ONE OF THE PASSAGES THAT STILL GNAW in my emotional universe like flies around an open, untreated wound is found in Brigadier John P. Dalavi’s The Himalayan Blunder, an unacknowledged classic that rips apart Nawab Nehru’s betrayal of India in painfully brutal detail. The passage occurs at the very beginning of the book. Dalvi returns to India after being released by China which had held him as a prisoner of war for seven months. This is the reception he gets:
We landed in Dum Dum airport in Calcutta on May 4, 1963. We were received cordially, appropriately. But the silence there was disquieting. I realized later. We had to prove we weren't brainwashed by Chinese ideology. We had to prove we were still loyal to India. My own army maintained a suspicious distance. The irony cannot be harsher: this treatment from a country, which for more than a decade had brainwashed itself into holding the Chinese baton wherever it went.
The rest of the work is basically a blow-by-blow enlargement of the factual trajectory of Nawab Nehru’s fatal misadventure that culminated in Dalvi’s humiliation. But Dalvi was not alone. Hundreds of his compatriots had been sacrificed by Nawab Nehru to China in cold blood. But Dalvi’s distinction lies in the fact that as a survivor and victim of Nawab Nehru’s treachery, he mustered the courage to unmask the Nawab’s betrayal in all its nakedness. Dalvi’s book endures as a fine and emulatory work of national service. The service is twofold: one, as an honest soldier, Dalvi paid a posthumous tribute of pride and honour to all his fellow-soldiers who fell for no fault of theirs. Two, as a writer he has exhibited the highest standards of intellectual integrity by allowing raw facts to tell the story.
If the highly avoidable 1962 drubbing was shameful, its aftermath was what was truly loathsome. Despite receiving a relentless barrage of deserved nationwide condemnation, Nawab Nehru showed absolutely no remorse. Which was entirely consistent with his personality. The history of the Muslim period of India reveals the fact that no Nawab ever felt guilty of committing the most heinous atrocities on his own people. Quite the contrary. This Nawab lost no time in finding a sitting scapegoat to palm off his blunder. His long-time comrade and prized chamcha, Krishna Menon had already been primed and fattened for more than a decade. The humiliation at Chinese hands was the perfect excuse to lead this puffed-up lamb to slaughter. It is precisely for this reason that Sita Ram Goel had originally titled his work Genesis and Growth of Nehruism as In Defence of Comrade Krishna Menon.
But the sludge of this Nehruvian rot didn’t end even after he died in 1964. When John Dalvi published The Himalayan Blunder in 1968, Indira Gandhi instantly banned it. It was one of the most long-lasting book-bans in the Congress-patented tradition of stifling freedom of expression.
A recent work on the 1962 “war,” is Shiv Kunal Verma’s 1962: The War That Wasn’t, a splendid volume cum expose on the topic. A short poem by an army officer named Harji Malik included in Verma’s work is excruciating to read:
We died, unsuccoured, helpless
We were your soldiers, men of bravery and pride
Yet we died like animals, trapped in a cage with no escape
Massacred at will, denied the dignity of battle
With the cold burning flame of anger and resolution
With the courage both of the living and the dead,
Avenge Our unplayed lives,
Redeem the unredeemable sacrifice
In freedom and integrity
Let this be your inheritance
And our unwritten epitaph
The real villains of the 1962 debacle starting with Nawab Nehru at the top and his extended family including Bijji Kaul, Pran Thapar et al., not only escaped unscathed and unpunished but were actually decorated. One Watergate scandal was enough to snuff out the political career of a sitting American president. But national calamities like 1962, the Emergency and Bofors, all inflicted by members of the same bloodline did not claim its offenders.
What is more shocking is the fact that how little all these crimes against the Indian nation and the Hindu civilisation have been documented. As a conciliatory exception, the Emergency has been documented fairly well but in terms of the volume of output and spread and reach and effectiveness, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
As far as 1962 is concerned, the material is so paltry that it is almost non-existent: at most, we have less than ten books, half of which is truthful and reliable. And these are non-fictional works. Till date, there has been no work of fiction — literary or cinematic — narrating the dark truths of 1962. The 1964 Hindi movie, Haqeeqat is an unclothed apologia for Nawab Nehru. Haqeeqat meaning “reality,” is actually a saga of onscreen violence inflicted upon nation-loving Indians. It is an inversion and perversion of reality. A little-known fact about the movie is that it was “assisted” by Nawab Nehru’s government and Chetan Anand (Dev Anand’s brother) promptly dedicated it to Nawab Nehru. The heavy-hitters in the team of Haqeeqat were committed ideologues devoted to the Communist church called the Indian Indian People's Theatre Association: Chetan Anand, Balraj Sahni, Kaifi Azmi and his wife, Shaukat Azmi.
CUT TO ROUGHLY THE SAME TIME FRAME elsewhere in the world. The stirrings of the Vietnam war began around 1955. For the next two decades, the world witnessed one of the bloodiest genocides inflicted upon a tiny nation and an ancient civilisation by Western powers. As American meddling in Vietnam escalated after the US Congress gave Lyndon Johnson sweeping powers, the US public began to see what the “war” was really about.
Long story short, the sheer volume of material surrounding the US invasion (sexed up as usual as liberation and a fight against Communism) of Vietnam is enough to fill a large library. Excluding news reports and journalistic works, we find an almost inexhaustible wealth including books of non-fiction, novels, short stories, poems, plays, feature films, short films, television series and documentaries which explore Vietnam from every conceivable perspective.
We have a whopping 165 books directly related to the Vietnam war. Wikipedia gives us a list of hundred-plus films made on the topic. It is a genre-transcending repertoire that includes monster hits like Platoon, First Blood, Full Metal Jacket, Forrest Gump, and Apocalypse Now and the extremely macabre Forced Entry. The 1979 blockbuster Apocalypse Now is notable for deriving its inspiration from Joseph Conrad’s classic, Heart of Darkness. The eerie parallels with Conrad’s novella is based on the heart of darkness defined as Western-style colonial capitalism.
Cut back to India of the same period. Two vital facts emerge.
One, to our eternal shame, Nawab Nehru’s Government actually supported Communist Bloc’s (USSR and China) offensive against South Vietnam. This is what DVG wrote about the event: “Thanks to Nehru, the great winner of independence…India stands tied to the apron-strings of the mother of Communism even though the bulk of India's population is not communist… Flirting with Russia and dreading China…India must seem all things to all men…what gives poignancy to the reflection that we are so miserably incapable of going at least to the moral support of Cambodia is the recollection of the historical fact of our ancient kinship. Once upon a time…Cambodia was part of the cultural empire of Hinduism.”
Two, the mid 1950s was also the period during which Communist China was leisurely, clandestinely cooking its recipe for the ensuing invasion of the Himalayas. Nehru’s lust for its Communism blinded him to repeated and farsighted warnings from a range of stalwarts including Sardar Patel.
All this and more material is readily available in the public domain. Yet, no compelling creative work has emerged even after sixty years on this shameful but vital chapter of recent Indian history. The contrast with the creative corpus produced in the US about Vietnam is both chilling and shameful. In a limited sense, the American interference in Vietnam was simultaneously an act of domination, ideology, imperialism and a reflection of the insatiable hunger of its military-industrial complex. It was not an act of national betrayal.
Nawab Nehru’s Himalayan blunder was.
Sadly, its gravity has somehow escaped the attention of our artists and writers and playwrights and filmmakers. If the subject is treated well, it has all the makings of a modern epic. This phenomenon of creative silence has a parallel in another topic I had written about: an honest body of literary fiction about the partition of India.
We await that talented artist to pick up the Nehruvian betrayal of 1962. It is a national need and a creative challenge.
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