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Politics Under the Raj

K. Rangaswamy

By B.B. Misra
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1976, 665, 100.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 2 March-April 1977

The behaviour of Indian political parties in pre-independence days is no doubt fascinating, though only of acade­mic interest. If one is to write about events which occurred half a century and more ago, it is inevitable that one must turn to official and other documents to be found in archives, British and Indian. The subject is so vast and complex that the author does not claim that his book is a history of all the political parties in India. After briefly touching on the birth of the various parties, the author deals with the manner in which they moulded their policies and courses of action over a long period. In the absence of an authoritative history of each party one may run the risk of giving one's own interpretation of events which may well be at variance with the then thinking of the parties themselves. The study of the subject was initially undertaken at the instance of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. The author says in his preface, ‘Of the source material listed, the private papers as well as confidential reports and the secret publications of the Directorate of Intelligence Bureaux were specially help­ful in ascertaining the motivations under­lying political action.’ In fact, going thr­ough the pages, one is bound to be struck by the numerous quotations from official papers and secret documents, all British in origin, making one wonder whether the author  is not unconsciously looking at Indian history through British eyes. There is no doubt that in its infancy the Indian National Congress was supported and encouraged by liberal Englishmen, and sympathetic British officials. The author may be right in his observation that ‘the Congress itself was initially little more than a speculative experiment in the ap­plication of European ideas and princi­ples of liberalism to Indian political con­ditions.’ But, as time went on, when the nationalist urge influenced the think­ing and actions of the Congress, there developed inevitably a clash of interests between British imperialism and Indian nationalism. The behaviour of political parties at a given time is entirely depen­dent on what happened in the country then in relation to the political objective set before them and cannot therefore be judged in a vacuum.         The author has accorded exaggerated importance to the role of the leftists in pre-Independence days. Apart from a few intellectuals, the left parties ...

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