The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Random Reminiscences of a Police Officer under two flags By D.G. Bhattacharyya, Gyan, Rs 890

While in school, P.G. Bhattacharyya was a budding nationalist with terrorist leanings — throwing brickbats at police vans and military armoured cars. He eventually went on to become a savvy and firm senior police officer. Written 30 years after his retirement as the inspector general of police in 1971, his reminiscences mostly relate to the turbulent years between 1927 and 1971.

According to Bhattacharyya, India’s independence spawned a variety of corruption and opportunism. To quote him, “the worst feature of present Indian polity is the all-pervading corruption which has tainted men and women in almost all walks of life from some Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers to the lowly policemen and office peons of the lowest rank and in the different strata of employees of all departments of the government, among businessmen, industrialists, doctors, politicians and their followers...”

During his long career, Bhattacharyya was a close witness to a succession of historic events which he has recounted vividly together with his incisive comments. The great Bengal Famine of 1943 which cost millions of lives, was man-made. About the great Calcutta killing of mid-August 1946 which cost at least 30,000 lives, Bhattacharyya observes, “I consider this rioting to be a great blot on the British administration and I pronounce this judgment from personal experience, visits to places rioting and complete indifference of the highest authorities in the civic administration.”

The author squarely blames Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel for the partition which brought undescribable misery “upon the Hindus and Sikhs in particular”. Nehru committed several blunders that can be traced to his “folly, vanity, indiscretion and even greed for power.” Nehru had called a ceasefire to the Indo-Pak war in 1948, when the Indian troops had been advancing and driving the Pakistani invaders out. It was a bigger folly to refer the case to the United Nations and to promise to hold a plebiscite. Adopting a democratic constitution on the lines of United Kingdom was Nehru’s other mistake. India was not at all not ripe for democracy then. Seventy five per cent of the population was illiterate, and were swayed and moved more by the charisma of the political leaders, rather than their policies.

Bhattacharyya argues that in the first few five-year plans, too much stress was laid on industrialization and little on improving the agricultural sectors.

However, the book carries a couple of factual errors. Subhas Bose escaped from his Calcutta residence in 1941 and not 1942. His wife never visited India.

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