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Nemesis or Genesis

Dilip Simeon

By V.V. Nagarkar
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1975, 515, 75.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

Nagarkar's book is yet another example of the heart-searching of the troubled generation that witness­ed Partition. His motives, as stated in the preface, are admirable—to cut through the syndrome of the search for the ‘Guilty’, to discard ‘simplistic’ and ‘inade­quate’ analysis, and seek an ‘objective’ answer. His reading is extensive and includes the latest seminar papers on communalism, the voluminous papers entitl­ed The Transfer of Power, and Wavell's The Viceroy's Journal. His book is lengthy, and covers a very wide area, stretching from references to the Wahabis, the Arya Samaj, and early Indian nationalism, right upto 1947. Nevertheless, the book fails to provide an answer to what the author calls the ‘paradoxes of Indian history’. Almost despite himself, he remains within the problematic of—Who was to Blame, We, They or the British? The picture he paints is disarmingly ‘simplistic’—the growing tide of ‘composite nationa­lism’, the British cum ashraf conspiracy against it, the mistakes of an over-generous Congress, the malevolence of the· rulers, the intransigence of Jinnah and his· ‘egotistical’ communalists, the sad and inexplicable failure of the masses to revolt, etc., etc. His sympathies for the militant nationalists leads to a glossing over of the roots of Hindu communalism. Aurobindo Ghosh is placed within the composite nationalist stream ‘uptil 1908’—an untruth. The Hindu revivalism of Tilakite and extremist politics is called ‘a natural outcome of frustration’ with the moderates, and ‘the only instruments of mass mobilization’, which, sad to say, were ‘exploited’ by the G.O.I. and the loyal ashrafs. The Arya Samaj, till 1900, is called a ‘purely social reform movement’, a characterization which is blatantly inadequate and obscure. Hindu communalism is interpreted as a reaction to Muslim separatism—as if Tilak's utterly reactionary social attitudes, on women's education or the Age of C:onsent Bill, his concept of Hindutva; or Aurobindo's mystical meander­ings and penchant for ritual; or B.C. Pal's communal/ federalist notion of composite nationalism had any­thing to do with Muslim separatism. Nagarkar's book is not valueless. A lack of footnotes notwithstanding, the body of the book com­prises a wealth of detail on the vicissitudes of communal politics in the national movement. The search for a compromise in the twenties, the anatomy of separatism, Jinnah's disregard of his own liberal principles, the malicious opportunism of leading British statesmen and bureaucrats during the Round Table Conferences and after, ...

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