Carnage at Qalandar Shrine: The Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle


Audiences in their hundreds of thousands across the subcontinent will remember Reshma with her flashing eyes and haunting, gypsy voice singing “Dama dum mast qalandar”. Well, that’s the Dhamaal signature tune. It was the punchline of this song which had become controversial when President Zia ul Haq set Pakistani Islam on a course of Arabization in the 80s in order to wrench it away from the syncretic Islam which hundreds of Sufi schools had established in India since the 13th century. “If Iran imbibes Indian culture, it will still remain Iran, but if Pakistan retains Indian traditions, it will over time become India.” That was the General’s warped reasoning.

The suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in Sindh, which killed nearly 100 devotees last week, is unlikely to dampen the Dhamaal spirit, the ecstatic dance performed in the shrine’s courtyard at dusk every Thursday to the magical rhythm of drums. Nazir Akbarabadi has a brilliant poem on “haal” or trance. It describes perfectly the transcendent dance at Dhamaal. Terrorism is too feeble an instrument to kill the idea.

The punchline of the Mast Qalandar song is “Ali da pehla number” which means “Ali is first”. This, unfortunately, touches on the principal point of difference between Shias and Sunnis. Shias believe that the prophet’s son-in-law, Ali should have been the first inheritor of the Prophet’s worldly and spiritual responsibilities, the Caliphate. Sunnis accept what actually happened: the Prophet’s senior companion, Abu Bakr Siddiq became the first Caliph of Islam.

To avoid further controversies, the punchline was amended. It became “Ali dum dum de andar”, or Ali is in every breath.

The two sects cite different traditions to advance their claims. The Shias point to the episode of Ghadir Khumm. Returning from his last Haj, the prophet stopped at an elevated spot in Ghadir, held Ali by the hand and announced to the congregation that they must respect Ali’s primacy after the Prophet’s death.

While creating Qawwali as a devotional form of music, Amir Khusro dressed up this episode as a compulsory Qaul or declaration of faith to be sung at the start of every Qawwali session. Google Qawwali and search “Mun Kunto Maula, Fahaza Ali Maula”, (Roughly translated it means: he who considers me his spiritual and temporal leader must accord the same status to Ali).

It is an open and shut case, claim the Shias. The prophet had publicly passed the baton to Ali.

Sunnis advance their claim differently: when the Prophet was fatally ill, he asked his companion Abu Bakr to lead the Friday prayers.

Why are Shia-Sunni differences being explained in the context of an attack on the Sindh Sufi shrine? Because in popular perception there is a lack of clarity on the Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle.

Sufi saints were all of Sunni origin as are the overwhelming majority of devotees at their shrines. There will be a sizeable number of Hindu and a sprinkling of others.

If most of those in attendance at shrines like Shahbaz Qalandar are Sunnis why would Jihadist Salafis, who are also Sunni, kill them so brutally. Islamic State claimed “credit” for the carnage in Sindh. The IS, let it be clarified, is an amalgam of Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood, offshoots of Al Qaeda, Jabhat al Nusra and dispossessed Baathists from Iraq now standing on a militant, Sunni platform because post Saddam Hussain Baghdad is largely in Shia hands. In other words each component of IS may have different emphases but together they form a critical mass.

The harsh Salafi disapproval, even visceral hatred for Sufis, can be explained in broad terms: the Sufi incorporation of music, dance, local customs into their practice of Islam. Also, their acceptance of people of all faiths, castes, their general Catholicism, contrast sharply from the arid austerities of the Salafis. But this does not fully explain the intensity of their anger. This is focused on the personality of Ali who is the centerpiece of Sufi ritual.

Ali, as I have mentioned earlier, is the main point of contention between Shias and Sunnis. After the coming of the Ayatullahs in Iran, the Arab-Ajam, Saudi-Iranian antipathies began to determine the geo-politics of the Arab world.

In this churning, Israel and Saudi Arabia have, overtime, become strategic partners. Partly as a result of Saudi clout in the region, the Palestinian issue has lost saliency: Shia-Sunni was promoted as the fundamental faultline. At a recent lecture in Oslo, Henry Kissinger said it in so many words: the defining issue in the Arab world is not Palestinian homeland but the Shia-Sunni conflict.

If the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia are on the same page on what is increasingly being described as the central faultline in the Arab world, namely the Shia-Sunni divide, what does one make of the Sunni Salafi suicide bomber, sometimes wearing the IS cap, on a relentless spree of murder and mayhem? On whose side is the West? It must be added, in parenthesis, that no suicide bomber has ever been identified as a Shia. Mysteriously, this fact has never been highlighted by the western media, currently under severe pressure to arrest its plummeting credibility.

In the Indian sub continent, the Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle has its own dynamics. From the Delhi Sultanate right upto the last Moghul, rulers had Central Asian antecedents with a sprinkling of Persian, Shia elite in key positions.

This may have been one enabling factor for most the regional Muslim dynasties being Shia – Bahmani Sultanate, Sharqi, Berar, Bidar, Qutub Shahi, Adil Shahi, Awadh Nawabi, Najafi Nawabs of Bengal, Nawab of Murshidabad and Rampur.

All these came under the cultural influence of Iran which has an abiding respect for its Zoroastrian past. Shias of the subcontinent, like the Parsis, celebrate Navroz, the Persian New Year.

The catchment areas of these Kingdoms and Nawabis were fertile ground for Sufi schools to take root. In Awadh Holi, Basant, Diwali, Krishna, Radha, Rama were incorporated into Sufi songs. Mohsin Kakorvi’s celebration of the Prophet’s birthday invokes Ganga, Jamuna and Krishna. Maulana Hasrat Mohani belonged to a school which respected Krishna as God’s messenger. His numerous poems on Radha and Krishna are high points of Sufi mysticism. All Urdu poets are of a Sufi bent. There is not a single line in the annals of Urdu poetry supportive of the hapless Mullah.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Declassified docs: Soviet Penetration Program in India

An intelligence assessment report of the Central Intelligence Agency dated December 1985 gives an insight into the deep penetration the Soviets had in India during that time.

The agency’s document was declassified partially and a sanitized copy of it was approved for release in December 2011.

Here are some of the interesting insights from the document:

1. Through a wide range of overt and covert activities conducted during the last three decades, the Soviets have built up substantial influence capabilities in India…..we believe that Moscow has undertaken activities to penetrate virtually every sector of Indian society.

2. The Soviets enjoy nearly unfettered access to the pages of Indian newspapers, largely through the efforts of the Soviet Information Department……Moscow overtly and covertly placed more than 160,000 items (original articles plus replays) in the Indian press. Access to Press Trust of India, the largest English language news service, has become so automatic that some Soviet officials have come to call it “Press TASS of India”.

3. The Press Section of the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi is a KGB operation that specializes in fast-breaking disinformation campaigns, principally targeted against the United States.

4. Soviet Information Department in New Delhi covertly finances the publishing of books in India and distributes some 25 million magazine, book, and pamphlets a year.

5. Soviets are deeply involved in the Indian political process through covert contributions to the treasuries of political parties as well as to individual politicians. The Soviets direct most of their funds to the ruling Congress-I party. Moscow also funds several opposition parties, including the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India/Marxist (CPI/M).

6. Soviets provide funding to Congress-I party coffers through kickback arrangements with Indian businesses. Although precise estimates of total Soviet funding are not available. Contributions are substantial.

7. Soviet funding reaches the two Communist parties, the CPI and the CPI/M through a combination of kickback schemes, normal business transactions, and direct cash payments. The Soviets have also devised several special methods to fund the CPI and its associated organizations.

The report also goes on to detail the Soviet funding mechanism of these political parties. It also lists a host of other activities that Soviets did to gain influence in India. Full report below:


But for Atal Behari Vajpayee, Kurdish Iraq was nearly ours


Hard to believe, but Mosul, currently in the news, would have been ours today had Atal Behari Vajpayee not played spoil sport.

After their invasion of Iraq in April 2003, Americans realized fairly early that a full fledged occupation for an unspecified period was not possible without allies taking responsibility to administer large swathes of the ancient land.

Seldom has a US ambassador been more effective than David Mulford was. It took very little persuasion for External Affairs, Jaswant Singh, Defence Minister George Fernandez, and Army Chief N.C. Vij to fall in line.

Ships were readied, battalions shortlisted, Generals chosen for India’s first imperialist adventure since the Cholas. We were going to rule a part of that country which alone of all the 52 Muslim states had stood by us at the UN, OIC and elsewhere on the Kashmir issue.

I suppose it must have been self interest which caused us to turn turtle on Iraq as soon as the Americans were in occupation of the country.

Our ambassador to Baghdad, B.B. Tyagi, even risked his life. Iraqi resistance had identified him as a diplomat who was supportive of the occupation. No wonder I was once ushered into his presence while he sat in bed, his legs outstretched, eyes wide open as in a daze, his hands on automatic weapons by both his sides. It was a frame for a possible Woody Allen war film.

Just as the first US representative, Paul Bremer, was convinced that the occupation would be a cakewalk, so was South Block and, indeed, Tyagi.

Bremer, a devout Roman Catholic, had turned up with a batch of Priests who smacked their lips at the prospect of saving souls in a post Saddam Iraq. It turned out that Antique smugglers did rather better, cleaning out the Baghdad museum on America’s watch.

South Block, like Bremer, had assumed that once Saddam’s yoke was lifted from their necks, Iraqis would turn up in droves to hug the Americans.

In anticipation of Iraq’s immediate future in American hands, South Block parked Tyagi in a three star hotel in Amman where he spent mornings, afternoons, evenings watching CNN and BBC for the American progress in Iraq. The irony was that Lyse Ducet of the BBC was herself in occupation of the terrace of Amman’s Intercontinental hotel watching her Arab staff count their worry beads, waiting for the American flag to be fluttering over all of Iraq.

Were this to happen, Tyagi would helicopter into Baghdad’s Green Zone and offer his credentials to Bremer or his Iraqi nominee.

Just imagine, New Delhi was all but ready to open its embassy with the American occupiers of a country which had given unstinted support to India always, particularly against Pakistani machinations at the UN.

This being the state of affairs, who could blame the US for being so confident of India’s enthusiastic willingness to partner them and take charge of Kurdish Iraq. It had very nearly happened, had Vajpayee not decided to show spine – just in the nick of time.

He kept his head while those around him were losing theirs. On April 9, American marines brought down Saddam Hussain’s statue and exactly the media which is lined up behind Hillary Clinton, attributed the statue’s fall to popular rage.

Vajpayee kept his counsel. On April 18 he turned up in Srinagar. Remember, Armies of India and Pakistan were in an eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation after the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on Indian Parliament.

The fall of Saddam’s statue had registered differently with Vajpayee – this scale of western triumphalism was a source of anxiety for him. An “awesome” power has arisen. In the new situation, regional quarrels had to be composed, he said. Dramatically, he extended his hand of Peace to Pakistan.

This was the beginning of the process which led to India and Pakistan signing an agreement in Islamabad on January 4, 2004 that forbids the use of a country’s territory for cross border terrorism. The word was not kept by Pakistan, but that is another story.

The “shining India” campaign mounted by the BJP recoiled on it during the May 2004 elections. But for Indo-Pak relations, it was an unfortunate turn. When Vajpayee became External Affairs Minister in the 1977 Janata government, he had made up his mind on Pakistan: “we cannot change our neighbours.” Among his first foreign visits was to Pakistan in February 1978. The bus journey to Lahore in February 1999, and the January 2004 visit which resulted in the agreement against cross border terrorism, were audacious. But there were reverses.

He was able to cushion the reverses because of his cross party stature nationally and his standing with the RSS. But he persisted because he had grasped the triangle in which the country had trapped itself since 1947 – Srinagar-New Delhi, India-Pakistan, Hindu-Muslim are one complex of issues. Unless a holistic view is taken of this triangle to outline suitable policy, eternal social strife would remain the nation’s lot.

He had the vision to pull India back from the brink on Iraq. Just imagine what would have been our fate had ships carrying Indian troops actually set sail.

The troop build up against Pakistan after the Parliament attack was also a calculated move. The Sole super power was in place to pull the protagonists back from the brink. It is just as well that neither Russia, and China (nor the US) paid much credence to the “surgical strikes”. In the absence of an overarching super power, real “surgical strikes” may cause the situation to spiral out of control.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

The launch that WAS for “1962: A War that WASN’T”


Few books dealing with matters military have in the recent past had such an impact. David Davidar, the publisher of Aleph Book Company proudly told the packed audience last night at the India International Centre in New Delhi that the first print of the book had sold out within three weeks of it hitting the stands, something that was quite unprecedented in the genre of non-fiction.

“Not at all surprising,” said Dr Subramanian Swamy, a keen China watcher himself and a member of the panel that had come together to discuss the book. Barkha Dutt had dashed back from Pakistan to moderate the conversation that included General VK Singh and the author. “I have been waiting for a long long time for someone to come along and steal a march over Neville Maxwell. Shiv Kunal Verma, I am delighted to say, has done that with this book which surpasses everything else on the 1962 conflict,” said Swamy.

“The book is not only meticulously researched and superbly brought out, Kunal’s style of writing makes it a fluid read. Just a historian couldn’t have written a book like this,” said General VK Singh, the former Army Chief who also went on to command 2 Rajput, the battalion that took the brunt of the first Chinese attack at Nam Ka Chu. “Forget about the Henderson Brooks report which by its very mandate was a limited study,” the General would say later in the discussion, “after this book, you can throw it out.”

Tongue-in-cheek, when asked about leadership in war, the General said, “If you have a lion at the top, everyone will behave like a lion. If your promotion policies ensure that only sheep get to the top, then you will have a flock of sheep.” Goes to show that even though the General is now a politician, his heart will always be that of a blue-blood soldier!

Shiv Kunal Verma Book - 2

Barkha Dutt was almost perfect in her handling of the three speakers. General VK Singh, forthright and honest, rarely bothering with what was ‘politically correct’; Swamy clinical and precise in his analysis of China and Verma, who in his manner speaks just as he writes – holding back no punches, painting the picture with words supported by facts that few can argue against.

“Why was the IAF not used,” someone from the audience asked the inevitable question. “Because we were scared,” replied Verma, going on to tear not just the IB’s assessment to Nehru apart but also the senior leadership in Air Headquarters for having gone along with an appreciation which was so obviously flawed. “In Korea, when the Chinese fought the US Army, air power was the key. In our case, we had the run of the skies – IAF Canberras were crossing over from the area around the Karakoram Pass, then flying east keeping the Great Himalayan Range to their south, before crossing back into India near the trijunction with Tibet and Burma in the east. They photographed everything, and not once could the Chinese intercept them.”

It was a fantastic event, where every spoken word was lapped up by an informed and discerning audience. I reproduce below the text of Verma’s speech, which set the tone for the subsequent discussion. For those who were not there, and for those who are yet to read the book that is being described by critics as a masterpiece, the author’s speech itself will give you an idea of what this entire book is about:

Shiv Kunal Verma Book - 3

Exactly one week ago, ten soldiers from 19 Madras were trapped just below Bana Post on the icy heights of the Saltoro ridge that separates the Siachen Glacier from Pakistan’s Northern Areas… This morning, the country awoke to a miracle for one of the men, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad was dug out alive by his comrades who just refused to give up. The sheer doggedness and resilience of not just the man who was buried under 25 feet of packed ice, but the courage and persistence of his fellow soldiers needs to be saluted by all of us, for to dig relentlessly at 19000 feet in temperatures close to minus 40 degrees is actually beyond human comprehension…. I’m sure every person in this hall tonight sends out his and her silent prayer for the soldiers recovery, just as we also mourn the loss of the other nine soldiers who died doing their duty…

Fifty-three years ago, we also lost a whole lot of men… soldiers and young officers who were the cream of our Army… Just like the countless men who have constructed and manned the defences at Siachen over the last twenty-five years to protect our country, the troops in the early 1960s did whatever was asked of them… pushing forward along the Lohit in the extreme east to build defences at Walong and Kibithu… along the Siang River to get to Mechuka, Tuting, and Gelling… and across the formidable heights of Se-la to defend the McMahon Line beyond Tawang at Bum-la and on the Nam Ka Chu.

Others in the middle and western sectors did much the same… Daulat Beg Oldi, the Qara Qash and Galwan Valley regions, the Chushul and demchok sectors… men and animals pushed themselves to the limits of human endurance to man the thin red line that on maps demarcated our border. In conditions that were almost barbaric, they scratched out sangars and bunkers amidst the rocks and river valleys, and in small little groups of sections, platoons and companies, they prepared to defend themselves and their country against an enemy who until a decade ago had nothing to do with the region.

However, on 20 October 1962, when the Chinese attacked – and let us never for one minute forget that they were the aggressors, all the propaganda about the Forward Policy having triggered the conflict notwithstanding – they literally went through our defences like a hot knife through butter… At Nam Ka Chu, 2 Rajput and certain elements of 1/9 GR fought and died there, but there can be no getting away from the fact that from our point of view it was a complete disaster.

Nam Ka Chu unfortunately was just the tip of the iceberg… At Bum-la, the fight was perfunctory for the Assam Rifles and 1 SIKH never had any back up, with Eastern Army Command throwing in the towel at Tawang. The same thing happened in Kibithu in the extreme east while in the west the fighting was isolated and extremely brief in northern Ladakh, culminating with the Chinese attacks at Srijap and Yula posts.

Then, despite a lull in the fighting, when nothing happened for the next three weeks, we again collapsed like a house of cards first at Se-la, then at Dirang and Bomdi-la. Walong had already imploded while in Ladakh, the two affected positions – Gurung Hill and Rezang-la were left to fight their own battles.

Why did this happen? How could things go so wrong? And then for years and years, we just refused to look at the reality of what had happened… History, they say is always written by the victor, but unless the vanquished are willing to look into a mirror, they are doomed to make the same mistake over and over again. Forget the reality, we were not even willing to look at the real problem, which was to a great extent, the civilian side of our defence set up.

This Indian army, which prides itself for never leaving a man behind, who for six days have dug in the ice at Bana Post with their bare hands to pull out their comrades, was not allowed to fight… nor was it allowed to bring back its dead and wounded. Not only did our boys die in the most horrible conditions, few were afforded the decency of a funeral, their bodies just being kicked into bunkers which then had a few stones put on them.

My book tries to not just document what happened but it also tries to understand why it happened… I looked at the history not only on the southern side of the watershed of the great Himalayas, but also on the northern side, especially the relationship between Tibet and China. Unlike other works in the past, perhaps not burdened by having worn a rank on my shoulders, I could look at the larger picture which involved the civilian decision making process and the political dramas that was unfolding in the background. What emerges is a horrifying story where it is not just the senior military leadership – completely compromised by the fact that most of them were political appointments – but also the other decision makers and politicians who failed to do their duty by their country…

If this book, half a century after the events, can even now make us pause long enough and look at ourselves in the mirror, it would have achieved its objective. At the end of the day it is not the Nehrus and the Menons and the Thapars and the Kauls and the Bogey Sens who are the losers – it is the country as a whole.

For years we have ridden on the shoulders of the soldier who asks us for very little, and who has time and again proved that he will dig even with his bare hands if there is even one Indian alive in the rubble… In my opinion, the only way for us to bury the ghosts of 1962 was to try and get as close to the truth as possible. Even now, I do not claim to have all the answers, but in my own way I have tried to present as comprehensive a picture as possible. So ladies and gentlemen, this book – 1962: The War That Wasn’t – has been written for the ashes of our fathers and the temples of our gods!

To quote from a comment posted by a literary critic on the social media who commented on the book:

“The only heroes are the dead, and the few who stood and fought. As a memorial to the fallen, and as posthumous justice there could be nothing greater, nothing more moving than this.”

I thank you all for being here in such numbers today. To me, this is testimony itself of the fact that today in India we have a discerning audience who is willing to look at what happened… History, they say, says that man never learns from history… well, ladies and gentlemen, let us as a people, prove that wrong!!!

(Photos for this post by: Kapil Syal)

Subhash Chandra Bose got us Independence


Since some papers of the Intelligence Bureau on Subhash Chandra Bose and his family have come into the public domain, there has been a concerted campaign by a section of the media to vilify the national hero. An article in a prominent English news daily went to the extent of declaring that Subhash was of the strong opinion that post-independence, India should be under a dictatorial rule for 20 years. In a way, the article sought to justify the incarceration and subsequent killing of Subhash. The pro-British, pro-Nehru and anti-Subhash constituency still exists. From the tenor of this anti-Subhash lobby it can be extrapolated that how vicious must have been the British and Congress intrigues against Subhash during World War II and subsequent to his disappearance, considering the fact that it was only Subhash who was fighting for overthrow of the British , all the top Congress leaders were in jail during that period.

What political philosophy Subhash desired or would have pursued is a matter of conjecture. The moot question that the IB documents pose is as to why the family of Subhash was kept under surveillance for two decades after independence, and most deploringly, why was the surveillance report being shared with the British intelligence agency, the MI5. What common interest did the MI5 and Nehru have? If Nehru did know about the real truth about Subhash, i.e. about his alleged incarceration or alleged murder, how did he live with the murderous guilt?

The sharing of intelligence with a foreign intelligence agency, rather former colonial master on a revered freedom fighter, who was also the Congress President at one time, lends some credence to the insinuations about certain leaders in the Congress of pre-independence era having links with MI5, primarily to marginalize the extremists. The hatred for Subhash in the Gandhi-Nehru camp is a historical fact. This hostility compelled Subhash to resign as Congress President in 1939, despite being democratically elected. Hence the question as to who were fascists and who were liberal democrats in the pre-independence Congress will always remain.

Subhash’s resignation as Congress President nearly coincided with the outbreak of World War II. In fact, during that period the war clouds in Europe were already hovering. Was his resignation, therefore, engineered by external agencies? No sooner after the outbreak of World War II, the Congress ministries in the eight provinces resigned in 1939. Jinnah described this as ‘day of deliverance’. Thus the onset of the World War II made the gulf between Congress and Muslim League unbridgeable. In the same year, in the Wardha session, the Congress Working Committee supported the fight against fascism, but did not countenance India joining the war effort. Gandhi did not support Britain as he was not reconciled to war, but later supported the same on the plea that he did not seek to raise a ‘free India from ashes of Britain’. Apparently, the Congress leaders decried the employment of Indian soldiers in the war without their consent and guarantee of Independence, but did nothing to deter the British. This was despite the fact that between 1940 and 1943 Bengal faced one of the worst famines in Indian history. Indians starved while tons of Indian food were being supplied to sustain British forces. Public sentiments against the Congress leaders was turning hostile.

Belatedly, and guided purely for imperatives of political relevance, on 8th August 1942, Gandhi launched ‘Quit India Movement’. Immediately the entire top leadership of Congress was taken into custody. Leaderless and rudderless the movement died in a years’ time, but the Congress leaders remained in prison till the rest of the war. This served the interest of the British and as well as the reputation, prestige and political prestige of Congress leaders. Some Congress leaders like Jaiprakash Narain who genuinely fought the British during the movement never made a political career post-Independence. What was the sacrifice of the top Congress leaders therefore? Mass movements by the Congress between 1920 when Gandhi arrived on the scene and 1947 were niggardly, and hardly upset the British.

The ‘Quit India Movement’ failed to galvanize India to efficacious magnitude and intensity. Those arrayed against it included Viceroy’s Council (majority Indians), Jinnah (Muslim League), Communist Party of India (supported when Russia entered war), and Princely States. There were many Congress leaders too who had advised against the movement. How could Jinnah’s support to the British gone unrewarded! He ultimately did get his reward in form of Pakistan!

It was during this period, when the Congress leaders were ineffective that Subhash Chandra Bose was exerting himself for India’s independence. He first escaped to Germany then to Japan and subsequently raised the Indian National Army (INA) and setup a provisional government of Free India in Singapore in July 1943. In October same year, he flew to Tokyo to participate in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere meet.

The Congress Party and some Indian commentators maintain that Subhash sided with the wrong side, i.e. the Axis powers, who were fascists. Well, all that Subhash did was to exploit the vulnerability of the British for gaining India’s independence. It was a perfectly nationalist and moral move. The British all through their rule had missed no opportunity in mutilating India’s history and creating religious and fissures in Indian society. Two instances in this regard are glaring:

  • The most diabolical attack on India’s cultural unity was by Lord Minto, who in 1906 encouraged the Aga Khan to submit a proposal for ‘separate electorate’ for Muslims. Durga Das in his book ‘India from Curzon to Nehru and After’ on page 50 writes, “On him (Aga Khan) had been conferred the status of ‘leader of the Muslims in India’”. Durga Das does not fail to point out that on independence Aga Khan forswore Indian citizenship even as 50 million of his co-religionists remained in the country after Pakistan had been created. Minto in accepting Aga Khan’s demands with alacrity, tried to drive a wedge in Hindi-Muslim unity by describing the Muslims of India as ‘the descendants of conquering and ruling race’. Durga Das reminds that ‘majority of Indian Muslims are converts from Hinduism and not descendants from Turks, Persians, Pathans or Mughals’.
  • The conspiracy by Lord Minto is best described by Arun Shourie in his book ‘Missionaries of India’ on page 196. He quotes an article by Lady Minto on Aga Khan’s demand for separate electorate, wherein she wrote: “This has been a very eventful day; as someone said to me, ‘an epoch in Indian History’. … A very big thing has happened today, a work of statesmanship that will affect India and Indian history for many a long year. It is nothing less than the pulling back of 62 millions of people from joining the ranks of the seditious opposition.”
  • Another attack on India’s cultural unity was through the vector of ‘census’. Again, Arun Shourie further quotes M Macauliffe’s lecture on the ‘Sikh Religion and its Advantages to the State’ in 1903: “At former (census) enumerations village Sikhs in their ignorance generally recorded themselves as Hindus, as indeed they virtually were. With the experienced gained by time, a sharp line of demarcation has now been drawn between Sikhs and Hindus…”. He further states that apart from census demarcations, ceremonies to instill and widen feelings of separateness amongst Sikhs in the Army were deliberately introduced.

Post-Independence too and till date, the British have harboured many Indian secessionists leaders and organisations on their soil. So what was wrong in Subhash Chandra Bose exploiting the then prevailing vulnerability of the British. Moreover, how was the Congress Party entitled to decide which of the two, i.e. Allied or Axis powers were a moral and righteous force to be sided with. Indians at that time were slaves of the British, and leaders of slaves if not in collusion with masters, should only be guided by the ‘objective of liberation’. Subhash was purely guided by this objective.

India’s most revered historian RC Mazumdar has written about the views ascribed to Clement Attlee on compulsions of the British for grant of Independence. As per the former British prime minister, apart from many reasons, the decision to grant independence to India was majorly influenced by the impact of Subhash Chandra Bose and his INA. The INA in fact had wrecked the precise instrument of the British rule, the armed forces. Its reverberations manifested in the naval mutiny in 1946 in which 20,000 sailors, 78 ships and 20 shore establishments were involved. There were also mutinies in an Army unit at Jabalpur and Air Force base at Karachi. During the period of World War II, when the Congress leaders were in jail, 26,000 INA men sacrificed their lives for liberation of India. It constitutes nearly half of INA.

Moreover, nearly 2.5 million Indian soldiers had been demobilized after World War II. This huge force too was restive, and inspired by Subhash, the INA and its nationalism. It became impossible for the British to hold India. It was also impossible for Nehru to rule India with Subhash around. It was impossible for the British to create Pakistan with Subhash at the helm.

In the backdrop of  the fresh revelations, it is time to reflect whether the Gandhian method delivered or Subhash got us independence, whether the lawyers approach (most Congress leaders were Bar-at-Law) or Netaji’s jolt made the British leave. Post-independence, the same Congress used force to liberate Goa from another colonial power, Portugal. The lawyers approach probably did not succeed because there was no MI5 to collude with the Congress Party, which has ruled this country for most years. The party will obviously be nervous about any revelation of the fate of Subhash and his crucial role in securing India’s independence.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)

But for China!


The decade of 50s was characterized by romanticisation of communism in India. Such was the romance that many leaders of the post-Independence dispensation, most of who claimed to have made huge sacrifices for India’s Independence, hailed the Communist takeover of China. It may be underscored that India was the first non-communist country to accord diplomatic recognition in January 1950 to China consequent to the establishment of Mao’s rule.

Amongst the exceptions, who did not romanticize and saw the writing on the wall very clearly, was Sardar Patel. In his letter dated 7 November 1950 to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel wrote:

“… outside the Russian Camp, we have practically been alone in championing the cause of Chinese entry into the UNO… it (China) continues to regard us with suspicion and the whole psychology is one, at least outwardly of skepticism perhaps mixed with little hostility… it looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy…” Further Sardar Patel warned of a two-front situation after the disappearance of Tibet as a buffer country. He said: “Thus, for the first time after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously. Our defence measures have so far been based on the calculations of superiority over Pakistan. In our calculations, we shall now have to reckon with Communist China…”

How prescient!!!

Why did the dispensation ignore Sardar Patel’s warning? Why did the dispensation, which prided itself in having achieved independence only by Satyagraha, did not find it abominable that the Communism was foreign ideology and had traveled from Russia to China after murder of more than three million and two million people in the respective countries. Finally, when it arrived in India, the same worshipers of non-violence were so indulgent with the Communism and the Communists!

The communist leadership in India were not ideologically and physically bred in underground manner. Nor did they go through the hardship of jungles. Most of them were privileged lot, who received their education in Oxford and Cambridge in UK. It is here that they were indoctrinated by the erstwhile British masters and returned to India as die-hard Communists. These so-called Communists were perfectly married to the British agenda in the pre-colonial period. Left-liberalism was the perfect tool to legitimize the colonial rule as it robbed Indians of any sense of pride in India’s past. This phenomenon was not confined to India alone.

Post Cold War, the mantle of patronage to Left Wing extremism has gradually shifted to European countries which are using it as leverage to pursue their economic and religious agenda.

Later, these very communists, who abused Indian history, religion and Indian social structure captured academic institutions and intellectual space in India.

Educational institutions in Bengal, which at one time produced such brilliant scientists, began to churn out purposeless graduates steeped in denial and negativity. Communism, in fact, robbed Bengal of its scientific and productive temper and intellectual capital. Such was the momentum of communists that hardly any university in India was left un-impacted by their diabolical onslaught. Even a newly established university like the JNU, far from promoting pioneering research, sunk into leftist cynicism and sterile pseudo -intellectualism.

The 50s, therefore also witnessed massive inroads by Communists in all spheres of activity and governance in India. The then government had its share of Communists or Communist sympathizers. VK Krishna Menon was more than just left leaning. Some of the declassified documents of that period are not very charitable about his international linkages. This period was also characterized by great Soviet-China communist bonhomie, and bitter and fierce Cold War.

Concomitant with the communist (ideological as well as physical) and Pakistan threat was a concerted move by the Indian dispensation to humiliate and degrade the armed forces. There were defining geopolitical developments during the period. Pakistan had joined the CENTO and SEATO, whose architect was none other than the US. The ideological fissures in the subcontinent became deep and sharp. It had military manifestations as well. The two-front situation – further exacerbated. But the left oriented leadership continued to treat the Indian Army as colonial instrument. It is another matter that they themselves had been nurtured as colonial instruments to serve British interests. The Soviet Union which spearheaded the international communist movement therefore did not find it difficult to subvert and recruit the Indian leadership. Indian Generals during this period were trifled with. An Army Chief was told that it was none of his business to bother about China. A Prime Minister went to the extent of saying that he does not need the Army and could do without it. Discussions were held in parliament about employment of Army in agriculture. Those who supported these moves in the parliament include some unthinkable names. With little effort these names can be ascertained.

In the 50s the ruling party did not have any insecurity on account of political opposition. There were however unfounded rather purely imagined suspicions vis-à-vis the Indian Army. No geopolitical development and no threat were strong enough to outweigh these apprehensions of the ruling class. During that period, Ayub Khan in Pakistan, Sukarno in Indonesia and King Mahendra in Nepal, abandoned Western pattern of multi-party democracy and opted for ‘grassroots democracy’. The victim of the insecurity of the Indian leadership was the Indian Army. It was perceived as a potential villain, a perception no less fueled by the bureaucrats, who still basked in colonial hangover, wherein Oxford and Cambridge became the ultimate destination for their loved children, only to be replaced by the US later.

This sin perpetrated by the leaders on their own army, was bound to recoil, and it did in 1962.

The myopia of these thankless leaders did not extend beyond exigencies of office. They undermined the role of INA and the Naval Mutiny in securing India’s Independence, a fact authenticated by Clement Attlee. They deliberately ignored that the India, they were presiding over, was put together by none other than the Indian Army – if 1947-48 war in J&K, if Operation Polo in September 1948 and if the Liberation of Goa in 1961, was of any consideration.

Pakistan, meanwhile, had bridged the Cold War fissures with China. Our leaders bereft of strategic sense failed to realize the significance of 1947 Indo-Pak war towards creating geographical contiguity between the PoK and China. By managing to retain a certain portion of occupied territory (PoK) in Kashmir after the ceasefire, Pakistan became a direct geographic interlocutor with China. Pakistan without the PoK would have had little strategic value for China. It would not have been able to cede 5000 sq km territory of PoK to China and 1300 Km Karakoram Highway that connects Islamabad with Kashgar in Xinjiang. Without this territory the envisaged ‘Economic Corridor’ linking China with Gwadar port would have also not been possible. The fact that border negotiations between Pakistan and China had begun in 1961 and the broad principals were agreed upon within months after Indo-China war in 1962 does raise suspicion about some sort of understanding between the leadership of Pakistan and China about the Indo-China War.

These geopolitical developments when seen through the Communist or left – liberal prism in India, was not a matter of concern and priority. The nexus between Pakistan and China meant nothing to them.

India therefore deserved the rude blow from China. But for this, let us consider what would have happened.

  • The destruction of the Indian Armed Forces from within would have continued and by 1965 may have rendered a situation by which there would have been nothing to stop Pak forces to Delhi.
  • The Communists, who had infiltrated every organ of the State, would have in all probability taken over major portion of India. The 1962 War did politically contain them but yet they managed to retain their influence in West Bengal and Kerala. The Indian communists remained a force despite some of them openly siding with China in the 1962 War. These communists had no qualms about China even as it supported the Naxalites and the insurgents in India’s northeast. They had no qualms about the strategic partnership between Pakistan and China. Their heart continued to bleed for both these countries.
  • The Indian Armed Forces, despite 1965, 1971, 1999 and years of counterinsurgency, are still struggling to find its place of honour and dignity. But for 1962, its condition by now would have been pathetic, a condition that many left liberals and bureaucrats wanted it to be in.
  • But for 1962, there would have been unbridled propensity to couch criminalization as political revolution. Even now, communists use all their leverages in India and abroad to dub their criminal and anti-national activities as ‘revolution’. The Indian romance about the ‘Red Flag’ at the cost of all other flags of productivity and progress though waning, is far from over.
  • But for 1962, left-liberals would have promoted jihadi terrorism as ‘revolution’ with uninhibited fervor.
  • But for 1962, China’s Cultural Revolution would have served as an example for our expanding communists.
  • But for 1962, ‘Binayak Sens’ would have been ubiquitous.
  • But for 1962, communist takeover of India was a distinct possibility. The closest India came to that was by way of an extra-constitutional authority called the National Advisory Council (packed with communists)whose principal effort was to further the communist agenda of their benefactor. This benefactor had acquired communist ideology by upbringing. There were however opposing forces capable of extracting their own price. It seemed as if Cold War had re-invented itself within the Indian ruling establishment.

Despite 1962 there has been steady supply of elements within the Indian polity, policy-makers and academia whose agenda has been to allow China to steal the march and dwarf India in international stature and prowess. It is this lobby that sabotages indigenous defence production and ensures that our foreign policy becomes hostage to vicissitudes of arms imports. It is this lobby that that advocates that talks with China’s client Pakistan continues at all costs. This lobby rather thrives on India’s adversarial relationship with China. This lobby is loathe to any equal cooperative mechanisms between the countries. But for 1962, this lobby would have placed this country under “one party rule”. 1962 may as well have prevented communist takeover of India.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)