Ramachandra Guha and JP- Let There be a Debate

Ramachandra Guha, the writer of ‘India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy’ has made some reference about JP. In the interview published in Outlook, May 7, 2007, he is quoted to say, ‘Mrs Gandhi had the instruments of state at her command and because she grossly abused them through the Emergency, she would be the greater culprit. But one can’t let JP off the hook either. One placed too much faith in the state, and the other placed too little faith in the state and in representative institutions. One said I am Parliament, I am India, the other said disband Parliament. I’ve tried to provide a psycho-social interpretation of why JP acted the way he did. I’ve talked about the fact that he was growing old, his wife had died, he wanted to recapture the youthful revolutionary impulses that he once had, he felt his mortality was in question and India had to be transformed before he went. I tried to understand why a man who abjured radical politics for 30 years to become a social worker, had become a street agitator. I also quote other mistakes. These are contemporary criticisms – I mention a man called RR Patil, an ICS officer, a friend of JP’s, who visits Bihar, studies the movement, and says, the genie is out of the bottle, and you can’t control it. You may have unleashed forces that will destroy institutions. There were other critics, like Acharya Ramamurthi, he talks about the RSS taking over the movement. JP was naïve, he was irresponsible, and of course Indira Gandhi over-reacted.’

As I remember Indira Gandhi and her coterie kept on blaming JP for the emergency in the same language in those days that Guha has used. Media used to sing the song in the same tune. But was JP within the norms of the democratic expression or beyond? If at all it was, was it not because Indira Gandhi had only one agenda and that to establish herself firmly in Indian politics taking advantage of her pedigree? Were her all moves of nationalization of banks and Bangladesh war not with the same desperations? Was the frustration of the senior leaders of the country who had made sacrifices more than the great lady for the nation not justified?

I do also remember reading somewhere about Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’, Hindi poet of reputation making an offering of his life to God publicly in a speech in a meeting on Marina Beach, Chennai to save the life of JP who was very sick and in hospital at that time. Could a person whom Dinkarji adored be ‘naïve, and irresponsible’?

I am sure many of the intellectuals who were associated with JP’s movement were also from Bihar. Many of them may be alive. Will it not be in public interest to discuss this controversial statement that many of the followers and friends of JP may not be able to digest? Will it not be prudent for those connected with JP closely to come out with their views if they think otherwise?

Since last so many years, the political leadership in Bihar has been claiming themselves as the disciples of JP, it becomes their duty to do a justice to JP who is no more there to fend his side.

I wish the issue is taken up by the intellectuals in right spirit, if Guha has wrongly come to his conclusion.

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