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A Work of Celebration




A CENTENARY HISTORY OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS VOLUME V: 1964-1984
Edited by Aditya Mukherjee
Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 647, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 2-3 February/March 2013

This massive volume is a great disappointment. Of the nineteen chapters, one is outstanding, four or five others are well done and generally informative. Apart from these few exceptions, there is little new information provided and the articles offer few if any insights into this critical period in modern Indian history. Some, indeed, do no more than rehearse misleading governmental reports, such as the tiresome rhetoric of the Five Year Plans. On the positive side, Sudha Pai’s ‘The Congress Party and Six National Elections: 1964-1984’ is a well-balanced, well-researched essay, avoiding both adulation and denigration of Indira Gandhi, by far the most important figure of the period. Other worthy contributions include V.P. Dutt’s ‘Foreign Policy Challenges 1964-1984’ though Dutt is mistaken in praising Mrs. Gandhi for ushering in the ‘Green Revolution’, with which she had little to do. The accolade here should go to the International Rice Research Institute, to Norman Borlaug, and to those, like M.S. Swaminathan, who promoted the introduction into India of High Yielding Varieties of wheat. None of these are mentioned. Also valuable is Shantha Sinha’s very detailed chapter on the Naxalite movement, ‘The Naxal Challenge’. Another is Bipan Chandra’s the ‘JP Movement and the Emergency’. The chapter by Mohinder Singh on ‘The Punjab Crisis’ is on the whole excellent and informative. Finally, the chapter by Rakesh Batabyal on ‘The Hindu Communal Challenge: 1964-1984’ is a workmanlike analysis, comprehensive and well documented. I would however take exception to Batabyal’s claim that the United States is responsible for the killing of ‘almost three million Communists’ in Indonesia. The US has plenty to answer for in this period, but it cannot be blamed for everything. However agreeable they may have been to the US, the Indonesian regime itself initiated and carried out these atrocities, which were part of an internal war not imposed on Indonesia by the US. As for the rest, what can one say of a volume on the Congress Party whose foreword is by Sonia Gandhi, on whom most of the contributors go out of their way to heap praise? We are clearly dealing here with a work of celebration. There is little to celebrate, however, as many of these encomia fall flat, are misleading or at times downright false. Were the old Congress leaders, who were chosen by Jawaharlal Nehru himself to reinvigorate the Party in the ...


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