Friday, June 27, 2008

** Arjun lies.....

Arjun, 75 lies in the family way
Kuldip Nayar

There is a belief among Hindus that if a person above the age of 75, after Vanprast, confesses his sins in public, he is forgiven. He purifies himself. Arjun Singh is doing something similar.

He has said that he was opposed to the Emergency imposed by Mrs Indira Gandhi on 26 June 1975. Was he really? This is as much news to his colleagues in the Congress, as it is to the media, because he has never before touched upon the topic. He was a provincial education minister in Madhya Pradesh at that time.

Telling Mrs Indira Gandhi that she was wrong needed a lot of courage in 1975. On the other hand, he says he did not want to annoy “the family”, to which he swears his loyalty every second day.

R.K. Dhawan, who was working under Mrs Gandhi during that period, says that there is no direct or indirect evidence to show that Arjun Singh had any reservations about the Emergency. Why did Arjun Singh lie? Voicing a complaint against the “family” which is reportedly not associating him with any decision of consequence, seems to be Arjun’s way of rubbing the family on the wrong side. It is obvious that he wanted to raise the subject as near the date of imposition of the Emergency as possible.

Let me remind him what the Emergency did to the nation: Fundamental rights were abrogated, the press was gagged and 100,000 people were detained without trial. Magistrates issued blank warrants to the police so that they could pick up anyone at the asking of Sanjay Gandhi or his stooges. Some politicians were badly beaten up in jail. It was Mrs Gandhi’s way of punishing the nation for demanding that she implement her slogan of Garibi Hatao.

Arjun Singh says that he told Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi that he was opposed to what they were doing. Had he whispered even a word of criticism, his fate would have been worse than that of Swaran Singh who was then a Minister in Mrs Gandhi’s Cabinet. Swaran Singh, in his oblique way, doubted whether another Emergency could be imposed when the country was still operating under an earlier one from the time of the Bangladesh War. He was dropped from the Union Cabinet.

Why should Arjun Singh sound like a dissenter when the truth of the matter is that he wants the family to trust him as it once did? D.P. Mishra, once Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, said that Arjun Singh’s liberal posturing was skin-deep and meant to merely curry favour with Mrs Gandhi.

If Arjun Singh is really sorry he should ask for implementation of the Shah Commission’s pronouncements against Emergency excesses. Some of the guilty are his colleagues in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet. I do not know if the National Archives of India retain the full proceedings of the Commission that were handed to them. Some scholars have drawn a blank when they have approached the Archives authorities.

Arjun Singh should know that Mrs Gandhi stopped awards to some gallant police officers whose only fault was that they were connected with the investigations into the atrocities committed during the Emergency. One investiture ceremony was cancelled midway because some awardees had participated in Emergency inquiries.

Similarly, the recommendations by the Police Reforms Commission appointed by the Morarji Desai-led government and headed by Dharamvira, were not recognised by Mrs Gandhi when she returned to power in 1980. She threw out the report. Consequently, the country still retains the British Police Act of 1826. Arjun Singh could at least tell Manmohan Singh that what the Shah Commission exposed was a dictatorial regime where no laws were respected.

Would Arjun Singh have the courage to do so? This has nothing to do with loyalty or disloyalty. This is what any democracy-loving citizen would do. He did not speak out when he should have. Maybe, he shares the same traits of authoritarianism.

The manner in which he has enforced reservations in higher educational institutions — without giving them adequate time to make the required adjustments — shows that he lacks sensitivity to democratic procedures. Arjun Singh is not much of a democrat. And his statement on Emergency lacks a single grain of truth [¼]

Kuldip Nayar is an author and human rights activist