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Fitting Epitaph

Jivtesh Singh Maini

M.G. Devasahayam
Roli Books, Delhi, 2006, pp. 315, Rs. 495.00


Civil Service officer's career is like a dome of multi-coloured glass reflective of the varied experiences he straddles. Colonial administrators penned their experiences in the garb of memoirs generally for the benefit of their successors, as well as with the passag of time evolved a precious repertoire of the information they were privy to, ex-officio. This tradition continued amongst postcolonial administrators, as well, however, as hey morphed into hi-tech bureaucrats, penning down accounts became sparse and they succumbed to more pragmatic pursuits so as to ensure their survival in the consumeristic scenario. Early renditions remain invaluable primary source material for the reconstruction of history. Some bureaucrats like M.G. Devasahayam uphold this tradition. He unfolds the saga of one of the key opponents of the darkest chapter of Indian democracy, i.e. the Emergency, a brief yet momentous blot.   I am part of the first generation born in free India witnessing the ].P. era spanning emergency, his fervent opposition to it and its subsequent withdrawal. To read or write about him, encompasses the awesome experience of revisiting a familiar site of history, when one actually lived through the process of its germination.   Devasahayam had the unique opportunity to be privy to a very significant episode of history, ].P's high-profile confinement in the Chandigarh jail. So he unravels his first-hand experiences and more importantly his conversations with the latter; reading these triggers off various thought processes in the reader's mind, some not so complimentary to those in power then. While the Emergency drama was for the whole world to see, the privilege of witnessing the intense struggle of the 'revolutionary in chains' was only mine. Not only did I see, I felt it and for a while I was part of it".   The Emergency and its excesses, and the arrogance of power displayed by those involved in its implementation and their minions, are public knowledge. So is the outcome of the 1977 polls that thwarted the seeds of fascism being sown, but what is not known is the silent saga of defiance and determination within the four walls of a PGI ward-turned-jail, which eventually opened up the floodgates of freedom and transformed India's polity. This book is the true story of this silent but stirring saga.   I was interested in reading this book since my father, who had been witness to the independence movement as it culminated into a vibrant movement imbued ...

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