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dictator's policemen: "We do not know any Mahatma Gandhi. We only know Indira Gandhi."

Gandhi and Nehru had been imprisoned by the British, even if their views were not subjected to censorship. But there was one man whom the British dared neither to imprison physically nor in any way prevent from expressing himself. That was Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The great sage, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 while his contemporaries in the world of letters on both sides of the Atlantic were still claiming recognition, kept inspiring millions of his countrymen with his songs and poetry. With every word that fell from his lips or flowed from his pen, he urged the people on in their fight for freedom from British rule.

Rabindranath had to wait for thirty-five long years after his death to gain the distinction which the British denied him, when Madam dictator finally decreed that from June 26, 1975 even Tagore would be censored. It was pathetic indeed to read in the censored press the pronouncements of such nondescript courtiers of Madam dictator such as I. K. Gujral and V. C. Shukla, her successive ministers of propaganda, that the India the Gurudev struggled for had once again ceased to exist. In his immortal classic, Geetanjali Tagore dreamt of and prayed for the "heaven of freedom" for his country. His dreams were not flights of fancy, nor were his prayers a saint's search for the abstract. He wrote and sang:

"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world is not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."

I read these lines again and again and again as I read Tagore. Not merely to absorb the beauty and profundity that lies in them. But more to ponder over the magnitude of what we have lost. It may be we had not fully woken up into "that heaven of freedom" for which the poet yearned. But there was hope, undying hope, in the hearts of so many people that the quest would go on despite all the obstacles. At least, it was not yet a sin to want to wake up in that heaven of freedom.

Tagore and his dreams are still in the bookshelves. Maybe they will be allowed to stay there while the "All India Radio blares into the people's ears the inane thoughts of the dictator and occasionally the hypocritical homilies of her minions. In the meanwhile, perhaps, there will be a new lexicon produced on the Big Sister's orders giving new meaning to old words.

I had earlier read some of the prose works of Hermann Hesse, the German mystical author and poet. Though the movie based on his novel, Siddhartha, has not yet come to be exhibited in India because of the perverted sense of morals on the part of our film censors, Hesse has a reputation in certain circles even in India. Hesse, who was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1946. was influenced by Buddha's teachings as much as he was by Christianity and particularly its mystical lore. Going through his little book of poems turned out to be one of the most joyful experiences I have had during the otherwise dark and dreary days that are now our lot. There is some sadness in Hesse's poems, but it is the melancholy that is part of man's eternal struggle to liberate truth from the shackles of hypocrisy and falsehood.

Most poetry must belong to the timeless world, which is what makes it so relevant to any situation. Reading Hermann Hesse, I ran into poems that so vividly reflect the immediate contemporary scene in India. There is, for instance, this poem that could epitomise our denial of Mahatma Gandhi:

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How true. They all went to his grave on October 2. The dictator too was there, hypocrisy incarnate. But even the Gandhians-not the masqueraders who

take vows of silence when the country is brought under a dictator's high heels, but those who once imbibed his spirit have little or no use for him today.

When Jayaprakash Narayan stepped out of his self-imposed seclusion and decided to fight with the forces of evil as symbolised by the party and government of Mrs. Gandhi, he shook the country with the force of an avalanche. Suddenly, he became the Prophet who would lead his flock to the Promised Land. Everyone jumped on the caravan. Particularly that tribe of eternal creepers ever waiting on the side-lines ready to climb the winner's bandwagon. So many committees came up, every one vied with the other to be seen with JP, to preside over his meetings, to have him whisper their name. No, not the wretched of the earth who really needed him and for whom he had toiled all his life, according to the light as he saw it. Nor those whose commitment comes out of their convictions. But those who exercise their brains and can generally predict which way the wind of political fortunes is blowing and who then out of the cloister of the campuses and legislatures, newspaper offices and law courts emerge to claim their share.

Where are they now? Most who were strong of convictions are inside the prisons while a few are underground organizing resistance to the dictatorship, staking everything in the process. But the creepers are back in their professions as time-servers. Many have turned into Judases while some have acquired that rare gift of genius called hindsight. Hermann Hesse seems to have written the following lines to all those who have turned out to be fair weather friends of JP and all that he stands for:

"Then I have to think of my friends

And my gaze sinks into their gazes
And I ask each one, silent, alone:

Are you still mine?

Is my sorrow a sorrow to you, my death a death?

Do you feel from my love, my grief,

Just a breath, just an echo?

And the sea peacefully gazes back, silent,

And smiles: no.

And no greeting and no answer comes from anywhere."

In a letter from prison to some of his friends in early July, 1975, the Socialist leader Madhu Limaye wrote that the "long dark night" has begun for India. Madhu is not exactly a prophet, but as we were driving to the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi where he had to speak at a public meeting on June 22, a bare 72 hours before Madam became dictator, he asked me a pointed question. If the lady should decide tonight to tear up the Constitution, arrest all those who are opposed to her absolutism and authoritarianism and proclaim herself a dictator, what do we have in terms of contingency plans to fight her despotism? From the YMCA Tourist Hotel to the Ramlila grounds we debated this question. After he returned from the meeting, at his home, over a frugal supper, we discussed it further. When I reached home late that night, an army source informed me that there had been big troup movements around the capital in the previous 72 hours. I wanted to telephone Madhu, but as usual, some one in authority had rendered my telephone out of use since two days. And precisely for that reason, while going home that night, I had borrowed Madhu's alarm clock as I had to catch an early morning flight to Calcutta.

On June 23, at the Bhubhaneshwar State Guest House, in an unscheduled meeting with local journalists, I was to speak of these troop movements and describe them as ominous. The following morning, the newspapers carried this report. I was then not aware of the imposition of a dictatorship was a little more than 48 hours away.

So the long dark night is here, and many will suffer it in the prisons; for the rest of us it could be a long hard fight. Hand in hand with all those who want to hasten the coming of the dawn. And here is Hermann Hesse perceiving it all for us:

"Now we are silent

And sing no songs any more,

Our pace grows heavy;

This is the night that was bound to come.

Give me your hand!

Perhaps we still have a long way to go."

Yes, we do have a long way to go, though who knows, we may overcome much sooner than most people think it is possible.

When in the course of my underground travels, I reached the South for the first time, it was Venkatram, who began discussing with me a strategy for the South. He had been talking it over with other friends in the four Southern states, in a bid to persuade them to set up a solid Southern front in the struggle to restore democracy in the country. I agreed with Venkatram, and in a letter I sent to the comrades in the underground, I spoke of this Southern strategy and said that the South will be the grave digger of Mrs. Gandhi's dictatorship. And then I read this exhortation from Hermann Hesse:

"South wind, hunt down the clouds,

Tear the veil away,

So light can fall on me among the confusing paths."

All poets love children, most certainly in their poetry, Politicians claim to love children, but it depends on whose children they are. The father of the Indian dictator was a much touted lover of children. In fact they have an annual ritual of a Children's Day observed on his birthday. In his palatial mansion called Teen Murti Bhawan, which till Independence was the house from where the Commander-In-Chief of the British armed forces wielded the power that flowed from the barrels of the British guns to keep the Indian people in British servitude (and which now ironically is a permanent Nehru museum), Jawaharlal Nehru had installed a private cinema theatre at great cost to the Exchequer ostensibly to show films to children, but actually for private showings for members of his family. No children of the sweepers and washermen ever managed to get there. In fact, two generations of Nehrus have taken care to see that a vast majority of children born in India never get a chance in life. Naked and starving, they grow up into just so many walking corpses. Life holds nothing for them. Death is a relief even to welcome which they lack the physical and mental stamina.

Several years ago, on my first visit to Kohima in Nagaland, I was taken to the War Cemetery where lie those who died fighting what was then called by the Allies the war to end all wars. After all the blood and stench of battle it is a beautiful resting place that has been laid out there for those who must have died the most violent deaths. In the center of the cemetery where bloom the most gorgeous flowers, there is a little memorial on which are written words that brought tears to my eyes:

"When you go back home

Tell them about us, and say

For their tomorrow,

We gave our today."

I was reminded of these moving lines when I read Hermann Hesse writing to children about war. He wrote the poem at the time when Europe was engaged in its till then bloodiest fatricidal conflict-the First World War. Hesse must indeed have loved children to feel so deeply for them. And then I thought of the war which we are now fighting against a despotism that we had not bargained for. And of all the children of the thousands of men and women who are in prison today, victims of the greed for power of one mad woman.

I have a son who was born in Leila Kabir in January, 1974. He was a little over seventeen months old when I last saw him on the afternoon of June 26, 1975 in the little fishing village of Gopalpur-on-the-sea in Orissa, when I began my race to stay away from the police to be able to organise and work in the underground. We call our boy Sushanto which means "full of peace" which he is, besides being a bundle of joy which is what all children must be. Sushanto's mother's language is Bengali, mine is Konkani, but we deliberately decided to bring up our boy with Hindustani as his mother tongue. Yet, somehow, without anyone's prompting or any inducement he calls me Daddy and his mother Mummy. That day, when I was getting ready to enter the underground, he was constantly calling out Daddy, as if he sensed that it was a long long war which we were getting involved in and it will be a long long time before he would see and talk to his Daddy again. Hermann Hesse must have had Sushanto and Kumudini and millions of other children on mind when he wrote:

"You know nothing of time,

You know only that, somewhere in the distance,

A war is being fought,

You whittle your wood into sword and shield and spear
And play your game blissfully in the garden,

Set up tents,

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Think of the blood, the shambles, the ruin

On which your own future reposes,

And how, even more, upon death and sacrifices is builded

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Children must be reading very little poetry when they are yet children, though I know of one little girl who is now grown up into a beautiful person who wrote poetry when she was only four years old. Dr. Rammanohar Lonia, the man who possessed a heart as large as the vision he had for India and for mankind, and who, therefore, loved people as few others have loved, reviewed the poems which this lovely little girl of four years had written. It is now about eighteen or nineteen years since I read Nandana's short verse, so my memory may fail me with the exact words, but I think it went something like this:

"Happiness happiness

The world is full of happiness,

But there is also sadness.

When Daddy is at home,

It is happiness,
When he is away,

It is sadness."

So it must be. Nandana wrote what came naturally to her. It was the heart and mind singing together in a fine blend of innocence. And if Nandana's world of happiness orbited round her daddy's presence at home and if sadness enveloped her when daddy was gone out, what about all those children whose daddies and some whose mummies too, are locked up behind the bars of the dictators prisons. A few are more fortunate in a different way. Dr. G G Parikh, chairman of the Bombay unit of the Socialist party who has never contested an election in his over thirty years of active political life and who has more constructive activity to his credit than most people dedicated only to constructive effort, his wife Mangala, a symbol of struggle and reconstruction, and their only daughter Sonal, charming and pretty, a student of post graduate studies at the Bombay University are all in prison. Though it would be interesting to know from the dictator and her scalawags why they have to imprison this entire family, I know that GG, Mangala and Sonal are happy in the thought that to them it is given to sacrifice their today to secure the happiness of those who will come tomorrow. So the struggle must go on, and everyone must make his choice. In a way, perhaps vicariously, the dictatorship of Mrs. Gandhi could be deemed a blessing. For the generation born after freedom and to the generation that was too small to participate in the struggle for freedom is now given the opportunity to pay the price people invariably must pay for their freedom and liberties. It is not necessary that everyone must go to prison, though it would be a great day indeed for our country and for the values we cherish if every house could produce a Satyagrahi. Russia lost more than twenty million people in the Second World War, which was one out of every eight or ten of her people. In other times, in other situations, people have paid the supreme price for their convictions and to protect their rights and liberties.

Mahatma Gandhi gave the world the non-violent weapons of non-cooperation with the oppressor and of Satyagrana against evil in all its manifestations. Many a doubt is raised on the relevance of Gandhiji's methods in the present times, especially in the struggle against naked dictatorships. Would Gandhiji have been successful against Hitler is a question that is not easy to reply to. Did not Gandhiji say that between violence and cowardice he would opt for violence? The debate on methods is as old as homo sapiens, and will continue till man

retains his thinking faculties. So even while we motivate people into making the supreme sacrifice in the struggle to regain their lost freedoms, nothing will be lost and much will be gained if we crowd the jails with civil resisters and Satyagrahis.

This is not to say that without going to prison it is not possible for us to play our role in the struggle against dictatorship. There are a hundred and one ways of fighting which I do not intend to elaborate here. The more important thing, however, is to decide where we stand. And the following verse from a poem by James Russell Lowell, the nineteenth century American poet and statesman will, I hope, spur us to make our choice:

"Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side-

"Then to side truth is noble,

When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit
And 'tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses,
While the coward stands aside,

Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied."

When India liberated Bangla Desh in December, 1971, we were called upon to pay a heavy price both in terms of men and resources. By a modest estimate the country spent Rs.800 Crores, which were collected by the Government from the common people through special levies on postage, transport, entertainment, court papers and what have you. In fact in the name of Bangla Desh, the Government of India may even have earned a neat profit. That several requests to publish the figures of the amounts raised and disbursed were never complied with by the government only confirms the nagging doubt that Bangla Desh's misfortune may have provided the Indian government with a small fortune. Whether the government did or not, Mrs. Gandhi certainly did profit from the war in which ten thousand of our young soldiers were slain. Even before the tears were wiped away from the eyes of the bereaved parents, widowed wives and orphaned children, Mrs. Gandhi in a vulgar display of total lack of sensitivity herself recommended that she be given the title of Jewel of India-Bharat Ratna-which the President of the Republic dutifully conferred on her. A month later, she called for general elections to the State Assemblies and went before the people with the slogan that she had won the war.

That is how it has been endlessly in the history of mankind. And that is how it will be. The brave and the real men will fight and die to make room for the shallow and small people to stake their claims to victory and its fruits, which is what must have prompted Hermann Hesse to conclude:

"Time and the world, money and power

Belongs to the small people and shallow people.

To the rest, to the real men belongs nothing.
Nothing but death."

India needs those brave and real people today. And the land that produced Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad, Gandhiji and Netaji, Jayaprakash and Lohia within our own lifetime will not be found wanting at this most crucial moment in its history. Mrs. Gandhi's tyranny will go the way all tyrants have gone before her. And a new India will be born.

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