Monday, March 23, 2009

Crimes against logic - between us

Dear Mr Pankaj Vohra,

Today's edition of your column "Between Us" in the Hindustan Times is titled "Varun has the right to defend himself". I find myself in complete agreement with this view. But as to the contents of the article, I'll confess I find them lacking both in logic and intellectual honesty.

Please bear with me while I go through the most offensive (to logic and honesty, not to me personally) of your observations, which are about the late Sanjay Gandhi who left us 29 years ago. You describe this gentleman as being "a man far ahead of his times". You declaim that "Had he lived, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that he would have been PM". And you inform us that "Issues like the small family norm, literacy, ecology and discipline he raised are valid even today".

On reading your words, I'm sure Sanjay Gandhi's admirers will feel that tingly warm sensation one gets when one's heroes are praised. I, however, felt that tingly cold sensation I get when logic has been tortured and truth shamed.

Let's start with the man being "far ahead of his times". Never mind that the correct phrase is "ahead of his time" (not "times"), I'd like to point out that the same could be said of a lot of charming people one reads about in history books, but it's not always a compliment. For example, Hitler and Mussolini were ahead of their time in realising that fascist ideology would appeal to large fractions of their population. Osama Bin Laden is ahead of.... oh well, you get my point. I hope.

About there being "no doubt in anyone's mind that he would have been PM" -- this is surely a rhetorical flourish, but let's ignore the liberties you take with the language. Had Sanjay-ji not illegally piloted an aeroplane for which he was unqualified and flown it vertically into the ground, he might indeed have become Prime Minister of the Indian Republic. But I'm pretty sure he would not have retained his designation, or that of the country, for very long. On previous form, it's more than likely he would have renamed himself Supreme Leader and changed India into a totalitarian dictatorship. This would have had some interesting side-effects: for example there would be no liberal newspaper like the Hindustan Times for you to write in today Mr Vohra, and no Election Commission or election campaigns for you to write about. By now Varun might even have taken over from Daddy as Supreme Leader and got busy cutting off the hands of people he doesn't like! Lucky I can type with my feet!!

Let's now get to the "Issues like the small family norm, literacy, ecology and discipline he raised" which as you note with delight, are "valid even today". I'm aware that Sanjay Gandhi had a `five-point programme' that included these laudable objectives. But then he also had a car company whose objective -- very reasonably -- was to produce cars. Should we credit him for "raising" the "valid" idea that cars should be designed and made in India? Or debit him for wasting taxpayer's money that was never applied towards the making of an Indian car (it was the Suzuki company that designed and manufactured the first Marutis).

Should we credit him for raising the "valid" issue that small families are a good thing, or debit him for ensuring this by forced sterilisation including that of unmarried men? The Wikipedia entry on Sanjay Gandhi says of his family-planning programme: "This program is still remembered and criticized in India, and is blamed for creating a public aversion to family planning, which hampered Government programmes for decades." So besides myself, there's at least one more person who sees debit where you see credit.

You appear to credit Sanjay Gandhi with raising the issue of literacy. But Shashi Tharoor, you may have heard of him, has this to say about the man in his book "India: From Midnight to the Millenium": "not even his most committed admirers could have accused him of being a thinking man; earlier, during the Emergency, he admitted in an interview that he read only comics".

So when you talk of "issues like ... literacy" perhaps you're referring to the issues of Sanjay's comics? Good joke - I almost missed it! Between us.


Shushma said...

Mr. Gandhi was a dangerous and confused man, much like Mr. Bush. Mr. Vohra has to indeed answer for a lot, among the two of us shall we say! It is all between the family, which is ahead of the times. Such a good critique of Mr. Vohra's writing and all that is wrong with it.

Rahul Basu said...

I am impressed that there are still (non-closet) admirers of that blot on the Indian political landscape. Who pray, is Mr Vohra other than being an unabashed admirer of Sanjay Gandhi?

Of course the Congress too never learns any lessons - they have nominated both Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler for these polls again. But then, as Siddhartha Varadarajan points out in today's Hindu, two wrongs do not make a right. At least these two worthies have more sense not to talk publicly of cutting off the hands etc. of those of whom they do not approve. Though I fail to see the Congress logic in continuing with the flotsam and jetsam of that unfortunate era.

Is Varun Gandhi also a lover of animals? Oh well, never mind, just one of my 'pet' theories on which I will discourse some other day :)

Harini Calamur said...

India has been very lucky as far as plane crashes go --- somehow there seems to be some divine intervention when it comes to fascism and plane crashes :)

Shuba said...

Did he himself really fly the plane which took him on his one-way trip? Varun's imp-passioned speeches have reminded many of his idealistic father! An elderly aunt of mine was telling us of an allegation that Sanjay was gotten rid of by his close famous relative!