Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
HVK Archives: Isn't India ready to question 'icons', asks Wolpert

Isn't India ready to question 'icons', asks Wolpert - The Pioneer

Stanley Wolpert ()
14 February 1997

Title : Isn't India ready to question 'icons', asks Wolpert
Author : Stanley Wolpert
Publication : The Pioneer
Date : February 14, 1997

Historian Stanley Wolpert, professor of South Asian History,
University of California, Los Angeles, has stirred a hornet's nest
with his allegation that the young Nehru had several homosexual
encounters both in India and abroad. Following publication of
excerpts from his book in The Pioneer on January 26, there has been
both condemnation of his "scandalous" allegations and support for
his research.

This week, we received a fox communication from Prof Wolpert,
defending his book and criticising The Pioneer's "selective"
publication of excerpts as well as our editorial comment. In the
interests of public debate and journalistic fairplay, we publish
below Mr Wolpert's letter in full.

Your vicious and malicious attack against me and my best and most
important book, Nehru: A Tryst With Destiny, cannot go unanswered.
You devoted two columns of your front page to quoting several
passages all taken out of context, from my 500 page life of Nehru,
distorting what little I noted about his youthful sexual attitudes
and his relationships at Harrow and in Cambridge. You headlined
that piece "A below-the-belt attack...... which indeed it was on
the part of the writer, Mr Kanchan Gupta, who revers Nehru as "the
icon of modern India." An icon is a "sacred image," or an "object
of uncritical devotion, worshipped as a divinity. "

Two days after your first assault, you wrote a lead editorial,
headlined "Sacrilege!", ending that piece of wretched libel by
calling my biography "blasphemy." You obviously consider Nehru
nothing less than a God, whose fife may only be written about and
discussed by anointed priests who offer appropriate puja and
genuflect at the altar of his Teen Murti Mausoleum.

Nehru himself abhorred such nonsense, bowing to no icon, closing
his remarkably brilliant mind to no truth, however painful it might
be, believing, as I do, in your Government's fine motto, Satyameva

Is India not yet ready after half a century of freedom to read
about, and freely to discuss and debate, the true nature and human
weaknesses, as well as divine strengths, of your greatest leaders,
national heroes, inspired poets, sages, pandits, and Mahatmas?

Are you not strong enough as a Nation, or are some of your
self-appointed guardians of the "sacred icon" not brave enough or
wise enough fully to face at times disturbing, even painful, truths
about human beings like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, and
Krishna Menon, and Subhas Bose, or "Dickie" Mountbatten, and his
wife Edwina, each and all of whom helped in some way, great or
small to shape and change the course of recent Indian History?

Must India wait till the next millennium before opening all those
scaled riles of public papers and private letters, before opening
what should be an illuminating and enlightening debate about the
wisdom or errors, the faith and folly even of Prime Ministers and

I first met Prime Minister Nehru when I came to India 40 years ago
to write my doctoral dissertation on Tilak and Gokhale. I admired
him then, and I still admire him, having taught the History of
India here ever since, inspired to do so in good measure, thanks to
his Discovery of India and Towards Freedom. I think I know him
better now, of course, but that knowledge is the karmic fruit of my
half century of devotion to the study of Indian History and freedom
struggle. Mine is no "film scribe's" fascination, as you have so
grossly put it (in the editorial).

Long years ago, I made my own tryst with India, Sir, and have since
published no fewer than fifteen scholarly books on the subject.

One further point of personal privilege. You have insultingly
linked my name to the "Western" sins of Robert Clive and Thomas
Babington Macaulay, obviously never having read a word of my "A New
History of India", now in its fifth edition.

I deal at some length with the swashbuckling bully" Clive, as I
call him, whose rapacity and greed plundered and looted Bengal of
its riches, with which he sailed home to buy up London houses and
"Nabob" carriages with the rotten-borough seats in Parliament that
brought no peace to his sick mind, finally driving him to blow out
his own brains before he turned 50.

Macaulay was much less rapacious, of course, but even more arrogant
than Clive, for as I note in my textbook. Though he had by
confession "no knowledge of either Sanskrit or Arabic," he
nonetheless smugly argued that "all the historical information from
all the books in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than whit
may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory
schools in England."

I have learned enough Sanskrit to read some or its great classics
and full 40 years I have taught thousands of my own students that
the English still ran naked and painted their bodies blue when
Indians mastered the Vedantic wisdom of "Tat tvam asi" and recited
the Bhagavad Gita.

Sir, I believe with Mahatma Gandhi that "Ahimsa paramo Dharma ahe!"
Please do not again compare me to Clive. I hope you have the
decency to publish this letter.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements