The ‘sengol’ controversy: Union government's claims not backed by evidence

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Sengol | Photo:

Chennai: The union government’s claim that a sceptre (sengol or chenkol) was given to Jawaharla Nehru by the British as a symbolic ‘transfer of power’ is not backed by substantial evidence. Though the government has released a docket to back the claim, the contents are not sufficient to prove that it was any sort of symbol of power transfer. However, the Modi government is proceeding with this version of the incident and plans to install the sceptre in the new parliament building. They say Congress neglected this ‘Hindu’ ritual.

There is no argument over the fact that a sceptre, made at a Shaivite mutt in Tamil Nadu, was brought to Delhi on night of August 14 by Sri La Sri Kumaraswamy Thambiran, the deputy high priest of the Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam. Nehru received it too. But there is no clarity about whether the British handed over it and whether that was a symbol of power transfer as claimed by the government.

“Had viceroy Lord Mountbatten handed over the sceptre as a symbol of transfer of power, the Britishers themselves would have publicised the act at that time,” says Madhavan Palat, historian and editor of the book Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru.

“Nehru is not someone who would have accepted symbols of monarchy. He would have rather accepted the sceptre as a mere gift,” he added.

“I fear that there is no conclusive evidence to back the claim that the act symbolised power transfer. We can’t completely rely on the statements of a Mutt or the owner of a jewellery shop and draw a conclusion on such a historical event,” said the historian.

In the book ‘Freedom at Midnight’ written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, it is mentioned that the decision to hand over the ‘sengol’ was taken by the Matt supremos themselves. It is also said that Nehru who was always against religious rituals, was actually forced to take part in the event.

The claims that the event was jointly organised by Governor General of Independent India C Rajagopalachari, Lord Mountbatten and Nehru are also not backed by facts. In an article written by Sangh Parivar ideologue Swaminathan Gurumurthy published in the 'Thuglak' weekly, it is said that the ‘sengol’ was first given to Mountbatten before it was ceremoniously handed over to Nehru. Gurumurthy himself is the editor of the weekly. This was sighted in the government docket. There are no independent historical sources mentioned in it to prove the claim, which makes it dubious.

While it was claimed that the had flown to Delhi in special flights with the spectre, pictures of them awaiting a train at Chennai railway station were published in newspapers of that time.

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