This Day in History (20-Feb-1947) – Lord Mountbatten appointed as last viceroy of India

In October 1943, Lord Mountbatten became the supreme allied commander, South East Asia Command (SEAC), a position he held until 1946. He achieved the defeat of the Japanese offensive towards India and the reconquest of Burma. In September 1945, he received the Japanese surrender at Singapore. In 1947, Mountbatten was appointed as the Viceroy of India. He mainly administered the British withdrawal from India with minimal reputation damage and the transition from British India to independent states of India and Pakistan.

Mountbatten was fond of Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru and his liberal outlook for the country. Though Mountbatten emphasized on the united, independent India, he could not influence Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who demanded a separate Muslim state of Pakistan, despite being aware of the difficulties that would arise while meeting the demands.  Unable to sway away Jinnah from his modus operandi of a separate Muslim state, Mountbatten adapted himself to the changing situation and concluded that his vision for a united India was an unachievable dream. He then resigned himself to a plan for partition, creating the independent nations of India and Pakistan.

He worked towards setting a fixed date for the transfer of power from British India to the Indians. At the stroke of midnight on August 14-15, 1947, India and Pakistan attained independence. Mountbatten served as the country’s first Governor General for ten months until June 1948.

Mountbatten also developed a strong relationship with the Indian princes, who ruled those portions of India not directly under British rule. His intervention was decisive in persuading the vast majority of them to see advantages in opting to join the Indian Union. Thus the integration of the princely states can be viewed as one of the positive aspects of his legacy.

In 1953, Mountbatten returned to the Royal Navy, becoming commander of a new NATO Mediterranean command. Finally, he retired from the navy in 1965 as a Chief of the defence staff. In 1979, Mountbatten was murdered when IRA terrorists blew up his boat off the coast of County Sligo, Ireland.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/february/20

http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/lord-mountbatten-15.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Mountbatten,_1st_Earl_Mountbatten_of_Burma

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/mountbatten_lord_louis.shtml

This Day in History (21-Jan-1952) – Indian National Congress party wins the 1st General Election of India under the ledearship of Jawaharlal Nehru

The 1951 general election was of great importance to the country as it was the very first general election held in India after Independence. Based upon universal adult suffrage, these elections were an opportunity for anyone with 21 years or older in age to participate in the democratic process. Organizing the first-ever elections in India was an arduous task and it took around four months: October 25, 1951 to February 21, 1952 to get over. Though the Indian National Congress was the largest political party in India at that time, favorable atmosphere was created for opposition parties too to take part in the elections. Before Independent India went to the polls, two former cabinet colleagues of Nehru established separate political parties to challenge the INC’s supremacy. While Shyama Prasad Mookerjee went on to found the Jana Sangh, Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar revived the Scheduled Castes Federation (which was later named the Republican Party).

The election was held in 26 Indian states. Around 170,000 candidates wanted a chance in the state assemblies for around 3,278 seats. Besides, there were 489 seats to be filled in the Lok Sabha, for which around 1,800 candidates contested. It was the INC that tried its best at all levels to win the interest and trust of people across the nation. In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru, in his election campaigning, approached about one tenth of India’s population, or 35 million people, by covering about 40,000 km. 17.6 Cr Indians, 85 per cent of whom couldn’t read or write, formed the electorate. Symbols were used on ballot papers for voters who couldn’t read. Voter turnout was 45.7%.

The Indian National Congress party won 364 of the 489 seats with around 45% votes all over the country, over four times as many as the second-largest party. B. R. Ambedkar was defeated in the Bombay constituency by a little-known Kajrolkar. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the country. The Congress formed the government at the Centre and in all the states. It did not get a majority on its own in four states-Madras, Travancore-Cochin, Orissa and PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab State Union)—but formed governments even there with the help of independents and smaller, local parties which then merged with it.

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.elections.in/parliamentary-constituencies/1951-election-results.html

http://indiansaga.com/history/postindependence/elections_results.html

This Day in History (9-Dec-1942) – Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis, doctor of international fame, died at Kokun village, China

In 1938, the communist General Zhu De requested Jawaharlal Nehru to send Indian physicians to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War to help the soldiers. The President of the Indian National Congress, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose accepted the request and made arrangements to send a team of volunteer doctors. A medical team of five doctors was sent as the part of Indian Medical Mission Team in September 1938. The medical team comprised of M. Atal, M. Cholkar, D. Kotnis (28 years), B.K. Basu and D. Mukerji. All other doctors except Dr. Kotnis, returned back to India.

However, Dr. Kotnis decided to stay back and serve at the military base. He initially started his work in Yan’an and then went to the anti-Japanese base area in North China where he worked in the surgical department of the Eighth Route Army General Hospital as the physician-in-charge. His job as a battlefront doctor was stressful, where there was always an acute shortage of medicines. In one long-drawn out battle against Japanese troops in 1940, Dr. Kotnis performed operations for up to 72 hours, without getting any sleep. He treated more than 800 wounded soldiers during the battle. He was eventually appointed as the Director of the Dr. Bethune International Peace Hospital named after the famous Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune.

In 1940, Dr. Kotnis met Guo Qinglan, a nurse at the Bethune Hospital. The couple got married in December 1941. They had a son, who was named Yinhua – meaning India (Yin) and China (Hua). The hardship of the stressful job as a front-line doctor finally started to take its toll on him and severely affected his health. Only three months after the birth of Yinhua, epilepsy struck Dr.Kotnis. A series of epileptic seizures proved fatal to the young doctor and he passed away on 9 December 1942. To commemorate his death and his unparalleled contribution to humanity, the Chinese government erected a memorial hall and issued government stamps on the loving memory of his name. Dr. Kotnis has been commemorated with the Canadian Dr. Bethune in the Martyrs’ Memorial Park in Shijiazhuang with the entire south side of the memorial dedicated to Dr. Kotnis.

 

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.iloveindia.com/indian-heroes/dwarkanath-kotnis.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwarkanath_Kotnis

This Day in History (25-Nov-1956) – Lal Bahadur Shastri, resigns from Railway Minitery, taking moral responsibility for Ariyalur rail disaster setting a rare example for politicians

Lal Bahadur Shastri was appointed as the Railways and Transport Minister in the Central Cabinet in 1952. Shastriji strove hard to set right and regulate the railways. He succeeded in this to a large extent. There were four classes- first, second, intermediate and third in the railways then. First class compartments offered extreme luxury and were almost heavenly. But the discomfort of passengers in the third class compartments was beyond description. Shastriji reduced the vast disparity. The first class was abolished. The old second came to be known as the first class and the intermediate class as the second class. His idea was to have only two classes of compartments in course of time – the first and the second. It was he who provided more facilities to travelers in third class compartments. It was during his time that fans were provided in the third class compartments. He also worked hard to improve the administration of Railways and to eliminate thefts in the trains.

In 1956, 144 passengers died in an accident that took place near Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu. Just three months before this, an accident had occurred at Mehboob Nagar in which 112 people died. Shastriji was in no way directly responsible for these accidents. Yet he was very much pained. He felt he could not escape the moral responsibility for them. He had submitted his resignation letter to Pandit Nehru when the Mehboob Nagar accident took place. But Nehru had not accepted it. But when the Ariyalur accident took place Shastriji said, ‘I must do penance for this. Let me go.’ So strong was his sense of responsibility.

People used to call him the homeless Home Minister because he did not have a house of his own. He had rented a small house in Allahabad. Even when he was a minister, he used to stay in that house when he went to Allahabad. After a few days the owner of the house let it out to another family. When Shastriji resigned as minister he vacated the government quarters and he did not have a place to line in! Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first person to be posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, (India’s highest civilian award).

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.freeindia.org/biographies/greatleaders/shastri/page16.htm

http://www.freeindia.org/biographies/greatleaders/shastri/page17.htm

http://www.freeindia.org/biographies/greatleaders/shastri/page18.htm

http://www.culturalindia.net/leaders/lal-bahadur-shastri.html

This Day in History (18-Sep-1948) – Operation Polo is terminated after the Indian Army Accepts the Surrender of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s Army

Spread over most of the Deccan Plateau, the Hyderabad State was established by Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah in 1724 after the end of the Mughal Empire. Under the rule of Mir Usman Ali, the Hyderabad state was very prosperous and had its own army, railway and airline network, postal system and radio network. In 1947, the then Indian Home Minister Sardar Patel requested the Nizam to join India, but he refused and instead declared Hyderabad an independent nation on 15th August 1947, the day Indian received Independence. The Indian Government then offered Hyderabad a Standstill Agreement, which assured the state that no military action would be taken against it. Unlike the other princely states which acceded to either India or Pakistan, Hyderabad only promised India that it would not join Pakistan. In June 1948, Lord Mountbatten proposed the Heads of Agreement deal which gave Hyderabad the status of an autonomous dominion nation under India. The deal was signed by India, but the Nizam refused to sign this saying that he either wanted complete independence or the status of a dominion under the British Commonwealth of Nations. While these negotiations were being carried out, communal riots between Hindus and Muslims had broken out in Hyderabad. The state was also busy arming itself and was receiving arms from Pakistan and the Portuguese administration in Goa.

As soon as the Indian Government received information that Hyderabad was arming itself and planning to ally with Pakistan, Sardar Patel described the idea of an Independent Hyderabad as “an ulcer in the heart of India which needed to be removed surgically”. This was when talks between India and Hyderabad broke down and India decided to annex Hyderabad under “Operation Polo” and “Operation Caterpillar”, or more commonly referred to as “Police Action”. The battle between India and Hyderabad began on 13th September 1948 and ended on 18th September 1948 after which the Nizam’s army surrendered to the Indian Army and Hyderabad became a part of the Union of India. It is estimated that 32 were killed and 97 injured on the Indian side and 490 killed and 122 wounded on the Hyderabadi side. Subsequentky Hyderabad state was merged with Andhra state to form Andhra Pradesh in 1956.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofindia.com/on-this-day/18th-september-1948-operation-polo-is-terminated-after-the-indian-army-accepts-the-surrender-of-the-nizam-of-hyderabads-army

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/hyderabad-indian-army-telangana-police-action-independent-india/1/309167.html

This Day in History (8-Sep-1962) – The Chinese make their First Incursion into Indian Territory in the Eastern Sector

In May 1954, India and China signed the Panchsheel Treaty (Five principles of peaceful co-existence). Despite this in January 1959 Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai lays claim to more than 40,000 sq miles of Indian territory in Ladakh and NEFA (present day Arunachal Pradesh). Talk to sort out the border issue in April 1960 between Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Indian Prime Minister Nehru, ended in a dead end at New Delhi. On 8th September 1962 the Chinese made their first incursion into Indian Territory in the Eastern sector. Later the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said that the Indian Army had instructions to “free our territory” and the troops were given the freedom to exercise their judgment to use force whenever they found it necessary.

However, on 11th September 1962 when the Chinese incursions did not stop the patrols were given the permission to fire at any armed Chinese entering Indian Territory. This was the beginning of Sino-Indian war which began on 20th October 1962. At the time, nine divisions from the eastern and western commands were deployed by India along the Himalayan border with China. None of these divisions was up to its full troop strength, and all were short of artillery, tanks, equipment, and even adequate articles of clothing.

On 19th November 1962, China declared a cease fire following which firing along the border stopped. After administering a blistering defeat in 1962, the Chinese forces withdrew 20 km behind the McMahon Line, which China called “the 1959 line of actual control” in the Eastern Sector, and 20 km behind the line of its latest position in Ladakh, which was further identified with the “1959 line of actual control” in the Western Sector. The Sino-India war is notable for the harsh conditions under which it was fought. Combat took place at an altitude of 4,250 meters. During the war, neither country deployed the Air Force or Navy. Later in 1993 and 1996 both India and China signed the Sino-Indian Peace and Tranquility Accords agreeing to maintain peace and harmony along the LoAC.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofindia.com/on-this-day/8th-september-1962-the-chinese-make-their-first-incursion-into-indian-territory-in-the-eastern-sector

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/indo-prc_1962.htm

This Day in History (17-Aug-1947) – The Radcliffe Line, the border between the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan is revealed

When the India-Pakistan partition was evident, in June 1947, Britain commissioned Sir Cyril Radcliffe to head the two Boundary Commissions (one for Punjab and the other for Bengal), to equitably divide 4,50,000 km sq of territory with 88 million people. Each Boundary Commission had four representatives, two from the Congress and two from the Muslim League and given the tension between the both, the decision regarding the boundary ultimately lay with Radcliffe. Radcliffe was a brilliant legal mind, but he had no border-making experience, nor had he ever been to India. He arrived in India on 8th July 1947 and was given five weeks to work on the border. While defining the boundary, Radcliffe also took into consideration “natural boundaries, communications, watercourses and irrigation systems”, while paying heed to socio-political affairs. Radcliffe completed the boundary line a few days before Independence.

Understandably, Radcliffe’s final proposals met with howls of disapproval from both sides. Even before he had completed his work, mutual suspicion and rumors about the eventual course of the border led to deadly violence on the ground. To create perceptual distance between the independence of India and Pakistan and the accompanying riots — and especially to deflect blame for the latter from Britain — Mountbatten postponed publication of the Radcliffe Border Commissions’ findings to two days after Aug. 15. For those two days, India and Pakistan were like conjoined twins. With long stretches of the border undefined on Independence Day, some towns raised both the Indian and Pakistani flags. Following the release of the border scheme, called the Radcliffe Award, violence escalated to horrendous levels. When all was over, pogroms and ethnic cleansing had left up to 1 million dead and forced 12 million to move one way or the other across the new border. Disgusted and horrified, Radcliffe burned all his papers and refused the fee of 40,000 rupees for his work. He left on Independence Day and never returned.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofindia.com/on-this-day/17th-august-1947-the-radcliffe-line-the-border-between-the-union-of-india-and-the-dominion-of-pakistan-is-revealed

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/peacocks-at-sunset/?_r=0