The Hindu (Mumbai)

A nonpolitic­al prime minister

Why Ram Chandra Kak is a forgotten figure in the history of Jammu & Kashmir and India

- Deepa Kandaswamy G. Sampath

am Chandra Kak was the last Pandit Prime Minister of the princely state of Kashmir and was arrested by Maharaja Hari Singh because he resigned his post on the eve of Independen­ce. In an email interview, Siddharth Kak of ‘Surabhi’ fame, talks about Love, Exile, Redemption: The Saga of Kashmir’s Last Pandit Prime Minister and his English Wife, a biographic­al memoir he coauthored with Lila

Kak Bhan. The English wife is Margaret Mary Allcock, mother of Lila Kak Bhan, and step grandmothe­r of Siddharth Kak. RCK, or Bhaiji, and Kak’s grandfathe­r, may have been the Prime Minister, but is a forgotten figure, and the authors wrote the book, after researchin­g her letters, diaries and his unpublishe­d memoirs, to keep alive his memory. Edited excerpts:


How is it that Ram Chandra Kak’s name is unheard of in Indian history and we know only about Maharaja Hari Singh?

My grandfathe­r, Pandit Ram Chandra Kak, known to us as Bhaiji, was not politicall­y inclined. He was a very private person. He did not join any caucus or palace politics to further his career. A Sanskrit and Persian scholar and archaeolog­ist by profession, he did not seek publicity. As Lila Kak Bhan reiterates, Bhaiji always believed that he had nothing to prove.

In any case, Maharaja Hari Singh was the head of the princely state of Jammu&Kashmir and all action was taken in his name, even comparativ­ely minor matters of transfers and promotions.

On Bhaiji’s return to Kashmir in 1959, the situation was not as conducive politicall­y as it was in the Nehruvian era.


Q:Why were your grandfathe­r’s memoirs never published?

Once my grandfathe­r was exiled and subsequent­ly returned after many years to his beloved Kashmir, he built his life anew as a gentleman farmer. As children we spent the best years of our lives in the magical hill stations of Kasauli and Kashmir with our daily walks together. My grandfathe­r’s homestead in the foothills surroundin­g the Dal Lake had a verdant spring of its own,

A:n IThe Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionair­e, Washington D.C.based investigat­ive journalist Tim Schwab examines Bill Gates as a case study of how billionair­e philanthro­py can parlay extreme wealth into political influence sans accountabi­lity. In an email interview with The Hindu Sunday Magazine, Schwab talks about his new book, the dangers of unconstrai­ned philanthro­pic power, and where India figures in Gates’s scheme of things. Edited excerpts:


How difficult was it to research and/or publish journalist­ic critiques of the Gates Foundation’s philanthro­pic work?

My reporting examines the Gates Foundation as an unregulate­d political organisati­on. I’m showing how Bill Gates meets with elected leaders around the world, shaping government priorities and spending on everything from public health to public education. This isn’t charity but rather undemocrat­ic political influence. Most mainstream news outlets, by contrast, have tended to report on the good deeds of the Gates Foundation, profiling its big donations and ambitious goals. So, it has not been easy to get


Xcritical reporting on Gates published. But I do think it’s getting easier.


Today a person with no public health background is arguably the most influentia­l voice in global public health. Is this a cause for alarm or a happy coincidenc­e, given the millions of lives he’s reportedly saved?

If you try to track down the evidence surroundin­g the millions of lives Gates is saving, you end up finding research that the foundation itself funded. This research, which is not independen­t, is telling you one side of the story. It’s not telling us how many lives were lost because of Gates’s wrongheade­d strategies. During the pandemic, for example, there were widespread calls, led by India and South Africa, to waive

A:which still flows. It gave my grandparen­ts great happiness to interact with the people of Kashmir.

Bhaiji was not interested in publishing his memoirs, not only because he was not politicall­y inclined, but also because he was concerned that his children and family should not be victimised, since the times were not favourable.

Q:What was your grandfathe­r’s take on Maharaja Hari Singh’s ambition to become ‘emperor’ after independen­ce?

I think ‘emperor’ is an exaggerate­d designatio­n. Perhaps the Maharaja saw himself as a ruler of an extended region. Bhaiji was astonished at the Maharaja’s naivete in believing that the rest of India would capitulate so easily to his ambitions. My grandfathe­r did not believe that those accelerati­ng the British withdrawal from India would allow another occupation of the land.

Bhaiji drew the Maharaja aside and tried to explain to him the consequenc­es of his actions, but the Maharaja was convinced of his destiny. He sacrificed his honest Prime Minister for this imagined destiny. Sure enough, far from becoming the great ruler he imagined he would be, he was forced to flee Kashmir permanentl­y. Due to his illadvised actions, instead of possibly continuing as head of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, he was rendered homeless some months later and ended his life in exile.

A:Love, Exile, Redemption: The Saga of Kashmir’s Last Pandit Prime Minister and his English Wife ₹695

Did the kingdom of Kashmir include Buddhists, and was Ladakh a part of it under Maharaja Hari Singh?

Ladakh was a part of Maharaja Hari Singh’s kingdom, and Bhaiji mentions the Buddhists in his memoirs, which being quite extensive were edited, keeping in mind that the narrative focus was personal and not historical.

The interviewe­r is a writer and poet.

Tim Schwab

patents over COVID vaccines. Gates used his bully pulpit to challenge these calls, arguing that his foundation’s charitable partnershi­ps with the pharmaceut­ical industry made a patent waiver unnecessar­y. But Gates’s charitable promise to deliver vaccine equity failed. What we saw instead was vaccine apartheid, as the poorest people on earth went to the back of the queue. Not surprising­ly, there is no billionair­e philanthro­pist funding research into how many lives were lost through Gates’s failed response effort.

It is true that Bill Gates has no formal training in most of the areas in which he works, whether it is pandemics or climate change or agricultur­e. His influence in world affairs only really makes sense if you believe that the richest guy deserves the loudest voice.

Q:Where does India figure in Gates’s scheme of things?

India is the largest destinatio­n of Gates Foundation funding — outside of the U.S. and Europe. One feature

A:The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionair­e

Tim Schwab Penguin Business


that makes India so important to the foundation is its role as the socalled pharmacy of the world. Gates has sought out partnershi­ps with Indian pharma to try to move lowcost drugs and vaccines into the poorest nations on earth. Much of Gates’s work in the pandemic, for example, hinged on a deal with the Serum Institute of India to produce vaccines for African nations. As a major wave of infections spread across India in

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