Finest Hour 115, Summer 2002
By INDER DAN RATNU
VAISHALI NAGAR, JAIPUR, MAY 10TH— In Finest Hour 110 (“Churchill and the Indians”) I mentioned my friendship with Chaudhary Daulat Ramji Saran, a senior former federal minister who in his youth had been a colleague of Gandhi: Although our views of Churchill were utterly opposed, we became good friends, and meet almost daily at an informal club gathering. Among this group are senior or retired government officials, teachers, scientists, military and police officers; he is the only politician, though a highly respected one.
Since Mr. Saran learned of my appreciation for Churchill he has tried hard to convince me that WSC was in fact a great enemy of India, and that my “Churchill and Freedom” lectures at schools around the country are nothing short of “brainwashing.” He has found my opinions unshakable, but our liking for each other has only grown. His typical greeting is, “Hello, how are you, Churchill?”
Recently he surprised me by appointing me secretary of a committee to mark the birth centenary of Chaudhary Charan Singh,* the first farmer to become Prime Minister of India. We organized seminars, processions and rallies. I didn’t intend to talk about Sir Winston on these occasions, but recently, when Mr. Saran referred to me as a poet and writer of “international standing,” I could not stop myself. After discussing the Centenary celebrations I picked up an international thread: “We Indians must know that we are not an isolated nation but part of a broad-based international community. Our lives are affected by distant events.
“A war between India and Pakistan would certainly affect us—but so would a war between Israel and the Arabs, through the disruption in oil supply, transportation, and prices.
“In much the same way, World War II had similar repercussions. In far off battlefields, autocracy was defeated; democracy took root in many new places, including India.
“All this was made possible by the vision and extraordinary determination of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill—and this is what I have written about. If he had not defended the precepts of liberal democracy, we as a nation would not have been able to adopt a system of governance patterned on his own. Indeed our parliamentary system originated in England. Without it, the son of a poor farmer, like Charan Singh, could never have become the highest governing executive of the world’s largest democracy.”
My old Gandhian friend seemed impressed, and radiated a mischievous smile—rather quickly suppressed—as I spoke.
Mr. Ratnu’s books, Alternative to Churchill: The Eternal Bondage and Layman ’s Questions about Churchill, are available from the Churchill Center Book Club (PO Box 385, Contoocook NH 03229) at $35 and $15 respectively. Add $5 for postage for both, and make checks payable to Churchill Center.
*Chaudhary Charan Singh, born 23 December 1902 to a rural peasant family in Noorpur, western Uttar Pradesh. He became a lawyer, promoting the concept of a united rural community, and attacking the exploitative nature of the Brahman-Bania combine: a situation that also concerned Churchill. In 1929 he joined the Indian National Congress and was jailed several times in the struggle for Indian independence. Serving in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) state assembly from 1937 on, he became an architect of India’s national system of agrarian alliances. He brought about the Jat-Muslim political alliance as a chief minister in late 1960s. In 1977 he allied his peasant-based Indian Revolutionary Party with Moraji Desai’s Janata Party and served as home minister (1977-78) and deputy prime minister (1979) in Desai’s coalition government. In July 1979, with Congress support, he became Prime Minister of India. He resigned shortly afterwards, without facing a vote of confidence, when Indira Gandhi withdrew her support. Though Singh was seen by the Jats of western Uttar Pradesh as their benefactor, it would be unfair to call him merely a Jat leader. He is much better described as a rural leader, whose support base transcended all rural communities. Chaudhary Charan Singh died on 29 May 1987 in New Delhi, where he was cremated at Kisan Ghat.—EDITOR