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Mainstream, VOL L, No 26, June 16, 2012

Discovery of Indira

Wednesday 20 June 2012, by Nikhil Chakravartty


Cowardice takes many forms. In may manifest itself in abject surrender, or, instead, in dramatic defiance. Indira Gandhi opted for high drama when she failed to appear before the Shah Commission to testify to only some specific cases of alleged excesses during Emergency. Despite an appearance of defiance—put up in the statement drafted by the battery of lawyers hired by her—Indira Gandhi today is the picture of total insecurity, and here lies her cowardice and not courage.
It is nothing unusual for common criminals to indulge in a tissue of lies when hauled up before a court. And when somehody has to answer before the bar of public opinion—leave alone a formal court of enquiry—for the terrible crimes committed during Emergency, it requires extraordinary guts to face and own it. There has to be courage in bold self-criticism.

Indira Gandhi has never possessed such a quality, and all the ballyhoo one has heard over the years about her being very gutty, really mistake guts for desperate defiance by a person held at bay: in other words, Indira Gandhi has throughout her political career reacted—and only reacted—to a sense of being insecure and nothing more. Emergency itself was essentially the product of her fear, the fear of being dislodged from power because of the corrupt racketeering in which her son had already specialised: the atrocities came in logical sequel, for, unbridled corruption leads inevitably to mafia rule. This will be clear in the weeks ahead when the Shah Commission will take up the question of the origins of Emergency.
Those whom Indira Gandhi in her blatantly false statement before the Commission has charged of corruption can certainly look after themselves. What is a rare demonstration of dissimulation in political life is that such charges of corruption should come from Indira Gandhi, of all people. The person who, over the years, has kept as her Praetorian Guards such stalwarts as Yashpal Kapur, Dhawan, Bansilal and Dhiren Brahmachari, to name only a few; whose political extortions lay at the root of corrupt practices by people like Lalit Narayan Mishra and Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya; whose evil encouragement and abetment led astray small-town politicians like Pranab Mukherji to wallow in big-time corruption—for such a redoubtable character to accuse others of corruption requires a level of shameless impudence which few can aspire to attain.

For sometime past, from the days of Emergency and certainly afterwards, many of Indira Gandhi’s supporters and quite a few of her critics have been heard of saying that if the could just have delinked herself from the misdeeds of her son and the coterie round him, she would be once more acceptable to the country. It was sometimes difficult to argue against such sentiments. But Indira Gandhi herself has been very largely helpful in dispelling such illusions. Immediately after the election debacle, many Congressmen honestly expected her to acknow-ledge at once her responsibility for the happenings during Emergency, and record her sorrow for them. They were confused and disappointed that she did not do so. But still many among them hoped against hope that as she would go out in her mass campaign, she would, at appropriate occasions, express her regrets at the Emergency excesses. Even such tenacious supporters were hurt at her performance during the recent AICC and the sordid conduct of the so-called requisitionists, all at her behest.
Now Indira Gandhi’s written deposition before the Shah Commission leaves no room for any illusion that she would even remotely own up her responsibility for the Emergency misdeeds or that she could be demarcated, even notionally, from the Sanjay mafia. She has virtually announced that she would remain—come what may—the Godmother of the Mafia.

This is an important point in Indira Gandhi’s political progress, as also a lesson for the democratic forces in this country.

A new theory is sought to be spread that Emergency itself was not due to the misdemeanor of any particular set of individuals holding power but the manifestation of the crisis of the capitalist system. Such a theory—which is heard in certain sections of the Congress and even of the Left opinion—sounds, on the face of it, profoundly revolutionary. For, it seems to follow the basic analysis which traces the emergence of Fascism to the crisis of the capitalist system.
In reality, such pseudo-philosophical bombast is meant to cover up the role of individuals, from Indira Gandhi downward, who have been guilty of the heinous misdeeds of the Emergency days and to provide an alibi for those who did not boldly resist them. By this logic any inequity, social or political misbehavior or economic malfunctioning can be traced to the prevalence of the capitalist system, and nobody need be expected to do anything about it until that system itself is overthrown. The role of those who misuse power at a specific point of time and of those who are expected to be vigilant in combating such misuse are important for the health of a democratic set-up, and it is to be clearly understood that without strengthening the democratic set-up, the path to social transformation, to the replacement of capitalism by socialism, will not be possible in a country like ours.
Without fearlessly fighting such grotesque aberrations of the present set-up as was experienced during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, there could be no progress towards social advance. That is why it is extremely important for the progressive forces in the country to initiate and actively participate in every endeavour to unearth and expose every misdeed committed during Emergency. That itself would go a long way towards educating the millions of our country about their own responsibility towards exercising vigilance against each and every misconduct of those in power, and thereby sharpen their political consciousness so necessary for future battles for social changes.

It is the fashion in certain circles nowadays to air the profound thesis that since the Janata Government’s performance so far has been so poor, there is hardly any point in hammering at Indira Gandhi’s record. Nobody in his senses would deny that the Janata record is nothing to write home about, but that does not in any way mitigate the crimes committed under Emergency. Because, Emergency marked a qualitatively distinct phase in Indian politics, which saw the desecration of all democratic norms by which political life, as it is assumed as normal in a democratic set-up, was totally stifled. And normal political life implies not only the right and opportunity to express dissent but the scope for open mass activity of the working people—the trade unions, the Kisan Sabhas and other mass organisations. Without in any way holding the brief for the Janata Raj, one can say that any day a bad government is infinitely preferable to a tyranny.

It is not small thing for any political element committed to social change to be able to openly ventilate and campaign against the existing government’s sins of omission and commission and the machinations of the vested interests. Individual members of the Janata Government may have a record of political intolerance and given the chance, at least, some of them might not be averse to authoritarianism of the Emergency type; but the undeniable fact not to be overlooked is that the Janata Party has come to power on the single-plank platform of restoration of democratic liberties bringing to an end the nightmare of Emergency. An awakened electorate having unseated the hated Emergency would not permit its repetition by any other regime, black, red or pink; Left, Right or Centrist.

Those who flaunt the Morarji Government against the Indira Raj or juxtapose the Janata mess against the Emergency “orderliness”, are either themselves victims of confusion or are bent on confusing others. They can only help Indira Gandhi and her cohorts to score debating points. But the dialectics of political developments enjoin that wuthering exposure of an authoritarian regime can and must be fully made use of by the democratic forces to awaken mass consciousness and organise the awakened masses, to bring about wholesome changes in body politic, social economic and political.

In the specific context of India today, a full-scale exposure of the misdeeds of Indira Gandhi and her mafia—the total repudiation of Emergency itself—is an urgent political necessity if the masses are to be educated about the length to which a ruling clique masquerading as “progressive” can go. And such exposure will help to accelerate the process of unifying and mobilising all democratic forces for a better order, irrespective of whether the present Janata outfit or any similar flabby conglomerate is in power.

The unmasking of Indira Gandhi’s vicious politics began on March 21, the day when the electorate discarded her along with her regime: it has to continue until the last misdeed of Emergency is thoroughly exposed before the people of India. This is not just an exercise at disowning the vulgarity to which she has stooped since her fall from power, but a key political task of far-reaching import.

(Editor’s Notebook, Mainstream, November 26, 1977)

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