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Travesty as tribute

Travesty as tribute

Author: A Surya Prakash
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 3, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/213153/Travesty-as-tribute.html

The 25th anniversary of Mrs Indira Gandhi's assassination on October 31 spawned a great deal of nostalgia about her and gave the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government yet another opportunity to tom-tom her 'achievements'. The newspapers were full of advertisements eulogising her. Several Union Ministries vied with one another to pay obeisance to her and reiterate their loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which own and controls that party. However, any one who has lived through the turbulent Indira Gandhi years will vouch for the fact that the messages these advertisements carried were a complete distortion of truth and, as always, the Congress, via the Government, has done this at the expense of the tax-payer.

All those who value democracy must challenge the contents of these advertisements for the following reasons: Mrs Gandhi turned a vibrant democracy into a dictatorship and presided over a fascist regime that jailed political opponents and independent journalists when she imposed Emergency in 1975. Her Government was responsible for many despicable acts, including forcible sterilisation of citizens, bull-dozing of Muslim-dominated localities like Turkman Gate in Delhi, and incarceration of Government employees who failed to obey her illegal orders. These are just a few of the most horrendous, inhuman and undemocratic acts committed by her regime. All these terrible deeds have been fully documented by the Shah Commission which probed the Emergency excesses.

Once this infrastructure for dictatorship had been laid, other things followed. Her government suspended Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (no deprivation of life and liberty except by procedure established by law). With the passage of these orders, citizens of India lost their fundamental right to life and liberty. They were also prohibited from moving courts. The Attorney-General virtually conceded the fascist nature of that regime when he confessed in the Supreme Court that if a citizen was shot dead by a policeman, the victim's family would have no right to seek relief before a court.

Here is a short recapitulation of some other things Mrs Gandhi did as Prime Minister: She bamboozled the judiciary, superseded judges and repeatedly amended the Constitution to protect herself. The 39th Amendment was meant solely to prohibit the Supreme Court from hearing the election petition against her; the 41st Amendment declared that no civil or criminal cases could be filed against her; even more reprehensible was the 42nd Amendment which abolished the need for quorum in Parliament and gave the President the right to 'amend' the Constitution through an executive order. With this amendment, Parliament allowed the President to tinker with the Constitution when 'necessary'. Further, since there was no requirement for quorum in Parliament, Ministers could push through anti-democratic laws in late night sittings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the presence of just a handful of Congress MPs. These were ideas which were taken straight out of Hitler's book.

However, here is what the UPA says about Mrs Gandhi: The Ministry of Women and Child Development's advertisement claims that it is pledged to fight "violence and social exclusion". Yet, it puts out a full-page advertisement in praise of a Prime Minister whose police surrounded Muslim-majority villages in Haryana and bundled all males aged eight to 80 into police vans for forcible sterilisation! As everyone is aware, Mrs Gandhi imposed Press censorship and jailed journalists who were critical of her Government. In several States the Chief Censor was an Inspector-General of Police. The atrocities perpetrated by her Government on mediapersons, including the expulsion of many foreign journalists, is well-documented in a Government White Paper. Yet, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting pays a full-page tribute to Mrs Gandhi and says she was committed to 'serve' India till her last breath.

But, the prize for the most misleading advertisement must go to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Desperate to cling to power at any cost, Mrs Gandhi had jailed 1,40,000 people and held them without trial in gross violation of their fundamental rights. Yet this Ministry, as if to mock at all those who were jailed by Mrs Gandhi, quotes her as having said, "The struggle for freedom began when the first man was enslaved and it will continue until the last man is free". Phew! Should we say more?

As regards implementation of social sector schemes during her tenure, the less said the better. Thousands of crores of rupees were drawn from public sector banks and gifted away to undeserving people in bogus 'loan melas' and the slogan of 'Garibi Hatao!' was the biggest fraud perpetrated on the poor. Instead of taking imaginative measures to alleviate poverty, Mrs Gandhi went from meeting to meeting, asking people to "banish poverty". This bogus slogan was palmed off as a magic mantra which would enable the poor to shake off their wretchedness if they kept repeating it and voting for the Congress. Meanwhile, corrupt Congress workers ganged up with equally corrupt bank employees and cooked up poverty alleviation figures.

On the economic front, experts agree that the Indira Gandhi years were disastrous for India. Instead of opening up the economy, Mrs Gandhi, under the influence of communists and some fake socialists, shut the door on foreign capital, crushed Indian enterprise, further tightened the licence-permit-quota raj and encouraged crass corruption at all levels. Such was her dislike for entrepreneurship and wealth creation that the income tax rate for the rich was a mind-boggling 97 per cent! Yet, the Ministries of Commerce and Industry and Petroleum and Natural Gas issue advertisements which praise her "courage, vision and unwavering commitment" and claim that her leadership "inspired us to fuel the nation's sustained economic growth".

Is there any other democracy in the world where people permit the Government to squander their money for such gross falsification of history and for the promotion of a single political party? But we must be grateful for small mercies: The Ministry of Law and Justice did not issue advertisements praising Mrs Gandhi for upholding and defending the Constitution!

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