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

When phone tapping rumours were afloat in Gujarat among BJP leaders, IAS babus

Gordhan Zadaphia By Rajiv Shah While alerts were coming in over the last few days about a series of articles on how phones of “journalists, ministers, activists” may have been used to spy on them with the help of an Israeli project, Pegasus, finally, when I got up on Monday morning, I saw a Times of India story quoting (imagine!, we never used to do this, did just a followup in case we missed a story) the Wire, a top news portal on this providing some details, along with government reaction.

Gandhi Ashram 'redevelopment': Whither well-known Gandhi experts, Gandhians?

Sudarshan Iyengar, Ramchandra Guha By Rajiv Shah Rehabilitating about 200 families, mostly Dalits, living in the Gandhi Ashram premises by offering them Rs 60 lakh in order to implement a Rs 1,200 crore project called Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project reportedly to bring the Ashram into its "original shape" as Gandhi established appears to me strange, to say the least.

Gandhi Ashram eviction: Finally historian Guha speaks out; but ageing trustees are silent

By Rajiv Shah Finally, at least one expert, top historian Ramachandra Guha, has spoken out on eviction of 200 families living in the Gandhi Ashram premises. Last week, I received an email alert from a veteran academic, Ashoke Chatterjee, former director, National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, which happens to be one of the most prestigious academic institutes of India based, informing me about it. NID is one of the several top institutes founded when Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s Prime Minister.

Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?

By Rajiv Shah Ever since Ashwini Vaishnaw was appointed as railway minister, I was curious to know who he was and how did he come closer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and, most important, when. Hence, I decided to talk with some Sachivalaya officials in Gujarat in order to find out if there was, if any, Gujarat (or Modi) connection.

Non-entity 6 yrs ago, Indian state turned Fr Stan into world class human rights defender

Jharkhand's Adivasi women  By Rajiv Shah A lot is being written on Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who is known more for his work for tribal rights in Jharkhand. His death at the age of 84, even when he was an under trial prisoner for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence three years go, has, not without reason, evoked sharp reaction, not just in India but across the world.

Home Ministry data vs Health Ministry data! Gujarat's poor sex ratio at birth data

Home minister Amit Shah, health minister Harsh Vardhan By Rajiv Shah Don’t India’s top ministries – of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and of Home Affairs (MoHA) – tally data before releasing them? It would seem so… A few days back, I did a story in Counterview , based on an MoHA report, stating that Gujarat has the lowest sex rate at birth (SRB) at 901 girls as against 1000 births, followed by Assam (903), Madhya Pradesh (905) and Jammu & Kashmir (909), raising valid apprehensions that widescale female foeticide may be prevalent in India’s “model” State.

July 1: Observing communal harmony day in Ahmedabad, a highly segregated city

Activists at Vasant-Rajab memorial on July 1 By Rajiv Shah Celebrated as Communal Harmony Day in Ahmedabad, July 1, 2021 is remembered for the sacrifice of two friends, Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani, laid down their lives for the cause of communal harmony on the July 1, 1946 in the city. A memorial stands in their memory in Khandni Sheri, Jamalpur, Ahmedabad.

Periyar opposed imposition of alien culture on Dravidian people, but wasn't anti-Hindi

By  Vidya Bhushan Rawat* Thiru K Veeramani is the ideological disciple of EVR Periyar and one of the senior most leaders of the Dravidian movement at the moment. He started working under his mentor EVR Periyar at the age of 10 years when he delivered his first speech in Salem. Veeramani is President of Dravidar Kazhagam and editor of Modern Rationalist, a monthly journal devoted to Periyar’s ideas. That apart, he is editor of many other magazines and journals in Tamil. This interview was conducted by Vidya Bhushan Rawat at the Periyar Thidal on November 1st, 2019. These are some of the excerpts and the entire interview can be viewed at the youtube link being provided at the end of the article. Dravidian movement internationally Thiru Veeramani said that “It is high time that Periyar must be globalised now. He said that it was easier in relation to Dr Ambedkar since he has written in English and almost all the western audience read him through his work. But the southern part of India

Positive side of Vaishnaw? Ex-official insists: Give him loss making BSNL, Air India

By Rajiv Shah A senior chartered accountant, whom I have known intimately (I am not naming him, as I don’t have his permission), has forwarded me an Indian Express (IE) story (July 18), “Ashwini Vaishnaw: The man in the chair”, which, he says, “contradicts” the blog (July 17), "Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?" I had written a day earlier and forwarded it to many of my friends.

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.