By Angelo Faria
My evidentiary background in preparing this piece is, by generally academic standards, rather more informal in character. Moreover, it is limited in scope essentially to the evolving political environment in Kenya during Pant's tenure as if Pant was a major player, which of course he was not, and with only passing reference to Pant's influence in the three other East African countries (Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar/Pemba), and virtually none to the Central African countries. In this connection, I have found Pant's four books (1974, Chapter 4; 1978, Chapter 2; and 1987, Chapter 1) to be of immeasurable help in understanding his thinking in his own words, but less so for the reactions of others to his exhortations. I have also found helpful the two books by Seidenberg which describe in considerable detail the evolving political environment in East Africa and how this impacted on Asians – before, during and after Pant's tenure. Finally, the local newspapers have been invaluable for checking facts and especially the dates relating to key developments, which have served to complement my own impressions and those of other interested observers."
Pant arrived in Kenya by ship on August 15, 1948 to much fanfare on his initial appointment as Commissioner of India to East Africa, his mandate gradually being widened to include Central Africa in 1950 and the Belgian Congo in 1952, and his designation concurrently being upgraded to Commissioner General; he was eventually to vacate his appointment under much less auspicious circumstances some 5 ½ years later at end February, 1954. While Pant's remit grew wider over the term of his assignment and the paths traversed by these countries resulted in the same outcome of eventual political independence from British rule, there were important differences between them; these related to both the nature and speed of this process, tied to the presence in their populations of white immigrants, as well as to their legal status of colony (e.g. Southern Rhodesia and Kenya) versus protectorate or UN mandated Trust territories (e.g. Uganda and Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi).
Two factors were, I believe, nevertheless critical in explaining why Pant's own diplomatic activities should have been centered largely in East Africa, and within it mostly in Kenya. First, the relative number of residents of Indian descent in Pant's remit (hereinafter Indians or Asians), although the number of them actually holding Indian rather than British nationality was, at best, rather miniscule. The numbers of people of Indian descent at end 1952 (as reported by Nehru in a response to a question in the Indian Parliament in 1953) were estimated as: Kenya: 152,000; Uganda: 33,367; Tanganyika: 56,499; Zanzibar and Pemba: 15,812; Northern Rhodesia: 2,600; Southern
Rhodesia: 4,150; Nyasaland: 4,000; Belgian Congo: 720. What this suggests is that Pant's leverage inthe British territorial regions outside East Africa, premised on the number of their Indian residents, would have been at best exiguous. Moreover, even within the four distinct East African territories, it was clear that the issues which bedeviled the interactions in racial terms between European or native British citizens and Non European or nonnative
British citizens were present to a much less significant degree in the other three East African countries as compared with Kenya. This was attributable initially to the former's somewhat different legal status as protectorates or trust territories relative to Kenya as a colony, and later to the broadly satisfactory progress that was being made within them towards constitutional reform leading to self government and eventually to full political independence.
Kenya's case was, of course, an entirely different one, for reasons that are already too well known in the published literature to warrant being extensively detailed here. Briefly put, Pax Brittanica provided the bedrock assurance to emigration for long term settlement in the 20th century from both the United Kingdom and the Indian sub-continent, stemming largely from intrinsically economic motivations. This applied to the successive waves of European immigrants in the 20th century, accentuated for periods immediately following upon the ending of the First and Second World Wars, who engaged in agricultural, larger business and higher level government-related activities. It extended also to a steady stream of Asian or Indian immigrants that flowed in, starting with the construction of the
Kenya/Uganda Railway and expanding into associated retail trading lower level governmental cadres, and the service sector generally.
Second, the interaction between Europeans and Asians on inequitable terms – the numerically dominant Africans being treated at this stage in purely residual terms for policy purposes – had produced inter-racial flash points already in the 1920s especially in Kenya. (There werecontemporaneously, of course, some minor difficulties associated with the ginning of cotton in Buganda by Indians). It has since been suggested that to head off any incipient agitation by
Indians, at the request of the "settler" Europeans the United Kingdom government issued the notorious British White Paper in 1923 (also known as the Devonshire Declaration) which led to the defiant nonpayment of poll tax by several Indians in 1924.
It asserted baldly the paramount nature of safeguarding the interests of the African majority as the overarching objective of colonial policy in Kenya. Later in 1934, then Colonial Secretary Ormsby Gore would even go on record as stating that he regarded Indians as "mere interlopers in a country that belonged only to Africans and Europeans".
Indeed, it was precisely such considerations that, long before their own political independence in 1947, attracted the interest and concern of the British Imperial Government as well as the solidarity of (non Muslim) politicians in India.
Initially, this resulted in several Indian ICS officials (Srinivasan, Menon) coming out in the early 1920s to examine and report on the conditions faced by Indian labour in Kenya. Eventually this would lead even to the presidency of the East African Indian National Congress (EAINC), modeled on that of the Indian
National Congress (INC), being offered on a non residential basis to first Mrs. Sarojini Naidu (1924 and again in 1929) and subsequently Pandit H.N. Kunzru (1928 and 1929). It is moreover sometimes glossed over that the decision to nominate Pant as Commissioner of India for East Africa represented a direct response by Nehru to the formal request made earlier to the INC bythe EAINC in September, 1946 during its 18th annual session in Mombasa.
It seems to me upon reflection that the evaluation of Pant's almost 5 1/2 years tenure in Kenya can be regarded as being largely influenced by the continuing interplay of five factors whose very ranking importance understandably changed during the period of Pant's tenure:
First, the degree of interest shown by India, and specifically Nehru, in speeding up the process of decolonization – a task for which the Labour Government was to prove a most accommodative partner, as this was the chief foreign policy tenet of the Fabian socialist creed with which it was imbued. In this context, I believe that as far back as 1937 Nehru, as the principal foreign policy spokesman of the Indian National Congress, had come to see that Indian emigrant minorities in colonial territories needed to be suitably sensitized to the importance of respecting and identifying with the aspirations of the majority population. One comment of Nehru to Pant bears quoting: "We Indians are in the middle . . . and we have a chance, a duty, to try and prevent the growth of a racial conflict" (Pant 1974).
But while decolonization may well have been Nehru's primary foreign policy preoccupation soon after Indian independence in August 1947, nevertheless by the early to mid 1950s and as India's world role grew, this gave way gradually in his mind to a greater focus on political solidarity within a wider, socalled non-aligned comity of developing nations, some of which were former colonies.
Second, the nature of the interaction, varying from initial tacit acquiescence or indifference to subsequent heightened tension, as between the United Kingdom and Indian governments relative to the assumption by India of this anti-colonial, non-aligned role – in particular, its repercussions on Pant's activities in at least their East African colonies. For his part, Nehru, as Pant has noted, always viewed the state of his relations with the Commonwealth
Relations Office as a constructive part of his foreign policy. In practice, however, this interactive variance turned upon which among the two UK political parties, Labour (November 1945 November 1951) or the Conservatives (November 1951 to the end of Pant's termand beyond), were in power in London.
Third, the extent of local European reaction in the colonies was generally influenced on the 'official' side in principle by the philosophy of the incumbent UK government (in particular, the persona of its Colonial Secretary) and in practice of course by the personality of the incumbent Governor charged with implementing stated policy. In a very real sense, therefore, colonial policy formulation and its implementation thus reflected the interaction between them.
The 'unofficial' side, of course, incarnated the beliefs of the white 'settlers' against any dilution of their power through any equity-based power sharing agreements with the other two numerically larger races. In this connection, the Asians in particular were always perceived, by virtue of their older culture and more pronounced economic wealth, to be far and away the more imminent threat, relative to the vastly more numerical, but unorganized and less well-off,
Africans. Moreover, European dislike of the Asians accentuated after 1947, now characterized by a greater distrust of the intentions of non-Muslims relative to Muslims largely because India and Nehru were viewed with greater distrust amounting to fear than were Pakistan and Jinnah.
Fourth, initial expectations formed among the local Asian political and business representatives about Pant's role. While it was almost euphoric at the start of his tenure, as Pant himself noted (Pant 1987;p. 16/17), it remained of course to be seen to what extent the Asians would duly buy into Nehru's message, quite appropriate and consistent for him but unsettling for them, which was to entail a radical reordering of their objectives. Here of course, in addition to the perennial problem about European/Asian relations from the early days, were the likely consequences of the creation of India and Pakistan as new nations carved out of the subcontinent in 1947.
Fifth, the degree to which local African politicians looked to India (rather than Pakistan) and thus to Pant for ideological and material support in their colonial Pant's arrival, there would appear to have been a somewhat superficial albeit nontribal organizational cohesion, as represented by the Kenya African
Union (KAU) which in 1945 had been broadened from the decades-old Kikuyu Central Association. This had been undertaken with the active support of the then Paramount Kikuyu Senior Chief Koinange-wa-Mbiyu so as to attract a wider base, including especially non-Kikuyus, in the face of the intransigence displayed by the British administration on the land tenure issue in the area (essentially the Kikuyu heartland) which later came to be known as the "White Highlands".
It was galvanized into action by the return in late 1946, after a selfimposed exile in Europe of some 15 years, of Jomo Kenyatta who took up its leadership in 1947 and married Koinange's eldest daughter in the same year, thereby insinuating himself into the center of the Kikuyu land struggle. Apart from Kikuyu leaders like Gicheru and Kaggia, however, there was also a coterie of other non-Kikuyus such as Oneko, Kali, Josiah, Khamisi, Kasyoka, Mbotela, and Odede. Nevertheless, the agitation remained a narrowly tribal one – essentially among the Kikuyu and grounded in their claims to Kikuyu tribal land. While India through Pant may initially well have provided a psychological boost to the African cause and some journalistic material and financial assistance in publicizing the land issue, once the struggle turned violent it is not clear what became the nature and extent of Indian support and of its channeling. In this connection, Pant cryptically notes: " … the colonial government could not pin onto the Indian mission any specific act of inciting the Africans against British rule, through a public speech or a secret gift of arms or ammunition.
III Evolution and Evaluation of Pant's tenure
Against this background, it seems to me not implausible to suggest that Pant's tenure as Commissioner can be distinguished broadly (but not neatly) into two time-demarcated phases – an initial phase, of a longer and markedly positive period of about 4 years from August 1948 through June, 1952, during which all the factors noted above seemed to work in Pant's favor, thereby permitting him to walk a diplomatically fine line fairly successfully between his overarching Nehruvian mandate and the more parochial expectations and fears of the other local actors.
This was followed by a shorter terminal phase, of about 1½ years from July 1952 through February 1954 when the stars would have appeared all to have turned away from him leading him to be much less successful in his mission; indeed, during this period, his influence inexorably drained away, culminating mercifully I believe in his sudden recall.
Pant comes across as a man with a very genuine sense of mission; as he notes, "Nehru had said 'Befriend Africa' and I, with my usual impulsive over-enthusiasm went about it with missionary zeal". (Pant, 1987; p.19). The essence of Pant's somewhat romanticized view in the matter was expressed as follows: "India and East Africa may seem to be distanced from each other by salt water. But they are, and always have been 'next shore neighbours', and surely their future lies in the direction of mutually profitable co-operation. From the very first day that I set foot on this 'Continent of Dawn' I dreamed of a harmonious special relationship between our two civilizations and peoples . . . and I have lived out my Gandhian dream under the skies of East Africa" (Pant 1978; pp. 30 and 35). Pant was thus ideally suited to his task: that being Nehru's hand-picked instrument – even if he brought to it a somewhat naïve Gandhian dimension or what he termed as the "Nehru-Gandhi inspired ideal of making friends" (Pant 1987; p.22) not envisaged or particularly appreciated by Nehru – for fostering the attainment of his vision of an end to racial discrimination and colonialism, denoted as the involuntary subjugation by colonial master powers of subject peoples, both of whom were racially and culturally distinct.
In carrying out his mission, however, Pant had indubitably to tread a very fine line owing to the somewhat anomalous quasi-diplomatic nature of his office.
Nehru, with his overarching objectives, had idealistically envisaged for it the remit of a broad, almost super-representational role over a wide geographical area, with some trade considerations thrown in for good measure. This ambitious role had to be reconciled in actual practice with a much lower level operational role, reduced to serving as a mere listening post or conduit to report on political developments, as well as engaging in consular activity almost wholly covering travel arrangements for the mostly British citizens of Indian descent traveling on customary temporary familial visits to India.
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of such persons had little intention to acquire Indian citizenship,and this was fully exposed during the Asian exodus in 1968 when the bulk of them, offered the choice, opted to migrate to Europe,United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, rather than return to India.
Initial Phase (August, 1948 - June, 1952)
In this phase as previously noted, there was a happy confluence in the interplay of all factors noted above which made for a distinctly positive sum game for Pant in carrying out his mission – Nehru still remained fully engaged in the decolonization exercise, in particular as it related to the British African colonies; Labour was in power for virtually the whole period, being voted out only in November 1951; Governor Mitchell's assignment had been extended for six months in order to organize the Royal visit in February 1952 as well as to oversee the general election that would usher in the new multi-racial legislative plan in June 1952 . More importantly, Pant still had good relations with both Asians and Africans – the latter, notably the Kikuyus through the Koinange family, and with them and also other tribes as represented in the labour movement – both thanks largely to Pio Gama Pinto. They were still receptive to the general thrust of his mission, in large part because the authorities were still ambivalent about confronting the emerging signs of what later on became well known as the Mau Mau uprising.
On the work front, Pant began peripatetically by making extensive familiarization visits to both the authorities and their residents of Indian descent who were generally not Indian citizens, in the far-flung British territories under his watch; he relished these trips greatly because these opened up new vistas for him. He did place his greatest focus, however, on delivering activities in East Africa especially Kenya, engaging in public addresses within Kenya (but never, as far as I have been able to ascertain, formally to the EAINC), as well as in private dialogue. Although these were never officially published, Pant himself realized that the details were being duly reported by informants, and subsequent intelligence reports confirm that he was correct in this assessment.
He even found the time to make extensive visits through the East African countryside, in February, 1950 leading the first private Indian mountaineering team (including his wife) on a climb of Mt. Kenya (17,040 feet), where he reached a height of about 16,000 feet before retiring, and later also climbed up Mount Meru (14,000 feet) near Arusha in Tanganyika. (Pant 1987; pp.30/31).
Later in 1950 in the context of a visit from India by his elderly father, as well as on several occasions thereafter, he visited the various game parks to "shoot lions with my camera", as he humorously remarked. On the commercial front, although such matters were handled by a separate Indian Trade
Commissioner's office in Mombasa established in 1950, Pant may well have played a catalytic role in January 1950 by securing the introduction of regular weekly air flights between Bombay and Nairobi by Air India; by early 1954, he likely had a hand also in strengthening ocean-going transport connections between Mombasa and Bombay through setting in train the New Eastern Passenger Service using the steamer, "State of Bombay".Pant consistently hewed to a standard Nehru line in all his suitably nuanced public and private presentations, albeit he added his own Gandhian gloss to it.(Note that he titled the relevant chapter in one of his books as "Gandhian Dream in Africa" (Pant 1978; p.20). Following Nehru's mandate, Pant genuinely believed that it was quite feasible to work towards a prospective multi-ethnic, multicultural society in East Africa if Asians were prepared to open their educational institutions to, and share economic power with, Africans; but he advocated it not merely as a form of Nehru-type political realism, but also as the basis for a Gandhian type morally-based "pilgrimage" towards the brotherhood of men of goodwill among the three races. Two quotes from Pant should suffice to capture the essence of his nuanced feelings, unchanged through time: "To me, it seemed that the immediate problem of relationship between Kenya's
Indian residents and the Africans had to be considered in the wider context of African aspirations for freedom, and of the relevance of our experiences in India to such a struggle (emphasis supplied), and "The enthusiasm of all the meetings, talks, and plans that followed was kept going, for many of us, by a feeling that the victory of harmony and enlightened co-operation over exploitation and conflicts was just around the corner". (Pant, 1974; pp. 51/52).
To this end, he counseled straightforwardly that prospective security for Asians wishing to continue to reside permanently in a future independent Kenya was crucially time-contingent, so they must remain patient and confident that positive change would come about sooner rather than later. In the meanwhile, however, they had to identify as fully and quickly as possible with the underprivileged African majority; this entailed, as a practical matter, that they should redirect themselves from their traditional quest of decades to become privileged coequals with the Europeans, who he considered largely as birds of passage, and seek new ways of participating with the majority Africans in all areas to help them to realize their full potential.
With the tenor of Pant's general message having been clearly set out for him by Nehru himself thus permitting little creative wiggle room, Pant waseffectively reduced to continually making repetitive exhortatory addresses both public and private to local Indians of all communal stripes (and perhaps even African leaders, although this is much less clear from his reporting) and serving as a listening post and conduit for information from the region to Nehru,
when he was not traveling to "show the Indian flag" in his wide parish, as it were. There was clearly very little of substance that he could provide for the Asians in Kenya which would have corresponded to their own parochial but important concerns such as the prevalence of colour bar in service establishments, the right to freely obtain land titles for urban and rural land, and above all to secure parity in representation and treatment within the executive and legislative organs of central government and also the public administration.
Against this background, he had probably had to resort – and he would be in his element in doing this – to maintaining very cordial social relations on an individual or small group basis with selected Asian and African leaders, exchanging with them (in particular, the Asian journalist fraternity directly or through his adept Information Officer, Shahane) snippets of information and more general assessments that could then be forwarded confidentially in his periodic reports to Nehru; indeed, it would in retrospect provide a fascinating glimpse, in generating a more accurate assessment of his thinking, if onewere able to access these reports in the governmental archives in India.
Pant was evidently aware very early on of what the Asians expected from him. To quote him: "I quickly got the general drift of what the Indian population looked for in its 'own' Commissioner. I was to be the 'strong man' who would bring down the pride and exclusiveness of the Europeans and ensure equalprivileges for the Indians. I must fight for more Indian seats in the Assembly and more Government posts. I must do everything, above all, to enable theIndians to make more money." (Pant 1978; pp. 22-24). What is more to the point, Pant instinctively refused to adopt this suggested role for himself, notingprophet-like "For myself, I could only shout day and night at my Indian friends that the dawn of African freedom was near and that they should wake up while there was still time to prepare themselves for it. Only a few, I'm afraid, really did wake up and even then they did not clearly see the shape of the partthey would have to play in the new life of this continent." (Pant 1978; p.24)
Asians in their turn had clearly misjudged what Pant should be able, or more importantly would choose if able, to do specifically for them on the issuesnoted above. This was illustrated very much earlier from the reported comment made by S.G. Amin, the EAINC President through August 1948, at one of these public meetings with Pant in October 1948. Amin had ventured to suggest that henceforward the heavy burden carried by Indian politicians and the EAINC would rest on his (Pant's) shoulders. Pant gently but firmly took refuge in a convenient technicality by reminding his audience that he had been sent by the Indian Government to look only after Indians residing in East Africa while continuing to retain their citizenship of India.
He would expose his motivation (deriving from Nehru) much later as follows: "The existence of these populations of Indian origin was the obvious justification for my job. At the same time it was natural that the representative of an independent India would not see this job with the same eyes as a servant of the former British Raj, which had also an official concern with overseas Indians, in Africa and elsewhere. One could not forget that Gandhi had begun his life's work as champion of the Indians in South Africa against discriminatory laws, that he had done so as a citizen of the British Empire appealing to the rights which he believed it guaranteed; and that later he had hoped and foretold that national freedom forIndia would open the way to liberation of the weaker peoples of the earth." (1974; pp. 49/50).There is here, in my view, a purposefully breathtaking, if somewhat specious, conflation of situations and roles that Pant apparently felt to be self-evident.
In pursuing his mission, therefore, Pant was likely able initially with his personal charm to court with substantial success most of the Asian communities' leaders of the day, be they politicians, businessmen, journalists, and professionals. Among such political leaders were: the presidents of the East African
Indian Congress (EAINC) during his tenure such as D.D.Puri and J.M. Nazareth, as well as former presidents such as A.B.Patel, N.S. Mangat, S.G. Amin, Chanan Singh, Chunilal Madan; Muslim leaders such as Shamsud- Din, Eboo Pirbhai, Chairman of the Muslim Central Association and Ibrahim Nathoo (both Ismailis), Bhagat Singh Biant of the East African Ramgharia Board (Sikhs), Dr. A.C.L. de Souza of the GOA (Goan), and Messrs. A.H. Nurmohamed and Y.E. Jivanjee (Ithanasheri/Bohra). His courtship also extended to businessmen and professionals such as: Suryakant Patel, the Chairman of the Seva Dal, G.L.Vidyarthi,
Mohamedalli Rattansi, Inder Singh Gill, Muljibhai Madhvani, Nanji Kalidas Mehta, R.B. Pandya, R.K. Paroo, J.M. Desai, Dr. S.D.Karve, Dr F.C. Sood, John Karmali and many others. Not surprisingly, because of Makhan Singh's political persuasionand his security status, Pant appears to have had only a perfunctory and marginal contact with him, although in a sense Makhan Singh was the only Asian-born politician whose views matched up anywhere close to those of Pant himself. Nor from his books, is it clear that Pant had met with Ambu Patel, who in a Gandhian fashion "single-handedly publicized the unjust incarceration of Jomo Kenyatta." (Seidenberg 1996, Ch. 6; p. 25). It is understood, however, that he encouraged the setting up, and assisted at the opening of, the Republic High School by Dr. A.U.Sheth in Mombasa in September, 1951 as a multi-racial school with fees underwritten on the basis of need, based on the earlier attempt with John Karmali with what developed later into the well-known and still existing Hospital Hill School.
Pant's approaches, as noted above, initially found a very receptive ear among Asians as a whole, in part because they had no reason or alternative for not giving him the benefit of the doubt. One of the first signs of concern, however, comes in April 1950 when, at the first joint meeting of KAU (headed by
Kenyatta) and EAINC (headed by Nazareth), one of the speakers quotes provocatively from an earlier statement of Nehru to the effect that Indians in Africa must generally regard themselves as "guests" of the Africans – as noted later, a climacteric personal moment for Nazareth. In addition, Hindu/Muslim agitation for separate voting rolls, although simmering below the surface especially among the Punjabi Muslims (Dr. Rana and Allah Ditta Qureshi), had not yet fully infected Asian leaders in Kenya who continued to operate largely within the cooperative harmony engendered by an earlier generation of Asian leaders. Even the Aga Khan had reportedly advised his Ismaili followers in March 1948 not to create Hindu-Muslim quarrels by bringing India's, Pakistan's and Hindustan's quarrels into East Africa but rather to live as one in unity and be known as East Africans as therein would lie their salvation. In line with this position, in March, 1950 Ibrahim Nathoo roundly criticized Qureshi, the Secretary of the Muslim Central Association, for having on his personal initiative sent an unrepresentative memorandum purportedly on behalf of all Muslims in Kenya directly to the Pakistan government; he followed this up in the same month reception for Pant by stating that it was undesirable to import disunity from the Indian subcontinent to Kenya. The traditional, decades-long, obstacle for all Asians had remained, since the founding of Kenya Colony and Protectorate, the racial attitudes of the European farmer/settler, who had
refused pointedly to entertain the Asians legitimate claims for racial nondiscrimination in social and economic life as well as parity of representation in the organs of government.
Pant also initially exerted a great charm on the general social circuit in Nairobi, in particular with Europeans who viewed him somewhat romantically as a different type of Indian, a suave Oxford-educated prince no less. But this soon faded, as Pant notes: "My well-known alleged – and real – sympathies and friendships with Africans (emphasis supplied) had made me almost an outcast in the social life of the white inhabitants.
Except for a few real friends like Sir Berkeley Nihill, the chief justice of Kenya, Derek Erskin, a big landowner, Sir Vaisey and a few others who could be counted on the fingers of one hand, the official circles had decided to boycott all functions at the Indian Embassy (sic) and did not invite me to theirs."(Pant 1987; p.23). Moreover, and below the surface, as the intelligence reports suggest, the local European community of officials and settlers exhibited a growing alarm about his activities, incorrectly but fearfully viewing him as essentially a stalking horse for the introduction into Kenya of the growing worldwide influence of India and Nehru.
That nothing came of their protests was probably due to the fact that a Labour Government was in power in the UK through November 1951 and its leaders had strong personal connections to Nehru and an overarching interest in reformatting the British Commonwealth to enable India upon becoming a republic in January
1950 to stay within it, and Nehru was the key to the success of this endeavor. This bias was complemented at the local level by the then Governor of Kenya,Sir Philip Mitchell, in office during Pant's first four years perhaps because the former was no doubt aware of the stakes in London, and with whom Pant in any case apparently had, at least on the surface, a good working relationship, as two former Oxford men notwithstanding the considerable difference in their ages. Pant notes, for example, that the Governor looked with reserved favor at his setting up (with John Karmali and Hassan Nathoo) a private school for all races in his own house, although balking at a larger and more permanent establishment of this nature (Pant 1978; p.54).
This visceral fear among Europeans for Indians was linked to India's growing importance in the world and is amply exposed by short quotations from four statements made much later in October, 1954 in the context of the introduction of a more balanced multi-racial government and a "truce" agreement between the three major groups of European opinion (the European Electors Union, the United Country Party, and the FederalIndependence Party and that arch anti-Asian politician from a previous generation, octogenarian Colonel Ewart Grogan) to resist the deepening multi-racial legislative plan drawn by the new Colonial Secretary Lennox Boyd: The last mentioned, in a letter to the Economist, in December 1954 wrote to the effect that: "We resent the blatant inconsistency of imposing part Indian rule over our Africans and Arabs without our consent . . . If the straight issue 'Are you willing to be ruled by Indians?' could be put to (them), the answer would be an universal and emphatic No!".
Another similar statement came from the Earl of Portsmouth who baldly asserted in October 1954: "There is really only one real cleavage between us: to what extent shall India's influence carry here?" Mr. S.V. Cooke also asserted: "I am all out for racial cooperation. That does not mean I am determined or prepared to give authority to Asians in this country – and more particularly the Indians". Mr. Coller-Hallowes echoed this line with: "Unless we say that we are going to join up and go forward to help the African and the Arab in this country at every opportunity, we are going to face the issue that this country has been handed over to the Indians".
As noted above, Governor Mitchell fully cognizant of London's standpoint exerted a countervailing presence at the local level, helping to contain the settlers' protests. During his eight year tenure ending with his retirement from the Colonial Service at end June 1952, Mitchell identified closely with all communities in Kenya. I believe that he had gradually developed a confident and prescient multi-racial cast to his thinking born of some 40 years of prior colonial experience in the East African countries themselves (1919-40) and subsequently with countries with mixed populations, notably with Indians in Fiji from where after 8 years he had come to Kenya in 1944. There are some who hold to the view from an exchange of telegrams between the first Labour Colonial Secretary (Creech Jones) and Governor Mitchell soon after they had come to power in November 1946, that the new authorities had grave reservations about Mitchell's attempt with Sessional Paper No.3 of 1945 to increase the executive responsibility of Europeans to the detriment of Non-Europeans generally, and to follow this up by attempting to dilute the Asian representation through the specific acknowledgement of Hindu/Muslim disunity.
If this was his initial motivation, however, once the Labour government was more fully in the saddle, he would had to have fallen into line with the new more strongly anti-colonial thinking coming out of London from his new political masters, inasmuch as Colonial 191 reserved final responsibility for the overall policy and administration of the East African territories firmly in the hands of the Imperial Government. I thus believe that he would been compelled to accept Labour's thinking on the need for communal rolls and not a common role in helping to bring about an eventual multi-racial society in Kenya based on majority rule and governance by moderates of all three races. Where he may undoubtedly have differed from London would be less on the direction of the change (over which he had no control) and more on the pace of change (over which he had control), designed to ensure that the process, whilst it could be accelerated in policy terms, should not be unduly rushed in operational terms.
In the event, and with London's backing in those financially austere years, he helped push through a raft of administrative and logistical proposals to undergird an evolving multiracial society in Kenya. These included: the formation of the East African High Commission (1947) and East African Legislative
Assembly (1948); the founding of the Muslim Institute (MIOME) in Mombasa in March 1950; the establishment of the East African Court of Appeal in January 1951; encouraging the formation of the United Kenya Clubs in Nairobi and Mombasa (July 1951) open to all races by allocating choice land; laying the foundation stone of the multi-racial Royal Technical College in April 1952; and finally and perhaps most importantly, agreeing to a six month extension of his term to shepherd through the run up to the general elections in early June 1952, based on the multiracial Lyttleton Plan hurriedly put together by the new Conservative Secretary Humphrey Lyttleton after a visit to Kenya in January 1952, which accepted for the first time a parity between Europeans and Non
Europeans at the "unofficial level". On the other hand, his biggest mistake was probably to downplay in reports to London the severity of Mau Mau secret oathing threats that had commenced over a year before he left – even to the extent of permitting, against the advice of his security officials, the visit to Kenya of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in early February, 1952 – because he did not want to have to deal with the Mau Mau threat on his watch.
Upon retirement and following two months of paid leave in September 1952, he chose not unsurprisingly to settle on his farm in Kenya until his passing away in 1964.
I believe too, as previously noted, that Mitchell had a fairly comfortable working relationship with Pant, favoring him with a fair degree of access and relatively free rein within the bounds of quasi-diplomatic propriety. This relationship was especially tested – as Pant ruefully notes – when Lady
Mountbatten, as Superintendent-in-Chief of the St John's Ambulance Brigade, a member of the British Royal Family by marriage and a close confidante of Nehru, first visited Kenya in February 1951 and was invited by the Governor to stay at Government House. (Coincidentally, I believe that at that material time her younger sister Mary was in fact still married to the 4th Baron Delamere, and could in principle have been invited to the reception). At a reception in her honour, she pointedly noted to the Governor and Pant that the invited guests were largely of European "official"and "unofficial" groups, with only a miniscule number of handpicked non-Europeans. She then remonstrated that because of her charitable activities she needed to meet a much wider representative and balanced racial cross section of the population, which the Governor suggested would not be feasible at short notice. To his and Pant's huge surprise and discomfiture, she thereupon calmly announced that in these circumstances she would move out of Government House and into the Pants' residence for the last couple of days of her stay. As Pant himself notes, this short notice created considerable logistical difficulties for him; moreover, at a subsequent party in his house to which Pant invited 25 prominent representatives each from the European, Asian and African communities, only one European, the chief of the security police, turned up!
Pant's dealings with African leaders undoubtedly represented the main thrust of his activities in Kenya and East and Central Africa more generally. The message he brought them from Nehru was naturally music to their collective ears, although here too his real contact was limited to the Kikuyu, and specifically to Kenyatta and the Koinanges. It seems very likely that beyond this, and given his diplomatic position, he could only keep abreast of he evolving situation not through any Asian politician but through the conduit of the lone Asian operator, Pio Gama Pinto. At the international level, and in order to buttress the representations made by India, as the recognized leader of the anti-colonial and nonaligned world, Nehru had apparently arranged for Pant to be co-opted into the Indian delegation to the United Nations led by its internationally known ambassador Krishna Menon, starting in 1951 in Geneva and Paris, and then New York in 1952 onwards. With his unrivalled knowledge of local conditions on the ground it would appear that Pant's role would be to participate in both the Decolonization and Trusteeship Committees at the United Nations.
Two significant indications of India and Pant's indirect influence through Nehru's connections, as these applied to Tanganyika as a UN Trust Territory, were: first, the new Conservative Government respected an earlier Labour government undertaking and in July 1952 permitted Sir Edward Twining, the Governor of Tanganyika, to give evidence for the first time before the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations; second, Julius Nyerere, as the newly elected President of the Tanganyika African Union (TANU) was also permitted to give direct evidence for the first time to the Council in late 1952/early 1953.
Complementing his indirect international activities on behalf of the African cause, Pant also showed his concern in several direct ways at the local level, while at all times having to be extremely careful because he was being closely monitored, despite his relationship with Governor Mitchell. This enabled him, for example, to arrange on June 23, 1951 for Jomo Kenyatta and Mbiyu Koinange to be officially welcomed and feted in Mombasa on board the visiting Indian warship HMS Delhi. Later, following the arrest in October 1952 of Jomo Kenyatta and six other associates and the proscribing of the Kenya African Union
(KAU), Pant no doubt arranged for Joseph Murumbi, Acting Secretary of KAU who had fled from Kenya into exile in March 1953 to escape arrest, to meet the
Indian President and Prime Minister as the external representative of KAU and to be financially supported for several years in the UK, and for Nehru to send Diwan Chaman Lall to take part in Kenyatta's legal defence team. He also arranged for a scholarship scheme (up to 30 in number) at Indian universities to be instituted for deserving African students (e.g. those expelled from Makerere University College in June, 1952 after a student strike such as Dr. Joseph Karanja, who later rose to become Vice President of Kenya, Omolo Okero who became a Minister, and Joseph Gataguta, a Member of Parliament); in this endeavor,
he was aided by his close and longstanding friend Peter Wright, who after he had been deported in November 1952 from Kenya, was invited by Nehru on Pant's recommendation to create and head an African Studies program at Delhi University.
The thrust of Pant's activities on behalf of African freedom, however, came from his direct support of the liberation fight. Very soon after his arrival in October 1948, he had been introduced by S.G. Amin to Peter Mbiyu Koinange, the brother in law of Jomo Kenyatta and eldest son of Senior Chief Koinange-wa-Mbiyu. When Pant's father visited him in Nairobi in 1950, Pant had taken him along to meet with ex-Senior Chief Koinange at his home in Githinguri. Much later in August, 1951, just after he had returned to Nairobi from an extended visit to India in connection with the death of his father in
Aundh, the progressively closer personal relationship with Pant with the Koinanges would be deepened by his "adoption" as a Koinange; it would be fully consummated in a subsequent dead-of night ritual ceremony when he was inducted with the assistance of Pinto, as an elder into the Koinange clan. (1987;
pp.27/28). Much later, but with less secrecy on their part and less weight attached to this on his, Pant would also be inducted as an elder into the Kamba and Luo tribes.
In any case, at this stage, the African political and trade union leadership, both within the Kikuyu heartland and elsewhere, was desperately in need of all kinds of assistance from whatever quarter it came. More ominously in the Kikuyu heartland secret oathing had commenced, encouraged it was suggested not by the Koinange family or Kenyatta through KAU, but by the more radical elements (such as Fred Kubai, Bildad Kaggia) who they could not control, through the formation of the so-called Kiambaa Parliament. By its very nature, support for such activities fromwhatever source had to be provided in a surreptitious manner, and there is little concrete information of whether this took the form of money and/or material (arms), and if so to whom and how it had been channeled; it is reported, however, that in the early 1950s Pinto did help to organize and sustain a secret Mau Mau War Council, as it was termed, in Nairobi. In this connection, it is interesting to note Pant's mention that when he was away visiting the Belgian- Congo, a security detail was able to gain access to his basement in a fruitless search for arms stored,and later also that both Nehru and Indira Gandhi privately knew how much Pinto had done for the African cause. (Pant 1987; pp. 25-27). There appears, on the other hand, to be some plausible indication that Pant focused on building up African capability in journalism by persuading existing Indian newspapers to help out and through provision of equipment and materials (for example, it has been suggested that he persuaded The Daily Chronicle to assist Asya Awori with the printing of his vernacular newspaper).
It is incontestable, and this is confirmed by Pant himself, that starting in about late 1950 and through the rest of his tenure, a central figure in Pant's ability to operate under cover with the African (mainly Kikuyu) leaders was Pio Gama Pinto because of the latter's extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the African trade union movement and political groupings through continual interfacing and his remarkable discretion. Working out of the EAINC office with
Pant's tacit support, Pinto was able to acquire such knowledge and acquire their unquestioning loyalty and support by sheer dint of exhibited commitment and prodigious effort that he was able to muster. Indeed, it is probably safe to say that without Pinto's willingness to assist Pant in developing his mission to promote the African cause, while remaining the soul of discretion and thus entirely trustworthy, Pant's forays into this area would have been greatly minimized, especially from the second half of 1951 onwards.
Terminal Phase (January 1952 - February 1954)
By the first quarter of 1952, the situation that confronted Pant had changed quite swiftly in an entirely adverse direction – Nehru was increasingly turning his attention away from anticolonial matters in Africa and towards developing firmer links with the non-aligned world (including China); the Conservatives under Churchill had ousted Labour from the government of the UK in November 1951, and Oliver Lyttleton had been appointed Colonial Secretary with Alan Lennox- Boyd as his junior
Minster committed to introducing some form of a multi-racial legislative system in Kenya; Governor Mitchell was focusing exclusively on the introduction of this system following a general election scheduled for June 1952 after which he would proceed on retirement; Asians had come slowly to realize that their earlier expectations about Nehru and Pant were overblown and that India had always been more interested in helping the African majority attain independence than helping Indians in their perceived predicament; amongst Africans (especially Kikuyus) – and indeed for the whole of the country generally – Mau Mau had begun to exert its deleterious effects on all aspects of life, and Pant's main contacts were shortly to be imprisoned as the British fight back assumed major proportions. In this environment, Pant appeared more than ever to be reduced to being an utterly reactive spectator rather than a modest proactive player, because he was wholly unable to influence any other of the major players in either official or unofficial political circles in Kenya.
The central phenomenon for the rest of Pant's stay and even beyond, in regard to which he Gandhian idealist like Pant. As Pant notes wryly: "The terrorism and violence of the Mau-Mau campaign came as a personal shock to me, as well as an obstacle to our efforts . . . I did not conceal my reaction to them and in consequence earned a reprimand from Nehru (who) exploded in anger at my failure to distinguish between "imperialistic" violence and that of the "freedom struggle". "Once or twice he nearly threw me out of his office because I was harping, unnecessarily as he judged, upon outrages committed in the name of freedom" (Pant 1978. p.26). Pant goes on to state: ". . . I talked often before their internment about tribal life in all its aspects, above all in reference to the freedom struggle. Many of our discussions centered upon the question of violence: was it necessary, was it avoidable, was it profitable? I feel sure that if cross fertilization of Indian experience in this context had taken place ten years earlier the struggle in this part of Africa would have been different".(Pant 1978; p.28). This quote is revealing because Pant does not provide any indication of the reactions, which certainly could not have pleased him, hence the escape from the real "what has to be" to the more counterfactual fantasy of "what might have been, if."
By mid 1952, the escalating extent of Kikuyu oathing could no longer be swept under the rug; the local authorities and the incoming Conservative government in the UK, somewhat paralyzed into still focusing in a pro-forma way on the holding of a general election leading to the introduction of multi-racial government, was soon overwhelmed by events they could not control. As holding pattern through the summer of 1952 until a new Governor, Sir. Evelyn Baring, arrived on September 29, 1952. Shortly thereafter, on October 20, 1952, he declared a State of Emergency and under Operation Jock Scott had Jomo Kenyatta and seven associates arrested, as well as the Koinange family and hundreds of other Kikuyu sympathizers in the rural areas. As a result, there appears to have been a general movement of the hardcore element to the Aberdare Forests to continue the fight, resulting in several further ritual murders of European farmers (about 100 Europeans, three quarters of them security forces personnel) were reported killed, in total).
By the end of 1954, it was estimated that the security cost of combating the Mau Mau uprising had attained a level of 26 million British pounds sterling.
Any credibility that Pant had earned with Asians dwindled rapidly as the full realization had sunk in among them that India had no real interest in their fate and thus would not intervene to assist them because it preferred to focus exclusively on the African plight. The first prominent indication of this realization came in 1952 when J. M.
Nazareth, a recent past president of the EAINC which had been renamed in June as the Kenya Indian Congress (KIC), met with Nehru in August 1952. In his own recounting of that meeting, Nazareth claims to have told Nehru respectfully that his practice of referring to all Indians residing in Kenya as "guests", irrespective of whether they had been in Kenya for more than one generation and had decided to make Kenya their permanent home, had been unfortunate but Nehru significantly heard him out and said nothing.
Later, Diwan Chaman Lall, when he came at Nehru's personal request to defend Kenyatta at Kapenguria in April, 1953, suggested at a public meeting in Nairobi that "the final solution to the colonial problem is for both Europeans and Asians to return to their own countries". Shortly thereafter, A.B. Patel is reported to have said at a public meeting that "The government of India is not correctly informed about events in this country and it is the function of the Indians here to see that the facts are understood" – an indirect rebuke to Pant. Finally, Murumbi, as noted above, met Nehru in March 1953 when he escaped from Kenya; he reportedly advised him that, “while the majority of the Indian community appeared to have no particular sympathy with the African cause, there are, however, very many young Indians, particularly lawyers, who have come out and undergone sacrifices to help the Africans." In a long, somewhat stern and uncompromising statement, Nehru reportedly said in September, 1953: "The Indians (in Africa) will not get any support from the government of India in any claims that may be advanced against the Africans.
We have told them: you are there as guests. The interests of the African must be dominant. If you can serve them, then well and good; if not, pack up and go because we will not protect you there". Against this background, the effect of the violence associated with the Mau Mau must have deeply shocked the traditionally conservative and nonviolent Hindu community (and other Asians) and have served as a wake-up call that they would probably be the next racial group to be attacked by Africans and that there would be realistically no long term future for Indians in an independent Kenya. The June 1952 general election had incarnated the principle of separate communal rolls as between Hindus and Muslims, but now the Muslims themselves were split further between the Ismailis and the Punjabi Muslims. The former appeared to have moved, under their leader Sir Eboo Pirbhai who was unexpectedly knighted by Mitchell in January 1952 and nominated as a LEGCO member in June 1952, to assert their separate status from the Punjabi Muslims through establishing their own social welfare institutions and community organizations such as the Pomegranate Club.
Pant appeared to have gradually lost his credibility with the Indians, and his usefulness to the African cause was about to suffer a significant blow, even though Pinto was still around to help him at the margin. Pant appears to have scheduled to be away in New York at the United Nations General Assembly for about two months from late
September, but apparently cut short his trip after hearing about the declaration of the Emergency and the arrests of Kenyatta and the Koinanges and arrived back in mid November to discover that his long-standing personal friend Peter Wright had also just been deported on November 13 as an undesirable immigrant with no reason being provided. But he had clearly and irrevocably lost his principal African interlocutors whom he was never to meet again. First, Peter Mbiyu sensing imminent danger of arrest had not returned from a visit abroad in late 1951 and had settled in London where he would be joined in March 1953 by Murumbi. Then, following the declaration of Emergency on October 20, Kenyatta was arrested with others for managing Mau Mau, as were also ex-Senior Chief Koinange and his four sons on suspicion of complicity in the murder of Senior Chief Waruhui on October 7.
Within a few months into early 1953, therefore, Pant's relationships with both Indians and Africans had irretrievably suffered, the first from a lack of credibility and the second because of the disappearance of his interlocutors, and he was now to experience an alienation from the local administration and even the UK government. Governor Baring, although also an Oxford man like Pant but with a much smaller age difference than Mitchell's, was by nature much more reserved and aloof than Mitchell had been, and in any case had walked straight into a crisis which he was desperately trying to stage manage. The fight against the Mau Mau had assumed major dimensions, leaving little time for Pant to interact with the local authorities, nor in any case would they even contemplate doing so. After all, Pant had been suspect to the authorities for some time over his connections with Koinange in Kenya and Nehru in India; Lyttleton had in fact pointedly in a press interview in Nairobi in November 1952 accused the Indian Commissioner's office of acting "far beyond the bounds of diplomatic propriety". A further complication was the strong personal relationship Pant maintained with the Kabaka of Buganda which led to three times yearly visits by Pant to Kampala and occasionally unplanned visits by the Kabaka to stay with Pant in Nairobi.
One such visit led, as Pant noted, to "the Governor of Uganda (asking) over the telephone whether I was really going to welcome these 'absconders' and I said in my usual enthusiastic manner 'Do not worry please; the Kabaka will be given a very good time' . . . so I brought two disgruntled African leaders (Kenyatta and the Kabaka) together . . . at a huge picnic party in Githunguri". (Pant 1987; p.21). But with the Conservative government now firmly in the saddle in London, the several requests to Nehru for Pant's recall could no longer be contained by London and thus blithely ignored by Nehru.
There is apparently little discreet evidence about the nature and mode of Pant's activities in Kenya during his last 18 months, and in particular of his interactions with Pinto (who would be arrested only 4 months later in early June 1954), but it is clear that the direct links with both Indians and Africans so assiduously cultivated over the past 4 years had been irreparably broken. Both the Conservative Government and their surrogates the local Kenya authorities were clearly baying for his blood, for as Pant puts it "incessantly interfering in the internal affairs of a friendly power and their policies of governing a British colony. (Pant 1987; p.22). In the event, I discovered that his formal recall without a precise date appears in the East African Standard (EAS) edition of January 15, 1954, with
no official pronouncement from the Indian Commissioner's office to confirm or deny it. Later, Pant was to confirm that:" this actually did happen without my knowledge till much later in Delhi.
The Indian government had to telegraphically transfer me to a post which did not exist, with no work to do, not even a place to sit in or a place to live." (Pant 1987; p. 22). In this connection, Pant sadly recalls that the telegram of recall came as "a bolt from the blue" in early February that ". . . he had no full sense of achievement. My dream of creating a bond of friendship between Indians, Europeans and Africans had not been realized. I saw African independence coming, but without a major Indian contribution" (Pant, 1978). Indeed, in the EAS of February 9, 1954, R.K. Tandon was designated as First
Secretary/Counsellor. Pant probably spent the next couple of weeks paying farewell calls on the authorities of the country over which his remit extended. His departure from Kenya sometime in February was very low key indeed to the extent that I have yet to find in the local newspapers of the time a mention of the exact date of departure, much less any final statement from Pant or from anyone else of note. The relative suddenness of his recall was also pointed up as much by a delay of almost eight months before his successor (Gopala Menon), a more traditional civil servant, formally replaced him at end October, 1954. But before his arrival the Indian Commissioner's office was forcibly trashed by a KAR unit, purportedly by accident for which a pro-forma formal apology was proffered.
In the following decade, Nehru would continue to use Pant for increasingly important assignments related to his growing interest in strengthening the nonalignment movement. Until his own death in May 1964 Nehru designated him first as the point person for China-related special duties in Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet (the latter eventually associated with the flight of the Dalai Lama), followed by full ambassadorships in two key non aligned countries (Indonesia under President Sukarno and Egypt under President Nasser). After Nehru's passing away, Pant had senior assignments in Norway, the United Kingdom and Italy before retiring.
I had noted earlier that Pant's books are quite minimal for their retrospective self-evaluation of his tenure, even with the benefit of hindsight. What is striking, however, is that even three decades later – when he is putting together his books and following two visits in 1961 and again in the 1970 – Pant refuses to let go of his unvarnished enthusiasm of before. Much later towards the last period of his life in August 1987, he could still comfortably state, driven by a one-sided sense of dharma, that his task in East Africa had been to promote: "peaceful multiracial cooperation in pursuit of stabilizing relations between Indians and Africans. Indians in East Africa had a special task to perform, expressing their debt. The Indians left India with no capital.
By 1948 they had done well, many with big houses and money. My work was to make them conscious of their dharma or duty to give back what they had been given". (Seidenberg 1996; Ch.6; p. 162).
Moreover, he does not even attempt to qualify it somewhat on the basis of subsequent developments particularly those relating to the Indians exodus migration of September 1968, the summary Uganda deportation by Amin of Asians in August 1972, or the inherent tribal animosities that manifested themselves after independence at least in Kenya and Uganda – indeed, he has an anodyne, almost dismissive, comment about the Uganda episode "I believe that it is only the recognition of a community of interest that can prevent the wasteful and dangerous tensions from increasing in the way that the experience of Uganda in 1972 has shown us". (Pant 1974; p.58). It strikes me that he perhaps feels strongly that for him to do so would be tantamount to a case of "think some evil; seesome evil; and speak some evil." which, ever the Gandhian, he is not prepared to do. He makes only modest mention about some disappointments (e.g. Gandhi
Memorial Academy, United Kenya Club) under the tumultuous tide of African nationalism.
The startling exception comes in his 1978 book (p. 26), where Pant provides his own ex-post valedictory on his Africa experience, which I quote in extenso for its no doubt personally painful, if transparently and naively honest, mea culpa: "Looking back from a distance on all those events, it seems to me that what some of us were up to was not, after all, so mad or so revolutionary. Whether it had a chance of success is another question. Was the tide of nationalism too strong for the state of affairs that we desired? It may be that all societies, all cultures have to establish themselves in changing circumstances before they can absorb new values and patterns of thoughts and behaviour. There is in each society the impulse to prove its own power in relation to others, before it can accept from them whatever may be good or beneficial. A society which feels itself weak and inferior may have the least, rather than the most, capacity for synthesis . . . To imagine, as some of us did in Kenya, that an example (India) with millennia of growth behind it, could be of service for the task of a single generation, was expecting a great deal. But the acceleration of history in our own day makes it possible, indeed necessary, to adjust our thinking".
Fifty years on, however, the definitive verdict of history on Nehru's policy and Pant's faithful implementation of it has yet to really emerge, – will it be a case of "Good Riddance" from the African perspective or "Thank Goodness" from the Asian perspective, or just somewhere in between? Has the cumulative sum of the gains (whatever these might be) through time exceeded those of the losses (howsoever deemed) for the countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) and for the individuals concerned departing Asians? The answer to the first question is less clear, certainly in economic terms, although a majority of Africans would naturally see it as clearly positive, and perhaps this has even become necessarily acceptable for that relatively small number of original Asian residents currently living in the East African countries as citizens. African society and civilization still remains more tribally fragmented in its reactions to change than perhaps Nehru and Pant would have wished. As for the second question, few Kenya Asians, even those who were deemed automatic citizens by birth, stayed thereafter in the country beyond the first decade. Most of them saw what was coming in the starkest adverse terms and chose to migrate to politico-economic "open" democratic societies for several decades now; furthermore, in looking back on their decision to migrate they appear to feel strongly that it has been vindicated fully for both themselves and their progeny, albeit they do admit to a persisting nostalgia for the "good old days in East Africa"! Perhaps then, from a longer term perspective, Nehru's admonition from July 1953 – "if you can serve them (Africans) well and good; if not pack up and go" – and Pant's Gandhian style implementation of it, may have served a purpose of a clarion call that helped Africans to realize that they could, would, and should, be able to go it on their own without dependence on Europeans or Asians in the final analysis, and also helped the large majority of Asians (whether Indians or not) to decide to take the plunge and migrate. Even abstracting from the considerable benefit of hindsight, one is still struck by the strange contrast between the nobility and praiseworthiness of the objectives of both Nehru and Pant, and the unrealistic and non-pragmatic way in which they went about trying to implement them." In his judgment, it leads nicely into the next and final paragraph from his assessment already made and that of history that is yet to come.
Pant about Lady Mountbatten’s visit to Kenya in 1951:
"But it was when Lady Mountbatten visited Kenya in 1951, as the president of the St. John's Ambulance, that the budding diplomat had a think about – and fast. She stayed at Government House, where she must have found her host, Sir Philip Mitchell, to be a very worried Governor indeed, as the Mau-Mau freedom movement was gathering momentum in Kenya and there was a lot of tension in the air. My well-known alleged – and real sympathies and friendships with Africans had made me almost an outcast in the social life of the white inhabitants. Except for a few real friends like Sir Berkeley Nihill, the chief justice of Kenya, Derek Ersikin, a big landowner, Sir Vaisey and a few others who could be counted on the fingers of one hand, the official circles had decided to boycott all functions at the Indian embassy and didn't invite me to theirs. But Lady Mountbatten was the wife of the first British Governor-General of independent India and a great friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, so my wife and I had to be invited. As the after dinner coffee was being served, Lady
Mountbatten said in a loud stagewhisper that for the last two days of her stay in Kenya she should like to come and stay with us. She added that she was keen to meet some 'Indians and Africans who really mattered'. Everybody knew how important her connections with The British royal family were, and that what she saw, heard or said would reach the highest quarters in Great Britain.
It was a shock to us. To entertain Lady Mountbatten in our house meant making arrangements for security, meals, entertainment . . . Where would she sleep?
Nalini thought of our simple wooden charpais; how could Lady Mountbatten sleep on one of them? Which of the two bathrooms could she use? What about toilet arrangements? For the rest of the evening at Government House neither Nalini nor I knew what was happening around us. Nalini was, of course, certain that the wicked white settlers would stage some mischief during her stay and, even try to kidnap Lady Mountbatten in order to bring disrepute to the Indian mission. Moreover, Lady Mountbatten had said that she wanted to meet Indians and Africans. How were we to organize it? That whole night was spent in a sleepless whirl of planning and organizing. The next morning twenty-five invitations each to important white, black and brown East Africans were dispatched by special messenger for a buffet dinner at the Indian Commissioner's residence to meet Lady Mountbatten of Burma. Beds, sofa sets, carpets, tables were borrowed. The entire Indian community was agog with excitement. As luck would have it, the famous sitar player Vilayat Khan was visiting Africa; he was invited to play before the august gathering.
Long before 7.30 p.m., the time mentioned in the invitation, twenty-five 'important' Indians arrived, followed by thirty-five Africans, including Senior
Chief Koinange. Kenyatta was not present but Stanley Mathenge and Mbyiu Koinange were there. Eliad Mathew, a member of the Executive Council, and Tom Mboya, the labour leader, were also present. Out of the twenty-five whites invited, only one turned up – the head of the Secret Police. No alcohol was served and the invitees tried to listen to the Indian music amid the subdued hum of excited conversation. It had been arranged that Lady Mountbatten would join the party eight o'clock. Everyone fell silent as she was introduced to each invitee in turn. Now, it used to be the custom among all East Africa tribes, including those in Uganda, Tanganyika and Rhodesias, that great personages like the Kabaka of Buganda, Kyabazinga of Busoga, Omugabe of Bunyero, or any other eminent visiting dignitary would be honoured with ceremonial reception: kneeling down on one leg, rhythmically clapping the palms and intoning in a low voice both the welcome and petition to the great personage.
As soon as Senior Chief Koinange was introduced to Lady Mountbatten he went down on one knee and, clapping his palms, offered in Kikuyu his welcome to her, which was simultaneously translated by Mbiu Koinange, his son, into English. At the end of the traditional welcome, he said, 'Great and gracious lady, all of Africa is waiting for you to do the same thing you did for our brothers in India! Grant us our freedom and we will always be your friends and help you.' Spontaneous and enthusiastic but muted clapping of hands broke out from all those present except, of course, the white secret police chief. I, however, was rather taken aback, for a vague idea crossed my mind of the diplomatic consequences of all this.
The colonial authorities were sure to take for granted that it was all pre-arranged by my diabolic self. My name was already being linked with Nehru, Mao and Stalin as the curse of Africa. In spite of these unpremeditated happenings beyond my control, the colonial government could not pin onto the Indian mission any specific act of inciting the Africans against British rule, through a public speech or a secret gift of arms or ammunition to the Mau-Mau. Once however, while Nalini and I were away on an extended tour of the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), a member of the Secret Service entered our house as an electricity inspector. He started making enquiries of the Goan cook, Antonio, about the 'secret' cellar and the way to it.
Unfortunately for him the Commissioner's residence did have a cellar which was used as a dump for bags, trunks and unwanted junk. Led to this cellar, the inspector started tapping the walls – apparently to see whether there were any other secret passages! Disappointed, he went to the architect of the house, an Indian, asking for a duplicate plan of the house. Perhaps someone hostile to India had reported that there was a hidden cache of arms and ammunition to be distributed to African friends."