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Uma Iyengar

Edited by Paul Brass
Oxford India Paperbacks, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1977, 528, 45.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 2 March-April 1977

‘The three and a half years of Lord Wavell’s Viceroyalty from October 1943 to March 1947 was probably the most difficult and momentous period of office that any Viceroy has had to face. The crucial significance of these years and the great services that Wavell rendered during them to India and Britain, though recognized to some extent at the time have not since then received the appreciation that is their due…. Lord Wavell's Journal, along with some of his notes and memoranda, should help to correct a number of misconceptions and will lead, perhaps, to a better appraisal of his achi­evements as Viceroy and his qualities as a man,’ says Sir Penderel Moon in his Introduction. Most diaries and memoirs, in spite of professions to the contrary tend to be written consciously or unconsciously with an eye on the reader and the public image created thereby. Wavell's Journal is however an exception. He says, ‘I have always been honest in the entries and have tried to represent accurately the events, discussions and impressions of the time.’ From these honest entries the picture that emerges is one of a dithering politician full of prejudices, accused of attempting to erect matchwood dams against the Indian political torrent. ‘Indians’, he records, ‘are a docile peo­ple and a comparatively small amount of force ruthlessly used might be sufficient.’ ‘He took over the Viceroyalty visu­alizing himself to be the chief instrument in opening a new chapter of Indian history. ‘I have found H.M.G's attitude to India negligent, hostile and contemp­tuous ... If India is not to be ruled by force it must be ruled by the heart rather than the head. Our move must be sincere and friendly ...’  Yet he himself began with a stiff anti-­Congress attitude with definite partisan views in favour of the Muslim League. The least damaging thing that can be said of him is that he was a conscientious and dutiful man who neither understood politics nor was at home with politi­cians. To him Gandhi was ‘an unscru­pulous old hypocrite, exceedingly shre­wd, obstinate, domineering (and) double-tongued’, ‘more malevolent than benevolent.’ Jawaharlal Nehru whom he liked in spite of himself, he term­ed as sincere, well-educated and person­ally courageous, but lacking balance and political courage. ‘Rajagopalachari.’ he said, ‘certainly does not give the impres­sion of a forcible character—very few Indians do—’; ...

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