In the past few weeks, Lord Mountbatten’s name has been in the media in connection with the sengol that was installed in the new building of the Indian Parliament.
I want to share some archival documents to show how meticulous Lord Mountbatten was and how particular he was about maintaining official records and following procedures to a T.
The records that I refer to are two letters that Lord Mountbatten wrote to Cooverji H Bhabha, independent India’s first commerce minister who had earlier served as a minister in the Interim Government of India headed by Lard Wavell and later Lord Mountbatten. The original letters are available in the personal archives of the Bhabha family. I referred to these while doing the research and writing for Cooverji Bhabha’s biography by his daughter Rati Forbes.
These are just two letters, a drop in the ocean of the voluminous archival materials available – of Lord Mountbatten as well as of the period. But I would like to share them for people to draw their own conclusions about the fact, or otherwise, of the sengol being presented to him by the priests of the Thiruvavaduthurai Mutt in Tamil Nadu and then to Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister.
Both the letters are written on the 9th of September 1947. The first one places on record the fact of Lord Mountbatten having “spoken with the Prime Minister on the telephone” about the appointment of Cooverji Bhabha as a member of the Emergency Committee of the Cabinet set up to deal with the post-Partition violence and riots. He asks Mr Bhabha to speak to the Prime Minister “before 8.0AM” and attend the Cabinet meeting at 10am.
The second letter is also dated 9th September 1947 and is written after the Cabinet meeting held at 10am. Lord Mountbatten conveys to Mr Bhabha the decision to set up the “Delhi Emergency Committee” at which the Home Minister – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – had agreed that Mr Bhabha should be nominated the chairman. He asks Mr Bhabha to “please arrange to preside at the first meeting… which is being held this afternoon."
Could a person, who recorded the decisions and events so meticulously, have not recorded receiving the sengol from the priests of a well-known Mutt and returned it forthwith for onward transmission to the Prime Minister?