Sunday, May 25, 2008

Their Sacrifices: A Chapter from Tomorrow's Textbooks

Arun Shourie
In the beginning was a foreigner. He founded the Congress.

Then, no one did anything till the Nehru-Nehru (Father and Son) Family stepped forth. They firmly stamped the history of India with the twin features that characterise it in the first half of the 20th century: everything they did was a sacrifice, no one else made any sacrifices.

With the passing of the Father, the Son became the Father, and with the coming of the Daughter, the Nehru-Nehru Family came to be known as the Nehru-Gandhi Family. But it continued the noble tradition: everything they did was a sacrifice, no one else made any sacrifices.

Soon enough the country's interest demanded that the secret plans of the new Viceroy and his co-plotters be ferreted out. The Father therefore sacrificed that one thing to which he was so attached -- the sacred memory of his dear wife, who, having joined the Nehru-Nehru Family had already made the Supreme Sacrifice -- and let the Viceroy's wife fall for him.

Time flew yet again, and the cares of office began to weigh Father down. As president of the Congress and because of his own scholarship, he was of course aware of historical precedents of our rulers marrying foreign women to manage the household while they attended to affairs of State. But so as not to further disturb a people that had been so recently devastated, he sacrificed his love of history and its mores, and continued to live alone. That only weighed him down further.

Therefore, while her dear husband was busy in various adventures in Lucknow and Allahabad, the Daughter, Indira Gandhi, chose to stay in Delhi. Soon, she too sacrificed her marriage to devote herself to the one thing that was so necessary for our poor country -- the well-being of Father.

Then, as Father aged (as the original Father had before him), she sacrificed her devotion to housework and his care, and agreed to take over the presidentship of the Congress.

And then, she sacrificed her deep devotion to this hoary party, split it and threw out the blackguards -- all so as to free it, and therefore the country, from the clutches of The Syndicate.

And then, she sacrificed her respect for the elderly, and threw Morarji out -- so as to save the country from The Return of Reaction.

And then, out of her infinite love for the poor, and because of her exemplary fealty to the memory and inclinations of her father, she sacrificed her own pragmatism, and embraced socialism.

And then, seeing how those old stuck-in-the-muds, the judges, were going to impede the great things which were being done for the poor, she sacrificed her deep love for propriety, superseded three of them, and made yet another original, sterling contribution to world thought, the concept of a Committed Judiciary.

And then, as the wretches had still not stopped howling, she sacrificed her new love -- socialism -- for pragmatism; and thus we got the justly fabled "Twenty Point Programme" which, as everyone knows, catapulted our country to the very limits of prosperity.

And then, as she was being attacked from all sides and being asked to resign just because some high court judge had found her guilty of electoral fraud, her devoted son, Sanjay sacrificed his love of automobiles, and stepped forth to protect her from these evil machinations and conspiracies. And then, as misguided students, and their misguides -- JP and the rest started demanding that corruption and inefficiency be checked, she and Sanjay standing together sacrificed their deep attachment to probity and excellence, stood firm, refused to mend matters under duress, and thereby saved the country from extra-constitutional anarchy.

And then, as the bureaucratic machinery had become moribund, as the political leaders had become limp, she sacrificed her deep aesthetic love for consistency, and allowed Sanjay to station himself as The Unconstitutional Authority par excellence so as to kick-start the merely constitutional authorities.

And then, as the senile fools still did not abandon their unconstitutional ways, she sacrificed her deep commitment to democracy, and with the utmost reluctance so touching a characteristic of The Family -- and only to save the country from The Foreign Hand -- threw the entire oppositions as well as over a lakh of people into jail, and suspended the Constitution.

And then, so as to create an example that would inspire all budding entrepreneurs and thereby lift the country to ever greater heights, she sacrificed her own good name and ensured all official and non-official encouragement to Sanjay's dream project, the Maruti.

And then, precisely when she had acquired complete mastery over the entire country and everyone was ever so full of joy at the trains running on time, precisely when a great scholar, the then Congress president, had proclaimed, "Indira is India, India is Indira", she sacrificed her unrivaled, unquestioned position. and announced elections.

And then, just because the people had wiped her out and her party, she sacrificed even her prime ministership and agreed to go along with the verdict of the ignorant people -- a verdict she knew the blockheads would soon rue.

And then, as the Janata government floundered, she sacrificed the well-deserved peace and quiet she had at last got after so many years of travail, and agreed to take on the bother of once again ruling this wretched country.

And then, because his dear brother had sacrificed his very life for that ancient love of the Nehrus -- aviation, Rajiv sacrificed his quiet family life, his love of the skies, his blossoming career in aviation and stepped forth to help Mummy -- so beleaguered and alone at the pinnacle.

And then, to save her beloved Punjab from the communal Akalis, she sacrificed her unshakable commitment to secularism, and put up Bhindranwale.

And then, when those foolish young students in Assam began demanding that foreigners not be smuggled on to electoral lists -- as the local Congress leaders were doing so as to enrich our culture through cross-fertilisation she sacrificed her deep love and compassion for all living beings; and let the forces shoot down 800 of them.

And then, when the damned students still did not listen, she sacrificed her undying love and commitment to the country's unity, and directed her minions to encourage the Bodo militants after all, how could mere students be allowed to decide what was good for the country; after all, how could mere students be allowed to challenge the decisions of Delhi?

And then, when Farooq and NTR would not see reason and submit to her, she sacrificed her unshakable commitment to the Constitution and, with the same pain and reluctance that we have encountered earlier, dismissed their elected governments -- she had nothing to gain from the step, she had everything to lose, but she knew that the country had to be made safe for the Constitution.

And then, as courts, legislatures, civil services with their interminable forms and procedures, were all standing in the way of the poor, she sacrificed her devotion to everything her father had helped construct, and, by skillful undermining, she put all institutions out of harm's way.

Unfortunately -- and this tragic thing happens so often in the case of the Nehru-Gandhi Family -- the followers of Bhindranwale did not see that Bhindranwale did not see that Bhindranwale would have never attained the heights he did it not been for her. They, therefore, sacrificed her life to their ingratitude.

And then, though the Mummy he had stepped forth to help had been taken away, Rajiv, disregarding the entreaties of his wife, sacrificed the easy-relaxed life of a mere MP, and became PM: for the earth which was quaking as the giant tree had fallen had to be calmed.

And then, to safeguard the country, he sacrificed his commitment and that of Olof Palme to the cause they had met to discuss, disarmament, and swiftly concluded the Bofors deal.

And then, he sacrificed his longing to spend time in India, and travelled incessantly all over the world to solve the problems which were buffeting it from all sides.

And then, on his visits to his beloved India, he sacrificed all his waking hours to solve its myriad difficulties.

And then, though he had not had anything to do with any of those things -- Bofors, the Airbus purchases, the settling of the HDW matter -- he sacrificed the good name of generations of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and, Shiva-like, took and held the entire poison of calumny himself: for, steeped as he was in the Nehru-Gandhi Family tradition, he saw that justice had to be done, and the middlemen, who after being abolished had only taken fees for "genuine industrial espionage," had to be protected from the hounds out to destabilise the country.

And then, moved to compassion by the plight of Tamils across the seas, he sacrificed his natural attachment to the principle which was a family heirloom, his own grandfather having invented it -- that of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries -- and opened training camps for Prabhakaran and his LTTE.

And then, as those unthinking judges gave a judgment which hurt the sentiments of the Muslims, he sacrificed his dedication to another of the Family's principles, secularism -- a principle which would not even have been in the Constitution but for his mother -- and passed a law to overturn the judgment.

And then, the effect this had on the sentiments of the Hindus moved him once again to compassion, and so he sacrificed his and the Nehru-Gandhi family's' unyielding devotion to the sentiments of Muslims, and had the locks to the Ram temple opened.

And then, his wife learnt that the Father (originally the Son) had been sacrificing his sleep to write every night to the Viceroy's wife. So as to spare the simple people of our country any trauma, and so as to protect the one institution which held the country together -- namely, the Nehru-Gandhi Family -- she sacrificed the pile of royalties she could have made, and, having kept them in her personal custody for long, refused to allow their publication.

And then, as Prabhakaran's followers turned out to be as ungrateful as those of Lt Bhindranwale, they too sacrificed his life to ingratitude.

And then, his wife, so as to prevent the rich of the country from squandering their money on worthless pursuits and so as to do good to which the Nehru-Gandhi Family has always been committed, sacrificed the good name of the Family once again, she sacrificed her own peace and quiet, and established The Foundation.

Today it is this noble lady, who has sacrificed the comforts of foreign climes, who continues the noble tradition of The Family. As she has said again and again, as she has shown again and again Shrimati Soniaji Gandhi is not interested in any post -- nor should too much be read into the "for now" she has used of late: she is just sacrificing her natural dislike for office to keep up our hopes by keeping alive the prospect of her taking on the reins.

She has stepped forth with the same great reluctance which has been a mark of the Nehru-Gandhi family as much as aviation. She has, like Rajiv before her, who had like his mother before him, done so only to save the country. And what reassurance she provides, the reassurance of things continuing: "The time has come," she told the people in her opening speech, "when I feel compelled to put aside my own inclinations and step forward. I am here not to seek political office or position but to share my concern over the country's future. We do not want our society to be broken into fragments" -- the same touching reluctance of the Nehru-Gandhi Family, the same putting aside of personal interest, the same disregarding of ones own inclination, the same devotion to our poor country. Reading it, citizens were thrilled, they felt 30 years younger, back in 1969 -- Mrs Gandhi, the Daughter, was alive and back in Mrs Gandhi, the Daughter-in-Law, and the entire reign lay before us again.

The first and second halves of the 20th century hold three lessons. These are: all the sacrifices made were made by the Nehru-Gandhi Family, and it is because of those sacrifices that the country has risen to the heights it has, second, that no one else has made or makes sacrifices, and that is why the country is on the verge of breaking into fragments. Third, and most important for the future, that everything the Nehru-Gandhi Family does is a sacrifice. If they do not accept the prime ministership, they are sacrificing the comforts, the pomp and show that go with the highest office. If they do accept it, they are sacrificing their own inclinations, they are sacrificing their personal interests and promising careers. If they accept security, they are sacrificing their privacy. If they do not, they are sacrificing their lives. If they keep rotten, minority governments in place, they are sacrificing what no one else ever sacrifices, power and its pelf. If they bring them down, they are sacrificing the comforts of back-seat driving. If they eat European food, they are sacrificing the food of the country they love so that our hungry millions may have more. If they eat Indian food, they are sacrificing the joys of their childhood. If they eat at all, they are sacrificing their vow to fast. If they fast, they are sacrificing food...

Question in BA Exam: Resolve the following paradox -- as The Foreign Hand has been so vital to our survival, the Congress having been founded by and then brought back to life by it, why did Indira Gandhiji accustom the country to looking upon The Foreign Hand with suspicion?

Model answer in Key: As Comrade Surjeet will soon explain, "Arey bhai, had not Comrade Lenin explained long ago? "There is Foreign Hand and there is Foreign Hand" The Italian Hand is very different from the American Hand The Italian Hand when it installs a government that might be in my hand is very different from the Italian Hand that removes a government that was in my hand."

Asian Age
January 23, 1998

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