How our first three Bharat Ratnas proved right

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma, writes on what the nation’s first three Bharat Ratnas—C. Rajagopalachari, Dr S. Radhakrishnan and Sir C.V. Raman—presciently said as India’s freedom loomed over the horizon and how they have all been proved right.

C. Rajagopalachari: “We all ought to know that Swaraj will not at once or, I think, even for a long time to come, be better government or greater happiness for the people. Elections and their corruptions, injustice, and the power and tyranny of wealth, and inefficiency of administration, will make a hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old regime of comparative justice, and efficient, peaceful, more or less honest administration. The only thing gained will be that as a race we will be saved from dishonour and subordination.”

Dr S. Radhakrishnan, 1947: “Our opportunities are great but let me warn you that when power strips ability, we will fall on evil days… From tomorrow morning — from midnight today — we can no longer throw the blame on the British. We have to assume the responsibility ourselves for what we do. A free India will be judged by the way in which it will serve the interests of the common man in the matter of food, clothing, shelter and the social services. Unless we destroy corruption in high places, root out every trace of nepotism, love of power, profiteering and black-marketing which have spoiled the good name of this great country in recent times, we will not be able to raise the standards of efficiency in administration…”

Sir C.V. Raman: “Success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task lying in front of you and there is nothing worth in this world that can come without the sweat of our brow. I can assert without fear of contradiction that the quality of the Indian mind is equal to the quality of any Teutonic, Nordic or Anglo-Saxon mind. What we lack is perhaps courage, what we lack is perhaps driving force which takes one anywhere. We have, I think, developed an inferiority complex. I think what is needed in India today is the destruction of that defeatist spirit…”

Gopal Gandhi writes by way of conclusion:

“The first three Bharat Ratnas foresaw more than ordinary mortals can. But even they could not foresee the self-contradictory piquancy of our predicament today.

“The liberal Indian, the Indian with a secular conscience, an innately democratic instinct, a value for civil rights, is shown up as effete, a political pansy, whereas the macho rattler of sabres, is offered to the nation as its saviour.

“A country with its work ethic weakened, its abilities outstripped by narrow self-interests, and its domination by the power and tyranny of wealth well-nigh complete, is easily persuaded to say ‘give us a benign dictator’. Fascism comforts the sloth of mind, the slow of thought, the valuationally sluggish. Fascism excites the timid, the languid and the bored.

“And so we are seeing rise in the very heart of a democratic but languorous India a poison plume of the most corrosive intolerance. In the coming months the nation will be obsessed with who will ‘make it’ to the Lal Qila next August 15. That is only natural. But we should be agonizing about what kind of flag will be unfurled on its ramparts — the great national tricolour or one with a skull and crossed bones sewn behind it.”

Read the full article: A chronicle foretold