The traditional Indian view was to protect our independence; it was therefore quite consistent with the requirements of the time and the feeling of the people. The world may have been misled by Jawaharlal Nehru's own international projection, which in fact had no reality on the ground.
I was chef to the French Presidents between '56 and '59, finished with de Gaulle, and during de Gaulle I remember serving Eisenhower, Nehru, Tito, Macmillan; those were the heads of state at the time. I never saw anyone. No one would ever, ever, ever come to the kitchen. You couldn't even see them.
There was too much opinion in this country, too many sob stories. Nobody wanted to put a lid on anything; everyone wanted to say it all, about everything. If you as much as said hello to someone on a train or a plane, you were in for the unexpurgated memoirs. Nehru in 1947 had declared us a nation finding utterance - but in fifty years the utterance had become a mad clamour, a crazed babble, an unending howl. We were a nation of Scheherzades, afraid we'd die if, for a moment, we shut up. For myself, I'd mastered a face of steel, and an inscrutable nod. It did not always shut everyone up, but it did to some extent dam the ghastly flow.
Tarun J. Tejpal
In 1951 Dec 20th, Nehru, while campaigning for the first democratic elections in India, took a short break to address a UNESCO symposium in Delhi. Although he believed democracy was the best form of governance, while speaking at the symposium he wondered loud... the quality of men who are selected by these modern democratic methods of adult franchise gradually deteriorates because of lack of thinking and the noise of propaganda... He[the voter] reacts to sound and to the din, he reacts to repetition and he produces either a dictator or a dumb politician who is insensitive. Such a politician can stand all the din in the world and still remain standing on his two feet and, therefore, he gets selected in the end because the others have collapsed because of the din. -Quoted from India After Gandhi, page 157.
I want to defend Ben Bella just as I am going to defend Boumedienne. Ben Bella was not the 'demon' that the nervous, demagogic communique of 19 June accused him of being, no more than Boumedienne is the 'reactionary' that L'Unita wrote about. Both are victims of the same drama that every Third World politician lives through if he is honest, if he is a patriot. This was the drama of Lumumba and Nehru; it is the drama of Nyerere and Sekou Toure. The essence of the drama lies in the terrible material resistance that each one encounters on taking his first, second, and third steps up the summit of power. Each one wants to do something good and begins to do it and then sees, after a month, after a year, after three years, that it just isn't happening, that it is slipping away, that it is bogged down in the sand. Everything is in the way: the centuries of backwardness, the primitive economy, the illiteracy, the religious fanaticism, the tribal blindness, the chronic hunger, the colonial past with its practice of debasing and dulling the conquered, the blackmail by the imperialists, the greed of the corrupt, the unemployment, the red ink. progress comes with great difficulty along such a road. The politician begins to push too hard. He looks for a way out through dictatorship. The dictatorship then fathers an opposition. The opposition organises a coup. And the cycle begins anew.