Of Dalai, Gandhi, Nehru & Jinnah: For monks, silence is always best

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Abhijit Bhattacharyya

The Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday, December 10, 1989, after spending 40 years as a fugitive/refugee in India, due to the hospitality and magnanimity extended by successive governments in India, irrespective of party. Did the much-maligned Jawaharlal Nehru make one of the costliest mistakes of his political life, incurring the wrath of the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorial rulers and the PLA as they were chasing and planning to capture the Dalai Lama? Nehru, with all his failures and mistakes, displayed the remarkably humane side of his personality by giving refuge to the spiritual guru and the ruler of Tibetan Buddhists, in India in March 1959, as the lama managed to escape from the jaws of death.
What the Indian government and people across the country have done for the Tibetan people is unparalleled in world history. No other country or people have done anything close. All have given sermons and made promises, but not actually delivered. Not India. Despite being battered and bruised by China from the very beginning in the 1950s, when the PLA brazenly violated India’s territorial integrity in J&K’s Aksai Chin, India, true to its benign tradition, stood its ground like a genuine and spirited host, looking after distressed and uprooted foreign guests, at the cost of its own economy, polity and security.
Yet the Dalai Lama, after living luxuriously on Indian taxpayers’ funds for over 59 years (having entered India on Monday, March 30, 1959), has seen it fit to pass highly speculative and unsubstantiated comments on a legend of Indian history, which certainly is not in tune with his exalted status. His Holiness should know well that history does not deal with “what would have happened”. History is research, based on facts, not on flights of imagination. History deals with “what happened”, followed by six fundamental questions: “how, why, which, when, where and who”. The Dalai Lama says: “I think Mahatma Gandhiji was very much willing to give the prime ministership to Jinnah. But Pandit Nehru refused.” This shows a surprisingly poor understanding of Indian history and political realities by a revered 83-year-old spiritual guru! Mahatma Gandhi may be the Father of the Nation, but even he did not have any authority to “give” the prime ministership of a newly-sovereign nation to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, or indeed to anyone else. Newly-free India was born as a democracy, not a dictatorship, and did not follow the norms of the divine right of kingship, or leadership of anarchists.
And even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that Pandit Nehru did indeed shoot down such an idea mooted by Gandhiji, every sensible Indian should thank his or her lucky star that at least a balanced, secular, fair, objective and learned man with proven literary skills, despite some utopian and impossible-to-implement thoughts and ideas, became India’s first Prime Minister.
The Dalai Lama also needs to remember that after Jinnah and his criminal cohorts like H.S. Suhrawardy showed their true colours on Friday, August 16, 1946, killing over 5,000 Hindus in broad daylight on the streets of Calcutta, the so-called “Direct Action Day”, Jinnah forfeited his right to live in India, let alone rule it. One shudders to contemplate what would have happened to the millions of innocent Indian followers of various religions.
In hindsight, Jinnah’s Pakistan was a blessing in disguise. In 1947, he created a Muslim nation with two wings; but his inherent arrogance and linguistic intolerance sowed the seeds of disintegration, as united Pakistan broke into two separate nations in 1971. Such was the man’s faulty and fatal policy that first his inflexible religious intolerance broke his own country, India. His religious fanaticism massacred 5,000 Hindu countrymen in Calcutta. Then his hatred for the Bengali language and culture sowed the seeds of Bangladesh, thereby shattering Jinnah’s own creation. And finally, even virtually on his deathbed, the obstinate Jinnah’s political ambition undertook the invasion of Kashmir by the Army-razakar-tribal Pashtun trio, that resulted in mindless violence, murder, rape, loot and every possible type of criminality.
So much for the legacy of Jinnah, the imaginary Prime Minister of a United India, or the “Akhand Bharat” dreamt of by some myopic philosophers and day-dreamers! Imagine what would have been a united India’s plight today. The lashkars, jhangvis, jamaats, fidayeens and mujahideens of all varieties would operate from Jammu to Jamshedpur, Dimapur to Danapur, Kolkata to Kochi and Karwar; and they would have been unhindered and unchallenged.
A question crops up. Why did the Dalai Lama make such an unwarranted statement that could be construed as an act by someone biting the hands that feed the greedy? Doesn’t the Dalai Lama know his sworn foe China is gunning for him? And that he is in India because of a bellicose China? Why then is he creating resentment in the mind of Indians? Is he playing to the gallery? Or hoping to mend fences with China in order to spend his last days in Lhasa, at the Potala Palace? Or is he really upset over the restrictions imposed on his movement and programmes across India due to a diktat issued by India’s Cabinet Secretary, at the behest of the foreign secretary, in the recent past? All for the sake of a better Sino-Indian bilateral relationship? Is the Dalai Lama thinking that he is being used as a punching bag by both India and China?
It’s hard to fathom what the Dalai Lama is thinking, but he has definitely crossed a red line, despite his subsequent apology. His statement was totally out of tune with his status as a spiritual guru of Tibetans in India. He has done injustice to both his role as a guest of the Indian people, and to the country that has been his host for well over half a century.
One can only hope His Holiness will choose his words more carefully in future. It would be a pity if the revered lama, respected by all Indians, would become a subject of partisan politics in this country. Indians are competent and capable enough to sort out their own problems, and they know their history inside out. They certainly don’t need sermons from their honoured guest, and more so if these are prefaced with “I think”. There is no scope for thinking in history.
There is a saying which is repeatedly injected into the mind of Indians going on high-altitude pilgrimages to Tibet: “In the land of Lama, don’t be a Gama” — meaning that in the high hills, don’t be a show-off. Just go slow. In juxtaposition, one should perhaps coin a reverse phrase: “In the land of India’s Gama, don’t try to sermonise, my dear Lama”!