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Why Nehru's 1962 speech still sparks debate

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  3 Nov 2015 12:00 AM GMT

'My heart goes out TO…'

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, Nov 2: Fifty three years on, Jawaharlal Nehru's speech on All India Radio after the fall of Bomdilla during the 1962 war, continues to stoke the flames in Assam. Many here feel Nehru was indifferent to the State. However, the Congress says his speech has been misinterpreted.

On Friday, while attending a function organised by the BJP on the occasion of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Jayanti celebrations in Hyderabad, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju had said the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was guilty of "letting people of Northeast region down" during the 1962 Indo-Chi war, a statement that evoked sharp reactions from the Congress.

Rijiju had said that the Chinese army seized his village during the war in 1962 and reached even up to Assam. He said Nehru assured the people of the region, then known as North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), that "we will save you", but later announced "surrender" to the Chinese on All India Radio and "he (Nehru) said tata, bye, bye and left us".

Rijiju said patriotic people of the region, however, asserted at the time that India need not surrender and "we will not leave India and stood unitedly to remain with India".

"It's a matter of regret that our Prime Minister left us (let us down). Patel united the country; the other Prime Minister (Nehru) left the country, surrendered the country", the minister had said.

Reacting to the statement, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi accused Rijiju of unleashing a false propaganda. "Jawaharlal Nehru did not surrender the country at the time of Chinese aggression as made out to be by Rijiju. Nehru did not let the people down and was with them during that critical juncture. Does Nehru, who was a patriot to the core and a staunch tiolist, require certificate from Rijiju who is a turncoat with no contribution to the development of his own State?" Gogoi said.

Gogoi asked Rijiju to desist from spreading cards against Nehru and to concentrate on his immediate task to contain fissiparous and divisive forces that threaten to tear asunder the social fabric. But what did Nehru actually say during his radio speech? Did he really let the people down?

That part of his speech is reproduced below:

"Huge Chinese armies have been marching in the northern part of NEFA. We have had reverses at Walong, Se La and today Bomdila, a small town in NEFA, has also fallen. We shall not rest till the invader goes out of India or is pushed out. I want to make that clear to all of you, and, especially our countrymen in Assam, to whom our heart goes out at this moment."

It is up to the people of Assam to draw the inference. But old-timers still recall how Nehru’s voice almost choked in this part of his radio speech. Hearing their Prime Minister sounding so helpless, many people in Tezpur and other areas of Assam’s north bank panicked. Thousands left hearth and home to flee south across the river Brahmaputra. Guwahati was flooded with thousands of such refugees.

How should a Prime Minister sound in a wartime situation with his country facing exterl aggression? British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made one of the defining speeches during the Second World War, when his country was near collapse at the onslaught of Hitler’s Germany.

The entire British people rallied around their intrepid Prime Minister when they heard him thundering: “...we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender...”

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