Readers Write In #592: The life of Indira Gandhi and its relevance today

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Written by G War

We have some children playing in the hall. Despite getting to know each other well over the years, the two always prefer to be at odds with each other. They just drop their hats and get into an argument, start hitting each other, whine, scream, and roll over each other within minutes. Therefore, it is imperative that the referee is always on standby in the corner of the hall so that he can act as soon as things go wrong. After swearing and fighting hard, I sometimes manage to bring them together and establish peace by luring them into a truce. But I know all too well how fragile such a ceasefire can be, and how temporary the established peace can be.

Of course, the first few minutes of a truce can be fairly calm and easy. But the clock is always ticking, and you never know when the pages of your hard-earned truce will be ripped open and the cries for the next battle will be heard.

So do noble ideals such as democracy, human rights, and secularism. We have been slaves and savages for most of civilization. Even basic values ​​such as treating everyone equally and providing equal opportunities for all are all very new and not yet fully ingrained. Such values ​​and ideals may seem simple today, but of course, in retrospect, they must be learned, properly understood, and most importantly put into practice, thereby transforming our daily habits into It becomes an integral part of the action.

This was something that took me a while to understand and understand when I finished reading the last few lines of Indira Gandhi’s biography written by Anne Frank.


Almost 60 percent of the biography includes letters Indira wrote to her father and close friends in London, as well as hearsay from Indira’s friends and relatives. These parts are the best pages of this book. We get a real glimpse into Indira’s personal life and, to her delight, mostly inside her head. It’s so moving to see such a troubled childhood, torn between the love of a constantly sick mother and an ever-absent father. Indira’s poorly nourished physique and her slightly grotesque appearance are often mentioned, forcing her to live in a sort of inferiority complex.

Indira’s unhappiness appears to have been inherited from her mother, and she spent much of her adolescence in Europe seeking treatment. Despite being together for years, her health has not improved at all, and she is even advised not to marry and have children. Despite Indira putting on a brave face for all her physical problems, she shows no signs of being an independent woman.

Psychologically, after her mother’s early death, she ties her life to her father’s prospects and helps him in whatever he does. After her marriage to Fellows, she entrusts all her life’s hopes to him. Even after learning of her affair with Fellowes, she does not want to divorce him. Although she has decided to leave him not formally, she continues to return to him, despite living under her father’s auspices. She has been torn between her father, who hates her stepson for good reason, of course, and her husband, who hates her for abandoning herself for her father.

In most of her letters to her best friend in London, Indira appears to me as a little child in need of stroking, advice and direction. Despite her adept reading habits, she did not appear to have much intellect, and Nehru believed that not only because he encouraged dynastic politics and did not want to set a bad precedent for other politicians to follow. I am completely against being your own successor politically. She recognized her lack of intelligence and ability.

Ms. Indira has suffered severely mentally for nearly three years since her husband’s untimely death. By the time she recovers, it’s Nehru’s turn to leave her. With only her children left for Indira, she decides to leave the country and settle far from India.


We all know what happened after that, but what surprised me for the rest of the biography was how she suddenly became a powerful and charismatic leader who seemed to be holding the pulse of her people by magic. It’s strange. Even the author, Katherine Frank, must have wondered how this transformation happened, as her correspondence with friends in London decreased to almost zero after her ascension to Congress president. do not have. How, then, can a sickly and emotionally submissive woman who thought she had no prominent place in Indian politics suddenly emerge as a fully formed and highly competent politician? no one really knows.

Nearly all her actions, including the nationalization of banks, the abolition of private wallets, and the introduction of the Green Revolution, which skyrocketed India’s position as the top food exporter, have shaped how the general public perceives Indira. It’s a 6er, in a sense. After 1973, after her breakthrough success in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, which reduced Pakistan to almost half its size, she dismissed well-meaning advisers such as PN Huksar, but they gradually began to question her decisions and thought processes that reeked of complacency. arrogance. She soon finds herself surrounded by opportunists and flattering allies just as Jayalalitha has done for the past decade or so, paving the way for her political downfall and eventual disgrace. start.

Catherine Frank’s account of Indira’s disastrous past decade (1980’s victory and comeback being only a minor peak) is quick and succinct, but for those already familiar enough with India’s political history, it’s very difficult. It is familiar. Her love for her motherland drove her to join the struggle for Indian independence, and in her early years as prime minister after 1975, she devoted herself to the poor and their well-being. ‘s devotion seems to have driven her to her left-leaning policies. The much-changed woman would do anything, including serving her country on a platter, if her eldest son Sanjay wanted to devour it. Indira’s excuse that she knew nothing of her son’s atrocities, and her reluctance to act to curb her son’s actions, is what she portrays earlier in her book. in complete contrast to the way


My father used to say that India is by no means an advanced country when it comes to politics. We have lived together for centuries with kings, castes, superstitions, dictatorships, and religious ceremonies, but such a society of little change would soon be Democracy was forced upon us. We have grown accustomed and accustomed to autocratic rulers and their excesses for centuries. As a result, even after the introduction of voting systems and the establishment of participatory democracy, we loved to worship and remain obedient to our rulers. This kind of enslavement spirit flourished during the Nehru regime and, despite its obvious flaws, did its best to create an institution in which hitherto centralized political power could be distributed among as many hands as possible.

President Nehru’s 17-year rule, with all its flaws and flaws, and India’s attempt at political unity and its newfound liberal democracy after the British withdrawal was only temporary and almost illusory. It shattered the Western hopes that it would become a thing. India soon took great pride in calling itself the world’s largest democracy, and every subsequent election set a record for the largest number of people lining up to elect a ruler anywhere in the world. rice field. Despite the scars of division, India’s political unity has seemed fairly secure and surprisingly resilient. India’s remarkable economic achievements achieved by democratic means surprised China, which had on the one hand applied repressive measures and deployed coercive devices, but ultimately had an economy on par with India’s in the early 1970s. Ended up making a profit. In short, India was becoming a model democracy for other liberated Third World countries to follow.

But Indira’s dizzying rise to political peak in 1971 marked a turning point. Her government soon began training and funding armed rebels in neighboring Sri Lanka and providing support to extremist communists in the Punjab province. Corruption soared to unprecedented levels, inflation soared and food prices soared. Both the extreme left and right of India stood to profit from such a dire situation. All these forces came together under one big umbrella provided by a Gandhi named JP Narayan who called for a “total revolution” to overthrow India’s so-called Empress.

The censorship of the press, the witch hunts, the arrest and annihilation of Indira’s political opponents, and the state of emergency that prompted the forced sterilization of India’s poor have signaled a wake-up call to a growing number of near-dying doomsday prophets across the country. started sending. People of the world who sincerely wanted India to be shattered at the beginning of its independence.

But the worst part of all this is just how the majority of Indians reacted to these measures. In the first few months, the state of emergency was never seen as a violation of constitutionally guaranteed individual rights. The majority of Indians were not offended or outraged when told not to speak publicly to the government. At a time when sterilization was becoming almost mandatory, Indians did not make light of the democratically elected government peering into their bedrooms with audacity and royal licentiousness. When thousands of people were arrested and detained without trial, the public paid little attention.

If Indira had been able to moderate Sanjay’s excesses and punish the tyrannical parliamentary officials and rogues a little, India could have lived together for decades under a fully authoritarian state without fear. . It is this tendency to be consciously blind to our rights and privileges, to worship and obey rulers and bureaucrats, no matter how openly criminal and selfish they may prove to be. It haunts me every time I get excited about being the biggest in the world. democracy in the world.

Even very recently, the government asked every one of our honest, hard-working, tax-paying citizens to stand in line just to catch the few rats who were hoarding tons of cash in India’s black money. I asked them to line up, empty their pockets, and stand half up. Search naked. what did we do in return? Try to remember. How willing we were to offer ourselves to such an overtly authoritarian move, and how nearly three years later when we lined up to re-elect the same government, this kind of recognition of our human and economic rights. Please remember that brute force infringement was never part of our thinking.

When I think of the innocent masses of India, who, despite their gross ignorance of politics and economics, consider it their duty to vote every five years, I sometimes think of Winston Churchill as saying: remember the words

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

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