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Calcutta Diary

AM WITH the bits and pieces falling to their places, the pattern is emerging. To be more precise, the pattern is re- emerging. As some hack was heard to comment, most new poetry are re- hashes of old, old poetry. For, whatever else you can do, you cannot take away a person's individual style: style is the man.

WITH the bits and pieces falling to their places, the pattern is emerging. To be more precise, the pattern is re-emerging. As some hack was heard to comment, most new poetry are re-hashes of old, old poetry. For, what-ever else you can do, you cannot take away a person's individual style: style is the man.

Indira Gandhi has no warts. At least, the official records must say so. If Amol Palekar wants to export his film, Akriet, to the New York Film Festival, stop it, it deals with rural exploitation, It deals with the persecu-tion of tribals, none of which exists in Indira Gandhi's India, Indira Gandhi does not have any warts. Who was that nincompoop who picked Prasanna to produce and direct Girish Karnad's Tughlaq for the Festival of India in London, didn't he realise that Prasanna would merely use the alibi of the play to make some ghastly comments on the goings-on in the nation's capital, Tughlaq will be only the facade, his target will really be Number One Safdarjang Road and the claque which is the Congress(I). Can-cel the contract, he cannot be allow-ed to use the official facilities to run us down; Indira Gandhi, who does not know, has no warts. Or consider Jagannath Mishra's chokc-thc-press bill. Rather, consider the virtuoso performance of R Venkataraman in defence of the provisions of the bill. This gentleman is always available, al-ways on tap, to defend the Fund Vonditionalities', to defend the shenanigans of Abdur Rahman An-tulay, to defend lagannath Mishru and his gag-the-news crusade. What else can he do, since Indira has no warts? Not only has she no warts, nobody will be allowed to speculate whether she could have any warts. Which is why a Central bill is now coming up with the noble objective of ensuring the maintenance of discipline in state-aided educational and techni-cal institutions, including universities and centres of higher learning. Jndira Gandhi does not have any warts; these academic places, universities and such like, are however infested by people who think too much: such men are dangerous, their wandering intellect leads them on to embark on an exploration of warts; sorry, Indira Gandhi does not have any warts, so these Institutions of higher learning have to be subjected to proper discipline.

The bits and pieces are therefore falling to their - places. Questions are to be tolerated less and less from now on. Deviation will be increasingly frowned upon. Recalcitrant journalists will be taught the lesson of their lives. The so-called creative people must be as genteel as those who run the Tata Centre for the Performing Arts, other-wise they will be cut off from all sources of funds, Indira Gandhi has no warts: he or she who says or writes or expresses in any other form any dissonance on the point better watch out.

in other words, there is an all-out endeavour to usher in, once more, the ambience of a decade ago. The mistakes of the seventies are being re-asserted with a defiant vigour in these wobbly eighties; the manner and mood are evocative of re-runs of old films, a jaded Hedy Lamarr running in the nude, for the nth time, in Ecstasy. Dissent will not be put with, dis-semination of unpalatable news and opinions will be interfered with, Indira Gandhi has no warts. Does she at all realise the danger of pursuing this particular line? There is of course always the possibility of a certain backlash; some of those who come to cheer and pray are likely to be put off by the display of crudity, impatience and insolence. Even some editors, who run their papers with the same servile loyalty as are displayed on the pages of the house magazine by public relati-ons officers of closely-held private companies, might feel a bit rattled. Perhaps developments of this sort are relatively easily taken into stride. What poses a much, much greater pro-blem is the impact of this policy of news-cum-culture-cum-thought control on the flow of information in the country. Facts which do not fit into the prefabricated structure of arrange-ments arc to be taboo. There is going to be no public airings of such facts, whether they pertain to industry or agriculture, the state of land relations or the distribution of rural credit, the pattern of public investments or the package of incentives to private parties, the condition of urban slums or the frame of mind of textile workers on strike. Facts will be under embargo, and a certain haziness will take over. It cannot even be claimed that no major damage need be apprehended, the powers-that-be will not be misled since the intelligence agencies will for-ward to them, on a confidential basis, reports of happenings and episodes as they actually occur round the country. The psychosis of seige being the psy-chosis of seige, the powers-that-be will soon begin to prefer to receive reports of the you-are-on-the-throne-and-naturally-everything-is-all-right species; of the two sets of accounts, they will pick the one that suits their predilec-tions. Unpleasant truths will be kept back, channels of communication will turn taciturn and be highly surcharged with subjectivity. Indira Gandhi does not want to hear that she has any warts; to set her mind at rest, it will be ensured that the intelligence agencies too receive the hint. Along with the media, the relevant intelligence agen-cies too will go on record, even in private communications, that Indira Gandhi has no warts: in Indira Gandhi's India, production reaches record heights, prices do not rise, employment increases in a spectacular manner, economic self-reliance is already an accomplished fact, no hari-jans are ever persecuted, no young girl is burned because her parents have been unable to fork out the dowry demanded, land reforms are a brilliant success, the management of scarcc resources is excellent; anyone saying anything to the contrary is either an ignoramus or an agent of foreign powers.

If Indira Gandhi has no warts, and is determined to enshrine this as a testa-ment if need be through recourse to penal measures, her private intelligence agencies will soon abdicate the courage to report the facets of reality as they are. It will be the middle 1970s all over. No, it will be worse. I or, meanwhile, the quality of men surrounding Indira Gandhi has taken a nose-dive. At least in the mid-seventies, there were one or- two individuals who, for instance, dared to suggest to Indira Gandhi that some of her nearest and dearest ones were, to put it mildly, bad eggs. Of course they received the short shift from her: how dare they suggest she had warts? The fact of the matter nonetheless is that, a decade ago, some people, in reson-ably close proximity to her, dared, They ceased to be in reasonably close proximity to her because of their daring, but, let the point be made once more, they dared. The texture of things is much, much shabbier now. Those who are curren-tly in the. position of shortest social dlistance from her are not even cring-ing servants, they are just inert door-mats. Even the very thought that one
or two of the queen-empress's nearest and dearest ones were — or might be — bad eggs, or a cursory mention of the fact that one of the performing buddies of one of these nearest and dearest ones is now undergoing thirty-live years' prison sentence in the Unit-cd States for having committed a cri-minal offence, will make them turn pale. Under their reverential care, this particular nearest and dearest one, following his rumbustious departure, has been offered an official stature only a shade less exalted than what has been offered to Mahatma Gandhi. Obscenity could hardly travel further.

This is then the mortal peril the nation, faces. Circumstances may be so contrived thai Indira Gandhi would honestly come to believe perhaps she has already comc to believe — that she has no warts; all channels of communication lor transhipping facts as they are would then be choked. All-India Radio and Doordarshan would lay down the ground rules for ingratiating reportage; and the news-papers — wluj.su proprietors are already under great pressure — would be forced to follow suit. Misinformation is however at the source of all mis-calculations. As the garbage of mis-information accumulates, miscalcula-tions too would begin to pile up. As an inevitable consequence, sooner or later, and very soon sooner rather than later, something or other would give, if not in Assam, in Punjab; if not in Punjab, in Gujarat; if not in Gujarat , in Tamil Nadu; if not in Tamil Nadu, in Bihar; and so on. Something or other would give, if not with prices, then with rail movements; if not with rail movements, with the state of harijans; if not with the state of harijans, with the adivasis ex-ploited in the mines and plants of of Madhya Pradesh, with the peasant women tortured in Haryana; and so on along the line. Given ihe quality of men who now serve her the queen-empress would, sooner rather than later, find herself altogether incapable of fighting ail the fires that have, sud-denly and simultaneously, begun to rage all over. At that stage, the polity miy,ht simply crumble.

But, then, how dare you wri:e such bilge, didn't you listen to what Pre-sident Reagan said at the banquet, Doordarshan carried it on the micro-wave link. Indira Gandhi has no warts. Whoever suggests otherwise will not be allowed to proceed to the New York Film Festival or the Festival ol India in London. Or will be made to lose his tenure in the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay or Kanpur or kharagpur or New Delhi or Madras, Or will be locked up for six months by a subdivisional executive magis-trate and no questions are to be per-mitted to be asked and no bail granted.

 

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