Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2017.
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I normally do not write prefaces to books written by friends but Dr. Lalwani is an exception, because the subject of the book is rather unusual and I respect him for writing it.
Many Indian patriots may not like to hear or read that an Indian, though today domiciled in UK for many long years should publicly confess that Indians have to be grateful for some valuable almost colossal benefits that British rule has bestowed on India. The fear is genuine and I am almost sure that such patriots exist in very large numbers.
False conceit often trumps unpleasant truth. A highly educated author belonging to the brave Sikh community should without the slightest hesitation publish and declare the truth, the whole truth and nothing but truth. Loyalty to history cannot be diluted by an irrational fear. The author’s reputation guarantees that no sensible person will suspect any fly in the ointment. Dr. Lalwani is no sycophant or buyable with a material reward. Besides I fully concur that Indians should be grateful for some permanent blessings of colonial rule which only the civilized British could confer upon us.
Indians have been the heirs of the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro civilization which flourished in our part of the world more than five thousand years before the birth of Christ. Europe had long fondly believed history had started with the Greeks and that India was a dark continent inhabited by barbarians until their civilized cousins, the Aryans brought to them the light of civilization. This insolence was shattered in 1924 by the breath taking discoveries of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, a few hundred miles to the north of India. The excavations disclosed 4 or 5 superimposed cities with hundreds of slightly built brick houses and shops ranged along with wide streets, as well as narrow lanes, rising in many cases to several storeys. The evidence indisputably established that during the third and fourth millennium BC there existed in the area very highly developed city life, housed with wells and bathrooms and an elaborate drainage system and a general condition of citizens superior to that prevailing in contemporary Babylonia and Egypt. There was much more to make India proud but I must skip the temptation to beat my own drums.
As civilization matures the humans become peace loving, weak and sometimes indifferent to the mundane affairs of this world. These ancestors of ours met the Alexander the Macedonian Emperor on the banks of the Indus. They laughed hysterically when he told them about his plans of world conquest. By ridicule, they persuaded him to abandon his foolish plan and return to his native place. But they did give him a glimpse of their spiritual life. Even so India did continue its process of debilitating indifference to the world around them. Foreigners took advantage and continued to pour into India, Mohammed Bin Kassim in the 8th century, the Gauris, Ghaznwis and the Mughals. By the 17th century, India was a part of the Mughal empire. But that dynasty gave us magnificent emperors like Akbar the Great, and Shah Jahan the Magnificent. They became respectable Indians and ruled justly and earned the respect of their subjects. Unfortunately their descendants turned out to be religious fanatics and forfeited the respect and loyalty of their subjects and the British Crown took over from the Company. But the Dynasty left remarkable architecture like the famous Taj, local industry and exports. The British had ventured into India during the regime of Emperor Akbar, of course, initially as traders.
We were so helpless, emaciated and corrupt that a British company called the East India Company almost became a sovereign power. They had strong physiques, the benefit of scientific discoveries, the Industrial revolution, superior education and weapons of war.
Yes, like all colonial powers, even British practised economic exploitation but in the process conferred large benefits on us. British ruled us but surely they rescued the majority of Indians from the hated Jaziya Tax which converted all non Muslims into degraded inferior serfs of some sort.
A crazy young philosopher, I forget his name or the name of his Book, decided to answer a question, a very famous one by the great Einstein: “Did God have any choice in creating the Universe”?
For long he examined the mind of God and reached a not very flattering answer so far as God is concerned. His answer was: “It is a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time and a Creator who had nothing better to do.”
History of this crazy world is a long story of changes in every aspect of human life. The rise and fall of ruling dynasties, ever changing ethical and religious beliefs, periods of peace and growth, new discoveries of science and growth alternating with war, famine and destructions, new discoveries of science and growth of religions, vast changes in the styles of living alternating between prosperity and penury.
The Europeans had developed a new outlook of respect for India within a few decades. India was making a strong claim to self rule and political independence.
Dr. Lalwani has good cause to be appreciative of the great good the British Connection has brought to us. They prepared us for self rule and finally made a graceful exit.
Even in the period of monarchy when Democracy and a Secular Constitution for free India was still a distant dream , education of the leaders like Gandhi Ji and Jawarlal Nehru in British Universities had created a longing for democracy, Rule of Law, an independent Judiciary to make the weak prevail against the strong, eliminating religious fanaticism and hatred and a life guided wholly by reason and logic but inspired by love and compassion. Our new Constitution of free India anxiously copied the British model of governance. Debates in our Constituent Assembly testify to this finest gift for which we do owe to the British a lot of appreciation and gratitude.
Even before the discovery of the ancient Harappa Civilization, the West had discovered in Swami Vivekananda, an amazing Indian philosopher with very few to come near him in his intellectual attainments. He attempted to combine Indian Spirituality with Western Materialism and became the main force behind the Vedanta movement in the West. The West has not forgotten till today his speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Illinois in September 1893. For years before the amazing Harappa discoveries, right in their country, he attacked American attitude of contempt for the Blacks and their praise for the Whites. To put an end to this cultural homicide he advised that the Negro must rise up with an affirmation of his own Olympian manhood. “No Lincolnian Emancipation Proclamation or Johnsonian Civil Rights Bill can totally bring this kind of freedom” he thundered. Then he turned to Nietzschean philosophy ‘Will to Power’ and rejected it. We must get the thing right; We must realize that power without love is reckless and abusive; and love without power is sentimental and anaemic . He then propounded the doctrine of non violence. It is the most important weapon available to the Black in this struggle for justice. Through violence you kill the hater but you do not conquer hate, he argued.
The Americans learnt a lot from what this great Indian said to them. India rose in the esteem of our rulers too and I am almost sure that after the first quarter of the next century was over the British had decided that their rule will have to end soon and a new era of mutual respect and cooperation will start. The legatees of Harappa can’t remain slaves. The peaceful transformation of the next quarter of the century is proof of British grace and goodwill.
While I write this, it is impossible to ignore the great British born theosophist Dr. Annie Besant who was a scholar of Hindu Shastras, accepted as an axiom for life the shastric principle ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ meaning the whole world is my family. She wrote and lectured on Hinduism. She was a poet, excellent orator and a versatile tornado of power and passion. She loved India, became its leader and in her speech in South India at the First Students Conference in June 1916 she advised the students to get ready to be the leaders of India by mastering history, logic and political economy. She had obviously a strong intuition that British Rule was coming to an end, and India deserves its freedom.
While coming to the end I remind myself that I am the country's oldest practising lawyer and teacher of law. I can't resist citing judicial precedents to support my views. When our Constituent Assembly was drafting the new Constitution of free India we doubtless had decided to copy a Westminster model of democracy. We created a Council of Ministers to aid and advice the President but we forgot to provide in express terms that the President of India will normally be bound by it . This lacuna, somewhat serious in a written and detailed constitution ,was noticed only after about a quarter of a century after the Constitution came into force in 1950. The lacuna was filled up by a judgment of the Supreme Court of India afterwards. One of our finest judges, Justice Krishna Iyer in his inimitable style wrote -' Not the Potomac but the Thames fertilized the flow of the Yamuna, if we may adopt a riverine imagery'. In this thesis we are fortified by the precedent of this Court, strengthened by the Constituent Assembly proceedings and reinforced by the actual working of the organ involved for about a silver jubilee ' span of time '. Thus was laid the rule that the President of India is as much bound by ministerial advice as the British monarch.
Dr Lalwani is on the right track.