Indira Gandhi’s India

Published: June 28, 2011
The writer is a syndicated columnist and a former member of India’s Rajya Sabha

The writer is a syndicated columnist and a former member of India’s Rajya Sabha

India, like other democratic countries, should never forget certain days. The British still celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on November 5 to commemorate the aborted terrorist plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In India’s case, June 26 is just as significant.

Thirty-six years ago, the country’s democratic will was thwarted by an autocrat, Indira Gandhi, to save her from disqualification of parliamentary membership. The Allahabad High Court had found her guilty of using government machinery to get herself elected. Instead of respecting the judgment, Mrs Gandhi suspended fundamental rights, imposed press censorship and became a law unto herself. She did not even consult the cabinet before meeting the president to ask him to sign the relevant proclamation. Helping her was her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, an extra-constitutional authority. It was really he who ruled the country for nearly two years from 1975 to 1977.

The atrocities that the mother and son committed included removing thousands of people forcibly from their homes and relocating them many miles away. This became a precedent for some extremist organisations like the Shiv Sena which, some years later, picked up the Bangladeshis, the people they didn’t like, and pushed them in trucks and trains to the Bangladesh border.

In fact, she set many other precedents, such as making the civil service servile and the police obedient to the rulers’ whims. Till today, many chief ministers, not necessarily those of the Congress, use civil servants and the police to punish their critics — just as she did.

Those were the days when the judiciary became pliable. Four out of five supreme court judges, including liberal PN Bhagwati, justified the imposition of the emergency. The only one who did not toe the line, Justice HR Khanna, was superseded when she selected the next chief justice of India. If today the judiciary looks battered, it is because it has not yet recovered from the blows it received in those dark days.

In contrast, Mrs Gandhi’s father, Jawaharlal Nehru, respected the judiciary. Once, he wanted to supersede Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan because of his ‘views’ but he had to give up the plan when he found the entire supreme court bench was proposing to resign if there was supersession.

Detention without trial was a British colonial legacy. Indira Gandhi shamefully imprisoned more than 100,000 people who had no recourse to legal redress. The tragedy is that the current home minister, P Chidambaram, seems to be copying those methods. He is restricting the democratic space, albeit in the name of curbing terrorism. The Unlawful Activities Act can detain people without trial in an open court of law. Such cases have only to be examined by an advisory committee and that too within the precincts of the jail. Dr Vinayak Sen, the famous doctor-activist, was first detained under this act. Subsequently, the BJP-ruled Jharkhand government charged him with sedition for having ‘contact’ with the Maoists.

I often wonder why we haven’t learnt a lesson from the emergency — rulers of different political parties pursue more or less the same path that Mrs Gandhi had taken to switch off democracy in India. I believe the reason is that nobody who was found guilty of committing excesses by the Justice JC Shah Commission has ever been punished. It is comical that some of those found guilty are today senior ministers in the Manmohan Singh cabinet.

There has to be accountability without which none in power will be afraid of misusing authority. The Lokpal Bill is necessary to find out who are guilty and punish them accordingly. The government’s attitude is uncompromising because if the Lokpal cannot look into the charges against the prime minister, the judiciary, or the MPs indulging in corruption even on the floor of the house, what is the use of having such an institution? It looks as if we are in for anxious days. Thank God a new emergency cannot be imposed because the very measures require a two-thirds majority in parliament and a similar strength in state assemblies.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (41)

  • K B Kale
    Jun 28, 2011 - 10:50PM

    What does one call an author who doesn’t understand the difference between legal residents of India and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh?
    I would call such an author a senile!
    The atrocities that the mother and son committed included removing thousands of people forcibly from their homes and relocating them many miles away. This became a precedent for some extremist organisations like the Shiv Sena which, some years later, picked up the Bangladeshis, the people they didn’t like, and pushed them in trucks and trains to the Bangladesh border.
    And Shiv Sena is not an extremist organisation. Such political parties (Telugudesam, Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam, All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam to just name a few) have gained strength in many of India’s states and all they do is seek a fair deal for the local residents who are being swept away by deluge of people from other states.Recommend

  • Khurram
    Jun 28, 2011 - 11:17PM

    Many of the communal problems India in general and Kashmir in particular have taken their roots during Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial rule. Indians are still obsessed with this family is beyond comprehension.Recommend

  • sumeet
    Jun 28, 2011 - 11:20PM

    get your facts is chattisgarh govt not jharkhand govt which charged him with sedition.and ironically BJP’s Ram jethmalani is also fighting his case.but what’s the point of this article?just putting some random facts and history and mixing it with today’s lokpal issue?care to elaborate who the senior cabinet minister in manmohan’s govt who are charged before?Recommend

  • Yahya
    Jun 29, 2011 - 12:07AM

    Why it is posted in Pakistan news portal ??? Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma
    Jun 29, 2011 - 12:08AM

    Ok. Point taken. Recommend

  • Jun 29, 2011 - 12:24AM

    Not sure what is the point of this article..first you start off with Emergency day which which was in a completely different backdrop and end with Lokpal issue which is completely different. After Indira Gandhi’s fiasco and subsequqnt rout in the elctions congress will never dare to tread this path again.Recommend

  • Venky
    Jun 29, 2011 - 12:31AM

    I think Indira did correct herself after self realization and her contributed to some constructive action to tackle fanaticism in her second innings. Everyone remembers Emergency and I do not think there will again be any imposition. Not because the rulers have changed or two thirds of majority required but the society today is not like generation before. The recent public anger against corruption and discussion of Lokpal bill is a testimony of this.Recommend

  • Venky
    Jun 29, 2011 - 12:40AM

    Indira did make a course correction after the debacle in 1977. This self realization resulted in tackling effectively the fanaticism and sacrificed her life. Even though individual human rights abuses are reported every now and then, I do not think any Emergency kind of situation would be imposed now and in future. Not because the attitude of politicians have changed or two-thirds majority is not there in Parliament or Assemblies, but the awareness in civil society is higher with this next generation. The kind of public anger against corruption or discussion of Lokpal bill is a testimony to this new thinking.Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 1:53AM

    Equating Indians in Delhi & illegal immigrants from Bangladesh? Have you gone senile?Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 2:01AM

    Dear Mr Nayar,
    After reading your piece “Indira Gandhi’s India” and seeing you equate people forcibly shifted from Turkman Gate area with forcibly removing illegal immigrants from Bangladeshi, I have come to conclusion that you should stop writing as you seem to have gone senile.

    Or are you trying to win cheap popularity in Pakistan by downgrading India?

    Another thing…..! Shiv Sena is not an extremist organisation. It is a political party that fights for the rights of Maharashtrians. Just like parties like TDP, DMK, AIADMK. Why do you pick only Shiv Sena and that too for doing something patriotic of removing illegal immigrants!

    Come on, Mr Nayar. Please be objective. Or stop writing.

    K B KaleRecommend

  • Babloo
    Jun 29, 2011 - 2:40AM

    Kuldip Nayar, is a demagogue who has his own nefarious agenda.Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 4:24AM

    You & the author are forgetting that Indira Gandhi lifted the emergency voluntarily albeit on misjudgement. She was surely routed in 1977. But she returned with a thumping majority in 1980. When she was assassinated in 1984, she was India’s democratically elected Prime Minister and not as dictator. Many in India, including me, consider her as the boldest & most decisive Prime Minister.
    I personally consider Late Mr. PVS Narasimha Rao as our best Prime Minister & Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi as close second. Late Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri is not evaluated here as his term was too brief though he did show potential to have been the greatest PM of India.Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 4:26AM

    The point of this article is: No newspaper in India would publish such an inadequate article.Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 4:48AM

    As per Merriam-Webster dictionary, a demagogue is a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power! Recommend

  • Jun 29, 2011 - 5:39AM

    If I remeber correctly, some months afo Sarkozy removed thousands of illegal Roma refugees from Paris and deported the back to Rome. This is enlightened europe with free trade and travel. So shall we call Sarko a dictator as well (after all he was the one who okayed sale of subs to Pak)Recommend

  • Spud
    Jun 29, 2011 - 6:21AM

    @Yahya: because Pakistanis love to read some or any criticism of India. Also some writers have to live and where would Nayar find someone ready to accept his opinion. India has moved on from Indira Gandhi hence Nayar would not have found any acceptors of his article.Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma
    Jun 29, 2011 - 8:00AM

    @Khurram: ” …. Indians are still obsessed with this family is beyond comprehension. … ”

    We would actually like to have the entire family thrown into the depths of the Bay Of Bengal.Recommend

  • Adil
    Jun 29, 2011 - 8:22AM

    In 2009, Mr. Nayyar wrote a same sort of article in Dawn too on (Late) Indira Gandhi’s 25th death anniversary, where he explained how her steps including The Emergency have caused adverse impacts over Indian politics and certain institutions.

    I am watching some negative comments on behalf of few of our Indian readers, who are raising questions about why the article is published on a Pakistani news website….well, all I could do is to remind that Mr. Nayyar is a syndicated columnist which means that each of his articles gets published in multiple newspapers and magazines. So, this could be just one reason.

    And as far as the article is concerned, I once talked with this Indian Muslim about Indo-Pak history and partition etc…for which he said that no single person or political party deserves complete responsibility for the division of the Subcontinent, and he even used abusive language against Nehru and his daughter calling them big time criminals of India’s fate and history…..later on Jaswant Singh’s book about Jinnah would also put question marks on Nehru’s image. And I guess Emergency was also something that he criticized….I don’t want to comment on Indian politics but after reading the article,all I could infer is that the controversial emergency had laid foundations of many wrong trends in Indian society.Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 8:34AM

    You said it!Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 9:00AM

    Mr Kuldip Nayar will be 88 on Pakistan’s forthcoming Independence Day!Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 29, 2011 - 9:03AM

    Rather the author should choose to call Sarkozy’s political party as an “extremist party” like he calls Shiv Sena!Recommend

  • ikmundapunjabi
    Jun 29, 2011 - 9:08AM

    @K B Kale: relaxx dude,give others a chance to write aswell,asll i can see are silly comments by you.Recommend

  • anil
    Jun 29, 2011 - 9:31AM

    Yes, what did Shiv sena make wrong by throwing ilegal imigrants out of India ???They did the right thing. If you have some much love for neighbouring countries ,then where did your ancestors during partition.For Mr.nayar 1.2 billion population is not too much,they need the population of neighbouring countries.Yes….Shiv Sena is not an extremist organisation. I haven’t heard of any incident like 9/11 or 26/11 which they caused.Indira Gandhi was a very good ruler,but at the end,she did mistake and that’s why she was taught lesson.Now India is a peaceful multi-cultural,multi-religion country in whole Asia and ur article in these newspapers are nothing to teach these people.Indira did a single mistake in her life,but the country’s newspaper in which you have published it,make this mistake again and again by their rulers.Recommend

  • sumeet
    Jun 29, 2011 - 9:31AM

    @kb kale,actually people like kuldip nayar cant resist the temptation of putting words like RSS,VHP,BJP,shiv sena,bajrang dal etc for some cheap popularitiy.actually it is the staple of his article every time to use catcy words.Recommend

  • Ankur
    Jun 29, 2011 - 10:49AM

    Kuldip Nayar has two major obsessions, one stemming from his detention in Emergency days and the other, his love for what they call Anti-Hindu Rhetoric, he uses both to justify the present scenario, I see no problem in this article considering the background.
    The only things perhaps is, that if he had written it for himself, why did he publish it?Recommend

  • Usman Ahmad
    Jun 29, 2011 - 11:35AM

    @Ajit…HAHAHA! I hope you are not a BJP supporter..;-)Recommend

  • Nurmomad
    Jun 29, 2011 - 11:55AM

    To the Indian-sounding commentators;

    “Patriotism is virtue of the vicious”. Oscar Wilde Recommend

  • Mirza Galib
    Jun 29, 2011 - 12:01PM

    What is the use of this artical on Pak news paper!!!!!Recommend

  • Paras Vikmani
    Jun 29, 2011 - 12:23PM

    The PM who deserve praise[PV Narsimha Rao] will never get that praise from Congress,but people like Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi will always be praised, for their misdeeds.Recommend

  • Aftab
    Jun 29, 2011 - 12:26PM

    What the hell is he talking about? What we Pakistanis have to do with Indian history? Why such article, in the first place, in a Pakistani newspaper?Recommend

  • Billu
    Jun 29, 2011 - 2:22PM

    @Mirza Ghalib @Yahya :
    Well, for us Pakistanis to understand what goes on in India. In many newspapers around the World, views from other countries are also taken; there is nothing wrong in that.Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jun 29, 2011 - 3:27PM

    “Why it is posted in Pakistan news portal ???”
    You must understand we, in India, have a tribe of Muslim-appeasing Nehru orphans. Kuldip Nayyar belongs to that tribe. Any writing which appeases Muslims is a natural soft sell in an Islamic country. Calling Shiv Sena, VHP, RSS “communalists”, “radical fanatics”, “ultra-conservative mishmash” gladdens the cockles of Muslim hearts and they will gladly lap up such rubbish regardless of the fact that it does not serve them well to lend their ears to demagogues. Demagogues have to eat, too, you know. And, they take their wares where they can get a good price for them. Kuldip Nayyar. Rajinder Sachhar, Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal and the like are such demagogues!
    You might want to note that Indian Muslims have seen through their game and are increasingly distancing themselves from this cabal!Recommend

  • Bharati Vyawahare
    Jun 29, 2011 - 4:34PM

    Why the author wrote about Indira Gandhi about her mistake is clear. Pakistani nationals hate Indira Gandhi for her role in 1971 war. Praising about her leadership qualities won’t sell in Pakistani newspaper.

    Point of the article is that, the author, like any common Indian, cares about the Lokpal Bill. But this is neither the place to write nor the malignant of Indira Gandhi is necessary.Recommend

  • Bharati Vyawahare
    Jun 29, 2011 - 6:10PM

    Agreed, Indira Gandhi made worst political mistake in the history of indian democracy. Most of Indians does not support it. But the perspectives are changing over 35 years. Half of county’s population is borne after 1975. It knows little or care less. People are realizing that governments across the globe are capable of doing terrible things without a formal proclamation of emergency. Singur, Nandigram, Narmada, Aadarsh, labour movement in China, GreenPeace, American Policing the list is endless. Haryana’s Khap Panchayats are doing the same, in my view. Foreign observer, Granville Austin, criticized both government and the oppositions combined to make this happened. He also wrote: ‘Ugly as the Emergency was, New Delhi in 1976 was not Berlin under Adolf Hitler Nor Moscow under Stalin, Beijing under Mao, Santiago under Pinochet or Islamabad under Zia-ul Haq.’

    Even though for her fault, most of Indian citizens regard her as most capable Prime Minister of India. I from the bottom of heart admire her the real iron lady and thinks that how would be India now if she would have been in power.Recommend

  • Ali Omer
    Jun 29, 2011 - 7:52PM

    Mr Nayar rightly pointed out the true case of India, in fact I just got to know this rather I was pretty surprised that India once also had declared “Emergency State” while having so called democracy and What we say India is the World’s Biggest Democracy. Look what we are believing into.Recommend

  • woohoo....d'oh
    Jun 29, 2011 - 11:30PM

    It seems, both Kuldip Nayar and Jawed Naqvi have similar retirement plans!!Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 30, 2011 - 2:36AM

    Too many of my “silly” comments was the result of the failure of Tribune’s generally reliable system to announce that my comments are under moderation. As I didn’t see the acknowledgements, I thought my posts have not gone!
    @Ali Omer
    What India has operated all these years except the hiccup of 1975 has always been a genuine democracy with age as the only condition to become a voter. So India’s democracy is the biggest & genuine democracy though a shade chaotic as all democracies are!
    @Safir Afkhan,
    Thanks a lot!
    All Pakistani brothers/readers: India is the only country which will be a genuine friend to Pakistan. Reflect & think on this point. We are people divided unnaturally!Recommend

  • Ayesha
    Jun 30, 2011 - 2:41AM

    what is the point of this on a Pakistani news portal you ask? well, whats the harm in that? a man is entitled to his own opinion…if he wishes to write for a Pakistani portal, let him…to the Pakistanis asking why this article is here, well there;s no harm in learning about what is happening in other places in the world. This is standard media practice.

    As far as My Nayar’s point of view is concerned, he has every right to voice it. What he would gain from appeasing Pakistanis is beyond my understanding. Anyone who provides a different view should not be put into the ‘unpatriotic’ box. Many others, including some leading names like Bharka Dutt have been categorized so which is totally uncalled for. If you disagree with what he has to say, argue on the facts and with facts. and end it at that. Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Jun 30, 2011 - 6:12AM

    My only objection was to Mr Nayar’s equating forcing India’s own citizen who have all the rights as Indian citizen from their abodes with illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who have none. Otherwise we Indians hardly ever bother about what he writes!Recommend

  • Malay
    Jun 30, 2011 - 8:34PM

    Kuldeep Nayar has lost his touch. Leave him alone/Recommend

  • G. Din
    Jul 2, 2011 - 1:19AM

    @Ali Omer:
    “…Look what we are believing into.”
    And, sir, what are you believing “into”? Do tell!Recommend

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