Waiting Game: Atal Bharat Ratna

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by parijataka, Jun 15, 2014.

  1. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    Ashok Malik suggests Atal ji be conferred Bharat Ratna as a deserving PM of India. Other great patriots of India include Madan Mohan Malviya and Subhash Chandra Bose who were relegated to inferior status by Congress party under Nehru-Gandhi dispensation.

    Remember Nehru and Indira Gandhi awarded themselves the BR, while Rajiv was given the BR posthumously !

    Bharat Ratna recipient list

    Waiting Game: Atal Bharat Ratna
    Jun 15, 2014
    By Ashok Malik

    Two occasions in the coming months, Independence Day and Republic Day, will give the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government the opportunity to confer national honours such as the Bharat Ratna. The perception in New Delhi is stalwarts from India’s past, whose legacy and memory were neglected by the Congress with its family obsession, could be named for the Bharat Ratna. India’s greatest civilian honour could itself be honoured by being awarded to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

    Admittedly, there are strong political reasons for the BJP to if not appropriate the legacy of Malaviya and Bose to at least point out that the Congress system and Congress’ historiography were unfair to them. Bose had been named for the Bharat Ratna by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in the early 1990s, but that decision became controversial and was taken to court. Eventually, the Bharat Ratna was withdrawn because the government had conferred it “posthumously” and could not provide evidence of Netaji’s death.

    In the case of Malaviya, he was a forgotten hero, remembered only by students and alumni of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) he founded. He was brought back into public consciousness in 2014 by Narendra Modi’s vigorous election campaign in Varanasi and elsewhere.
    Both Bose and Malaviya are compelling figures. Bose appeals to the romantic in us all. There are few biographies in the national movement like his. A brilliant student who rejects a government job — despite having made it to the hallowed Indian Civil Service — plunges into mass politics, escapes to Afghanistan disguised as a Pathan and then an Italian, travels across Europe, meeting everybody from Irish freedom fighters to Nazi leaders, and eventually turns up in Japan and Singapore to inspire Indian prisoners of war to become part of a nationalist army. His tragic failure, his sudden disappearance and likely death in 1945, his conscientious objection to the Mahatma — these have given Bose an everlasting aura.

    Malaviya was no less illustrious. A scholar and lawyer, among the earliest members of the Indian National Congress and its president for more than one term, a pioneering newspaperman, a social reformer who fought caste discrimination, and above all an educationist — there was so much to the man. Malaviya too died at the cusp of Independence, in 1946. His everlasting achievement was BHU.
    The diligence and determination with which he went about collecting money for his dream project — at a time when the British government was obviously not going to help the cause of a nationalist university, set up by its Indian subjects — is no less inspirational than Bose’s quest for the Indian National Army. Indeed, the story of how Malaviya persuaded even the Nizam of Hyderabad to contribute expansively to the corpus for BHU — India’s richest Muslim prince giving his money for the creation of a university that had “Hindu” in its name — speaks of the special qualities Malaviya possessed.

    One of the unfortunate corollaries of the Congress’ promotion of a dynastic cult, especially in the Indira Gandhi era and the years that followed, was the relegation of other social and political personalities, those outside the Nehru-Gandhi framework, to a supposedly lesser status. They became parochial or provincial figures, while the Nehru-Gandhi family was the pan-Indian symbol. This phenomenon reached such ridiculous levels that Bose was slotted as a Bengali regional icon and Malaviya as a Brahmin leader from Uttar Pradesh. Like so many others, they were denied their due as national treasures, those who worked for and belonged to all of India and helped sculpt our early sense of nationalism.
    While giving Bose and Malaviya their deserved place in the modern Indian pantheon is absolutely legitimate and necessary, it can be debated whether the Bharat Ratna is the appropriate instrument for this. Both men lived and contributed to an India before 1947. The Bharat Ratna was instituted by the Republic of India, which came into being in 1950. Would awarding the Bharat Ratna to those who served India before it became a republic, and before the Bharat Ratna itself was instituted, not be somewhat anachronistic? Is there not a more suitable mechanism to commemorate them?

    These are issues to be debated, and of course they concern more than just the BJP-led government. They concern contemporary Indian attitudes to history and the tendency of so many political parties — across the spectrum — to view history and historical heroes (or in some cases villains) as a backward extension of today’s politics.

    While this debate is necessary, it does not in any way take away from the great achievements of Bose and Malaviya and the need to recognise these for all times to come.

    History is a compelling and seductive landscape. Sooner or later, all parties and all governments fall prey to its temptations. The more recent past is another matter; sometimes we are too close to it to see it with a certain objectivity. The reference here is to the prime ministry of Atal Behari Vajpayee (1998-2004) and the milestone it marked in India political life and economic development. Whoever else it does or does not honour, the Modi government would be well-advised to award the Bharat Ratna at the earliest to Mr Vajpayee. The patriarch is ailing and not in the best of health; it would be just and fair if the President formally bestows on him the Bharat Ratna while he is still with us.

    When Mr Vajpayee left office in 2004, most people saw him as a good Prime Minister. It took 10 years of the UPA government, and the indecisiveness and confusion of his successor, for the feeling to grow that

    Mr Vajpayee was not just a good Prime Minister but a great Prime Minister. It is telling that almost no political leader from a non-Congress or a non-Gandhi-Nehru tradition tends to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna while he or she is still living. Let the Modi government end this farce. On August 15, let it announce Atal Behari Vajpayee’s name for the Bharat Ratna.

    The writer can be contacted at [email protected]
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2014
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