Opinion » Comment

Updated: October 30, 2009 22:27 IST

Twenty-five years later

Pranay Gupte
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One of the rare photos of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi. File Photo: PTI
One of the rare photos of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi. File Photo: PTI

Hard to believe now that it’s been 25 years since Indira Gandhi was assassinated in the garden of her New Delhi home by her own security guards. Hard to believe that an entire generation of Indians has grown up without Indira in power.

I have lived abroad during much of this time, although journalistic assignments brought me to India several times each year. I have seen for myself the transformation of a largely backward country into one that can be termed an authentic economic world power, with a GDP exceeding one-trillion dollars, and a middle class that is larger than that of the entire population of the United States. That isn’t to say that poverty has been eradicated, of course, but there is certainly greater prosperity since Indira’s time.

During these 25 years, India’s population has also doubled: the demography of nations changes every 30 years or so; so it could be said that perhaps a majority of Indians alive today have, at the most, dim memories of the Indira Raj. But Raj it certainly was, and it’s unlikely that in an age of globalisation where every policy and act of political leaders is subject of intense scrutiny and transparency through the Web, any ruler especially of a country as large as India can rule through diktat, as Indira Gandhi did while she was alive.

The 25 years since her death have largely been good years for India, economically speaking, at least, notwithstanding the ups and downs. For me personally, they have not been necessarily kind. I was divorced after a 30-year marriage, I am estranged from my only son, and I lost both my parents and a very dear uncle who raised me as much as my father and mother did. So I sometimes ask myself, where did these years go?

But in the final analysis, I am an optimist, a sunny character who believes in redemption and rehabilitation, who believes that nations, like individuals, deserve a second chance in life. I am at that age where there aren’t too many opportunities for a second chance, and I know that the years behind me are longer than the ones ahead. But India is forever, India is timeless, and India will endure.

And so, as I slip through middle age, I think of how fortunate I am to be able to say that I was born and raised in India, how very lucky I was to witness many of the great events some of them tragic, to be sure almost since India’s Independence, and how even more fortunate the Indians whose lifetimes are likely to be longer than mine will be to experience the enormous change that lies ahead.

In their own way, Indira Gandhi and her family paved the way for the India of today and tomorrow. All my reservations and criticisms and caviling apart, you cannot take that away from them. The Nehrus and the Gandhis were patriots, for them India did matter and that is what counts. They are the stuff of which history is made.

I probably won’t be around 25 years from now. But this much I can predict: Like India, the names and legacy of the Nehrus and the Gandhis will endure.

( Pranay Gupte’s new book, a completely new version of his 1992 Mother India: A Political Biography of Indira Gandhi , is being published this month by Viking/Penguin, to mark the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Mr. Gupte covered the assassination while he was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times .)

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Hello... Mr Gupte...
First of all let me take this opportunity to extol your book on Indira Gandhi. I have now almost read that book for almost the 5th time, but still the craving doesn't seem to end. Indira Gandhi no doubt, a strong, decisive and impressionistic personality.. has done a lot for India. I firmly adhere to my believe that her untimely demise has certainly created a void that can never get filled. India, today indeed needs her very much. The way terrorism has grown over the years, actually emabarks the truth that India has lost the dynamic and fearless leadership, that once was potrayed by Mrs Gandhi. Had she been alive today, India would have been a different place to live altogether. Let us all forget her dictatorship attributes and condole over her departire. I find goodness even in her Emergency... to be very frank. Long Live Mrs Gandhi....!!!! And alas!! India will never get a leader of her stature!!

Posted on: Apr 9, 2010 at 22:04 IST

Fortunately, I lived through Mrs Indira Gandhi's rule days (I was living abroad by then), and also through the freedom struggle as a child and during the leadership of her father Pandit Nehru.

Like all leaders they left their mark on the Indian life though, no doubt they committed mistakes. There were positives and negatives. On balance they brought more good to the country and what we are seeing today was mostly built on that base; admittedly other leaders like Sardar Patel and currently Dr Manmohan Singh made their major contributions.
Mr JL Nehru's mistake was that he was an idealist and little naieve and trusting. Mrs Gandhi was let down by incompetent cronies and the excesses of a son like Sanjay Gandhi. In her own way she trusted him. All said and done we have to give full credit to them because their policies though ridiclued by the Western democracies, have been responsible for the prosperity we see in India today.

from:  Satya S Issar
Posted on: Nov 1, 2009 at 03:47 IST

With Indira, died the era where India was too dependent on anti west forces for her own survival.
Today India has a special place of its own. Little complex and not that horrible. India has room to apply the logic it learned after British left.
Indira contributed greatly. It is a mixed bag of happiness and sorrow that she is dead.

from:  amar duggal
Posted on: Nov 1, 2009 at 03:20 IST

Indira needless to add was a historic figure and had shaped
the nation the way it is.

from:  Rahul Kumar
Posted on: Oct 31, 2009 at 23:15 IST

I think, if PM was chosen based on their ability to rule the country, like P.V. Narasimha Rao, India would have been lot different and lot better.

from:  Srinivas
Posted on: Oct 31, 2009 at 19:50 IST

Though Indira Gandhi did some fantastic job for India, some events like emergency, Operation Bluestar, spying on her ministers through IB and many other acts that resemble a dictator's acts cannot be forgotten easily and they have certainly left an everlasting blot on her arduous political career.

from:  Anup Kumar
Posted on: Oct 31, 2009 at 12:42 IST

Indira Gandhi rose to power battling many odds.She steered the nation through many difficult occasions.She took strong and effective measures in her governance.She was a crowd puller.In the later years of her life, she took decisions which undid the halo built around her. The Emergency of 1975 remains the most controversial decision apart from ordering of Operation Bluestar. Time tested her to its extreme.A complex personality overall but a strong leader nevertheless.

from:  Sunil Kumar
Posted on: Oct 31, 2009 at 11:05 IST
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