It is not only Hari Singh Nalwa but also Maharaja Ranjit Singh who never got due respect.
Afghans had ruled India except for the Mughal period. Mohmed Ghouri, Sher Shah Suri and Ibrahim Lodi conqured and ruled India. Babar had defeated Ibrahim Lodi, an Afghan in the first bettle of Panipat in 1526 to start Mughal dynasty. Later, Nadir Shah ( Iranian/Afghan) and Ahmed Shah Abdali defeated Mughals and in case Of Abdali also Marathas in the third battle of Panipat.
Traditional border between India and Afghanistan was Indus river. Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated Sikh Misls into a Sikh empire and spent 40 years ejecting Afghans out of Punjab. He pushed the border to the other side of Khyber Pass. Hari Singh Nalwa was the general who led the charge. Kashmir, Peshawar, Gilgit and many other areas of NW Punjab were all wrested away from Afghans. He sealed the Khyber Pass as the invasion route to India.
It was the English who enjoyed the fruits of Hari Singh’s and Ranjit Singh’s labor
The Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on the August 14, 1947 celebrating India’s freedom has to be one of the grandest speeches of all time. He had put in inspriring words the aspirations of all Indians. He probably set impossible goals but they were universally approved.
It is easy to trash Nehru now. But it is hard to underestimate his achievments. India did adopt a constitution, did hold elections on time, did let the federal structure take hold. It was only one of the newly independent countries that did not end up wit a strong man rule.
He nurtured the constitutional institutions, especially the parliament. He not only talked in lofty terms about the temples of new India but helped build them. IHis emphasis on Sceinctific temper begot us IITs, IIMs, Research labs, TIFR, AEC, ISRO, and various other institutes of higher learning.
In retrospect his economic policies turn out to not so great. Five year plans were misguided. Adoption of socialism turned a nation of natural entrepreneurs into a beaurocratic morras. His foreign policy, of talikg loudly while carrying a small stick also turned out to be not so great.
But on a whole, he laid the foundations of a strong cohesive nation with reasonably strong institutions. India did congeal into a cohesive nation under him.
I guess only time will tell what the current disposition will achieve but I am glad it was Nehru at the time of independence who took the helm.
It frustrates me to see a generation of Indians being raised on alternate facts about Mahatma Gandhi and his role in the Indian Freedom movement.
Mahatma, a sobriquet given to him by Tagore, was by no means a perfect human being. His Experiments with Truths were strange in many respects. His neglect of his wife and children are well documented.
But he did come with novel tools that turned India’s freedom movement to a mass, all India, movement. He went from being a properly dressed brown Englishman to a half naked Faqir to identify with ordinary Indians. He changed a political movement to a moral/legal movement and changed the nature of discussion.
Emphasis on non-violence was brilliant. Civil-disobedince was a new techniqure against force was very ineffective. Filling up jails voluntrily made the unjust criminal justice system totally useless.
His techniques tugged at the heart of ordinary people in England who had no idea about unjust and illegal nature of the their Raj in India.
His techniques have proven efficacious for American Negoes in his fight for justice and fight against apartheid in South Africa.
During a visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan with a TiE delegation several years ago I was surprized to hear President Pranab Mukherjea wax poetic about entrepreneurial revolution underway in India. A lifelong socialist, he was finance minsiter several times and had a reputation for being very anti-business. As a matter of fact, he was the man behind the bank nationalization in the early days of Mrs. Gandhi.
I was present at the National Press Club meeting in Washington DC in 2004/2005 when he was asked about the retroactive change of tax laws to go after Vodafone after Supreme Court of India had ruled against the Government. He was asked why would anybody invest in India if the rules of the games can be changed retroactively, especially after the investment has been made? He got visibily upset, his face turned red, his voice quivered and he said that India would rather do without FDI. We would eat lizards before we bowed to international investors. We are not a colony any more, he added. It was strange coming from the Finance Minister who was in Washington looking for FDI.
At the meeting at Rashtrapati Bhavan, I asked him about it. Why was it necessary to change laws retroactively? He told us that he was told by his beurocrats that it was a 75,000 Crore decision if the law was not amended. So how much was collected in additional taxes? Zilch, he said. Was he sorry? Yes, he was very sorry. He went on to say that now he understands more about the entrepreneurs and wealth and job creation.
This is the tragedy of India. All the socialist politicians talk about being pro-people while enacting anti-people laws. After the Vodaphone decision, FDI dropped almost 90%. It was a decade before it started to recover.