NEW DELHI: In a recent talk, ANI chairman Prem Prakash made an assessment of Jawaharlal Nehru-led government saying that Nehru allowed freedom of the press and was not a dynast, but miscalculated on China and Tibet and could not elicit the right response from Western leaders as he was seen as Left-leaning.
The veteran journalist made these remarks at The Write Circle Delhi event organised by the Prabha Khaitan Foundation. Talking about Tibet, Prem Prakash said, “It was not like Pandit ji didn’t realise what China was up to, but he felt that he could handle it diplomatically because he had espoused the cause of China not only during the independence struggle but also during World War 2 when we sent a medical mission to assist the Chinese.”
“It was a big mistake. His (Nehru’s) calculations about Tibet went wrong. It was one of the mistakes that Nehru made. We had great military power and intelligence network at that time…it is that network which somewhat helped rescue Dalai Lama later on,” he added.
Further, talking about how Nehru couldn’t get the kind of response he’d like from the west despite his qualities and charming personality, Prem Prakash said it was hugely because of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who, while the Congress leaders were jailed, convinced the leaders of the west that the Congress leaders were communist/left-oriented. He gave an example of the time when Nehru visited the USA and Harry S. Truman was the president. “Truman said ‘I have never heard a communist speak so much about democracy’.”
Asked whether Nehru was a dynast, the author said, “No. Yes, he was fond of Indira (Indira Gandhi) because she looked after him but he had already chosen his successor. It was the weakness of the Congress as a party that forgot that they could choose another leader. In their effort to thwart Morarji Desai they chose Indira. So, it is the party which created the dynasty,” he said. However, he said that Indira Gandhi was a dynast.
Speaking about why India let go of Kashmir beyond the Kishanganga in 1948, he said that it was the fault of Sheikh Abdullah, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. “The Indian Army was on its way to recover Kashmir from Pakistan. It was Sheikh Abdullah who stopped them because where the ceasefire line is, beyond that begins the Punjabi speaking valley. The Army was on its way to recover the valley, but it was him who did not want any opposition.”
Prem Prakash also praised Nehru for the kind of freedom he allowed to the press during his tenure as Prime Minister. “Nehru is the only PM I have known who would meet the foreign press every year,” he said.
“It was suggested to have some control on the press after Sardar Patel restarted the Film Division which was closed after independence. But Nehru said–I am comfortable with an irresponsible independent press than a controlled press. Which prime minister in the world would believe in that kind of freedom today?” the veteran journalist said.
Prem Prakash is the author of ‘Reporting India: My Seventy-Year Journey as a Journalist.’ It was published in November 2020. (ANI)