Friday, October 23, 2009

The tragedy of Indian Liberals

In the modern day a true liberal can not tolerate at least in some extant and it may be the tragedy of Indian liberalism. What folds in politics are unfolds in economics and the law for long. After reading a recent article published (Outlook 19 October 2009) by Zareer Masani who is the only son of late veteran Indian liberal Minoo Masani.

The article is a bit and piece of facts about Minoo Masani’s legacy in Indian liberalism and the raise of his son on the jangle of other school of thought which is still ruling the masses with as tragedy as anything else except the liberty, equality and a respect for natural law.

Zareer writes:

  • No doubt, my first impressions of Indira were not helped by the fact that my father, Minoo Masani, was then the highly articulate Leader of the Opposition, whom she had to face in Parliament. Although he was always courteous and chivalrous to her in public, it was clear that he regarded her as politically and intellectually lightweight.
  • I was by then a student at Oxford, and my own politics had been radicalised by opposition to the Vietnam War. By abolishing the Indian princes, nationalising private banks and cocking a snook at Washington, Indira appeared to us as a progressive and idealistic figure who would rescue India from the grip of tired old men and transform the lives of the poor.
  • Back in India after finishing my Oxford degree, I was one of those who campaigned for Mrs Gandhi in the March 1971 general election. I remember working with the playwright Habib Tanvir to produce a mobile musical drama performed by adivasis from Chhattisgarh. We went round Delhi on the back of a lorry with songs and slogans urging everyone to vote Indira. Since my father was then one of the leading figures in the “Grand Alliance” of parties opposing her, I was rather cynically deployed by her election campaign to address meetings in support of her candidates and presented as the brave son who had parted company with a misguided father.
  • Fired by the passion and enthusiasm of youth, I even persuaded my mother to take up arms on Mrs Gandhi’s behalf. Her decision to join the Congress made headline news, especially as my father and other opposition stalwarts were swept away in Indira’s unexpected, landslide victory. My mother’s partisanship was to prove fatal to her marriage. My father forgave my youthful naivete but felt that my mother should have known better. Their political estrangement eventually led to divorce.
  • She was not a serious socialist and drew back from her own earlier radical promises. But neither did she have the vision to see that India’s future would lie in dismantling the hugely inefficient and bureaucratic system of state planning and economic controls which Nehru had established. Meanwhile, those like me who had supported Indira as the democratic socialist were appalled by her drift towards blatant dynasticism and the suppression of dissent. During the Emergency, I was back at Oxford working on a doctoral thesis. I found myself under pressure to delete the final chapter of my biography, which had predicted Indira’s attempt at dictatorship, or abandon hope of an Indian edition. I preferred the latter course.

Other readings

  1. An astute politician, thinker and a profilic writer,
  2. A fiery and - what has been rare in India
  3. Ranga on Masani

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