Skip to main content

Why should one doubt 'popular' Soviet support to Nehru was spontaneous in 1955

By Rajiv Shah
A lot is being written on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Howdy event in Houston. Indeed, none can can deny it was a grand success, so much so that even Opposition Congress leaders have begun praising it. One of the most commented, adversely of course, is President Donald Trump calling Modi "father of India".
With this comment, it seems, Trump seemed to be making desperate attempt to gather popular support among Indian immigrants when his popularity is sharply falling, if a recent Fox New survey is to be believed. However, what has puzzled many, especially diehard opponents, is, how could Modi gather so much of support -- 50,000 people in a jam packed hall. It was a PR success by Modi lobbyists, helped by Trump's.
One of the more famous comments was triggered by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who erroneously tweeted that Jawaharlal Nehru collected spontaneous crowd in USA in 1954. Others said the year was 1956. Pratik Sinha, in an article in his fact-check site, altnews.in corrected all, stating, it wasn't USA but USSR, and the year was 1955.
What was intrigued me was, whether the Soviet crowd which came to Nehru was spontaneous. I don't deny Nehru's standing as one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century. He was one of the founders of the non-aligned movement (NAM), along with NKrumah of Ghana and Sukarno of Indonesia. A great democrat, Nehru helped democracy take roots in India. The Congress under him had people from heterogeneous ideologies -- left, right and centre -- and all worked together.
No doubt, there were remarkable aberrations such as President's imposed on the Communist government of EMS Namboodiripad in Kerala in 1959. My friend Urvish Kothari has dug out how Nehru banned "Nine Hours to Rama", a fictional account on Mahatma Gandhi's murder by Stonley Wolpert at the hands of India's first terrorist, Nathuram Godse, as also a film based it, in 1962. The story indicated the then government neglect to protect the Mahatma.
Be that as it may, that Nehru was very popular, even after the 1962 India-China war debacle, is without any doubt. I remember my maternal uncle, Lalitmohan Jamnadas, who owned Cosmos, a tubes and tyres factory in Chembur, Bombay, had come to Delhi, where we lived. On May 27, 1964, we had planned to accompany him to a hill station, probably Shimla, in his Fiat car.
Mota Mama, as we used to call him, came to our residence, and the news on the radio flashed the demise of Nehru. Out of utter respect, he proposed to cancel the tour. My parents, both Gandhian freedom fighters, promptly agreed. I was 11, and my father took me to India Gate to see his funeral procession. Hadn't ever seen so many people, many of them weeping. My father put me on back too see Nehru being carried for cremation.
Yet, I was a little astonished when some people say, the Soviets (I had rather call them Russians) came to see Nehru "spontaneously" in 1955. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) had a complete control over the the country. My experience as Moscow correspondent of Patriot and Link from 1986 to 1993 suggests, every move, including demonstrations, were controlled through trained cadres.
This regimentation had just begun to collapse under Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost in 1986. I could imagine the type of society USSR was in 1955, when the control was extremely tight, no dissent was allowed, it was in fact ruthlessly suppressed. Even before the second world war many who disagreed with Stalin, including top military personnel, would mysteriously disappear, were killed.
Things continued after the war; there was ethnic cleansing of those who were considered "anti-Soviet". It eased a little after Stalin died under Khrushchev, but dissent was not allowed. How could a spontaneous show be allowed, unless permitted by the powers that be? No doubt, Russians liked India and Nehru even in 1980s, when I was there, but not so much as to go out and greet an Indian leader, or for that matter any other foreign dignitary.
I can safely presume, the then Soviet authorities appeared to consider "popular" support an effort to influence Nehru in order to ensure that India, an upcoming influencer under him around the world as a NAM leader, became, if not part of the Soviet bloc, at least a close friend which maintained a distance with "imperialist" USA, the other superpower.

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .