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India After Gandhi : Review, Part-1, Picking Up The Pieces
India after Gandhi, as the name suggests is a comprehensive account of the Indian democracy post freedom struggle, post independence and post the assassination of Gandhi. I found the text vividly different from what it appeared to be from its name. The book starts with a prologue by elucidating thoroughly on why and how this account of post independence struggle is almost invisible from the larger narrative, be it in the context of the education system or other literary texts.
Part-1 is titled aptly as ‘Picking up the Pieces’, both literally and metaphorically the narrative does justice to its title. In the former context, this part ‘picks’ pieces from the British rule, the start of freedom struggle in 1930’s and the development just before the declaration of independence. While, in the latter context, it builds upon how the then over more than 500 separate states were ‘picked’ and made to accede under the union of India, either by force or by compromise. The text beautifully incorporates the presence of poets and their contribution in that era. The opening lines by Ghalib describing about the disharmony between the elements breaks the usual expectation from a historical texts and makes it more of a present account, for I actually could make sense of them poem, which gave me a strong sense of participation in my reading of the texts. This style of breaking the passive agency of the reader, by granting the right to make interpretations, ensures the understanding of history in its reflective form of the present.
The text then moves to the worldview of the british on the incapability of the Indian state to rule itself, acclaimed to be total chaos if the country is left to deal with its religious, linguistic and caste based differences on its own. Next, the author starts with chronological proceedings of the events leading to independence, the rise of INC, Nehru, Patel, Gandhi, the exit of british and major involvement of last viceroy lord Mountbatten. The interesting part being all the claims made by the author are backed by quoting from public speeches and other personal letters that were later made public. Taking from here, the theory of partition is presented with intricate details and concrete identification of the reasons and factors leading to it. The role of Jinnah’s Muslim league and the british conspiracy is well included. The good part about the writing is that it presents a very honest and unbiased account of the happenings which ensures abided trust of the reader.
Next, The integration of the states under the union of India is discussed. This was the most enriching part for me, for it tells me how the union of India(INC) forcefully tried to make states such as Travancore, Hyderabad to accede to its territory, completing ignoring their demands for autonomy, neutrality and self governance. This led to a very detailed and intricate account of the still disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, the valley of blood and beauty. Without any direct proposition, or claim by the author, the previous text linked to the story of Kashmir made me realize why India is actually an occupant state, and why the and independent state is a long denied right of the people of Kashmir. How can we demand something, which never belonged to us? The version drawn in the book is very enriching in terms of identifying the agents and proponents of violence, the role of tribal men of Poonch, British officers, M.A Jinnah, Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru and Patel in the negotiation with the Muslim league, the National conference and the UN. While towards the end of this section the author quotes few statements made about the state of Kashmir 60 years ago which have actually manifested in the current times.
From here, the text makes a quick transition to the earlier discussed phase of partition, its horrors, its futility and its consequences. Initiating the earlier mention of this with a poem by Faiz ahmad Faiz written on the other side of the border just a day before the official day of Indian independence, brought along a breeze of discontent in the yet to be tasted but much celebrated independence. The details following this, described by the author with utmost sensitivity did make me wonder about the necessity of this devastating event at all while evaluating it in the backdrop of religion. While, the described present of partition was full of heart wrenching stories, reading about the aftermath was an equal provocative experience in terms of analyzing the fate of those hundreds and thousands who fled their places were rendered homeless in this new claimed heaven of homogeneity of religion ironically claiming diversity, and more about those who were left behind and the violence that was inflicted upon those who lacked any. Dark times, darker than emergency. The independence was said to bring a flavor of freedom perhaps not occupancy and idleness, refugees had to be tackled. Delhi, Bengal, Maharashtra, all the states had to accommodate for this large influx of homeless unemployed people resulting from an arbitrary line drawn on the map. The responsibility of this new India fell upon the INC, who ensured equal representation of the minorities in the political process. The pieces were cautiously picked, some generously adopted while pothers thoroughly debated to form what came to be known as the constitution of the largest democracy of the world. Nehru, Patel, Br. Ambedkar and others are shown to have contributed largely to this struggle of a formal ‘India’.

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