Saturday 12 October 2019

Chronology of VRM -7



Eknathji Ranade Meets Prof. Humayun Kabir

A report of the meeting between Prof. Humayun Kabir, Minister for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs, and Sri Eknath Ranade, Organising Secretary, All India Swami Vivekananda Centenary Celebration and Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee, held at New Delhi on 23-9-1963.

Sri Ranade : I have come to seek your help in securing permission for erecting Swamiji's statue on the Vivekananda Rock.

Prof. Kabir : But it is the Madras Government whom you should approach for that purpose. How do I come into the picture?

Sri Ranade : Because we have a reason to believe that the State Government of Madras has been influenced by an opinion expressed by you against the erection of the statue on the Vivekananda Rock.

Prof. Kabir : I have not expressed any opinion regarding erection of Swamiji's statue on the Rock. I had expressed my opinion regarding the scenic beauty of the spot where three oceans meet being marred in a different context. And it was two or three years back. It was in respect of the site of the Gandhi Mandapam. I would not have favoured the present site of the Mandapam which was right on the sands. I would have advised for some other spot on the mainland. I was then told that the Mandapam was built when Kanyakumari was in Kerala State and it was Trivandrum's decision and not that of Madras.

Moreover, if the State Government of Madras has not paid any heed to my advice regarding the renovation of Madurai Temple, why should they do so in this particular matter only? I had advised them against the way they have renovated that temple. Because, according to me the white-washing of the temple, and like things, spoil the beauty of the old architectural work.

Sri Ranade : But what is your opinion about the statue on the Rock?

Prof. Kabir: That is in no way my concern. It is a matter between you and the Madras Government.

Sri Ranade : It is true, but an opinion of a Central Minister does have some weight.

Prof. Kabir : If so, let the Madras Government refer to me and I shall communicate to them my opinion.

Sri Ranade : Let me now tell you, Sir, how we are led to believe that you have already expressed an opinion against the erection of the statue and that it has, in a way, influenced the Madras Government, while refusing us the necessary permission. When the Committee approached the Madras Government for permission to erect the statue and construct the bridge, both the Chief Minister and Sri Bhaktavatsalam appeared quite favourable to the plan. Moreover, the Devaswom Board, which is a Statutory Body working directly under the control of the Ministry granted written permission to the Committee on October 10, 1962, for construction of the bridge and erection of the statue. It is quite obvious that the Board Authorities, before doing so, must have sounded the State Government at the ministerial level and secured their consent. From this single fact as also from the favourable attitude of the Ministers whom our representatives met, it was more than clear to us that the necessary written permission from the State Government would be forthcoming in due course.

All of a sudden in the month of November, 1962, the Government's attitude changed. It was at this juncture that we first learnt about your adverse opinion in the matter from Sri Bhaktavatsalam himself. On January 1, 1963,[1] Sri Bhaktavatsalam again mentioned about it at Kanyakumari. Once again at Delhi, when our delegation-met him in last July, he reiterated your opinion. Of course, I was not personally present in all these meetings.

Prof. Kabir : Then it is not fair on your part to say all these things when you have not heard it from him yourself.

Sri Ranade : But I am saying it on the authority of our other office-bearers and elderly people who were present. For the matter of that if you wish I may even now call one of them who has accompanied me here and who is waiting in the reception room.

Prof. Kabir : Probably, Sri Bhaktavatsalam has been either misunderstood or misinterpreted. He must have talked about the opinion I had expressed long back, obviously in a different context.

On your own admission if the Government of Madras was favourable to the plan till October, 1962, it meant that they were so in spite of the opinion I had expressed long back and which they knew. So I think that there might be some other reasons for refusing the permission.

I believe that the Madras Government is objecting to the erection of a statue - so I have been told by an M.P. of Madras State — because some local Christians have put up a counterclaim to the Rock.

Sri Ranade : No Sir, the Madras Government is quite clear in its mind regarding the matter. The Government Authorities have set aside their counter-claim. In their letter permitting the installation of the marble tablet, they have accepted it to be the Vivekananda Rock.

It is for these reasons that we have formed an impression that your opinion, expressed sometime in the month of October or November 1962, has made the State Government hesitate in granting permission after that time. It was influencing them so much that in their letter permitting the installation of the marble tablet on the Rock on January 17, 1963, they laid down a funny and meaningless condition. (Sri Ranade read out the relevant portion from the copy of the letter).

The condition was that the tablet should be laid in such a way as not to affect the natural set-up of the Rock. (Sri Ranade, at this juncture, showed the photographs of the tablet in its original form and also in its present demolished state).

Prof. Kabir : It is really unfortunate that the tablet should have been destroyed. The Government of Madras must have been naturally afraid that if even the tablet is destroyed the statue would be more easily damaged.

Sri Ranade : I do not agree here. A massive bronze statue, twenty- two feet in height, standing upon a high pedestal, cannot be so easily destroyed. Moreover, the Committee has proposed an access bridge which will minimise the possibility of mischief by the hostile section of fishermen (who are all Roman Catholic Christians).

Apart from that, the State Government, in any way, has to see that the tablet is reinstalled and also well protected.

Prof. Kabir : Yes, they have to.

Sri Ranade : That is why I say that whether it is a tablet or a statue, the Government have to undertake the responsibility of protecting it in any case.

Prof. Kabir : Well, you talk about the whole matter to the Madras Government and try to persuade them.

Sri Ranade : You also can help us in this matter.

Prof. Kabir : We do not give any grant for the erection of statues.

Sri Ranade : We do not demand any monetary help. We are begging only for permission to raise the memorial.

Prof. Kabir : That is absolutely a matter between you and Madras Government.

Sri Ranade : I would have accepted that position if it were only a few local people behind the Memorial Plan. The plan is approved and blessed by reputed and eminent people from all over the country. (Sri Ranade handed over to Prof. Kabir the Committee's booklet and requested him to go through the list of members of the Committee).

Prof. Kabir : Well, I will read this. My only request is that my name should not be dragged into this affair.

Sri Ranade : Sir, I fail to understand one thing. Sri Bhaktavatsalam has clearly said that though you have expressed an opinion against the erection of a statue, the State Government is not bound by that opinion. I do not understand that, if it was really so, why he thought it fit to mention your name and opinion before our representatives at all. We would never have referred to your name and opinion in that case. Actually we never did it till the time we were told about your opinion. We have to believe in the statement of Sri Bhaktavatsalam equally as we believe in your's.

Prof. Kabir : All right, I shall just now write a letter to Sri Bhaktavatsalam in your very presence. (Prof. Kabir called his steno and dictated a letter).

"Dear Sri Bhaktavatsalam,

Mr. Eknath Ranade, the Organising Secretary of Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee, met me today. He said that you have refused permission to the Committee for installing the statue of Swami Vivekananda according to their wishes. It is his impression that in doing so you have been influenced by me. (Here Shri Ranade interrupted to suggest that in place of "influenced by me" it would be more appropriate to put "influenced by my opinion". Shri Kabir said that the wording he has used covers the meaning of the words suggested by him.) He also said that you have stated that the opinion of the Central Minister in this matter has no relevance and the State Government was not bound by it. And that is the correct position. I am sorry that my name has been mentioned in this matter giving rise to a public controversy."

Sri Ranade : Sir, to be frank, in the whole background we could not but believe that you had expressed an opinion against the erection of the statue recently in the month of October or November, 1962.

Prof. Kabir : You are free to believe anything you like.

Sri Ranade : I do not mean any lack of belief in you. What I mean is that being a busy public worker, you might not be remembering about it at the moment. Anyway your letter to Sri Bhaktavatsalam may be helpful in clearing the air. If necessary, I may meet you again after meeting Sri Bhaktavatsalam.

Note : The  conversation above was reduced to writing by

Sri Ranade immediately after returning to his residence. He sent a copy of the minutes prepared by him to Sri Kabir for his perusal and confirmation. In his communication to Sri Ranade, Sri Kabir, while confirming the recorded report as substantially true, pointed out 'minor mistakes and inaccuracies' at three places and sent in writing what he considered as the correct versions to be substituted in place of those portions (which are indicated by putting them in between arrows). However, while trying to write down the correct version from his memory, Sri Kabir has made one very important statement which, according to Sri Ranade, he had not at all voiced during the talks. That vital sentence is "In fact in my view, there should be no man- made addition to the rocks."

Sri Ranade says that throughout the conversation he endeavoured to get a definite view about the Rock Memorial from Sri Kabir. But Sri Kabir avoided being categorical. This above statement, however, makes the matter absolutely unambiguous. In fact, Sri Ranade points out, if Sri Kabir had expressed during the conversation that he was against any man-made addition to the rocks, the talks would have naturally taken a different turn.

[1] A factual error has been made here, in respect of dates. The actual date of our representatives' meeting with Sri Bhaktavatsalam at Kanyakumari, was December 30, 1962.

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