Rod and Mr Reddy: A natural pairing

Ramachandra Guha

Two intellectual heroes with not a trace of pomposity and a fine sense of humour

In the past decade, I have often visited Cambridge, Massachusetts, and come to like it enormously. The town has fine cafes and bookshops and — as the home of Harvard and MIT—a greater concentration of intellectual talent than any other place in the world. The best time to visit it is in the fall, when the air is crisp and the sky cloudless, and the colours are beginning to change.

I spent the last week of October in Cambridge. I ate at some nice places, rummaged through the shelves and cartons in the Harvard and Raven Bookstores, walked through the streets, met some old friends and made some new ones. I also made a trip to Walden Pond, taking a long parikrama around it, observing the other worshippers, young and old, as well as the glorious foliage that surrounds these holy waters.

For me, among the attractions of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is that it is home to two scholars I enormously admire. One is the great historian of modern China, Roderick MacFarquhar. Rod (as I call him) is of Scottish extraction. He was born in 1930 in Lahore, where his father was a colonial civil servant. He was sent to boarding school in Scotland, and then went up to Oxford. On graduating, he became a journalist, covering Jawaharlal Nehru’s funeral for the BBC and Mao’s Cultural Revolution for The Economist. He then served a term in the UK Parliament as a Labour MP.

Roderick Macfarquhar
Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

In 1960, while still a journalist, Rod MacFarquhar had founded The China Quarterly, which quickly became the leading English-language journal on contemporary China. Before entering politics, the editor had himself written several books on China. After he failed to win re-election to Parliament, Rod chose not to return to journalism but to become an academic instead. In the 1980s, he was appointed to a professorship at Harvard University and, later, became a much admired head of its Government Department. In between his teaching and administrative duties, he authored three landmark volumes on the origins of the Cultural Revolution.

American universities have no retirement age for their professors. Some carry on teaching into their eighties and even into their nineties, determined to have a say in new appointments and curriculum changes even when manifestly out of touch. Like most politicians, most academics also do not know when to retire. Rod MacFarquhar was different. He chose to vacate his prestigious named chair when people would ask ‘Why?’ rather than ‘Why Not?’. A young friend of mine took one of his last classes, a seminar on ‘Political Leadership’, which had its students absolutely enthralled.

In retirement, Rod MacFarquhar continues to write the odd essay in The New York Review of Books, to attend seminars and answer queries from younger academics (when asked). But unlike most other academics and unlike almost all politicians, he has no desire to cling on to the vestiges of the power and the status that past accomplishments have awarded him.

Rod MacFarquhar has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the past three decades. Another scholar I venerate moved there more recently. E.S. (Enuga) Reddy was born in Nellore in 1924; after taking a first degree in Madras (where he was active in student politics), he went to New York for further studies. Thereafter, he joined the United Nations, where he worked for 35 years, ending as Assistant Secretary-General.

Mr Reddy had many different assignments in the UN. However, he was best known for steering the organization’s Special Committee against Apartheid. From the early 1960s to the mid 1980s, he catalyzed world opinion against the racist regime in South Africa. After he retired, he continued the campaign in his personal capacity. When apartheid finally fell, Mr Reddy visited South Africa where he was received like the hero he was, and decorated with a high State honour. Not long afterwards, in Mumbai, I met an activist from Durban who had spent many years in exile. When I mentioned Mr Reddy’s name, he instinctively stood up as a mark of the respect that so many ordinary South Africans have for this extraordinary Indian, and which must surely mean more to the man than the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo that he also possesses.

While working on South Africa, Mr Reddy developed a serious scholarly interest in Gandhi. He now has the largest collection of articles and clippings on the subject outside of the Sabarmati Ashram. These he shares freely with scholars of all nationalities and countless books written by others have been made possible by his generosity.

Mr Reddy and his Turkish wife (a translator of the poet, Nazim Hikmet) lived for more than 50 years in Manhattan. However, a couple of years ago, their daughter persuaded them to move to Cambridge where she was herself based. It was in this town that I saw the Reddys last month, in their new apartment off Western Avenue. We spoke, as always, mostly of the Mahatma.

Enuga Sreenivasulu Reddy

On this last visit, I also saw Rod MacFarquhar in his apartment on Memorial Drive. As I entered, Rod paid me an unexpected compliment; I was, he said, the third Indian he had known who always arrived on time. (I asked for the names of the others; they turned out to be the patriot and liberal parliamentarian, the late Minoo Masani; and the maverick economist-turned-hardline Hindutvavadi, Subramanian Swamy.)

Note that I call one man by his first name and the other by a respectful prefix. This is because I got to know Rod in the informal, relaxed world of the American academy; whereas Mr Reddy is my father’s age and has been, in terms of his influence on my own work on Gandhi, a father-figure.

Roderick MacFarquhar and Enuga Reddy do not know one another. It is very likely that they do not know of each other. Yet, in this writer’s mind, they make for a natural pairing. Both have made major contributions to scholarship and to public life. Both have nurtured institutions and mentored many talented individuals. Both have strong roots in their native country but are greatly admired in a country not their own: China in the case of Roderick MacFarquhar, South Africa in the case of E.S. Reddy. And yet both made their home and carried out their profession in a third country altogether: the United States of America.

Rod and Mr Reddy are also united by attributes of personal character. In their prime, both wore their learning as well as their professional distinction lightly. Now, in retirement, they absolutely do not crave or miss the power or fame they once possessed. Neither has a trace of pomposity; both have a fine sense of humour (often aimed at themselves). Both are generous with their time and their resources; Mr Reddy has donated rare South African materials to Yale and rare Gandhi materials to the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, while Rod is keen to donate his great library of Chinese materials to a university in India.

While in Cambridge in late October, I enjoyed my time in the bookstores around Harvard Square and my walk around Walden Pond. But the highlight of my visit was the darshans I had and the conversations I conducted with Roderick MacFarquhar and Enuga Reddy, two of my personal heroes.

courtesy : "The Telegraph", 10 November 2018


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

Indian anti colonial struggle has been the major phenomenon which built modern India into a secular democracy. Many of the political streams were part of this movement which struggled in their own way to drive away the British. There were some, the ones’ who held on to nationalism in the name of religion, who were not part of this and now in order to gain electoral legitimacy, either they make false claims about their being a part of it or try to distort the events to denigrate the leaders of freedom movement, particularly Jawaharlal Nehru. This came to surface yet again when Mr. Modi was hoisting Indian flag on the occasion of 75th Anniversary of proclamation of Azad Hind Government. At the event he said that the contributions of Bose, Patel and Ambedkar have been ignored by the ruling Nehru-Gandhi family.

Nothing can be farther from truth than this statement of his. One knows that Ambedkar was made the minister in the first Cabinet of India; he was also given the task of being the Chairman of drafting committee of Indian constitution and was asked to draft the Hindu code bill. Sardar Patel was the Deputy Prime Minster, looking after the Home ministry. The compilation of Sardar Patel’s letters has been edited by Durga Das, ‘Sardar Patel Correspondence’. As per this book it becomes clear that Nehru and Patel were very close and till Patel was alive most of the decisions which taken were with his consent or due to his initiative. Patel regarded Nehru as his younger brother and his leader; both. Earlier Modi tried to propagate that Nehru ignored Sardar Patel and did not attend his funeral in Bombay. Moraji Desai’s biography describes that Nehru did attend the funeral; this was also reported in the news papers that time.

As far as Netaji Bose is concerned, Nehru and Bose were close ideological colleagues. Both were socialists and part of the left wing of the Congress. Unlike the followers of Hindutva politics, Bose was very secular. Hindu nationalist leaders attacked Subhas Bose incessantly as he dared to reserve jobs for Muslims when he was elected to lead the Calcutta Corporation. Bose was aware of the tremendous injustice that Muslims faced in recruitment. It was Bose who opposed the Muslim and Hindu communalists both. In Tripura Convention of INC, Bose was elected the Chief, but Gandhi was opposed to him mainly on the ground of Non violence. Bose tended to support violent means. Due to opposition within INC; Bose left Congress to form Forward Block, a left party, which has been part of left coalition in West Bengal for a long time. Bose and Nehru were on the same page as far as future of industrialization and public sector was concerned. Bose’s biographer Leonard A Gordan writesabout his ideology, As per Bose “Each [person] should privately follow his religious path, but not link it to political and other public issues. Throughout his career, he reached out to Muslim leaders, first of all in his home province of Bengal, to make common cause in the name of India. His ideal, as indeed the ideal of the Indian National Congress, was that all Indians, regardless of region, religious affiliation, or caste join together to make common cause against foreign rulers.”

The major difference from Gandhi-Nehru on one side and Bose on the other was the role of Congress during Second World War. Congress in due course came to take anti British stance and Gandhi launched the Quit Indian movement in 1942. Bose operated on the ground that an alliance with Germany-Japan may give freedom to India. It was really doubtful whether alliance with fascist forces was the right way. In case of their victory India might have come under the control of Japan-Germany axis which would have pushed India back by many steps. While Congress opposed British through mass movement, Bose launched ‘Azad Hind Fauz’ (AHF). His respect for the Hindu Muslim syncretism was also exhibited when he offered a Chadar on the Mazar (tomb) of Bahadur Shah Zafar in Rangoon, Burma, the leader of 1857 uprising as a symbol of Hindu Muslim unity and pledged to bring his mortal remains to Delhi, to bury in Red Fort. Hindu Mahasabha actively supported British war efforts by urging Indians to join the British army. Savarakar urged upon his followers to be part of War committees to support British Empire. British accommodated leaders of Hindu Mahasabha on war committees.

Savarkar also said ‘No support to armed resistance against British’. It is interesting that while Netaji was fighting the British from across the border, Savrkar and Hindutva Nationalists helped the British army which was fighting AHF of Subhash Bose! The claims that Modi and Co. is following the footsteps of Netaji are a claim which has no substance. The matter of fact is that the efforts of Savarkar were acting against the interests of army raised by Netaji. In contrast, while Congress did not agree with Netaji’s line of action, it was Congress which raised the legal support to fight the cases of the personnel of AHF in the aftermath of the war. Bhulabhai Deasi, Kailashnath Katju and Nehru himself came forward to battle in the court rooms on behalf of AHF. 

Today when we are witnessing the name change of all Muslim sounding names by the rulers of BJP, in AHF, the Hindustani and Muslim sounding names were as common. The provisional Government which was formed by him was, was titled ‘Aarzi-Hukumat-Azad Hind’ (Provisional Government of free India) in Singapore. The very nomenclature Azad Hind Fauz is on the same lines. In the provisional Government Hindus and Muslims both were there like in the Provisional Government set up by him e.g. SA Ayer, Karim Ghani, were two among many others who were part of the Government. What we need today most is to revive the spirit of amity, which Netaji stood for and was being practiced in AHF.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED