Mainstream, VOL LII, No 45, November 1, 2014
In lieu of An editorial
Sunday 2 November 2014, by
October 31 this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The situation today is markedly different from the one that prevailed in 2004. Yet what appeared as an editorial in Mainstream (October 30, 2004) remains as relevant as when it was written ten years ago. Hence we are reproducing excerpts from it in lieu of an editorial this week when the BJP Government under Narendra Modi, blinded by hatred and prejudice, has decided against observing the anniversary. —Editor
Unfinished Task that Cannot be Deferred
On Sunday, October 31, 2004 it will be twenty years since our third Prime Minister was brutally gunned down by her bodyguards at her New Delhi residence plunging the nation into not just grief but also chaos that witnessed bloodletting in substantive measure—a permanent scar on democratic India’s body politic.
Indira Gandhi did promote secular democracy and waged a spirited struggle against communalism, majoritarian communalism in particular, on the lines of her father though there is no gainsaying that she occassionally compromised with communal politics unlike her father. Her commitment to democracy too came under cloud not only because of the Emergency she had imposed on the nation in 1975-77 but also due to the manner in which she throttled inner-party democracy within the Congress after the 1969 split. Her indulgence to petty factional politics in both Punjab and J&K proved to be baneful and she had to pay the price with her own life in 1984. And yet, there was something extraordinary: her rapport with the common people by championing the interests of the poor and the disprivileged—because of which she is still remembered with such nostalgia by the downtrodden and the oppressed across the length and breadth of this vast landmass. As the outstanding Pakistani journalist Mazhar Ali Khan noted in one of the most moving tributes to Indira after her death:
The ‘Indira-hatred’ slogan of her opponents has died with her, but for a long time the rallying cry in India will be her call of ‘garibi hatao’ (end poverty). Witnesses bear testimony to the fact that where millions wept at her sad demise, beyond the family the sincerest tears were shed by the wretched and the poor who feel bereft because they believe that she had genuinely sought to give them succour and to shield them against their oppressors. (Viewpoint, November 8, 1984)
Those at the helm of affairs in the UPA and the Left supporters of the ruling alliance must necessarily comprehend these words in full measure for unless they take effective steps to give succour to those people and shield them against their oppressors, specially in today’s globalised environment where the market reigns supreme, the UPA would in due course meet the fate of the NDA.
On Indira’s twentieth death anniversary it is thus necessary to uphold this particular aspect of her legacy to carry out the unfinished task of national regeneration the country can ill-afford to defer any further.
October 27 S.C.