The history lesson Rahul Gandhi needs to take from Shashi Tharoor

While Rahul Gandhi might have been talking from his heart, it is important to understand here that his grandmother and his father were killed because of monsters they created.

Vivek Kaul October 24, 2013 14:18:08 IST
The history lesson Rahul Gandhi needs to take from Shashi Tharoor

Rahul Gandhi is turning out to be a fan of trashy Hindi films of the 70s and 80s. A few days back he spoke about ma ke aansoo (tears of his mother) and yesterday it was the turn of khandan ka balidan (the sacrifices of his family).

"My grandmother was killed. My father was assassinated and perhaps I may also be killed one day. I am not bothered. I had to tell you what I felt from the heart,” he said yesterday.

While Rahul Gandhi might have been talking from his heart, it is important to understand here that his grandmother and his father were killed because of monsters they managed to create.

Indira Gandhi did not like non Congress governments being elected to power in states. Either she dismissed them or created problems for them. She ultimately had to pay a price for this.

The history lesson Rahul Gandhi needs to take from Shashi Tharoor

Rahul Gandhi during his rally in Rajasthan yesterday. PTI

In 1977, the Akali Dal party had been elected to power in Punjab. The Akali Dal was an ally of the Janata Party which had won the 1977 Lok Sabha elections and managed to throw Indira Gandhi out of power. She came back to power in 1980 and started to create problems for the Akalis.

Shashi Tharoor, the current minister of state for human resources development, documents this rather well in 'India – From Midnight to the Millennium'.

As he writes:

“In 1977, the Congress Party had been ousted in Punjab by the Sikh Akali Dal Party, an ally of Janata; Mrs Gandhi typically decided to undermine them from the quarter they least expected, by opponents even more Sikh than the Akalis. So she encouraged (and reportedly even initially financed) the extremist fanaticism of a Sikh fundamentalist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindarwale. Bhindarwale soon tired of assassinating clean shaven Sikhs for their apostasy and instead took up the cause of an independent Sikh state, Khalistan.” 

Ramachandra Guha alludes to the link between Indira Gandhi and Bhindarwale in 'India After Gandhi'.

He writes:

By some accounts, Bhindarwale was built by Sanjay Gandhi and the union home minister Zail Singh (himself a former chief minister of Punjab) as a counter to the Akalis. Writing in September 1982 the journalist Ayesha Kagal remarked that the preacher(i.e. Bhindarwale) 'was originally a product nurtured and marketed by the Centre to cut into the Akali Dal's 'sphere of influence'.

The key word here is 'originally'. For whoever it was who first promoted him, Bhindarwale quickly demonstrated his own independent charisma and influence. To him were attracted many Jats of a peasant background who had seen the gains of the Green Revolution being cornered by the landowners. Other followers came from the lower Sikh castes of artisans and labourers.

Bhindarwale soon started operating out of the Golden Temple. As Guha writes:

He(i.e. Bhindarwale) had acquired a group of devoted gun-totting followers who acted as his acolytes and bodyguards and, on occasion, as willing and unpaid killers.

The situation soon got out of hand and Indira Gandhi had to send the army into the Golden temple where terrorists led by Bhindarwale were holed in. In fact, Bhindarwale had moved into the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one), from where the Sikh gurus had issued their hukumnamas, which the Sikhs were supposed to follow.

“Mrs Gandhi had little choice but to destroy the monster she had herself spawned, and she finally violated a basic tenet of the Indian state by sending armed troops into a place of worship, the historic Golden Temple in Amritsar, to flush out terrorists holed up there,” writes Tharoor.

Bhindarwale was killed in the fighting that followed the Indian army entering the Golden Temple. Tavleen Singh recounts a conversation she had with General KS 'Bulbul' Brar who was directly in-charge of what came to be known as Operation Bluestar, in her book 'Durbar'.

Here is how the conversation went:

'Is the Sant (i.e. Bhindarwale) dead?'

'Yes.'

'How did he die?'

'Crossfire. Early in the morning on the second day he walked out of the Akal Takht with General Shabeg and Amrik Singh, and they fell.'

'Did the fighting stop immediately after that?'

'It did. But we lost a lot of men...and the Akal Takht is badly damaged. We had to use tanks and heavy artillery. It was a mess.'

'In the villages they say Sant is still alive. Where is the rumour coming from?'

General Brar frowned and looked wearily at his officers. 'This is a problem,' he said, 'we're not sure how to deal with it. He's dead.'

The attack on the Golden Temple proved to be a disastrous move.

As Tharoor points out:

The assault on the Golden Temple deeply alienated many Sikhs whose patriotism was unquestionable; the Gandhi family's staunchest ally in the independent press, the Sikh editor Khushwant Singh, returned his national honours to the government, and a battalion of Sikhs, the backbone of the army, mutinied.

The attack on the Golden Temple ultimately led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October, 1984.

“Mrs Gandhi never understood the extent to which so many Sikhs saw Bluestar as a betrayal. She refused to draw the conclusions her security advisers did, and to her credit turned down their recommendations to remove Sikhs from her personal guard detail. Two of them, men sworn to protect her with their lives turned their guns upon her instead...but her real fault lay in having created the problem in the first place and in letting it mount to the point where the destructive force of “Operation Bluestar” seemed the only solution,” writes Tharoor.

Operation Bluestar also ended up exacerbating the Punjab problem. As Singh points out: “It soon became clear that the operation to save the Golden Temple had been a disaster. It was clear to the army, to journalists and to most political analysts....Far from ending the Punjab problem Operation Blue Star served served to dangerously exacerbate it and to deepen the divisions between Hindus and Sikhs.”

Like Bhindarwale in Punjab, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) was also a monster helped to flourish by the Indian state. Guha deals with this in detail in 'India After Gandhi'.

“Of the several Tamil resistance organizations, the most influential and powerful were the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). Led by a brutal fighter named Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE had as its aim a separate nation, to be constituted from the north and east of the island, where the Tamils were in a majority...LTTE fighters had long used the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a safe haven. Their activities were actively helped by the state government with New Delhi turning an indulgent eye.”

As we all know New Delhi was first run by Indira Gandhi and then her son Rajiv, grandmother and father of current vice president of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi.

In 1987, Rajiv Gandhi made the disastrous decision of sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force to end the conflict in Sri Lanka. And this finally led to his assassination on May 21, 1991.

The point here is that the father and the grandmother of Rahul Gandhi were not martyrs, as he tried to project them as. They ended up paying for the huge mistakes that they made.

Rahul Gandhi also said in reference to the BJP “Yeh rajneetik laabh ke liye chot pahunchate hain.(They hurt people for political gains.)”

It is worth reminding Rahul about what his father Rajiv said in reference to the riots that happened after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.”

Trying to create fear and sympathy in the minds of people is a time tested political strategy, which politicians resort to, when they run out of ideas. Rahul Gandhi is just trying to do that.

Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek

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