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Be afraid … Very afraid, Manubhai


Akali leader, Master Tara Singh threatened to go a hunger strike for a Punjab based on linguistic lines, had Nehru worried. RK Laxman's cartoon on Akali leader, published on June 23, 1961. (Image courtesy - timesofindia.com.). Click for larger image.

Akali leader, Master Tara Singh threatened to go a hunger strike for a Punjab based on linguistic lines, had Nehru worried. RK Laxman's cartoon on Akali leader, published on June 23, 1961. (Image courtesy - timesofindia.com.). Click for larger image.

Examining the history of political causes in the Indian context, should be a cause of concern to the Indian Government. The cynicism and casual attitude of Indian authorities is misplaced.

Western debates

For much time after Independence, the Indian Government spent time dilly-dallying on identifying boundaries of administrative States. Some suggested, that like Europe had drawn some arbitrary lines across Africa, India also should do the same. Or like the straight-line boundaries of States that make up the USA.

Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; Courtesy timesofindia.com. Click for larger image.

Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev's hunger strikes have touched a raw nerve across India. Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; Courtesy timesofindia.com. Click for larger image.

Western predictions about the collapse of the Indian nation were never absent from the public sphere. Without a past to go by, Nehru dithered.

You can’t hide

The man in the vanguard of the linguistic reorganization of states movement was Potti Sreeramulu – from Chennai. While Potti Sreeramulu was a Telugu, he was from Chennai – which at that time had a bigger Telugu population than today.

At stake was the issue of Chennai– then Madras. Would Chennai go to Tamil Nadu, when it was formed, or go to Andhra Pradesh, whose formation was already announced.

Rajagopalchari, another acolyte of Western ‘capitalism’, ignored Potti Sreeramulu. Finally after years of dithering, by Nehru’s administration, Potti Sriramulu went on a hunger strike.

Nehru and Rajagopalchari took no notice. Potti Sriramulu died. The formation of Andhra Pradesh followed.

Hunger strikes make rulers look bad

Gandhiji’s hunger-strikes were famous the world over – and the British made a pretense of succumbing to this moral force, at least in the case of Gandhiji.

Be afraid. Very afraid. What happens if Baba Ramdev ... (Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

Be afraid. Very afraid. What happens if Baba Ramdev ... (Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

Remember, the British had been casual about the demands and the subsequent death of a political prisoner, Jatin Das during hunger strike at Lahore Jail. Even before, in Northern Ireland, the death of Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork, who died on 74-day hunger strike in 1920, while a prisoner of the British government, did not shake the British much.

Nehru’s indifference to Potti Sriramulu hunger-strike was a great propaganda point for the West. Nehru’s reputation was sullied.

Agony prolonged

After the death of Potti Sriramulu and the formation of Andhra Pradesh, demands for other States followed.

Samyukta Maharashtra was again very noisy and divisive. Similarly, Nehru dragged his feet on Punjab too. Master Tara Singh of the Akali Dal went on a hunger strike. A worried Nehru, ‘keeping in anxious touch with developments while making a tour of Uttar Pradesh’, had Tara Singh arrested. More than 30,000 Sikhs joined Master Tara Singh in jails across North India. Punjab, Haryana and Himachal followed.

Manubhai - Anna-Baba may not be very sophisticated politically or ideologically. But they are touching a protest nerve. That is the दुखती रग ' dukhti rag.' (Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

Manubhai - Anna-Baba may not be very sophisticated politically or ideologically. But they are touching a protest nerve. That is the दुखती रग 'dukhti rag.' (Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; courtesy - timesofindia.com). Click for larger image.

India different

60 years on, many of these States are larger than 90% of the countries in the world.  There is need to break them up into smaller units. There are growing demands to do the same. Telangana is one such case – which has hung fire for more than 40 years.

Meanwhile the anti-corruption protests are reminiscent of the Jaya Prakash Narayan’s movement in the 1970s, which finally paralysed the Indian State – and provoked Indira Gandhi to impose emergency.

Indians joining in these protests, are protesting about many issues – and using Anna Hazare’s and Baba Ramdev’s Anna-Baba protest vehicle to ride. Anna-Baba have succeeded in identifying the दुखती रग ‘dukhti rag’ – the jangling nerve, of the people.

Anna-Baba’s agendas are thin – very thin. But the people are thick as flies. Just like Jaya Prakash Narayan’s movement.

Manubhai, those who don’t learn from history …

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