Friday, February 17, 2006

On books, cures and dogs

By Khushwant Singh :: A spineless nation - "No book I have read depressed me more than B N Tandon’s P.M.O. Diary II The Emergency (Konark). Tandon served in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for over six years including the Emergency. His colleagues included P N Haksar, Professor A N Dhar, Seshan, Sharda Prasad and Shyam Bengal. It was to this cabal of civil servants that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi turned for advice in administering the country.

She did not take them into confidence when she declared the Emergency and put all the Opposition leaders including Jayaprakash Narain, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, and nearly 60,000 others in jail. She did this on the prodding of her son Sanjay with legal advice of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, supported by Dev Kant Barua and Rajni Patel.

Having done so, she relied less on the PMO and more on what Tandon calls “palace guards” which I presume meant Sanjay Gandhi, his wife Maneka and her mother Amtesh, R K Dhawan, Mohammed Yunus, Rukhsana, Om Mehta and perhaps some others.

I supported the imposition of Emergency when it was first imposed because I felt strongly that the Opposition including Jayaprakash Narain had played a very negative role when the country was sliding into chaos and the Allahabad High Court Judgment was only an excuse to do so.

Besides the Akalis who kept a desultory satyagraha going throughout, no other political party—Congress, Jan Sangh, Communists or Shiv Sena—let out a squeak of protest. We thump our chests and yell martial slogans, but when faced with the danda we show we have no spine."

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