National

Independence: A stock-taking; Birth of great Asiatic Power

On this Independence Day, we bring you this article published in the August 15, 1947 edition of The Hindu.

INDEPENDENCE has come, sooner than I dreamt of, more like the end of an inartistically woven plot—abruptly, almost inconsequentially. In 1905 under the influence of Shri Aravindo, I began dreaming of Independence. Last year, after years, I felt Independence was far away. But it was not; it was round the corner. Two World Wars, a far-seeing party in power in Britain and a man with British tact and German thoroughness as Viceroy—and It came.

When I joined the great venture of the Constituent Assembly, the Plan of May 16th was the despair of my life. Whichever way I turned, the malignant spirit which Prof. Coupland had raised, confronted me. Then came the Plan of June 3rd. It was nothing new; but it brought the two States Scheme in practical politics. Realism—the child of stark, naked reversal to barbarism in some part of the country—triumphed. It tore the Plan of May 16th to pieces. For a moment the Plan came to me as a shock. Akhand Hindustan is a matter of creed with me. Was the Mother whom I worshipped destroyed? I humbly asked- “No” came the emphatic answer. “India was one, is one and shall be one.” This was only a step in the march towards real Unity, unembarrassed by the military occupation of a foreign power. The Plan of June 3rd did not destroy Akhand Hindustan; only its pattern was changed. India was not divided; only parts of it were administratively consolidated to form a new government. They were to be bound to the Motherland, but not by the visible bonds of administrative unity imposed by foreign rule. The not too perceptible bonds of hard facts—the common military frontier, the economic interdependence, the unity of an age-old culture—were to be brought into free play, may be to produce a closer unity. At a conference, it was suggested that the Independence Act should give India the power to amend the Act itself. It was the lawyers' contribution in asserting Independence. Within a few hours the reply was flashed back that H. M. G. agreed to the proposal. My heart sang with joy. India was Independent!

A great thing happened in the history of man. The whole of India—practically, for, France and Portugal still occupy odd spots—was rid of foreign occupation after I don't know how many hundred years. And it was done by nonviolent means. The bloody World Wars, the military reputation of the Indian Army and the not too non-violent activities of some of our patriots during the “Quit India” Movement, no doubt, were not inconsiderable contributory factor. Whatever the contribution of Non-Violence towards our gaining independence this was the first event in the history of man when an imperial power handed over independence to a subject people with the ease and courtesy of handing over a cup of tea. That is a landmark in this war-ridden, little sphere of ours.

Further, a great Asian World Power has been born. Japan did emerge as such after the Russo-Japanese War; but she did not evoke Asian loyalty. Free India is easily the cherished leader of Asia. Panditji's latest announcement of policy —the Nehru doctrine ofAsia—comparable only to the Munroe doctrine, is the triumphant assertion of her leadership of Asian nations.

“AGE OF NEHRU”

One notable event, almost of world Importance, is that one age is gone and another has slipped in without anyone even noticing it. The age of Gandhiji is gone —of Nehru come. Gandhiji won the freedom of the Nation and became its “Father”; a father whom everyone worships and hears with reverence but does not necessarily follow. He has risen in stature in proportion to his shrinkage in actual leadership—a fate reserved only for very lucky national leaders. Washington and Lenin remained leaders to the end to be only “Fathers of the Nation” after it. Bismarck shrank in leadership when alive and was denied the fatherhood of the Nation he created. Gandhiji has the technique of a Rishi; his duty done, he has receded to a nobler role and a higher, though distant, pedestal.

In 1942, he asked me to go out of the Congress, for I could not reconcile myself with his strict Non-Violence. Now some of his disciples are ardent conscriptionists. On many an evening prayer-time he bemoans the division of the country, which some of his disciples consider the last word in practical wisdom. He wants August 15th to be a day of sorrow; the country is celebrating it as the day of deliverance. He wants Hindustani and two scripts; an overwhelming majority of Congressmen want Hindi and Devanagari. The national mind has been shocked into appreciation of realities, in spite of the “Father's” hypnotic touch. But he still dominates as the guardian- angel, the adviser, the cementor,—as the conscience-keeper of leading Statesmen. No longer a prophet fettered to the patriotic needs of one nation, he is fast emerging a world-prophet, pure and simple.

The other event of almost equal importance is the emergence of Pandit Nehru on the world stage. This erstwhile prisoner of British power has, in a moment, become the Nation's leader, the acknowledged leader of Asia and one of the four great leaders of the world. He claims to be nothing but a politician; but there is an undercurrent of deep spirituality in him. Once I said of him that he is the only great politician in the world who has a genuine faith in democracy; and I think, the world shares the view too. He loves great and noble causes, temperamentally. The first Prime Minister of Free India has in the moment of its birth become the foremost champion of world reconstruction among the nations of the world.

Independence has given a tremendous opportunity to Sardar too... the “indomitable” Sardar, as I once styled him. He is made of the iron fibre of which Bismarcks and Stalins are made. His vastly alert mind, his uncanny insight into human weaknesses and his great power for organisation have found scope and fulfilment in the Free India of to-day. His hard-headed realistic view of things and the dread that he generally inspires are invaluable assets in the new venture. With him at the helm, Kerenskyism could not be thought of.

The partnership of Panditjl and Sardar is a novel phenomenon in world politics Two men of the highest calibre and yet of the most contrary temperament and outlook—one elegant, handsome, courteous, fond of social graces, fascinated with distant values; the other: old, stocky, mysteriously silent, his feet firmly planted on earth—both are gathered in an unbreakable bond of mutual understanding by Gandhian influence. This seems to be the greatest piece of good luck for Independent India.

CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

I cannot forget the Constituent Assembly. How can I? For nine months it has been almost my sole pre-occupation.

India's greatness can legitimately be assessed by this Constituent Assembly, the first sovereign legislature of India. What a galaxy of stars of the first and second magnitude: Few indeed, of world assemblies, have contained the statesmanship, the wisdom, the brilliance and the eloquence which this Assembly can claim.

Its spirit is represented by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. All his great moral qualities combine to make him the head and symbol of that body. Sweet smiling, patient, indulgent, he makes every one feel at home; guides gently, without anyone discovering that he is being guided. He curbs turbulance by his very presence; he pulls up loquacity with an air of almost encouraging the speaker. Every section of the House has confidence in him. And he has to pay the price—a heavy one. Whenever' parties or interests disagree they quietly leave it to the President. There was a storm in the party meeting over the singing of Bande Mataram. Suddenly some one proposed to leave it to the President. There was almost unanimous voting to leave it to him. The Assembly is always in “Leave It to PSmith” sort of mood—to use the phrase of P. G. Wodehouse. The Assembly has done great work.

Fundamental rights and an independent Judiciary will establish the rule of law in this land. Untouchability is banned under the threat of dire penalties; no more shall it divide man and man. Adult suffrage and a bicameral legislature will provide it with a parliamentary apparatus. Responsible Governments at the Centre on the British model and in the Provinces in a slightly modified form will give it a front-rank place in the democratic Governments. Free India will thus be the youngest of democracies.

“No one shall be deprived of his life or liberty without due process of law,” in India, the Assembly decided the other day. This formula which the English Barons extracted from King John in 1215 A.C. travelled all over the world through centuries to come to us in almost the self-same words in 1947. We are building on the constitutional fundamentals of Australia, Canada, U.S.A., and, of course, England, naturally and spontaneously. A doubt, however, has arisen in many minds. The English model, which has failed in so many countries, will it succeed in this clime? But a scrutiny of the sub-conscious mental processes of many of us, while discussing different proposals will show how deeply we have made the British democratic tradition our own. India is perhaps the first Asian country which has accepted this great inheritance so avidly and there is least likelihood of its having to be sorry for it. At the same time the Advisory Committee has swept away separate electorates—that wretched system, born of British Imperialism which has made of this country a cauldron of violent passions.

THE FUTURE

Will this independence endure? I have no doubt, it will. The Independence Act has given us complete independence, as also a constitutional nexus with the British Commonwealth. India will be a Dominion, for some time at any rate, and the continuity of institutional life will be preserved. It makes the transition break-proof.

What is wrong about the Dominion, except its name, which, in spite of Shakespeare, does not smell as sweet. It is independence. It gives a secure place in a world system and it gives us the help we need.

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Leaf through the pages and experience history in the making as our readers experienced it that day.

On the occassion of the 69th Independence Day, The Hindu presents to you the historic day of India's liberation from imperial rule through our edition dated August 15, 1947. You can leaf through the pages and experience history in the making as our readers experienced it that day. We have extracted select articles by the likes of V.K. Krishna Menon, T.T. Krishnamachari and C.V. Raman for you to read into the thoughts of the great minds of that era. You can click on the red marker on highlighted articles and proceed to the full story.

(This article is best viewed on a large-screen device. If you are on a mobile device, choose the desktop-view option.)



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