During India’s Internal Emergency, 1975-76, many rights were suspended by the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. In 1975 J Krishnamurti [1895-1986] did not come to India, as he felt he would not be able to speak freely. Then Pupul Jayakar, close to both him and Indira, assured him there would be no problem, and he came in the winter of 1976, giving talks as usual. He met Indira a few times, and Pupul recorded in her biography of him, that it was these meetings that led Indira to rethink, call off the Emergency and hold elections in 1977. Below is an extract of one of his talks in the Rajghat School in Varanasi in 1976.
‘In the world, freedom is gradually being denied to human beings. Human rights are being gradually chipped away; human beings are being made into machines, human beings are now becoming slaves, not only to their gurus with their concentration camps that are called ashramas, but also politically, religiously, the gradual process of squeezing man into what the others or power dictate.’ Public talk 1, Rajghat, India, 3 November 1976.
I wrote this post on 29 December 2016 on another blog. Reposting here in the light of the election results in five states, particularly in UP.
Today, while working on a new book, I reread accounts of the 1971 elections, and began to see parallels between Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi. In that year, Indira coined the slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’, or ‘remove poverty’. The combined opposition’s main programme was to get rid of Indira. They failed, and she returned with 352 seats in the Lok Sabha. Yes, a few years later there was JP’s movement, the emergency, and her temporary downfall, but there is something to be learnt from this.
Catchy slogans have a great impact. Negative campaigns often do not.
In retrospect her policies did not remove poverty. Was bank nationalization a good thing? It could be questioned. What about the other economic policies? Those need more analysis.
Is demonetization a good thing? I may be wrong, but as far as I can see, it hasn’t served its purpose, and has caused a lot of misery. Even bankers are beginning an agitation against it. But if opposition parties want to win elections, they need to focus on some positive programmes. Merely condemning demonetization will not work. Narendra Modi’s policies may or may not bring results, but he is putting forward hope for the future. The opposition must do the same.
That is the lesson one can draw from the past. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Yadav, and others should learn from history.
Every 31st October I remember that night in 1984. When I got home, there was a burning bus right outside my gate, and a man hiding from the mobs in our garden. Down the road I could see more cars, buses and buildings in flames. It was the day Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India, was shot dead by her own Sikh guards.
Below are a couple of passages from my book the Puffin History of India vol 2.
‘Violence against Sikhs had already started that day, and continued for the next three days. Over 2700 Sikhs were killed in Delhi, and property belonging to them, worth hundreds of crores of rupees, was destroyed. The worst area was in Trilokpuri in east Delhi, where Sikhs were burnt alive and killed in other terrible ways. In Kanpur, 140 people were killed and attacks on Sikhs occurred in eighty other towns in north India.
A curfew was imposed in Delhi, but it had little effect, till the army was asked on 3 November to shoot if necessary to control the situation. Slowly peace returned. In the midst of the madness, many residents of Delhi and elsewhere, protected and saved hundreds of Sikhs.’
Indira’s son Rajiv Gandhi was chosen as prime minister, and later after elections in December, and a massive win by the Congress, he was again chosen to lead the country. Unfortunately, a few years later,on 21 May 1991, he too was assassinated. Though as prime minister he had introduced policies from which we still benefit [new technology, for instance, that brought in mobile phones, the internet, etc], the tragedy of his life being cut short was greater, as he never wanted to be prime minister or in politics at all.
Another quote from my book, “He said, ‘I had no love for politics. I treasured the privacy of my happy family life.’ He went on to say that after his brother Sanjay’s death, his mother had no one to turn to. ‘She called out to me in her loneliness. I went to her side. At her insistence, I left my love for flying. At her insistence, I sacrificed my family life. At her insistence I joined her as a political aide. It was from her that I learnt my first political lessons. It was she who urged me to respond to the insistent demand from the constituency and the party to take my brother’s place as member of Parliament from Amethi.”
His policy in Sri Lanka led to his assassination. The IPKF [Indian Peace Keeping Force], and its role in Sri Lanka remain controversial. Its activities seemed badly planned and executed. More on that later.