Nearly five thousand people were killed in these tragedies
Even as the Congress on Wednesday sought to play down Sanjay Gandhi's role during the Emergency as part of “history'' — which it said could not be only “goody-goody'' — as described in “Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation,'' the book dismisses the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and the Bhopal gas leak disaster in just one paragraph.
Nearly five thousands people were killed and thousands affected in these tragedies. Importantly, there is no mention of the 1962 India-China war.
In a chapter “Rajiv Years,” the book says: “When Rajiv Gandhi took the reins of government, the situation was grave. In reaction to Indira Gandhi's assassination by her two Sikh guards, there were nationwide riots against the members of the Sikh community. Nearly, 2,800 people were killed in Delhi alone. The first task of Rajiv Gandhi was to quell the riots and restore confidence among the Sikh community. Another crisis that had to be handled was the Bhopal gas leak in which 2,000 people lost their lives and thousands were affected.'' The paragraph ends with: The next task was to secure a mandate from the electorate.
Pranab Mukherjee, who is the chief editor of the book, introduces it as not only a short history of the Indian National Congress but, to a considerable extent, the history of the Indian people. “These volumes give us a glimpse of how the Congress, over the past 125 years, traversed the path of Indian nation-building through extremely difficult challenges, both external and internal.”
The Nehru Era chapter describes how Jawaharlal Nehru outlined five principles of peaceful coexistence among countries, termed the Panchsheel, which envisaged mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. These principles became the basis of the Non-Aligned Movement, the chapter says as it goes on to add that India in the years from 1951 to 1964 settled on a road to stability and prosperity.
Seeking to clarify that the party had neither meant to “demean'' or “disown'' Sanjay Gandhi by suggesting that his manner of functioning during Emergency was “arbitrary and authoritarian,'' Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said whatever was written was history and should not be read in any other context.
“There is nothing new in the book. The Emergency period had created unpopular sentiment for which the then party president Indira Gandhi had expressed regret to the people. History is not all about goody-goody things,'' Mr Ahmed said.
According to him, it was a team of historians that compiled the book and the Congress fully endorsed it. “It should not be read in any other context. In fact, the book itself says Sanjay Gandhi was a leader of eminence, prominence and significance,'' he said.
He also sought to dismiss the interpretation that party president Sonia Gandhi was being compared to Mahatma Gandhi. “She was only inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's sacrifices when she refused to become the Prime Minister,” he explained.
“People looked upon Sonia Gandhi's renunciation of power as reminiscent of the Mahatma,'' the book suggests in a chapter “Congress in Coalition'' that trace the Congress' return to power in 2004.