H C Singh

1966 -70

For Indira Gandhi, after couple of month of her assuming Prime Ministership of a vast country, with many languages and as many cultures and aspirations, many problems cropped up. As she was not highly educated and not even had read a lot, not even traveled a lot, she had to face multiple problems unlike her father. When Nehru became Prime Minister of India in 1946, he had backing of Mahatma Gandhi and the entire Congress Party that had led Independence movement for more than 50 years. Indira Gandhi had no leader like Gandhi Ji , no unified Congress Party to back her under all Circumstance, no strong leaders like Sardar Patel whose loyalty to congress Party was above board.

As stated, in January 66 she had assumed office and in March 66, Mizo problem flared up under the leadership of Laldenga of Mizo National Front, Many followers of Laldenga resorted to large scale violence. They attacked government property ransacked post offices, looted banks, blocked roads to disrupt the entire communication in Mizo Area. It is said that Laldenga’s followers made an effort to turn the Assam Rifles out of the town. But Indira Gandhi’s government was helpless in solving the Mizo problem , Mizo’s had even declared that they had seceded from the Indian Union and Mizoland was now independent, Meanwhile the Naga problem flared up. The Nagas took to jungles and came out at night. There was a Peace Mission in Nagaland which to the dismay of India, had collapsed. Jayaparkash Narain told the Naga rebels, led by Fhizo from outside India that in view of Pakistan’s abject defeat in 1965 war under Lal Bahadur Shastri, to withdraw their demand for independence and should come forward to accept autonomy for Nagaland. JP went ahead and advised Phizo’s men to forget armed rebellion and fight coming elections. J.P. and even the Govt. of India lost confidence in Michael Scott, who was, apparently trying for Peace Agreement of Naga’s with Indian Government, was in fact under the influence of Phizo, was trying to “internationalize” the demand for Nagaland as an independent Country. In the meanwhile Naga hard-core rebels under guidance of Phizo and Scott were trying to approach China for help. Thus Nagaland problem in 1966-67 remained at standstill. By 1971-72 Naga’s were satisfied by the fact that Nagaland was a state of Indian Union.

There was another outstanding problem which Nehru had delayed for a long ie Sikhs demand for Punjabi Saba that areas of East Punjab which were Punjabi speaking should be carved into a separate state. “Indira Gandhi paid high tributes to valiant Sikh soldiers during 1965 war against Pakistan where Sikh commanders as well as jawans had distinguished themselves in large numbers . Their bravery in the war impelled the government of India to concede a long standing demand of the Sikhs. In March 66, a Committee of MP’s had recommended the bifurcation of East Punjab into Sikh majority Punjabi speaking state, Hindi speaking Hindu majority area into a separate state of Haryana and Hill areas including Shimla into a Hill state of Himachal Paradesh. This goes to the credit of Indira Gandhi though the problem of Chandigarh, which Sikhs demanded for inclusion in Punjabi Saba but was ultimately made a Union territory which had the High Court of Punjab and Haryana as well secretariat of both states.

In 1966 there was a virtual famine in many parts of India because of failure of monsoon. Both in 1965 and 1966 India imported under PL-480 loan, 15 million tonnes of wheat from USA to feed its hungry and starving people. Thereafter India started introducing bumper crops of wheat particularly in Punjab and Haryana by importing seeds of Mexican Wheat that started producing bumper crop of wheat. This was called Green Revolution in India for which, too, credit must go to Indira Gandhi, her Agriculture Minister Sarbeamaniam and Scientists of Indian Agricultural Research Institute led by Dr Swaminathan and many other senior and junior scientists who were motivated to experiment with Mexican wheat and supply its seeds to farmers after demonstrating to them its qualities.

But in 1967 Indira Gandhi’s popularity was at lowest ebb. Congress was not only opposed by rightist and religious parties like Swatantra Party and Jan Sangh but surprisingly by all factions of Communist and Socialist parties. In addition Congress was vehemently and even violently opposed by some regional parties, like DMK in Madras that for the first time congress was facing elections as a political loser not as a victor.

One of the worst defeat suffered by Congress since its inception was in Madras. In the far south, DMK won 138 seats in a house of 234 while Congress, the national party won paltry 50 seats. Main vote catches for Madras were renowned Film actor M G Ramachandra and famous script writer M. Karunanidhi. Just a month before elections M G was shot and wounded by his rival film actor (M R Radha). This incident helped DMK to win more votes as MGR’s fans everywhere used the wounded MGR’s photograph to win favors for MGR who had landslide victory and DMK was equally victorious.

Surprisingly Congress also lost Kerala in spite of split in the Communist Party into CPM and CPI. As a result congress got only 50 seats in the house of 133, CPM winning 52 while CPI getting only 19. M. S Nambodripad became Chief Minister a second time to avenge his overthrow undemocratically by Indira Gandhi when she was Congress President under Nehru, She had created so called mass upsurge against M.S and communists in particular.

Similarly Congress also lost to left front alliance and other Splinter groups including Bangla Congress. Bangla Congress leader Ajoy Mukherjee became the CM while Jyoti Basu leader of CPM as Dy C M. However this coalition government was for less than a year and President’s Rule was imposed. However this led to increase in the votes of CPM substantially in the elections held 1969. CPM becoming for the first time single largest Party with 80 seats. Ajoy Mukherjee of Bangla Congress once again was elected by the alliance as CM while CPM proposed to retain Home Portfolio.

In Orissa, too, Congress lost for the first time despite its strongman Biju Patnaik being its leader. Corruption charges against Biju Patnaik, that he had accepted bribes and allotted lucrative government contracts to his favorite businessmen. Congress of Indira Gandhi was routed by an alliance of Swatantra and Jana Congress . Congress also suffered set-backs in other states like UP, MP, Haryana and Bihar where Congress Government were not stable, these fell because groups of disgruntled Congress MLA’s moved towards the opposition.

In 1969 Congress had to concede to the demand of All Party Hill leaders conference as in 1967 elections congress was routed in this hill region. In December 1969 there was trouble in another Hill state in Eastern region called Meghalya, tribal districts of Assam Viz Khasi Janita and Garo Hills.

As Congress under Indira Gandhi’s rule had lost many states and many others were not sure weather Congress will continue to rule under Indira’s Prime Minister ship, there was rise of communalism, many little rebellions and lawlessness. There was instability of governing party or governing coalition. According to figures released by National Integration Council, Communal Violence incidences were 132 in 1966, 220 in 1967 and as many as 346 in 1968. States of UP and Bihar were the worst in violence between Hindus and Muslims, Worst case of Communal Violence occurred in Congress ruled Gujarat where Muslim youths had entered a temple and broken idols being worshiped by devout Hindus. In retaliation Hindu Youths attacked Muslim shops and there were pitched battles in narrow streets of Ahmadabad and adjoining cities, As a result more than 1000 lives were lost in Communal Violence in Congress ruled state of Gujarat.

To cool down tempers and to gain Muslim sympathy, Dr Zakir Hussain was elected President of India, for the first time a Muslim became President of India while another Muslim was Chief Justice of India, thus paving the way for Vote bank Politics which Congress and Communists have made use of since then.

Kashmir was peaceful throughout 1966 chiefly because of defeat of Pakistan in 1965 war. But Problem of Kashmir existed and detention of Sheikh Abdullah had kept it smoldering. In this case, too, J P intervened for restoration of lasting peace which was need of the hour and wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi for release of Sheikh Abdullah who was unnecessarily being dubbed as a traitor. JP wrote to hold general elections in Kashmir with Sheikh Abdullah in prison is like the British ordering an election in India while Jawahar Lal was in Jail.

Indira Gandhi wrote back a brief note thanking JP for sharing his views on Kashmir and Sheikh Abdullah, but took no action in that direction. But after India’s emphatic victory against Pakistan by India’s intervention in East Pakistan on behalf of Sheikh Mujibul Rehman and ultimate defeat of Pakistan Army and creation of Bangladesh, Indira Gandhi felt bold. After a year in March 68, Sheikh Abdullah was freed from House Arrest in Kodaikanal and allowed to live in Delhi throughout 1971. In June 1972 Sheikh Abdullah was allowed to visit Kashmir valley where he got hero’s welcome by lakh’s of Kashmiris. Sheikh had abandored demand for plebiate and said ‘I am an Indian and India is my homeland’. Sheikh Abdullah now was planning to become once again Chief Minister by fighting the coming elections.

August 24, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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