Mainstream Weekly

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2012 > Remembering Indira Gandhi Today

Mainstream, VOL L No 46, November 3, 2012

Remembering Indira Gandhi Today

Wednesday 7 November 2012, by Sumit Chakravartty


October 31 this year marked the twentyeighth anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. On this occasion we are carrying the following excerpts from an article published in this journal’s October 31, 2009 issue.

“The ‘Indira hatred’ slogan of her opponents has died with her, but for a long time the rallying cry in India was her call of ‘Garibi Hatao’ (end poverty). Witnesses bear testimony to the fact that where millions wept at her 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 shield them against their oppressors.”
—Mazhar Ali Khan
(Viewpoint, November 6, 1984)

The above lines were written by the outstanding Pakistani journalist, the late Mazhar Ali Khan, one of the most perceptive observers of the South Asian scene, in his moving tribute to Indira Gandhi—perhaps the best in our region —in his now-defunct weekly Viewpoint (November 6, 1984) barely a week after her assassination.

She was at once the most successful (her momentous victory over Pakistan in 1971 engendering the birth of Bangladesh), the most controversial (her massive popularity after the 1969 Congress split that she herself engineered while getting metamorphosed from Lohia’s gungi gudiya into a genuine lioness contrasted with her deep sense of insecurity because of which she could rely on none other than those compri-sing her immediate family) and most authorita-rian (her assault on democracy through imposi-tion of the Emergency on the people in June 1975) of all the PMs since 1947 as none of her predecessors or successors ever tried to under-take the measures that she did with effortless ease. She was also the most decisive of all the heads of government; in this context mention must necessarily be made of the Pokhran I peaceful nuclear explosion which was conducted in 1974 under her personal direction and supervision. She was the most astute wielder of power India has ever seen.

On the international plane too she left her distinct imprint whether as the chairperson of the Non-Aligned Movement or as a champion of environmental protection at various global fora. In all such activities she came in direct conflict with international vested interests entrenched in the West. She was intensely disliked by the prevailing leaderships of the US under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan who held her in profound distrust (even if she deve-loped some rapport with Margaret Thatcher of the UK during the dark days of the Emergency). The spectacle of Fidel Castro holding her in gentle embrace at the Seventh Non-Aligned Summit in New Delhi on March 7, 1983 after handing over the NAM chairperson’s mantle to her symbolised the coming of age of the Third World in the international arena defying all covert and overt forms of domination and exploitation—the significance of that scene cannot be overemphasised. She endeared herself to almost all the prominent leaders of the newly independent developing states of Africa, Latin America and the Arab world.

Having watched her from close quarters for almost two decades since 1967 one would like to conclude with excerpts from a piece by that talented journalist, Chand Joshi, who is no more with us. In his reportage in The Hindustan Times on November 1, 1984 he wrote the following:

On Aurangzeb Road, a sweeper woman stood by our jeep and asked: “Who will fight for us?”…

We had no answer, no tears, only the sudden feeling of a vacuum for what was always accepted as ‘IS’ was now ‘WAS’.

Or is it?

One knows for certain that Indira Gandhi is still regarded as a true friend in the hovels of the poor and the wretched across our landscape.

That indeed is her legacy. And it will remain undiminished for many, many years to come till the country is eventually able to fulfil the constitutional promise of justice and equality for all. It would do well to understand that the repeated betrayal of that promise has led to the Red upsurge in the form of Maoism in our tribal hinterland today.

(Mainstream, October 31, 2009)

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.