Interview with Justice S. N. Aggarwal, author of "Had Sardar Patel been the First Prime Minister"
on Jan 18, 2022
Justice S. N. Aggarwal hails from a family of freedom fighters. After having a small stint in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, he got into P.C.S. (Judicial). He remained posted at different places as the District Judge of Patiala and Jalandhar before being elevated as a Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court in November 2004. While in High Court, Justice Aggarwal brought the trial court record of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh from Lahore (Pakistan) now lying in the High Court Museum. Justice Aggarwal also served as the President, State Consumer Redressal Commission, Punjab and later on as the Chairman, Haryana Backward Classes Commission.
He served as Law Secretary in the Andaman and Nicobar Administration at Port Blair from May 1990 to September 1992. He authored a book "The Heroes of Cellular Jail" about the supreme sacrifices made by the revolutionary patriots, incarcerated in the Cellular Jail in their struggle for the freedom of the country. Later on, he brought it out in a concise form and 'The Cellular Jail in Our Freedom Struggle' was published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) as Supplementary Reading for Senior Secondary School students to update them about this chapter of History.
Besides these two books, Justice Aggarwal has also written 5 other books on law.
Previously, he had also written the book ‘Nehru’s Himalayan Blunders: The Accession of Jammu and Kashmir’. Now, Justice Aggarwal has converted the same into a three book series. Followed by two volumes, ‘Sardar Patel: The Supreme Architect in Unification Of India’ and ‘Had Sardar Patel Been the First Prime Minister’.
Frontlist: If Sardar Patel had been the First Prime Minister of India, how developed had our foreign policy and defence structure been?
JUSTICE S.N.: So far as the Foreign Policy of Sardar Patel is concerned, it would have been friendly or favourable or it could be hard, but it would have been decided upon after great thought, consultation and considering our country’s long time interest.
For example, Pandit Nehru sought advice from Sardar Patel about a letter received by Nehru from PM Attlee that the UK Government was worried about Hong Kong as they thought there might be a possibility of the Chinese Communist attacking Hong Kong. UK wanted moral support from India but Nehru thought that we should not be entangled in their business.
Sardar Patel advised that we have to reckon with the growing Communist menace in China. If Hong Kong is to be a bastion against communism, there is something to be said for reinforcing it, but if it is merely going to be an imperialist domain, then it is obvious we can have nothing to do with it. We also have to realize that India is the only country which can withstand communist expansion in Asia. At the same time, it is obvious, that we cannot do it alone; if we have to safeguard our frontiers against communist infiltration and encroachments, we shall have to depend on outside sympathy and support. We have to bear in mind the practical considerations of today and evolve a line of approach which, while not compromising with our stand against imperialism. If Nehru had followed the advice of Sardar Patel, Hong Kong could have been saved from the Chinese Control.
Secondly, Sardar Patel advised Nehru that we have to strengthen our position in Sikkim as well as in Tibet. The farther we keep away the communist forces, the better. Tibet has long been detached from China.I anticipate that as soon as communists have established themselves in the rest of china, they will try to destroy its autonomous existence.
Thirdly, again look at Nehru’s approach. Nehru wanted to recognize Communist China first of all but Sardar Patel had advised Nehru on December 6, 1949, not to show any hurry. My own feeling is that we do not stand to gain anything substantial by giving a lead. Nehru had the intention to go in advance and he did it. Sardar Patel had a more considerate and nationalistic approach towards foreign affairs.
Fourthly, Churchill’s speech was reported in Hindustan Times where he spoke ill of India’s policy for pressing Hyderabad for accession to India. Sardar Patel asked Shankar to prepare a draft rejoinder. Shankar put it in a way that it related to Churchill and Foreign Affairs is under Nehru. Should we consult Nehru? Sardar Patel told Shankar curtly that it was not necessary and in any case, if he showed it to the Prime Minister, it would never be issued at all. The next day the rejoinder was published in the newspapers and phone calls were received congratulating Sardar Patel. Sardar Patel stated in the rejoinder: “I am glad to know that His Majesty’s Government has not fallen prey to these machinations of Mr. Churchill and his henchmen and have refused to treat the Hyderabad issue as one of internal concern of the Indian Dominion.”
The interesting part now starts. In 1949 Anthony Aden only second to Churchill in the Conservative Party of England came to India and met Sardar Patel. He said that he ‘has a message to give you from Mr. Churchill.’ Eden said that Churchill had asked him to say that he thoroughly enjoyed the retort Sardar Patel had made to him and that he had nothing but admiration. Eden went on to say that Churchill had specially said that the Sardar should not confine himself within the limits of India and that the world was entitled to see and hear more of him.
Lastly V. Shankar Secretary to Sardar Patel tells us the foreign policy of Sardar Patel in brief. “In external affairs, he (Sardar Patel) was a believer in collective endeavour in mutual-help and in a foreign policy based on national interest. His golden rule in international affairs was to speak only when necessary, to always keep national interest in view and not to be tied down to any particular bloc.” Keep options open. “He wanted to maintain an eclectic attitude in international cooperation so as to benefit from the best in every country without surrendering the freedom of choice. On this philosophy and belief, he wanted to build India’s future of glory and greatness and to secure a place for it in the committee of nations which would enable it to command both respect and influence which would be utilized for universal good.”
THIS MUCH ABOUT SARDAR PATEL’S FOREIGN POLICY
The second part of the first question is: “How developed our Defence structure had been?”
Firstly, Sardar Patel was strongly in favour of a strong military for the country’s defence. He wanted to explore the chances of establishing a factory that would manufacture arms, and ammunition and flashlights and flashlight cells. He believed that Government’s ordnance factories will be able to turn out sufficient quantities of small arms. If we have to do anything, we must do it with some speed; otherwise, others may steal a march over us.
Secondly, SS Bhatnagar (Eminent Scientist; Secretary of Union Education Ministry) wrote to Sardar Patel on September 16, 1947, that he has felt the need to write on the subject of defence of this country and for the expansion of our ordnance and ammunition factories. It is very necessary that the army of India should be prepared for all emergencies. Sardar Patel replied with a letter dated by September 23, 1947, and appreciated the intensity of feelings of SS Bhatnagar, Director General of Science and Industrial Research.
Thirdly, on December 17, 1947, Sardar Patel gave a speech on ‘What Freedom Means’ and said: “There is a great deal to do to strengthen Indian militarily. The strong army demands strong support in the matter of supply and food. We have, therefore, to husband our resources and, for that, we must forget our quarrels.” Sardar Patel in his speech in Lucknow on January 6, 1948, said: “For the reconstruction of India only two things are the need of the time. A strong Central Government and a formidable army. By army I mean all its branches - Naval, Air and Land forces.”
Fourthly, Sardar Patel addressed the Officers and Members of the Indian Air Force on October 1, 1948, and told them not to be cowards. Learn to fight bravely. Defend every inch of our country. On July 9, 1950, Sardar Patel wrote that the war clouds in Korea have set his mind thinking as to whether they were really equipping themselves for a situation in which they might be cut off from the rest of the world and might run short of essential defence or other stores. At another time Sardar Patel said that he was fully convinced that it was the time of making the best use of Hindustan Aircraft. They cannot afford to lose any more time in putting this factory to the maximum use. Had he been the person to lead the country the defence would have been his top priority.
Frontlist: Do you visualize a less bitter relationship between India and China if Patel would have been the first person to lead the country?
Justice S.N: I would answer this question by disclosing the views of Sardar Patel about the expansionist designs of China.
We go to Chapter 6 on page 64 of the book ‘Had Sardar Patel Been The First Prime Minister’. Sardar Patel wrote a letter dated November 7, 1950 to Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru around the time when Tibet’s occupancy by China came up for consideration. The letter runs into 8 pages dealing with every aspect of giving caution to Nehru to be aware of the China’s imperialist designs. On our continuous support to China, still that country stares at India. Their last telegram to us is an act of gross discourtesy, not only in the summary way it disposes of our protest against the entry of chinese forces into Tibet, but also in the wild insinuation that our attitude is determined by foreign influences. It looks as though, it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy. The people living in our border area looking like Tibetans which China could easily claim to be a part of their land.
Sardar Patel further wrote that ‘let us consider the political conditions on this potentially troublesome frontier. Our northern and north-eastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling (area) and the tribal area in Assam. From the point of view of communication, they are the weak spots. Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is almost an unlimited scope for infiltration. Police protection is limited to a very small number of passes. There, too, our outposts do not seem to be fully manned. The contact of these areas with us is by no means close and intimate. Any faltering or indecisiveness in formulating and attaining the objectives is bound to weaken us and increase the threat. Had Sardar Patel’s advice been followed by the PM Nehru, the Nation would not have undergone the calamity of total and humiliating defeat in 1962 war and huge Indian land would not have passed to the Chinese.
I must mention that Sardar Patel was a rare gift of God Almighty to India. Personalities like him rarely visit the Planet Mother Earth. He pressed upon three duties on every Indian i.e. (i) to be patriotic, (ii) to have regard for the moral values and high character and (iii) be disciplined. Had Sardar Patel been the first Prime Minister, our country would have been a fully developed country and leader in Asia probably by 1960 at the latest. If Sardar Patel had been the first Prime Minister, there was a line of nationalist politicians to follow Sardar Patel’s policy and line of action for the advancement of the country who would have succeeded Sardar Patel. Therefore, to answer your question, India would have been a developed country in 1960s. China could not have the courage to challenge India or to attack our borders. China could have been hostile to India at her own cost.
Frontlist: When Pakistan attacked India in 1947, Nehru wanted the UN to intervene on the Kashmir issue. Do you think under Patel’s leadership, any ounce of Jammu and Kashmir’s geographical land would have belonged to Pakistan ever?
Justice S. N: firstly the facts in the background are that mountbatten the governor-general of india on june 13, 1947 decided that ‘states department’ for dealing with the princely states in india would be set up in each country. then the question arose which minister of indian government should hold that department? in the meeting held by lord mountbatten on june 25, 1947, it was decided that the states department would be held by the hon’ble home minister who was sardar patel. lord mountbatten wrote a letter to his home government in london on june 27, 1947 and as item number 27 of the letter he wrote: “i am glad to say that nehru has not been put in charge of the new department, which would have wrecked everything. sardar patel, who is essentially a realist, and very sensible is going to take it over”
Secondly, Sardar Patel persuaded almost all the 550 Princely States to merge in India. Even Junagadh was made to accede to India by Sardar Patel with his own diplomacy on November 9, 1947. Hyderabad was taken over by Police Action started on September 13, 1948 by Sardar Patel and it became a part of India September 16, 1948.
Thirdly, Maharaja Hari Singh ruler of the State of Jammu and Kashmir sent the proposal of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India through Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan, the Prime Minister (designate) of Jammu and Kashmir. Mahajan wrote (page 97 of my book ‘NEHRU’S HIMALAYAN BLUNDERS: The Accession of Jammu and Kashmir’) on September 19, 1947 as under: “I also met Pandit Nehru, PM of India and I told him the terms on which the Maharaja wanted me to negotiate with India. The Maharaja was willing to accede to India and also to introduce necessary reforms in the administration of the State. He, however, wanted the question of administrative reforms to be taken up later on. Panditji wanted an immediate change in the internal administration of the State and he felt somewhat annoyed when I conveyed to him the Maharaja’s views. Nehru asked me to see that Sheikh Abdullah was set free.”
On September 19, 1947 Pakistan had not even attacked the State of Jammu and kashmir. see the foolishness of pt. jawaharlal nehru. the accession of jammu and kashmir was being offered to india on the platter, but nehru did not accept the accession. if Sardar Patel had been the first prime minister he would have immediately accepted the offer and the state of jammu and kashmir in its entirety would have become a part of india.
fourthly, otherwise also the state of Jammu and Kashmir was in the domain of sardar patel being in charge of the ministry of states. unfortunately the state of Jammu and Kashmir was withdrawn by pandit nehru from the domain of sardar patel and had taken it over to himself without any discussion in the cabinet and without even informing sardar patel with effect from october 31, 1947 after pakistan had already attacked state of Jammu and Kashmir on october 22, 1947 and the Maharaja Hari Singh had acceded to india on October 26, 1947.
Fifthly, Nehru had come to know that Pakistan is going to attack the state of Jammu and Kashmir and wrote to Sardar Patel that he (Nehru) does not know what to do and asked him ‘anyhow we should think about it, and devise some plan.’ sardar patel replied that retaliation to Pakistan was the only answer in such circumstances. Nehru did not follow the advice of Sardar Patel and lost a strategic and significant area to Pakistan.
Lastly, Nehru made a speech from Radio on November 2, 1947 of his own choice without taking the consent of the Cabinet and even of Sardar Patel. When Sardar Patel learnt about it, he sent his private Secretary to the Radio station for stopping Nehru from doing so but by then, Nehru had already started making his speech; thereby NEHRU internationalized the domestic issue between India and Pakistan. by now sardar patel was out of picture which he came to know later on. nehru acted on the advice of mountbatten and sheikh abdullah and never cared for the advice of sardar patel.
If Sardar Patel had been the first prime minister, not even an inch of land of the state of Jammu and Kashmir would have gone to Pakistan.
Frontlist: What are the reasons India has never been able to make it to the list of developed nations?
Justice S. N: The answer is very simple. Our National leadership never had the idea of bringing the country in the list of Developed Nations. Even Mahatma Gandhi, received complaints on January 12, 1948. Gandhi ji disclosed it on the post prayer speech on January 13, 1948 and it was published in the Newspapers on January 14, 1948. The two letters received were the complaints that all moral restrictions are gone. the factions in congress carry on the money-making activities of several mlas and mlcs. the people have begun to say that the british government was much better and they are even cursing the congress. gandhi ji must have felt that he had led the congress party to fight for the independence of our country so that the loot of the country by the british is stopped, and the resources of the country, are to be utilized for wiping out the tears from the eyes of the every person in the country. gandhi ji often said that ‘since independence was achieved, the congress party should cease to exist and the ruling party should adopt some other name, so that the people in power may not exploit the name of the ‘congress’ for their own selfish ends.’ the political parties took the advantage of the name of ‘congress’ and ‘gandhi ji’ and remained in power and ruled the country. the same process of misuse of power continued since then. nobody cared for bringing the name of the country in the list of developed nations. now there is a change with pm narendra modi.
Frontlist: Don’t you think the book ‘HAD SARDAR PATEL BEEN THE FIRST PRIME MINISTER’ is targeting against India’s First Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru ?
Justice S. N: Firstly, my book titled as ‘NEHRU’S HIMALAYAN BLUNDERS: The Accession of Jammu and Kashmir’ lists 18 major blunders committed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru while dealing with the State of Jammu and Kashmir. TAll these blunders which have made India to suffer at the hands of Pakistan and China could have been avoided HAD SARDAR PATEL BEEN THE FIRST PRIME MINISTER. Many more weaknesses of PM Nehru narrated in the above book blocked the onward journey of the country.
Frontlist: Had R&AW been founded at the time of Sardar Patel, how different do you think its dynamics and working would have been?
Justice S.N: India’s most powerful Intelligence Agency ‘Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)’ was established on September 21, 1968. Its motto being ‘law protects when it is protected’. The minister in charge is the Prime Minister himself. Its child agencies are (a) Electronics and Technical Services; (b) Aviation Research Centre and may be some other branches also.
Yes, if R&AW would have been founded during the time of Sardar Patel, its functions would have been limited to have a watch on the expansion designs of China. Mostly the focus of R&AW would have been on the north and north-eastern borders to ensure the safety of our people and the possible incursions by China on our land. Even possibly, the R&AW would have kept Intelligence if it was possible for India and China to demarcate their borders and the borders between India with Burma.
TR&AW would also have kept a watch over the people living around the Indian border area and considered their thoughts and know if they were happy with India or if they had been nursing an idea to go outside the country. Secondly they would have found the ground realities by which the local people were feeling the difficulty, to learn their language and to roam between them to know their inner feelings and to see if they were influenced by the Christian missionaries. They could also make those border area people friendly to our nation and for providing them easy way of living, to teach them Hindi, the National language etc. Much work could have been found for R&AW.