Ex-IB chief confirms Mathai's 'missing chapter’ on Indira Gandhi

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 22, 2015 18:01 IST
File photo of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. (Picture credit: Getty Images)

Former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief TV Rajeswar has confirmed the existence of a missing chapter in the controversial memoirs of MO Mathai, the private secretary of Jawaharlal Nehru, in which he wrote about his purported relationship with Indira Gandhi.

Rajeswar has said that in 1981, when he was head of the IB, then Tamil Nadu chief minister MG Ramachandran gave him the chapter and he “took it without comment and handed it to Indira Gandhi”, who was then the Prime Minister.

Gandhi received the chapter “without comment”, Rajeswar said during an interview with India Today channel’s programme To The Point, aired on Monday night.

The former spy chief, whose book “India The Crucial Years” was released recently, said he did not read the chapter

The chapter is believed to be the “missing” chapter from Mathai’s book “Reminiscences of the Nehru Age”. Mathai was Nehru’s private secretary from 1946 to 1959.

When the book was published in 1978, a publisher’s note on page 153, which is chapter 29, said: “This chapter on an intensely personal experience of the author’s, written without inhibition in the DH Lawrence style, has been withdrawn by the author at the last moment.”

Subsequently, publisher Narendra Kumar said this sentence was a teaser and no such chapter existed.

Katherine Frank, Indira Gandhi’s biographer, wrote: “Mathai wrote an account in his autobiography of what he claimed was a 12-year affair with Indira Gandhi, in a chapter entitled SHE – a chapter that Mathai himself suppressed when the book was about to be published.”

During the interview, Rajeswar spoke extensively about the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975. At the time, he was the seniormost joint director of the IB dealing with political parties and elections.

He said the IB was taken completely by surprise when emergency was announced. He said he himself found out about the development from the radio.

Rajeswar said the idea for the emergency was suggested by Congress leader Siddhartha Shankar Ray. The list of people to be arrested was compiled in the Prime Minister’s house and instructions were issued telephonically. Some chief ministers were summoned by a special plane and the list given to them, he added.

He said either Indira Gandhi or her son Sanjay Gandhi would have personally done this and the government machinery wasn’t involved.

Rajeswar said Balasaheb Deoras, then Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, “quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline” during the emergency. “Deoras was keen to meet Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay” but the Prime Minister refused, he said.

“The organization (RSS) had specifically conveyed its support to the Congress in the post-emergency elections,” he said. His remarks indicate that during the polls in 1977, when the Jan Sangh as part of the Janata Party was fighting Indira Gandhi, the RSS was quietly on the Congress leader’s side.

Rajeswar further said Indira Gandhi had full knowledge of the excesses of the emergency, such as demolition of Turkman Gate and the excesses of sterilisation and family planning. He said she got regular quarterly and half-yearly feedbacks from the IB that were officially given to her.

Indira Gandhi either didn’t realise the seriousness of what was happening or chose to ignore it, he said.

The IB repeatedly recommended that the emergency be withdrawn, political prisoners released and elections called, Rajeswar said. The first time was in January 1976, six months after emergency was declared, and the second was after the first anniversary in September 1976.

On both occasions, Indira Gandhi was inclined to agree but Sanjay said no, Rajeswar revealed.

Elections were finally held in February-March 1977 after a third recommendation from the IB that the emergency be called off, he said.

Sanjay Gandhi had enormous powers and his mother was fully aware of the powers he had and exercised, Rajeswar said. However, he said, it is possible the Prime Minister did not realise this was unconstitutional.

Speaking about the Sikh unrest of the early 1980s, when he was head of the IB, Rajeswar said then Punjab chief minister Darbara Singh and then Union home minister Giani Zail Singh would often protect Sikh leader JS Bhindranwale from police action and even tried to prevent his arrest. He said Indira Gandhi suspected this but did not have concrete proof.

Rajeswar said that on May 27, 1984, just one week before Operation Blue Star was launched against Sikh extremists holed up in the Golden Temple of Amritsar, he strongly advised Indira Gandhi against the operation by the army.

“I said India would face the biggest law and order problem since partition,” he said. However, the Prime Minister went ahead and Rajeswar believes she and the government didn’t appreciate the likely consequence of attacking the Golden Temple.

He said the army had not told her they would use tank and helicopters. He said he believes her permission to use tanks was not sought.

Rajeswar said Indira Gandhi used both IB and RAW for “reports on men and matters, including reporting on Congress people”. Asked if this was an abuse of power, he maintained silence.

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