Condolence Message of His Excellency Shri Balmiki Prasad Singh Governor of Sikkim on passing away of Shri B R Nanda
1st June, 2010
BALRAM NANDA (1917-2010)
Shri Balram Nanda breathed his last on 30th May, 2010 at his New Delhi residence. In the passing away of Shri Balram Nanda, the Nation has lost a scholar-public servant of outstanding ability, vision and commitment. He combined in himself rare qualities of a scholar and an institution builder.
A brilliant student of History at Lahore University of undivided India, B.R. Nanda joined the Indian Railways service and moved on to scholarship under fortuitous circumstances. In fact, the Indian Railways have to their credit two outstanding writers: Jim Corbett of the colonial period and B.R.Nanda of post- 1947 era.
Freedom Struggle and Nanda
Shri B.R. Nanda is the foremost narrator of India’s freedom struggle. This scholar-savant has written and edited more than a dozen of books on India’s freedom struggle.
Shri B.R. Nanda has covered every aspect of freedom movement covering all the three protagonists in the struggle; the British, the Congress and the Muslim League.
His latest work Road to Pakistan: The Life and Times of Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Routledge 2010) was released at India International Centre on 25th April, 2010.
Road to Pakistan makes us understand the origins of India-Pakistan conflict which are rooted in history: division of India as two nation-states of India and Pakistan in 1947 based on religion (in the name of incompatibilities between Hinduism and Islam).
Partition of India was not only a political failure but also a civilizational failure.
Subsequent events like repeated use of military to secure control over Kashmir; emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country carved out of Pakistan’s eastern wing in 1971; continuing fear among the elite of Pakistan that India is not yet reconciled to its sovereign status; and belief in India that Pakistan promotes terrorism against India as a state policy have added to the enormity of the problem. Above all, something has gone into the inner psyche of the two nation-states that has deepened the level of distrust and has provided unbending attitudes towards resolution of the disputes.
Fortunately, there is growing realization not only in India and Pakistan but all over the world that the two nuclear armed countries do not have the option of a military solution of their problems. A belief is slowly emerging that it is only through dialogue that a solution that will satisfy India and Pakistan can be worked out.
Although conflicts and animosities have come in the way of poverty alleviation and other development programmes, fundamentalists are still sticking to hard-line approaches. Sometimes one wonders as to whether the rationale for animosity is animosity itself.
B.R. Nanda’s biography on Jinnah describes how this great champion of Indian unity (a powerful advocate of joint electoral of both Hindu and Muslim in British India) became a protagonist of partition when he made his first speech at a Friday Congregation in a mosque in 1936.
Shri B.R. Nanda’s Road to Pakistan will help us see the entire spectrum of the problems between the two countries in a historical perspective. In his own characteristic fashion, he writes: Jinnah’s achievement in the creation of the state of Pakistan was remarkable. The methods by which it was achieved accentuated communal tension and left a bitter legacy between the two successor states of British India. It is a legacy that still haunts India-Pakistan in different and painful ways.
Inspiration of Bapu
The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on 30th June, 1948 by a Hindu fanatic deeply moved him. In his own words Mahatma Gandhi on that day entered into his bloodstream. And a decade later, B.R. Nanda produced an outstanding book on Mahatma Gandhi which has turned to be a classic. The Book has been reprinted in the UK, the USA, India and has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian and several Indian languages.
During the last half century, this biography of Mahatma Gandhi has deeply influenced the minds of generations of people who wanted to know about Mahatma Gandhi and his works. Oxford University Press celebrated 50 years of this book by publishing another edition of the book this year. In every major book shop not only in India but also in different parts of the world B.R. Nanda’s biography of Mahatma Gandhi could be seen along with Bapu’s Autobiography and Hind Swaraj.
Nehru and Nanda
Impressed by Nanda’s biography on Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, entrusted his father’s papers to Shri Nanda and the result was an authentic book entitled ‘We Nehrus’.
India’s Youth of Tomorrow and Freedom Movement
Our freedom movement was an epic phenomenon in which men, women and children participated. It addressed not only the dominant issue of removal of colonial rule from India but went beyond. It addressed social concerns of removal of untouchability, spread of literacy and equality. This received considerable support from leadership as well as the masses. In the process, women were empowered, untouchability was severely mauled, and certain aspects of our traditions were openly attacked.
The works of Shri Nanda will continue to generate interest among the youth as well as to scholars of History as also those interested in modern political thoughts and South Asian Studies.
I have, however, always felt that India’s freedom struggle will also be of interest to literature and creativity. Accordingly, B.R. Nanda’s works would also be relevant to poets, painters, music composers and film makers.
In the event, freedom struggle attracts poetic genius of the caliber of Sant Tulsidas, B.R. Nanda’s books on Mahatma Gandhi, Jamnalal Bajaj, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Motilal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, Jawaharlal Nehru, Govind Ballabh Pant, and of course, the latest work on Mohammad Ali Jinnah would provide ample inspiration and historical material to such a creative mind.
If contemporary history is any guide, Shri Nanda’s works would also inspire future leaders not only within India but in the wider world whenever they would seek to make truth and non-violence as instruments of political, social and cultural change.
After the death of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Education Minister Shri M.C. Chagla suggested to the Cabinet to appoint Shri B.R. Nanda as the Director of newly created Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at New Delhi in Teen Murti House, the place from where Nehru had helped shape the destiny of India and went on to make major contributions to world peace for 17 long years as Prime Minister.
As founder-Director of Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, B.R. Nanda strove hard to make this institute the foremost centre of learning on South Asia in the world. He worked relentlessly as Chairman of National Gandhi Museum to perpetuate the memories of Bapu among the youth.
A Blessed Person
The President of India honoured him with Padma Vibhushan in 2002. The students of India’s freedom movement would honour him in years to come by reading and getting inspired from his works. It will be a celebration of his life. Shri B.R. Nanda is really a blessed person and belongs to rare individuals of that genre.
It was a privilege to have known him for the last three decades and to have interacted with him on numerous subjects. This developed into a bond of friendship. It is really loss of an elder in the family.
I join his family members, numerous friends and admirers in prayers for peace of his soul.