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DOYEN OF“ 2015 INTOLERANCE ”S pearheading Intolerance Lobby in India

Judge Yourself…The Reason of Intolerance. This is the apt heading for the Doyen of “2015 Intolerance” spearheading Intolerance Lobby in India. The doyen is Nayantara Sahgal, niece of the country’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. She herself is claustrophobic with intolerance, returned her Sahitya Academy Award — not the Rs 5 lakhs she got along with that — followed by so many others. This was interspersed with “rebellion”, “revolt”, “rebuff”, “reprimand”, “resuscitation”, “recrimation”, “restrictive”, “ramification”, “ratification”, “reckon”, “recurrent”, “rekindle”, “relinquish”, “reminiscences”, “rendezvous”, “razzle-dazzle”, “rendition”, “renegade”, “resentful” etc like “by her” : Journalists, writers, actors, dramatists, singers, painters, artistes, dancers, collage-makers, sculptors, thinkers, Ad-men, film makers, directors, editors etc all in chorus have begun saying “intolerance” in this Government. Revealingly, majority of them have always criticized previous Governments on some flimsy issue or the other. It is they who brought the present Government to power arguing only about a year ago that Narendra Modi is “the best thing to happen to Indian polity, Indian Governance, Indian democracy, India-Government, Democracy in India since 1952, First General Elections in the country”. Sahgal herself (read on below) criticized late Indira Gandhi on so many occasions etc. Now she wants alternative to the present Government. Is it because of what… Judge For Yourself.

Noted writer Nayantara Sahgal is impressed with the way Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has decided to play a “bigger role”. She feels Mr Gandhi is showing “signs of great change”.

Ms Sahgal, niece of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was asked what she thinks about Mr Gandhi. She said,
“like everybody else I thought (several years back), he did not want to be in politics. Many of us thought it would be better if he takes up something else.”

She, however, quickly added that now she has seen “a great change” in Rahul Gandhi.

“Recently, I watched him speak in the context of Bihar elections. He was very impressive, very thorough about his facts… Perhaps he has decided to throw in his weight fully now. Before that, he was doing it behind the scenes, trying to organise, democratise the Youth Congress. Now, may be he has decided to play a bigger role.

“He is certainly showing signs of great change. I have noticed a change, which is very positive,” said Ms Sahgal, who recently returned her ‘Sahitya Akademi’ Award over the Dadri lynching incident and growing inolerance.

When Ms Saghal was asked if politics beckon her at any point in time, she said “Never”.

She further said that she could have gotten into “politics at any time (as it ran in the family). On two occasions I was offered a seat in Parliament, but I have never wanted power and never wanted wealth. I have never had any hankering for these two things.”

Yet, she said, “politics has served me as a very good material for my fiction (as a writer)”.

Nehru’s niece: ‘I don’t think one family should rule India’

December 09, 2014

‘This term — “Nehru-Gandhi” family — is a misnomer. Nehru was not a dynast; he did not even name his successor… The big mistake she made was to push forward Rahul Gandhi who is a dead loss as a leader,’ says writer Nayantara Sahgal, whom Sonia Gandhi calls ‘Tara Masi’.

With a beautiful view of the foothills of the Himalayas and a not-so-beautiful one of a multi-storey building coming up next door, Nayantara Sahgal, sits on the verandah of the home her mother built in Dehradun.

“She lived here for 20 years. Then she left this house to me,” she says talking about her mother Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Jawaharlal Nehru’s politician-diplomat sister.

Sahgal, 87, herself has lived here for nearly three decades — not far from Landour, where she studied at the Woodstock School.

A writer of several novels, autobiographies, historical and political works, she continues to write — preferring to write in the mornings. The day we met in her garden with a riot of camellia flowers in bloom, two news photographers had dropped in to take photographs.

“The house is a place of many family memories,” says Sahgal, who lives down the road from her sister. She religiously attends Iyengar yoga classes twice a week, which according to Ritu Menon’s biography of Sahgal, has been crucial to the writer’s recovery from cancer last year.

Above : A picture of Nayantara Sahgal taken from the cover of Relationship, a collection of letters between Mrs Sahgal and E N Mangat Rai, an Indian Civil Service officer she married in the 1970s.

Having borne the brunt of her cousin Indira Gandhi’s anger for her criticism of the Emergency, Mrs Sahgal has had a rare vantage point of India’s history and politics.

Nursing a bad throat with Hamdard’s Sualin pills, she speaks about Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.

Are you in touch with Mrs Sonia Gandhi?

I am not in regular touch. She is very hard to reach. She had told me years ago, please ring up Madhavan (Sonia Gandhi’s trusted aide), he’ll put me on. Either she is not there or travelling or meeting people, I’ve not always been able to reach her, but when I have, she has been very forthcoming.

After this terrible defeat (the Congress was routed in the 2014 general election), I tried to reach her — for a long time I couldn’t — and I said to Madhavan no matter where she is, I want to speak to her and I had a long talk with her.

I told her quite frankly that look Rahul is no match for Modi. She was subdued. I said you must put somebody out there who can speak loud and clear about the Congress’s achievements.

I said you should admit your mistakes, but don’t apologise for anything. To everything I said, she agreed.

She calls me Tara Masi, but there you are — what happens after that we have to wait and see.

Have you met Rahul and Priyanka?

I have met them once or twice, but what happened was that Indira Gandhi had cut my mother off so she didn’t see them growing up.

Sonia I knew and she has continued to be in touch, Rajiv was very dear to me.

I don’t know Priyanka and Rahul. I have no contact with them.

What are your memories of Rajiv Gandhi?

My memories of Rajiv Gandhi are extremely loving. He was an extraordinary person in his personal aspect. Very warm, affectionate, family minded, devoted to my mother.

He always called her nani. It was he who restored the break after his mother’s death.

Largely, it was an isolated life for my mother because she had strongly opposed the Emergency. That sort of put her out of the establishment.

He got my mother back into the family as it were. He came to see her 2, 3 times here(Dehradun) while he was prime minister.

‘I don’t see the idea on which modern India has been founded, lasting under Modi’

 

 

On her 90th birthday when she (Vijayalakshmi Pandit) had invited the whole family here, he and Sonia came.

It was strange, the whole family came at her own request. For her, family was family. She was of a generation that didn’t care whether you were on one side or the other, you were her family.

At that time Arun Nehru and Maneka Gandhi were in power in government, Rajiv Gandhi was out of power, but they all came and it was a wonderful occasion.

Rajiv in every way was a loving son or a loving grandson to her. When she took very ill at one time, he took her to Delhi and she was treated at AIIMS and every other day he would turn up to see her, driving his own car and wearing jeans as he often did.

He was very natural and loving. I have the fondest memories of Rajiv… (tears flow down her face) assassination is not a good thing…

Do you think the future of the Congress lies outside the Nehru-Gandhi family?

This term ‘Nehru-Gandhi’ family is a misnomer.

What we have had in power for the last many years is Feroze Gandhi’s family. It has nothing to do with Nehru.

Nehru was not a dynast; he did not even name his successor. His party chose his successor and that was an event that was hailed by the world that India has passed seamlessly from Nehru’s time forward.

Had Lal Bahadur Shastri lived, we would have had a different history.

I am sorry and I am sad that Feroze Gandhi is forgotten. When the Gandhi family is mentioned, what is meant is Feroze Gandhi.

Feroze Gandhi was a very significant member of Parliament, outspoken and made a great contribution to Parliament.

He was a critic of the Congress within the Congress which shows how democracy flourished in the party at that time under the strong leadership of Nehru.

I have been opposing dynasty since Indira Gandhi put Sanjay forward. It was a very mistaken, dangerous move, especially since Sanjay Gandhi — let us face it — was a very dangerous person in Indian politics.

With that began a proliferation of dynasty all over India and we now see it in every state.

Sonia Gandhi joined the party in the genuine belief that since the Congress kept making this demand, her conscience told her that she must accept and we have to recognise that she brought the Congress to power twice.

The big mistake she made was to push forward Rahul Gandhi who is a dead loss as a leader. Who himself says he doesn’t want to be a leader.

I don’t know in what manner they are going to meet this new challenge, but unless they have a democratic election for leadership within the party and put forward loud, clear voices who are good communicators to tell people their past achievements and admit their mistakes — until that happens, they are faced with a very difficult situation.

After all, to be in the Opposition is no humiliation, but having been defeated to the extent they have will mean strong revolutionary steps to put it right. They will need new leadership for that, there is no doubt about that.

And for that they have to think beyond Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi?

I don’t think one family should rule the country. If Priyanka Gandhi wishes to come into politics, why should she not in her own personal capacity, but that she should be recognised as the leader of the party is absurd.

If she comes and does well, good for her, but let her come as anyone will come into the party and make her mark as anyone else would.

Today’s urgent need is that a strong leader be elected who is experienced and puts forward Congress policies.

Incidentally, I haven’t seen Mr Modi move aside from Congress policies. He seems to be repeating the same policies because despite his very powerful orations during the elections, he has not been able to make a difference — whether it is about black money or a number of other issues.

Congress policies have been sound. They have projected a vision of India that is an all India vision that no other party has been able to do. It is important for the Congress to remain in politics and to rise up and reinvent itself.

Rahul was no match to Modi during the 2014 campaign, where do you think he faltered?

He himself said and we all saw that he doesn’t want leadership. Since he is so reluctant to be leader, he should say ‘I’m out of it. Or let me be part of it and build up democracy within the party,’ which he is doing beginning with the Youth Congress.

Let him do party work. The Congress must make its own decision about that, put Rahul aside and get on with electing a leader who is capable of leading.

buy a cheaply pills without rx The 2014 election was a landmark — the end of one era and the beginning of another in Indian politics.

It is certainly a landmark election judging from the mandate Mr Modi got. It is interesting that it is the first election where a large percentage of people were young.

We are told this election was won because Modi stressed on development and jobs — but I have never known a time in India when employment was not an issue.

I remember in the 1970s when I was in Bihar reporting on Jayprakash Narayan’s movement, the chief demand of young people was rozgar. In a growing population that is an ongoing demand.

Modi stressing it, of course, had its impact on the youth, but today’s youth is very different from the youth of the 1970s who were politically conscious and consciously educated in history and the humanities.

Today’s youth are not. They are, I should imagine, fairly illiterate in the humanities. Their whole trend now seems to be on commerce.

Therefore, loud appeals that they will be given jobs will appeal to them and nothing else will matter. They are not concerned about the continuance of a multicultural society, they don’t care.

Religion, caste hasn’t entered their consciousness — in some ways it is good but it can work the other way too. They don’t know what is happening in your country.

‘It is important for the Congress to rise up and reinvent itself’

It was a clever election because Modi never veered in his election speeches from the moderate path. On the margins, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) platform or the lunatic fringe made their statements but he stayed on the moderate path because he realised that no government which doesn’t consider itself politically centre can be elected in India.

He got through on that platform, now that he is in, he is proceeding on the RSS platform.

Apart from the youth, the middle class wanted change because the Congress had been in power too long. That’s a good thing because democracy needs a change.

Many voted in the expectation that this would be a centre government because that’s what Modi appeared to represent.

It has been a landmark for good and bad reasons. Landmark because Modi has brought the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) to power, without him I don’t think the BJP would have been anywhere in the picture.

That is a frightening, Hitler-like situation where the party doesn’t matter, it’s the leader. He says ‘Follow me and I’ll put everything right.’

Yes, it’s a landmark as was Advani’s rath yatra, but which ended in the destruction of the Babri Masjid and thousands being killed in riots. That too was a landmark. It gave the BJP a victory in Parliament.

Yes, landmark of course — it’s a huge change in Indian politics, but if you analyse it what kind of change does it mean?

How do you see the next 5, 10 years unfolding because there is a good chance that Mr Modi will be PM for two terms?

I should imagine because judging by the fact that Congress is not set about its own revival, it would look like Modi being there for 10 years.

There is no Opposition worth the name unless the secular Opposition gets together. It seems to be making a small start with Lalu-Nitish in Bihar.

Uptill now the South seems to have held to its own parties and priorities and we’ll have to see what comes up in Bihar and other places.

Mr Modi would have a very good chance of continuing for 10 years depending on whether in this 5-year period, he delivers the goods.

So far he hasn’t been able to do with what the corporates call ‘big bang reforms’ — nor on the black money issue because he is coming up against the same constraints as the UPA.

These are big promises that have proved to be unfulfilled. He has made no significant departure yet from the past.

With the new induction of ministers may bring that change. We will have to wait and see if in the next five years anything happens. The ordinary man doesn’t seem to be thrilled because they have not delivered on the promises.

If Mr Modi is there for 10 years, what impact will it have on the Idea of India?

It will be utterly destroyed.

The idea on which modern India has been founded on, I can’t see it lasting under Modi. Already, we see attacks upon it from every side. I hear commentators say ‘Why can’t there be a new idea of India?’

I hear people say India wants a Hindu identity. India wants to be a superpower in the world and in Asia and for that you need to have an identity and ours is a Hindu identity.

If that prevails, then how will the Idea of India which Mahatma Gandhi forged through his national movement, and which Nehru upheld and which the Congress subsequently upheld over these years — how can that survive?

Are you hopeful about the revival of the Congress?

The Congress is, of course, facing a defeated situation, but one thing we can be absolutely sure of in life and politics is change in a democratic situation.

If we remain a democracy and there are no breaks put on democratic functioning, then there has to be change and the fate of the Congress will depend on two things.

  1. Whether it will set about reinventing itself, and
  2. Whether our democratic functioning and structure continue so that change can take place.

These two ifs — one depends on the Congress alone the other depends on the turn that India takes under Modi — so that we don’t come under some kind of authoritarian regime.

How do you think Sonia Gandhi’s contribution will be remembered in building and shaping the Congress?

I don’t know her contribution to building or shaping the Congress. She found the party there, the party appealed to her to take leadership and she went. I don’t think she in any way changed or shaped it.

She answered their demand to be at the head of it. How could she? She did not know anything about the Congress’s past or its history, she came as a young foreign woman to marry a man who happened to be the son of the PM. She knew nothing about politics.

What she did was when she did become leader, she did travel the length and breadth of the country. She knew it better than Manmohan Singh did with his World Bank background.

She did make a huge effort to learn her job, the language, meet people of all classes and caste, she carried out the Congress tradition and became a loved and admired leader among ordinary people all over the country.

That was a personal achievement of hers for a personality that was extremely private. She will be remembered as that kind of person and as one who twice led the Congress to victory.

You have seen changes in India’s politics — at the present moment are you hopeful or despondent about our country?

In the short term, I am worried.

In the long term, I feel India’s foundation — what we’ve known as the Ideal of India — of inclusiveness, plurality, democracy — I think in the long term this foundation will prove secure.

We will come through any crisis of extremism that we face today.

 

‘Common sense is shrinking in India today’

December 9, 2014 : ‘We saw the vigour of democracy when it voted Modi out of humble origins as prime minister. It was Nehru who laid that foundation for India and what is worrying is Mr Modi’s rather imperial style of functioning…’

Nayantara Sahgal is a dignified, soft-spoken 87-year-old lady, with a razor sharp memory.
‘As a child I wanted to grow up quickly so that I could go to jail’

What are your best memories of Anand Bhavan, the home of the Nehrus in Allahabad, that you grew up in?

They are mixed. There was a great feeling of loneliness of a child separated from parents. Of not knowing what tomorrow would bring.

Indeed my parents didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. Who knew what could happen at that time if you rebelled against the British government?

Penalties were very severe, they could range from deportation to imprisonment to death — and indeed did too from the early part of the 20th century until it became a non violent movement under Gandhiji.

Satyagrahis landed in jail — sometimes for years at a time and they were pledged not to pay the fines that the British government demanded. The police would come to our home, raid and take away valuables in lieu of the fines that satyagrahis refused to pay.

So it was not a luxurious home. The luxurious home had been given to the Congress party by my grandfather Motilal Nehru. It was the home where my mother was born and grew up.

It was called Anand Bhavan, but when my grandfather met Gandhiji on the Dandi March and told him that he was giving the home to the Congress party, he had built a smaller house on the estate, which he then named Anand Bhavan.

We didn’t want to live in a house which was not called Anand Bhavan (laughs).

The older house, the huge mansion where every luxury had prevailed, was called Swaraj Bhavan after that. The home we lived in was bare of all luxuries because everything of value had been raided and taken away by the police. Once, it happened in front of my eyes.

Just as it was a difficult time for the freedom fighters in your family, it must have been a difficult time for you children too? obtain inexpensively drugs no prescription – http://www.kevindekker.com/obtain-inexpensively-drugs-no-prescription/

It was a difficult time for children growing up in those circumstances, yet our upbringing was such that there was a great sense of pride that our parents were part of a great struggle, and we considered ourselves as young soldiers in this struggle.

As a child my ambition used to be that I grow up quickly so that I could go to jail. There was this great feeling of belonging to an adventure that my uncle (Nehru) gave us as he gave the whole nation.

I think of Allahabad as my childhood home. It has a mystique for me because of having grown up at a very inspiring time in the country’s life and my family’s life.

I last went to Anand Bhavan when Rajiv (former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi) took me and my children with my mother’s ashes in 1990. He flew us to Anand Bhavan and we immersed her ashes at the Sangam.

In a family of writers, what was the environment when you were growing up?

All my family were writers. They wrote wonderful letters. There was an ongoing correspondence between my mother and my uncle, Nehru, which I published some years ago calledNehru’s Letters to his Sister.

It is a wonderful picture of those times, he was 11 years her senior and very much her adored brother. It is a wonderful record of a relationship.

Similarly, my father wrote us very remarkable letters from jail as children, illustrating them for us to understand. It was a family that was given to writing and apart from that I grew up in a house full of books. On the shelves I could find books my mother had read as a child.

My growing up was a time when the family was under severe emotional and economic stress by virtue of the fact that my uncle and my parents were spending the best years of their life in jail. There were long separations from them.

My sisters and I grew up, sometimes for many months, sometimes a year or more, separated from our parents where we had to depend on each other and fend for ourselves.

We had a governess, a grandmother, great aunt in the house, but it wasn’t a normal childhood. In fact the first book I wrote, Prison and Chocolate Cake, describes it.

It must have been very traumatic for you when your father passed away in Lucknow jail in 1944.

Madame Chiang Kaishek helped to admit us to her alma mater Wellesley College in the United States.

We went there in the middle of the War with both my parents in jail. We were there when my father died. It was horrifying news. The full brunt of it hit one when one came home and he was not there.

My sister and I for many complicated reasons which is hard to go into here except the fact that one wouldn’t have been allowed to attend university in India without giving the guarantee that one wouldn’t take part in political activities.

So we were sent away to America with the help of Madame Chiang Kaishek who with Generalissimo (Chiang Kaishek, Mao Zedong’s bitter enemy) had come to India some years before to try and persuade the British government to set up a national government.

President (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt was trying to do the same so that India could become a full cooperator in the war on the Allied side. Of course, the British didn’t agree to that.

After university, did you return home to Allahabad?

No. It was after Partition. My uncle had gone to Delhi as prime minister. My mother had been sent to Moscow as India’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union, my father had died. I came to stay with my uncle at 17 York Road in Delhi. I deeply felt my father’s absence.

How much of your desire to write was motivated by your uncle?

It was not motivated by him, but motivated by a desire to keep alive the atmosphere of my childhood. To keep alive that moment in history when India was fighting for freedom and my own view of the struggle as a young girl in a family that was deeply involved in it.

Of course, when I asked my uncle whether I should join the Congress party or politics in the early 1950s, he said you like to write, so why not write. That settled the matter for me although at one time President (Sarvepalli) Radhakrishnan was very keen that I should be given a ticket to Parliament.

He told my mother: ‘You tell her now to stop looking after her children and come into Parliament.’

But I had no desire to go into politics or to have anything to do with the corridors of power except as it turned out to use politics as a material for my writing because that was the material from my childhood. That was my natural material.

What did Pandit Nehru think of your writing?

My first novel was dedicated to him. It was called A Time to be Happy. I think three of my books were published before he died in 1964.

He was a great irreplaceable figure for me as was my father and with two men like that in my life, no other man has been able to match up. It would be an impossible task. It was not an act that anybody could follow.

She has had a ringside view of Indian politics as the niece of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru; daughter of politician-diplomat and first lady president of the UN General Assembly, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and younger cousin of two-time prime minister Indira Gandhi, whose autocratic politics she criticised and whose father she adored.

‘I have never been as passionately devoted to anyone as I was to him (Nehru). He was a rare and wonderful human being. There will not be another like him in a thousand years,’ she wrote a week after Nehru’s death in a letter to E N Mangat Rai, an Indian Civil Service officer she married after the failure of her first marriage to Gautam Sahgal.

One of the country’s incisive political commentators, she has over ten books to her credit which provide a fascinating insight into her personal as well as India’s political journey.

In a lively interview , she spoke about growing up at a unique time in India’s history, the similarities between Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi and why Nehru’s legacy is India’s legacy.

Part I of a must read interview:

What was Nehru like as an uncle?

Like my parents, I thought of him as my third parent. The national movement under Gandhi lasted 26 years from 1921 onward. Of those my uncle spent 10 in jail.

I have some wonderful letters he wrote to me from jail. He was very involved in our growing up as in his own daughter’s.

He wrote Letter from a Father to his Daughter, and then published Glimpses of World History which was the first world history ever written from an Asian viewpoint.

 

Image: Nehru with his sister and Nayantara Sahgal’s mother Vijayalakshmi Pandit.

What do you see as his legacy at the present moment?

I try not to think of the present moment(laughs) because it’s so frightening.

I think of Nehru’s legacy as being India’s legacy. It had its birth in the national movement. Ideas like inclusiveness — that this is a unique country of many religions and cultures; that we are enriched by that pluralilty and secularism.

‘One very dangerous trend is reversal of what Nehru called the ‘scientific temper”

 

Secularism and inclusiveness — I fear for their future today because of the tendencies we have already seen — of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) view prevailing in history books already.

In Gujarat history books are in circulation which are revising history and writing it in almost mythological terms.

There is a lot of talk about development by the present government as if no development had ever taken place before them.

Development began with a huge surge immediately after Independence under Nehru’s governments. The progress that India has made comes out of that foundation.

The IITs, agricultural universities, the nuclear establishment, the space exploration, the technological advances we have made, Green Revolution — all this comes out of the early years of Nehru’s governments.

Above all, his first government established universal suffrage and gave every adult Indian man and woman the right to vote. It had never happened in the history of the world that democracy had priority over development.

He took that risk because he felt it would lay the foundation of democracy which indeed it has and we saw how vigorous democracy was when it dislodged authoritarianism under Mrs Indira Gandhi (her first cousin).

Again we saw its vigour when it voted Modi out of humble origins as prime minister. It was Nehru who laid that foundation for India and what is worrying today is Mr Modi’s rather imperial style of functioning — all of this doesn’t augur well for democracy.

I’ve often thought how appalled Indians were when Devkant Barua coined the slogan ‘Indira is India’ and now we’ve heard the chairman of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations say that ‘Modi is God!’

These are absurd developments and ridiculous trends which can have very serious consequences for democratic functioning. That is why I say Nehru’s legacy is India’s legacy. If that foundation is dislodged and we are sort of put on another way of thinking as we see happening, it’s a very dangerous trend.

One very dangerous trend is reversal of what Nehru called the ‘scientific temper’. He said it was essential for India’s growth into a modern state. That today is being reversed in statements like the prime minister saying about Ganesh’s head being grafted on a human body by advanced surgery in mythological times – and he said this to a medical audience.

I find this appalling. Which way are we being lead? If this attitude and trend continues, the young of this country in a few years are going to be scientifically illiterate. Already they are being historically illiterate.

Is Nehruvianism losing its relevance in a changing India?

It is even more relevant today than it ever was.

India stood out as a unique example of multi culturalism in the world. At Independence, though India was a devoutly religious country where many religions co-existed, it chose to become a secular state.

It even chose an atheist prime minister.

If we lose it, it’s a loss to the world, not only to India because we were an example for Asia and Africa. India under the Congress party inspired by Nehru reached out to freedom struggles all over Asia and Africa.

It later supported the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. It spoke out for the seating of the People’s Republic of China at the United Nations and led the non aligned movement which brought half of humanity into the corridors of power which had been voiceless and powerless up until then.

It is very relevant that we don’t lose sight of the foundations we have built modern India on and that is what I am afraid maybe happening.

Do you feel the liberal space is shrinking?

Not only the liberal space is shrinking but common sense is shrinking (laughs).

This great country is being shrunk into a monoculture. It is making a travesty of Hinduism.

That travesty began one might say soon after Independence when Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi. He murdered the greatest Indian alive and the greatest Hindu alive. A Hindu picked up the gun and killed the greatest Hindu in India.

It was a kind of pointer to what is happening now. I see that event linking up with forces which celebrate Nathuram Godse and his ilk and his beliefs. It is a bad, bad turn that things are taking.

Comparisons are drawn between Mrs Gandhi and Mr Modi as both being strong, decisive leaders. Do you see a similarity?

I do. I think it’s perfectly alright to be a strong leader. We need a strong and decisive leadership but we don’t need imperial leadership which disposes off a Cabinet government, which functions alone, which is then in a position where it can exercise arbitrary power – which Mrs Gandhi came to do and which I see Modi intending towards.

Strong, yes but it should not turn into a Fuhrer-style Hitler government where nobody counts but the leader.

It did happen in Mrs Gandhi’s time and Indians dislodged her for that reason. Though she was a remarkable leader in other ways but Indians had settled for democracy and were not willing to negotiate on that issue.

‘Secularism and inclusiveness
– I fear for their future today’

 

 

Now if we retain that insistence on democratic functioning and if we will not submit to any situation which would sour democratic institutions then we will be alright. We will pass through it and become a maturer democracy. But unless we do that the reverse could happen.

You were at the receiving end of Mrs Gandhi’s ire during the Emergency, it has been 30 years since her passing, what do you see as her legacy?

One very brave act was her courageous support to the creation of Bangladesh and the fact that immediately after the Bangladesh war was won and after the surrender, she ended it.

The prisoners India had taken at that time were returned. She acted with great statesman like vision and justice at that time. I would call that the high point of her leadership.

The fact that she called an election in 1977 may have had many reasons. First among them being that her advisers telling her it was safe to do so with the Opposition being in jail. But I think the other reason was that she was a democrat at heart who had taken a wrong turn.

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She was very upset with the world-wide reaction against the Emergency, she didn’t expect that. I think she knew that this had to be undone if her reputation was not be destroyed as a democrat. She took that step and suffered an astounding defeat and then staged an astounding comeback.

These are factors in leadership that need to be admired. Here was a woman who you would have thought was finished, she even lost her own seat in Parliament, she didn’t take it lying down, she got up and fought.

I certainly admire her for her leadership for those reasons though I have criticised her on many other platforms.

The Congress is facing its gravest danger? It does not have a strong leader like Mrs Gandhi to mount a comeback like she had?

Yes, it is. It’s going to need a revolutionary step forward for the Congress to revive. There’s no mistake about that.

I believe it can happen because 70% of India’s people did not vote for Modi and the Congress has still got a countrywide presence, however small.

The BJP is seeking to create its own presence all over India which it certainly doesn’t have at the moment. So this is a moment when revival can take place because there is huge talent in the party even among the younger people like Sachin Pilot who made a difference in Rajasthan.

This refusal to move, so far as I can see, maybe we’ll hear when they will hold elections in the party, but up till now they have not made the statement that we’re reinventing ourselves.

I think it’s very important to have a shadow cabinet like Britain. People should be put in place who can tackle issues as they arise in Parliament. That’ll make their voice heard.

They should become a very strong, constructive Opposition.

All Opposition should be constructive, not the kind the BJP was which stalled two entire sessions of Parliament and wasted the country’s money and time in a shocking way.

Where was Nayantara Sahgal when India Actually Needed Her?

When the news about Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece Nayantara Sahgal returning the “prestigious” Sahitya Akademi Award…

Wasn’t she ashamed that she belonged to a clan that oversaw the murder of so many innocent citizens?Didn’t her soul cry as an esteemed “litterateur” when not even a single culprit was brought to book? Didn’tthe core of conscience rebel against the establishment that gave election tickets to hooligans who led the murderous mobs in 1984?

Police officers who facilitated the killing of Sikh families were promoted by the Congress party according to the book by H.S. Phoolka.

How could Ms. Nayanatara accept the award from a government headed by a person who, instead of reining in the murderous mobs, had said, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes,” in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the subsequent genocide unleashed upon the unsuspecting Sikh population?

Despite being a Kashmiri Pandit (at least according to official records, although references on the Internet tell something else) the writer inside her never rebelled against the Congress government at the Centre that never took a single step to stop the Kashmiri-Pandits’ ethnic cleansing in the Kashmir Valley.

The greatest number of riots have happened under the aegis of the Congress government. The murkiest political intrigues have been perpetrated by the Congress party headed by one or the other Nehru-Gandhi family member.

Skeleton after skeleton is tumbling out of the closets of Subhash Chandra Bose’s and Lal Bahadur Shastri’s deaths and the government-approved surveillance of their families afterwards.

Where was the mighty pen then? Did she return the comforts she got due to her association with the family-name? It was the usual family business. It was not the BJP at the Centre. It was not Narendra Modi who was heading the government during any of those long decades.

The Congress party is so full of sins that a right-thinking writer would not like to touch it even with a barge pole. Every big and small problem the country faces can be easily traced back to the family and the party, which was its extension.

But no, people like Nayantaran ever had a big problem with the existence of one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Yes, there were a few nagging issues here and there, but just as we tolerate mosquitoes in a tropical country, the transgressions of the Congress establishment could be casually brushed aside.

Yes, there were some token protests during the Emergency, but they just remained token protests, nothing lifestyle-threatening.

Talking about Emergency,Nayantara Sahgal was easily able to digest the draconian, forced sterilization of more than 8.3 million Indians, mostly Muslims.

Yet, she had no problem accepting the SahityaAkademi Award from a government that oversaw the killing of thousands of Sikhs and the forced sterilization of millions of Muslims. But her entire world begins to crumble because “Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains silent.”

What exactly is her problem?

It isn’t the world that is tumbling, it is the world of these writers and intellectuals that is tumbling with great speed. It is not just tumbling, it also doesn’t seem to have a hope of ever recovering.

This is what’s really riling them up.

 

The Intellectual Road Rage About the Renaming of Aurangzeb Road

They miss the good old world of leisurely Gymkhana Club parties and lazy strolls on the Lutyens lawns while 99 per cent population of the country reeled under extreme poverty and wretchedness.

They were totally fine with a major chunk of population never having access to food, good education, highways, freedom of expression, cleanliness and quality of life as long as they could go on living their luxurious lives whether in India or abroad.

For these writers and intellectuals, the teeming masses of Indians needed to live in scarcity so that they always had to hold in awe those who had access to all these basic necessities of life.

Terms like justice, equality and dignity belonged to the books, articles and essays these eminent writers and intellectuals wrote; these were not to be provided to the common man and woman struggling interminably even for basic needs like food, shelter and safety.

People like Nayantara Sahgal, directly or indirectly, have constantly colluded with material and non-material forces to maintain status quo.

These people have destroyed their own credibility with their own hands due to their selective spurts of outrage.

The tragedy, which these intellectuals knowingly brush aside, is the human cost the country has had to pay due to the corrupt and immoral practices of political parties by donning the cloak of secularism, progressivism, liberalism, pluralism and every sort of sham pop-ism they can conjure up to hoodwink the public.

Multiple generations have been wasted by the socialist policies blatantly promoted by the godfathers and godmothers of these writers and intellectuals.

Most of the socialist policies were put in place to make the life of the common man and woman as miserable and poverty-ridden as possible and make the lives of those with connections and “reach” as comfortable as possible.

The colloquial phrase “Jiski laathi usi ki bhains” (the buffalo belongs to him who wields the baton) has been immortalized by these the so-called guardians of free speech and inclusivity.

Throughout the last six decades, they have sustained a system that only works for people with money, power and political connections. There is no law and order for the common man. There is no sense of safety for the person walking on the road. There is no access to justice unless you can shell out loads of money.

And these intellectuals are perfectly fine with the entire system being employed to find Azam Khan’s buffaloes,and Muslims and Dalits constantly being exploited in the name of secularism and social justice.

So, have things changed ever since Narendra Modi assumed power?

You can’t say that everything is suddenly great,and in terms of quality of life, the country is going to have to wait for many more years (such is the damage caused by the system underpinned by these writers and intellectuals), but there is something that is fundamentally changing—and that worries these dinosaurs of those dark ages.

People have begun to ask questions.

They can give vent to their frustration either by their political mandate or by using the Internet. In the name of secularism a major chunk of the population was constantly being taken for a ride. That major chunk of population has begun to rise. Intellectual lies can no longer be peddled with impunity.

Historical facts can no longer be twisted because people can access alternative sources of information with little effort. Events cannot be misreported because people can post live updates without having to rely on newspapers, magazines and TV news channels mostly controlled by these writers and intellectuals.

Differing views can be published in the form of books, journals, magazines, blog posts and social media updates. Political and ideological dissent in the intellectual realm can no longer be throttled.

India’s inherent culture and traditional norms are again being valued. The world no longer looks at India as a place of snake charmers, maharajas and people dying of hunger and disease. Poverty and misery can no longer be sold.

New stories about India are being written and these writers don’t know how to come to terms with these new stories. They are so used to writing stories in the old format. Very few want to read them and fewer believe them.

Congress Intellectuals have been reduced to little more than nuisance value.

This is why Nayantara Sahgal feels like returning her award (which was never in the first place given by the current government) and “eminent historians” like Romila Thapar believe that the education infrastructure is being systematically demolished.

So if these individuals are feeling perturbed, then something is happening, something that is good for the country and for the society.

Even if you cannot see the change right in front of you, just because these people are feeling disturbed, you can safely assume that somepositive change is taking place in the country and these people can no longer control what that change should be.

This is why instead of respecting Nayantara Sahgal’s decision of returning her Sahitya Akademi Award, people are ridiculing her.

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