The 25th anniversary of the assassination of Indira Gandhi has produced reams of fawning tributes, leaving you to wonder how low today’s supine, profit-hungry, ratings-driven media would have crawled had “the only man in her cabinet” reimposed censorship in the year of the lord 2009.
In an era of austerity (remember?), the Congress-led UPA government splurged shameless millions on newspaper ads; Doordarshan began live coverage from the very moment she received the first bullet that morning on October 31. Magazines produced thick special issues. And television was a hagiographic bore.
In The Pioneer, Delhi, Arkalgud Surya Prakash strikes the right note of dissent:
“All those who value democracy must challenge the contents of these advertisements for the following reasons: Mrs Gandhi turned a vibrant democracy into a dictatorship and presided over a fascist regime that jailed political opponents and independent journalists when she imposed Emergency in 1975. Her Government was responsible for many despicable acts, including forcible sterilisation of citizens, bull-dozing of Muslim-dominated localities like Turkman Gate in Delhi, and incarceration of Government employees who failed to obey her illegal orders. These are just a few of the most horrendous, inhuman and undemocratic acts committed by her regime. All these terrible deeds have been fully documented by the Shah Commission which probed the Emergency excesses.
“Once this infrastructure for dictatorship had been laid, other things followed. Her government suspended Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (no deprivation of life and liberty except by procedure established by law). With the passage of these orders, citizens of India lost their fundamental right to life and liberty. They were also prohibited from moving courts. The Attorney-General virtually conceded the fascist nature of that regime when he confessed in the Supreme Court that if a citizen was shot dead by a policeman, the victim’s family would have no right to seek relief before a court.
“Here is a short recapitulation of some other things Mrs Gandhi did as Prime Minister: She bamboozled the judiciary, superseded judges and repeatedly amended the Constitution to protect herself. The 39th Amendment was meant solely to prohibit the Supreme Court from hearing the election petition against her; the 41st Amendment declared that no civil or criminal cases could be filed against her; even more reprehensible was the 42nd Amendment which abolished the need for quorum in Parliament and gave the President the right to ‘amend’ the Constitution through an executive order. With this amendment, Parliament allowed the President to tinker with the Constitution when ‘necessary’. Further, since there was no requirement for quorum in Parliament, Ministers could push through anti-democratic laws in late night sittings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the presence of just a handful of Congress MPs. These were ideas which were taken straight out of Hitler’s book.”
Read the full article: Travesty as tribute
Cartoon: courtesy The Economist, London
Also read: The people, not the press, are the real Fourth Estate
A single shoe is mightier than a pen and a sword
H.Y. SHARADA PRASAD: Middle-class will never understand Indira
Excellent writing. We are lost in just pseudos who are just busy in telling all goody goody things about Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Has anybody read the article written by Mrs. Rani Satish ex-minister Govt of Karnataka in Vijaya Krnataka where she has praised Mrs. Gandhi for handling emergency so efficiently. I am sick of all sychophancy.
Perhaps you are forgetting 2 of our most valuable cultural aspects.
1. Anyone dead is better than anyone alive. Be it politicians, movie stars, cricketers or godmen. Being dead in itself is an achievement.
2. Never question people in power. Do not seek respect from people above you, do not give respect to people below you.
One woman who institutionalised corruption and dynastic politics in India.
She had no respect for democracy, people etc…
If she was not there, India could have made tremendous progress in many fields. She did not allow any strong leader to emerge in regions and as well as at the Center. She and her clan will be happy if masses in India remain illiterate, poor, and ignorant.
Why doesn’t the media focus leaders like Lal Bahadur Shastri?
While placing Mrs. Gandhi on a high pedestal and genuflecting while turning a blind eye to all her acts of omissions and commissions is wrong, reviling her in totality – as if she absolutely had no redeeming features or deeds – as the author and many others seem to do is also equally wrong IMHO.
The truth possibly lies somewhere in between and one would do well to avoid the black-n-white analysis. She had a reign of a few decades and to say that all she had was devilry is a bit of an awful commentary on Indian electorate.
Hers has been a curious case of brand building. As I have seen, she has a total recall even today in the minds of many villagers – many of them speaking about her reverentially. Now we can brand all of them as gullible fools completely taken in by aura of dynasty or there could be something in that lady which could connect her so easily and indelibly with the masses. I really have no idea what is it – charisma? May be.
Many of my urban friends who otherwise are staunch ‘lotus’ campers (and haters of dynasty by extension) too have this grudging respect for her for what they refer to as ‘decisive leadership’ and ‘courage’. May be the hangover of Bangladesh war? I am not sure. But it’s a curious brand alright.
As some others have pointed out, it would be wrong to analyze a personality using a single dimension. The author has done well to point out some of the ‘kahi’ aspects after the ‘sihi’ overdrive we got from most of the commentators.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta has tried to give a balanced article here: