On August 22,1975, Rustom Sohrab Nagarwalla, ex Army officer twice phoned the State Bank of India, imitating voice of PM Indira Gandhi and her official aide P N Haksar, asking for 6 million rupees for Bangladesh. He was arrested a few hours after collecting the money, tried and convicted, died of a heart attack while awaiting re-trial. The police officer investigating the case died in a car accident. The bank manager was dismissed and became a Congress worker (Far Eastern Economic Review -researched by Michael Henderson in his book- Experiments with Untruth-India Under Emergency.Columbia,Missouri,South Asia Books 1977). This case was used as a plot in Rohinton Mistry’s novel-“Such a Long Journey.” Jimmy Bilimoria the fictional RAW officer was based on the bizarre but true story of Nagarwalla.
NAIVETE AND BUBBLES: PROTESTS AND NONSENSE
“Research and Analysis wing.I did not know our Jimmy was also a scientist”
The character Dilnavaz naively says to her husband Gustad in the
Rohinton Mistry’s Novel- “Such a long journey”
We used this story to introduce the second session of – On our Independence day- reading group as the first session with theoretical background of Said’s “Orientalism” and Foucalt’s “Episteme” had drawn some protests regarding “Classroom-style-histopathology-sleepiness”.
See blog: On our Independence Day-Part 1
The newspaper style story of corruption, power, naive cocoons are brought out in
the story of Bilimoria.
Some senior members of the reading group who were college students at the times of
Indian Emergency distinctly remember the Nagarwalla case.
Some younger lot who were born after the Emergency listened to these discussions with interest
as we shaped some bubbles we live in.
Some protested as their school books had taught about the greatness of leaders
who gave shape to India.
This reminded one of the fictional characters of Mistry’s novels who dismissed
all the news and legal proceedings as a bundle of lies to defame the PM.
Money still changes hands to get simple but essential things like Birth
and Death certificates. Corruption is the legacy of the License-Permit Raj days .
“This is the way it is. One cannot say congratulations , but I am glad that there
was no further delay, ” an old friend and senior government official told of his
not wanting to intervene for such a petty matter.
Otherwise, the official waiting period would have imbalanced many things.
Some experienced persons who regularly interact with officialdom chided me for being naive.
MYTHS ABOUT GOVERNANCE AND ADMINISTRATION
Some experienced persons pointed out that these stories were given prominence to forward the myths propagated by the former colonial powers that the natives were at best left to do commerce, and matters of administration and governance were left to the colonialists.
A senior person observed that in the villages-older generation who have seen the British times do at times say that we were better off under colonial rule.
These are myths which one has to be aware of , the origins of which are from the
colonialists and elite-bubbles whom they created.
Discussion on the Emergency phase of 1970s, like Partition is still is a
very emotive topic.
These led to some interesting discussions on concept of Nationhood.
Is India a Hindu Pakistan? Ramachandra Guha in his book –“India After Gandhi”
details the many struggles of India’s first PM-Jawaharlal Nehru
to cast a secular vision.
We shall examine these further in next entry.
Other posts of Interest
Reflections on our Republic day
Exploring Public Domains From Kabir to Safir