BOOK REVIEW: HEY RAM TO JAI SHREE RAM … 20 Dates that Changed the Course of India … Anand Vardhan Singh


    Generally, we all feel we know everything, about our country India … Hum sab kuch jante hain aur hamse kuch bhi chupa nahi hai. But do you know why? Because till now, no one has ever made you feel that you don’t know everything about your country. But the subject narration titled, “HEY RAM TO JAI SHREE RAM … 20 dates that changed the course of India” by senior journalist Anand Vardhan Singh will surely make you feel that.

    The book is a publication of Anamika Publishers & Distributors (P) Ltd. The price of the book is Rs 495. The narration completes in 394 pages. It’s a lengthy book. Just as human beings grow over a lifetime, nations too, grow over an aeon. India was born in the year 1947 after a hard-nosed freedom struggle. The subject book captures the salient happenings that shaped India after her independence. A famous quote that comes to my mind while reading this book is by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. It says, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” Such is the history of all countries without fail where India is no exception.

    The book details twenty such broad events that shaped India after her independence. Along with these twenty events it also covers the peripheral episodes of that period, possibly churned out, by the main event or even vice versa. I’m describing these events below but only in brief as the title has just been launched. The book narration is in plain simple English so easy to read. Noticeably, the author has given the date and year of each event on the content page itself at the beginning of the book, which gives you a bird’s eye view of the gaps between the two important events. The gaps range from two to four years in most cases with the widest one being twelve years. For example, after India embraced the constitution in 1950 the next big event that shook India was the 1962 debacle, the Chinese aggression and Nehru’s death thereafter.

    Now let me diegesis the plot to you in brief, but before that let me apprise you that the book has a crisp foreword by Dr Shashi Tharoor who requires no introduction followed by a Prologue by Satish Jha of the erstwhile Dinaman and Jansatta fame (both Hindi periodicals).

    India suffered a pathetic partition at the stroke of independence, the wounds of which are raw even now. The book starts post-independence with the famous tragedy in Chapter One. The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on 30 January 1948. It highlights, his last, painful utterance ‘Hey Ram’ which forms, the first two words of the title of the book. In the Second Chapter post the death of Mahatma Gandhi, India embraces, the Constitution of India on 26 January 1950. Then there is a lull for more than a decade when Mother India gets into the mode of building the nation but some neighbourhoods cannot digest this. Chapter Three takes you through the famous slogan ‘Hindi—Chini-Bhai-Bhai.’ It recounts the debacle of the Chinese aggression and Nehru’s death, all between 1962 and 1964.

    After the gruelling Chinese aggression, comes the blasting war of 1965 with Pakistan, followed by Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death in Tashkent in the year 1966. And who can forget Shastri’s famous slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ all covered in Chapter Four as India breathes fire. In Chapter Five, the author covers India’s victory over Pakistan in 1971 followed by the creation of Bangladesh and post that the emergence of Indira Gandhi as a triumphant Durga in the Indian scenario. But one great achievement, may not, necessarily, lead to another for in the years to come India landed up with the Dark Days of Emergency where civil liberties were suspended in the year 1975 by the same Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The author, Anand Vardhan Singh, has written about this misfortune, of the country in Chapter Six where he also narrates the poem ‘Aao Mardo … Namard Bano’ written by the late Atal Behari Vajpayee. Then in Chapter Seven, he talks about the ‘Sampoorna Kranti, the collapse of the Janta Parivar,’ and then about an Idealist JP being betrayed in the year 1975 in days around the emergency.

    India was always a laggard in sports but Kapil Dev and his men from the position of underdogs rose to become the world champions in one-day cricket on 25 June 1983. Indeed, it was a big milestone for such a big nation which the author covers in Chapter Eight. Chapter Nine is an assortment of ‘Operation Blue Star’ which was the cause of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on 30 October 1984. This was followed by the Anti-Sikh Riot when the famous, unpopular, statement of Rajiv Gandhi that said, ‘When a Big Tree falls, the Earth Shakes’ was scripted by him. The author blames Congress for terrorism in Punjab. A point to note is that in the chapter headings on the content page, the author has mentioned several important events, dates and days which makes the heading and the chapter appear meaty. To site and example. Chapter Ten describes the Campaign Against Corruption. At the same time, it also talks about Bofor’s claims by Rajiv Gandhi, and V.P. Singh’s rise and fall. The date of these events is 30 November 1989.

    It took 44 years for the Indian economy to open up in 1991 while Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. The period also saw the famous Stock Market Scam in 1991 engineered by none other than Harshad Mehta. Anand covers this path-breaking step in his Eleventh Chapter. After 45 years the nation takes a mammoth turn in terms of opening the economy. In Chapter Twelve, the author takes you through the Ram Kahani of India or the Hindus. The book narrates the demolition of the Babri Masjid leading to the Rise of a New Social Identity in the year 1992. This has a reaction covered in the later chapters. Further, who doesn’t want to become a nuclear power? Ukraine dismantled all its Nuclear Weapons on the advice of a superpower and faced horrific consequences. Our leaders had visualised this need for a nuclear bomb because we are surrounded by hostile neighbours such as China and Pakistan. Chapter Thirteen describes Pokhran II, from code name ‘Smiling Buddha’ to Operation Vijay in the year 1998.

    Further, the author expounds about the year 2002, which is splurged with, carnage, and an, indelible, blood bath, in terms of the Godhra Carnage followed by the reactionary Gujarat Riots. The author extends the heading of this chapter which is Chapter Fourteen by adding the words ‘No One Killed Sohrabuddin. Sohrabuddin’s case in the book has been detailed quite well, almost like a murder mystery. Chapter Fifteen is about ‘MGNREGA’ which is indeed a game changer in rural India. The chapter is also clubbed with the RTI act, UPA’s return to power 2009: Rise of Rights in 2008.

    The advent of the Aam Aadmi Party. The arrival of Anna Hazare and India Against Corruption captured the imagination of the entire country. It also brought in a new way of Mohalla politics and canvassing with devoted volunteers wearing Gandhi caps with AAP logo. The author takes you through all this in Chapter Sixteen.

    Chapters Seventeen to Twenty are topics of the current era. They refer mostly to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his policies, his election-winning juggernaut, headline management, the draconian demonetization and what it did and what India achieved, net-net. How Narendra Modi transformed himself from Pradhan Sewak to Pradhan Senapati. It illustrates, the Modi-Shah’s unstoppable electoral juggernaut and last but not least it is Jai Shri Ram, The Ram Temple, and whose Ram Rajya is it?—Gandhi’s or Modi’s? These are topics of common interest between 2014 and till date.

    Now let me express my impression of the book.  It is not a fast-moving spy-thriller title, but yes it is comprehensive, in the topic that it deals with. In certain chapters, the detailing of GOI acts and release of data is overbearing on account of which the book slows down. It appears the author has been privy to political hot spots during his career. This has enabled him to add certain information not so easily available in the public domain. The author gives the start date and the day for all the events for some peculiar reason or maybe for you to get a bird’s eye view of the last seventy-five years. He has criticised all political parties but only on merit. The book is a bundle of the assassinations of Indian Prime Ministers, slogans, wars, invasion and liberation, dark days of the emergency, analysis of BJP and everything that went into the making of India post-independence. It appears the author has done a great deal of homework before embarking on this project. He has analysed the data well. For political aficionados, it is a must-read. It impacts you.

By Kamlesh Tripathi



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