N. Ram, veteran journalist and Director, The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited, on Wednesday alleged that many claims made by the Union government about the ‘Sengol’ (sceptre) — installed in the new Parliament building with much fanfare — being a symbol that signified the ‘transfer of power’ in 1947 are “manufactured lies”.
He was addressing a press conference in Chennai on ‘What truly transpired on August 14-15, 1947?’, organised by National Thinkers’ Forum. Mr. Ram said there is no evidence to back the claims that the last Viceroy of India, Mountbatten, asked Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (if there was any ritual to signify the transfer of power), who, in turn, sought the advice of C. Rajagopalachari, or Rajaji, (the last Governor-General of India).
“The main crux of the claim is that...the last Viceroy, Mountbatten, came to India with a specific mandate: to hand over power to Indians to enable the British exit India as quickly as possible. He asked the soon-to-be Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, how should this moment of transfer of power be conducted and whether there was a ceremony. There is absolutely no evidence for this,” he said.
“There have been many books about Mountbatten and in particular about his short stint as the Viceroy and Governor-General of India. In the Second Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture delivered by Mountbatten, titled ‘Transfer of Power and Jawaharlal Nehru’, at Trinity College of the University of Cambridge in 1968, there is no reference to any ceremony asked by Mountbatten to Nehru,” he pointed out.
Mr. Ram said the claim that Nehru sought the help of Rajaji and the representatives of the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam went to New Delhi in a special plane and met Mountbatten before meeting Nehru was “complete fiction”.
“There was no way that the Adheenam representatives could have met Mountbatten in Delhi. It is true they met Nehru, there is evidence for this; but the claim that Nehru sought the advice of Rajaji, who then consulted the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam... a Sengol was made by Vummidi Bangaru Chetty; why and when was it given and whether it had any connection to ‘transfer of power’ — there is none and there is no evidence. At that time, nobody considered it as transfer of power. The Indian Independence Act, passed in the British Parliament, says that on August 15, India became independent and the moment of ‘transfer of power’ happened when Nehru was sworn in as the Prime Minister by Mountbatten as Viceroy,” he said.
Reasoning why the Adheenam representatives could not have met Mountbatten as claimed, Mr. Ram said, “According to Mountbatten’s programme for August 14, he would fly to Karachi to oversee the transfer of power and reach New Delhi by 7 p.m. There was no way that the Adheenam delegation could have met him before meeting Mr. Nehru.”
He further said, “Another claim that a special plane was arranged for the Adheenam delegation to go to New Delhi. This is complete fiction. In The Hindu, the Adheenam had given an advertisement in the August 29, 1947 [edition], titled ‘Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenakarthars presentation of Golden Sceptre to Nehruji’, with three pictures. In The Hindu, a small news item was published on August 11 that a golden sceptre was going to be presented to Nehru at 11 p.m. This is the fact. Did they go by plane? There is a photo of the party deputed by the Adheenam to present the golden sceptre before leaving Madras Central Station on August 11. The party consisted of Sri Kumarasamy Thambiran, Manicka Odhuvar, Sri K.P. Ramalingam Pillai, Sri Subbiah Bharathiyar and Sri T.N. Rajarathinam Pillai.”
Mr. Ram pointed out that the present pontiff of the Adheenam had also admitted on video that there was no (photographic) evidence that the Adheenam representatives had met Mountbatten.
“The crux of the government’s claim is that ‘it symbolises and sanctifies’ the transfer of power. There is no reference to the Indian Independence Act. India didn’t become a Republic then. It became one after the promulgation of the Constitution. Historian Madhavan Palat, Editor of Nehruji’s selected works, had clearly said Nehru couldn’t have accepted this as transfer of power as there was no connection with the presentation of the golden sceptre and Mountbatten,” he said.
Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.S. Alagiri felt that the “Sengol is not something to be proud of”. “The special feature of democracy is removal of monarchy. People rejoiced at democracy and the Sengol was also removed. The Sengol, which was in the hands of the kings, was not ‘clean’ and this was why the monarchy was abolished. But [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is trying to reintroduce the monarchy, and has used the ‘Sengol’ as a symbol of monarchy,” he said.
TNCC vice-president A. Gopanna and CPI(M) leader G. Ramakrishnan were also present.