

26-Oct-2013 21:17 PM

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