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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 1, December 22, 2012 [Annual 2012]

Baptism of Fire

Thursday 3 January 2013

Dear Reader,

Our country and our people have been through a baptism of fire on the northern border in the past month. The Chinese aggressor by his unprincipled and unscrupulous rape of our soil has brought home to us many disturbing truths.
What should cause us much more concern than even our unpreparedness for defence is the strikingly common aim of the aggressor and the Swatantra and other reactionary forces within this country; both want Jawaharlal Nehru removed from leadership and the policies India has been pursuing under him reversed.
To Peking, Jawaharlal Nehru comes between them and their ambition to dominate all Afro-Asia; to the detractors within our country, he comes between them and political domination and economic exploitation by them of the common man.
This is the most significant factor that has come out of the events in the agonising one month since October 20. We cannot afford to ignore the lessons.

So far as dealing with Peking is concerned,
the people leave the future course to be decided
by Jawaharlal Nehru, in whom their faith is undimi-nished. The cleverly-timed Chinese announcement of unilateral cease-fire and what flows from it are best left for the government to consider and decide upon.

Our state of unpreparedness, although deplorable, should be seen in proper perspective. Conditioned to the ways of peace and with no militarist ambitions, it was natural that defence preparation should have received rather low priority in our scheme of things and raising the standard of living of the common people got higher priority. Now that we have been taught that, whatever our peaceful intentions, aggressive neighbours can harm us greatly, defence gets top priority.
We have learnt that our abhorrence of war and our strenuous pursuit of peace do not make us immune to attack by imperialists. We have learnt the lesson at the cost of the lives of many of our brave jawans. The lesson is writ in blood and we shall not easily forget it.

At the same time, we must realise that nothing has happened to make us lose faith in our objective of world peace or in our attitude of non-alignment with the power blocs.

The lessons we have learnt are, first, that our peaceful aims should not lead us to minimise the need for full armed preparedness to safeguard our territory; second, that we cannot afford to depend on the pity and charity of either of the power blocs to repel aggression; and thirdly, that the wolves of Right reaction are constantly on the ready to pounce upon the democratic gains of the people over the last fifteen years and that they must not be allowed to fatten themselves in any way.
We have also to remember that Western arms have been welcome at the crucial hour only because of our own miscalculations—diplomatic and military—which resulted in unpreparedness. But this need not hustle us into going in for Western military personnel on our soil at any time.

The war forced upon us by our unscrupulous and treacherous neighbour has also brought out the weaknesses in our economy, weaknesses made inevitable by the many needless compromises with Right reaction. If the transition to Socialism had been of quicker tempo and generous concessions to the private sector had not dominated our planning, if many of those entrusted over years with the task of defence had not been tied down by complacence and inefficiency, there is no doubt that our defence effort even in the past month would have been of much greater magnitude than it was. Also, the vested interests would not have had so much opportunity to exploit the crisis for personal, group and party ends. The people would have been more powerful and vested interests would not have had the temerity to play with the nation’s destiny.

While the detractors of Jawaharlal Nehru come from interested political groups, it is strange that the Big Business press, which has thrived for decades claiming to be the mouthpiece of the Congress, should join the chorus against the Prime Minister. And it is still more strange that the government, which has been invested by Parliament with emergency powers, should let these scribes of Big Money indulge in the dangerous game of undermining the country’s faith in the Prime Minister’s leadership in this critical period.

Let us arise cleansed of all these sores in the body politic from this baptism of fire. Let us march steadfastly along the path of socialism, while holding ourselves in readiness to die if need be in the cause of freedom, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Editor

(November 24, 1962)

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