2ndlook

British Raj – The Rewards of Collaboration

Posted in British Raj, History, India by Anuraag Sanghi on March 18, 2012

Have we become so forgiving that even ‘collaborators’ with the British Raj are being considered for honor by the Government of India.

The Delhi Durbar of 1911, with King George V and Queen Mary seated upon the dais.  |  Source - Wikipedia

The Delhi Durbar of 1911, with King George V and Queen Mary seated upon the dais. | Source – Wikipedia

Run … you can

In 1911, at the Delhi Durbar, George V announced that the capital of the British Raj would be shifted. Tired of regular killings, assassinations and explosions in Kolkatta, the Raj decided to shift the capital from Kolkatta – to New Delhi.

The very next year, on 23 December 1912, a 17-year old Basanta Kumar Biswas, dressed as a woman, exploded a bomb at Lord Charles Hardinge during the Viceroy’s parade in Delhi.

Cut to today

One hundred years later, the Indian government decided to celebrate the shift of the British Raj capital from Kolkatta to Delhi.

Nine months ago, the Indian Prime-Minister, Manmohan Singh acted on a request by a certain ‘interested’ group for naming a prominent place in New Delhi in memory of Sir Sobha Singh.

The Delhi government proposed to

rename the Capital’s Windsor Place area after Sir Sobha Singh, following a request from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Sobha Singh was a key building contractor in the early to mid 20th Century, and with his father Sujan Singh is credited with landmarks like India Gate and Connaught Place.

Prime Minister Singh wrote to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on June 28, citing a request by a private organisation to rename the area – to mark (Sir Sobha Singh’s) contribution towards building the national capital (and) to mark the 100th anniversary of Delhi being declared the national capital.

The government has since consulted the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) which informed the government that most places and roads in the area have already been named after important people; the only options open were Windsor Place, which falls on the roundabout near Le Meridien Hotel, and South Avenue.

“The places are close to where Sir Sobha Singh’s family lives now, Sujan Singh Park, which is named after his father. We eventually narrowed down on Windsor Place,” the official added.

Sobha Singh and his father Sujan Singh moved to the city as building contractors when the British administration declared Delhi as the national capital, to coincide with the Coronation Durbar that was to be held in December 1911.

The renaming of Windsor Place, however, may not be an easy option, a senior NDMC official said, as the civic agency has in the past rejected proposals to change its name. (via Let’s name Windsor Place after Sir Sobha, PM tells Sheila – Indian Express).

The rehearsal of the state entry: Passing the Jama Masjid from the book 'The historical Record of the Imperial visit to India 1911. Photo: central news agency  | Courtesy - thehindu.com

The rehearsal of the state entry: Passing the Jama Masjid from the book ‘The historical Record of the Imperial visit to India 1911. Photo: central news agencyThe rehearsal of the state entry: Passing the Jama Masjid from the book ‘The historical Record of the Imperial visit to India 1911. Photo: central news agency | Courtesy – thehindu.com

Sir Sobha Singh?

You might ask, who is that.

Sobha Singh’s son explained

You can’t be blamed for not being aware of this because free India’s rulers did nothing to perpetuate their (Sobha Singh’s and his group) memory. Not a single road, bylane or round-about was named after any of them.

Whether the new rulers were from the Congress party or the BJP, they were more concerned with giving credit to their party members than recording the truth. At times it appeared like anti-Sikh communal prejudice. Perish the thought. (via Give the builders of New Delhi their due – Hindustan Times).

The minefield of public memory

This story would have ended with Indian Independence.

But for the fact that Manmohan Singh proposed to honor ‘Sir’ Sobha Singh. That is when the media caught on to this story. A forgotten chapter in Indian history came alive again.

An angry journalist suggested that

the proposed national history mission should visit 7, Race Course Road to tell the Prime Minister the story of the Bhagat Singh trial.

The greatest youth icon of India’s struggle for independence was betrayed by a contractor, Sobha Singh.

In what appears to be false testimony, Sobha Singh identified Bhagat Singh during the trial as the person who threw the bomb down from the visitor’s gallery of the Central Legislative Assembly in Delhi. Sobha was not a legislator, nor a journalist, nor an official, and had no business to be there at that very moment.

But this extremely dubious testimony was accepted by the court. And Sobha became the biggest contractor in Delhi and was knighted by the Empire.

Now, Manmohan Singh wants to honour the memory of this man who betrayed the nation’s biggest hero. Singh has asked Sheila Dikshit to rename Windsor Place after Sir Sobha. Hope he doesn’t write to Parkash Singh Badal to get Jalianwala Bagh named after Dyer. (via Teach royals their history : COLUMNS News – India Today).

Some in the media are questioning Manmohan Singh’s ‘integrity’ on this question.

Now we have Sardar Manmohan Singh as prime minister – who sports a light blue turban in honour of ‘Cambridge Blue’ and Sardarji No. 2, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, totally imitates him. Just as Robespierre was the ‘sea green incorruptible’ of the French Revolution, Dr Singh is the ‘light Cambridge Blue incorruptible’ of India in the 21st Century.

Now we have another Sardar, a known toady of the British, being honoured by a government of free India. Does this not leave the ‘light Cambridge Blue incorruptible’ open to a charge of partiality to a particular community, in this case, his own? (via Shadow of British rule seen in every nook of Delhi; text edited for brevity and relevance.).

This Sir Sobha Singh, OBE (1890–1978) is not to be confused with Sir Sobha Singh (1901–1986), a prominent painter whose paintings of the Sikh gurus (and other Punjabi and nationalist) have become famous.

So, who was Sobha Singh – and how was he involved with Bhagat Singh?

Bhagat Singh lives …

The prosecution by British Raj of Bhagat Singh succeeded with evidence from some Indians.

Not that Bhagat Singh ever claimed ‘innocence’.

Sobha Singh was one such collaborator – who simply ‘told the truth’ to the British authorities. Sobha Singh’s son wrote,

Some weeks ago I had written about the builders of New Delhi, naming five of them as the best known. I had complained that not one road or by-lane had been named after any of them. Unknown to me, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit that Windsor Place be named after my father Sobha Singh. This was reported by the media.

It was followed by a storm of protest describing my father as a stooge of the British. I made no protest. But when some papers linked his name with the death sentence passed by the courts, I felt deeply hurt because there is not an iota of truth in the insinuation.

The death sentence on Shahid Bhagat Singh and his companion was passed for the murders of Inspector Saunders and head constable Channan Singh. They had killed the two policemen for having assaulted Lala Lajpat Rai when he was arrested in Lahore. Then they wanted to do something which would give worldwide publicity to India’s freedom movement. They chose to fire shots in the Parliament and then surrender to the police. And so they did. They took their seats in the Visitors’ gallery. So did my father. The debate going on was very boring; so he started reading a newspaper he had brought with him.

His attention was distracted by firing of pistols and explosion of bombs. Others in the visitors’ gallery fled leaving my father and the two revolutionaries. They did not put up any resistance when the police arrested them. My father’s ‘crime’ was to identify the two in court. He told the truth and nothing but the truth. Is telling the truth a crime? (via When telling the truth becomes a crime – Hindustan Times).

Talking of truth, a

noted historian and lawyer – who has various books on freedom struggle and Bhagat Singh to his credit – said the journalist-writer had been unnecessarily attempting to convince people against the facts etched in history. Historian and Bhagat Singh’s relative Waraich contested (this) assertion saying Sobha Singh never spoke the “truth” about the British atrocities.

For not pointing out the unpleasant truth about British atrocities, and wishing to publicly reward this collaboration, Sobha Singh, with his family and relatives, were amply rewarded by the British Raj.

Sobha Singh’s son explains

I had no intention of writing about my father in my own columns. I do so because he has been maligned and implicated in the death sentence passed on Bhagat Singh and Dutt for killing two police officers in Lahore. I repeat, he had nothing to do with these killings. All he did was identify them as the two men who fired pistol shots and hurled bombs in the Parliament when it was in session. However, it does not deter men from maligning him for reasons best known to them. I would like to tell readers what he did for the city in which he spent most of his long life (he lived to be 90) and gave it more than anyone I know. (via Clearing the air on the man who ‘owned’ half the Capital – Hindustan Times).

Built by profiteers from Bhagat Singh's death. Built to perpetuate the memory of the British Raj  |  Cartoonist - Ajit Ninan  |  2010 Dec 29  | The Times Of India Hyderabad  |  Click for image.

Built by profiteers from Bhagat Singh’s death. Built to perpetuate the memory of the British Raj | Cartoonist – Ajit Ninan | 2010 Dec 29 | The Times Of India Hyderabad | Click for image.

In the next less than 20 years, the British rewarded Sobha Singh and his group with prime real estate in New Delhi. The British Raj rained construction contracts in the construction of Lutyen’s New Delhi on this group.

Sobha Singh’s son informs us that Sobha Singh

was the biggest builder of New Delhi and the single largest owner of real estate. It was a pardonable exaggeration when Dilliwalas referred to him as Aadhi Dilli ka Malik – owner of half of Delhi. (via Clearing the air on the man who ‘owned’ half the Capital – Hindustan Times).

This group came to known as aadhi dilli ke maalik. These five sardarjis were derisively called the panj pyaare – as they seemed to get all the contracts from the British Raj.

Sobha Singh’s son explains

It would not be an exaggeration to say that most of New Delhi was built by a coterie of sardar contractors of whom five did the lion’s share of building. In Sikh circles they were known as Panj Pyare – the five beloved after the first five followers of the last Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.

The top five builders were Sobha Singh, Basakha Singh, Ranjit Singh, Mohan Singh and Dharam Singh Sethi. The British gave them due credit by inscribing their names on stone slabs. You can see them in the alcoves of South and North Blocks. The South Block has five names starting with my father, Sobha Singh, the North Block has a list of architects and engineers including my father-in-law, Teja Singh Malik, who was the first Indian head of the Central Public Works Department. The British did more.

Before quitting India, they conferred knighthoods on Teja Singh Malik and Sobha Singh. (via Give the builders of New Delhi their due – Hindustan Times).

Sobha Singh's son running down Bhagat Singh - and his memory in the minds of Indian people. |  From the column: punjabi by nature - COCK-A-DOODLE-DO |  By Khuswant Singh  |  Posted on 8 Aug 2010  |  Accessed on 2012-03-18 15-01-22

Sobha Singh’s son running down Bhagat Singh – and his memory in the minds of Indian people. | From the column: punjabi by nature – COCK-A-DOODLE-DO | By Khuswant Singh | Accessed on 2012-03-18 15-01-22Sobha Singh’s son running down Bhagat Singh – and his memory in the minds of Indian people. | From the column: punjabi by nature – COCK-A-DOODLE-DO | By Khuswant Singh | Posted on 8 Aug 2010 | Accessed on 2012-03-18 15-01-22

Sobha Singh’s family

One of Sobha Singh’s son is Brigadier (Retd) Gurbux Singh.

Another is Saran Singh, I.A.S. (Retd.). Former Secretary to Govt. of India & Chief Secretary, Bihar; an ex. adviser to Governor of Assam.

Sobha Singh’s grandson Rahul Singh, was an ex-editor with the Indian edition of Reader’s Digest.

Saif Ali Khan’s ex-wife, Amrita Singh, an Indian film actress, is the great grand daughter of Sir Sobha Singh – daughter of Shivender Singh and Rukhsana Sultana.

Mohinder Kaur was the daughter of Sir Sobha Singh.

And the son, who has been quoted above, was an ex-editor Illustrated Weekly of India, a press assistant to PM JL Nehru, a supporter of Indira Gandhi and Emergency. He is also a writer of some repute. Mostly as a writer of ‘dirty’ sex-jokes.

Khushwant Singh.


Rahul Singh,

Manmohan At ‘The High Table In The Comity Of Nations’

Posted in Current Affairs, Media, Satire, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on August 3, 2008
Manmohan Singh Hankering For A Place On The High Table

Manmohan Singh Hankering For A Place On The High Table

At The High Table

In 2006, Bush promised India a place at ‘the high table’. A conference paper noted that “In India, the shift in diplomatic strategy necessitated by the opportunity to sit at the high table, because of the nuclear deal, and participate in nonproliferation, as well as become a member of the nonproliferation system, appears stalled owing to apparent timidity or the persistence of yesterday’s thinking”.

Fareed Zakaria writes about how some (!) countries want a place at the high table. Sitaram Yechury, CPIM, of course, thinks the deal will no such thing as enable India to sit on the high table. President Sarkozy and Tony Blair have been leading India by the nose, proclaiming that India should get a place at the high table. India’s quest for a seat at the high table in the global comity of nations, puts India in a position of being patronized. A senior American official condescendingly says that the US wants to be “helpful” to India as it “emerges as a world power”.

The Comity Of Nations

And Manmohan Singh keeps getting his kicks at the thought of sitting at “the global comity of nations“. His comment after winning the trust vote was, “India is prepared to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.” A year earlier, he wrote in a newspaper, how India has “earned … a special place in the comity of nations.” And in 2005, Manmohan Singh promised landless farmers, that India “in the next 10 years … earn its rightful place in the comity of nations”. But before that, in February 2005, he had informed at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, how India must recover its “lost space in the global economy and our economic status in the comity of nations”. (ellipsis mine).

On July 29, 2005, after his US visit, it was reported that Manmohan Singh could not inform the Indian Parliament exactly how “tall in the comity of nations” India was standing. He decided that the focus in 2005 will be on making India taking its rightful place in the comity of nations.” In 2006 again, he reminded all Indians “to claim our rightful place in the comity of nations”. But he started this story way back in 1995-96 budget when he announced that he planned to “raise India to her rightful place in the comity of nations”

Wish Manmohan Could Talk Like This

Wish Manmohan Could Talk Like This

Manmohan Kyon Darta Hai

Manmohan Singh was reportedly hesistant to travel for the G8 summit without a nuclear deal go ahead. With what face will India’s Prime Minister engage the G8 leaders, occupied the Government’s attention?

Manmohan’s fears were captured by Prem Shankar Jha, a journalist from New Delhi’s main newspaper, The Hindustan Times. “India‘s retreat from the agreement bordered on disaster. “It may not be the end of the world,” he wrote, “but it will be a very long time before we are invited to the High Table again.”

Sonia’s Sets The Precedent

This is much like Sonia Gandhi’s Belgian medal. Her reluctance to give up that tainted piece of metal was sad – as is Manmohan Singh’s hankering to “sit at the high table” and to join “the comity of nations”. This ‘comity of nations’ and ‘the high table’ are verbal markers for rich nations – especially the West.

Craven Desire For Approval

What about the West attracts you, Mr.Singh? What makes you so eager (if not desperate) to join them and sit with them? What is the legacy of the West? What about the West can we copy? This hankering for Western approval does not behove you, Shrimaan Singh! India will get its place in the sun – without these doomed slave societies.

Whose Agenda Is This

Who exactly, Mr.Singh gave you the idea that it was your job to make “place for India at the high table in the comity of nations?”

The Indian Voter didn’t.

The ‘aam aadmi’ didn’t. There was no mention of ‘India at the high table in the global comity of nations’ in the Congress manifesto – or in the Common Minimum Programme. In fact, when the BJP promised ‘India Shining’ to the Indian Voter, he clearly rejected them. Are you marching to the BJP’s tune? Or are you sneaking in your personal agenda to rub shoulders “at the high table in the comity of nations that is driving you.” Mr.Singh, do you realize that this is a fraud.

Look At Who Is Sitting At The High Table Mr.Singh

Look At Who Is Sitting At The High Table Mr.Singh

With Or Without The West

For 60 years, India has managed, in spite of the West. India‘s defense production, its nuclear program or its space program and its India‘s software success are homegrown. As are its successes in industry, stockmarkets, education, films and television programming, its democracy and the rise of its middle class. In the nuclear industry, India’s thorium approach to nuclear energy design will possibly open new realms in nuclear arena. At various times, when India has been stuck, it has been the West that has pushed India further into a corner. Even in matters of foodgrain, when India was a user of PL-480 grain. Or for instance, the Kaveri jet engine or the cryogenic engines.

Look Ma, Who Is Sitting At The Table

George Orwell’s Animal Farm describes another high table – when the Pigs sat down to eat with the human beings.

A week later, in the afternoon, a number of dogcarts drove up to the farm. A deputation of neighbouring farmers had been invited to make a tour of inspection. … What could be happening in there, now that for the first time animals and human beings were meeting on terms of equality? … There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs … Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. (ellipsis mine).

Shrimaan Singhsaheb – Does India need a seat at this high table; a table where the other seats are taken by countries who have brought humanity “under the heel by means that will not bear scrutiny“. Do we need to sanctify the power gained by these slave masters? Does the wealth gained by loot and prosperity by labor seem equal to you? Does wealth gained by fraudulent practices ennoble the wealthy?

Post Script

One week after this post, Arvind Panagariya, a professor from Columbia University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, wrote how the emerging giant can accomplish something the diminishing giant couldn’t!.” Both, Manmohan Singh and Arvind Panagariya seem to be infected with this strain of imported virus. The main symptom of this infection is this overwhelming desire for Western approval. At least, the professor admits to the reality of the ‘diminishing giant’, though, he seems to equate a giant of brute force with a moral one.

Another well known corporate executive, R. Gopalkrishnan, is afflicted by this same ‘comity of nations’ infection. On 15th August, 2008, in an article in Economic Times, he paid obeisance, by quoting JRD Tata who once said, “I do not want India to be an economic super-power . I want India to be happy.” By the end of the article, he reverted back to his usual self. He intones, “Over the coming decades, India has the real chance of reclaiming its place at the top table in the League of Nations, a position she held for centuries but lost in the last few hundred years.”

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