INDIA ANNOUNCED ITS POLITICAL FREEDOM IN DARKNESS. Bharatavarsha would have heralded it in the auspicious Brāhmimuhūrta. A clue for understanding our seven-decade-strong national mishap perhaps lies in this fundamental contrast.
No man was more ill-suited to deliver that momentous announcement and no man was more incapacitated to lead the country as its first Prime Minister.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s announcement of India’s freedom, known popularly as the Tryst with Destiny speech, still has nostalgic and sentimental appeal in some circles. The heartfelt emotion behind the speech is beyond doubt. Which is why it has largely remained unexamined. But the Socratic dictum regarding the dangers of an unexamined life is a time-honoured inoculation against untruth, myth-making and stupidity, culminating in catastrophe. Adhering purely to that Socratic spirit and in the interest of our national health and civilisational integrity, it is time to objectively scrutinise the Tryst with Destiny speech. We’re already 75 years too late.
The first thing that strikes us when we take the speech as a whole is how Abhāratīya (un-Indian) it is. The speech is also a fine operative model for a proven truth: the innate power of unrestrained emotion to drown the faculty of serene reasoning. This phenomenon blinds us to obvious truths hiding in plain sight. Thus, we fail to notice the obvious truth that Nehru delivered his speech in English and not in any Indian language, is the fundamental discordant note. The first nominated Prime Minister of India, speaking in the language of his oppressor. Delivering the message of independence to his people, majority of whom didn’t understand English.
India’s freedom was the ultimate victory of the British. India’s continued enslavement for the next half-century would be bound by the manacle called the tongue. Till date, we remain powerless and inept at unshackling ourselves. One proof: the essay you are now reading. Written in English.
Shorn of the epochal occasion on which it was delivered, the Tryst with Destiny speech is unremarkable. It is loaded with overwhelming generalisations and feel-good vacuities. There are inspirational and moving nuggets as well. Without demeaning the inspiration, these portions are bookish. They neither have the vigour nor the stentorian authority that comes from battle-hardened experience. It is the difference between the tenor of a scarred but triumphant general and an oily politician whose “resistance” radiates from the luxury of a bungalow-prison in Nainital.
The American Declaration of Independence is a virile and unapologetic example of the former and the Tryst with Destiny speech, of the latter. The weak-kneed Nehru could not summon even an ounce of courage to denounce British tyranny just once in his speech. The Founding Fathers of the US suffered no such cowardice when they thundered: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Another example illustrates this contrast. Here is Nehru genuinely wishing in his speech that “this ancient land attain her rightful place in the world and make her full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.” This was standard Nehru-speak, part of his grand delusion that he alone was endowed with Special Powers to bring world peace instead of attempting to solve India’s problems first. The American Declaration once again, is unambiguous: “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
The Abhāratīyata of Nehru’s Tryst with Destiny speech becomes obvious when we realise how little Nehru knew his own country. This is a widely accepted and proven truth, something Nehru himself admits, most notably in his Discovery of India. Even here, the title of the book is revealing. His contemporaries who wrote about India typically titled their books, for example, as Bharata-Darshan. The purest definition of psychological colonisation is the difference between “discovery” and “darshana.”
Thankfully, a majority of Indians of that era were not infected like Nehru was. They grasped India’s independence as an event that transcended a mere transfer of political power.
And so, at the same hour that Nehru was delivering his Tryst with Destiny speech in Delhi, a venerable sexagenarian was hunched over his writing desk in his home in Basavanagudi, Bangalore. He was penning a fervent poem, alone and away from the madding crowds celebrating freedom. Blind to the festivities and deaf to Nehru’s fatuous speech. It was his profound ode to Bharata-Mata. It was his Puja offered through poetry.
It is also the most powerful rebuttal and antidote both to the Tryst with Destiny speech and to the lethal epidemic known as Nehruvianism.
The name of the sexagenarian is D.V. Gundappa. The title of the poem is Svatantra bhārata abhinandanā stava (Hymn to Independent Bharata).
Beginning with the next episode, we will examine Nehru’s Tryst with Destiny speech threadbare by contrasting it with D.V.G’s Svatantra bhārata abhinandanā stava.
To be continued
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