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Hushing the files

india Updated: Mar 31, 2012 20:05 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The government said records pertaining to the imposition of emergency in India in 1975 have gone missing from the Prime Minister's Office.
— Indo-Asian News Service, March 21, 2012

Here's my interview of the government officer in charge of the archives, whose official designation is Librarian and Information Archives Registrar (Liar).
Me: How did these very important documents simply vanish?
Liar: Well, actually, the dog…….
Me: Oh come on, sir, you're not going to give me that old cliché about the dog eating it.
Liar: Of course not. Dogs don't eat paper. We had this goat in the yard, so that the staff could have goat's milk. But a dog used to roam the neighbourhood and it often went after the goat. So we brought the goat into the room where the documents were kept. Trouble was, it liked the taste of the archives and chewed about half of them before we realised what was happening.
Me: Sounds fishy to me.
Liar: Goat-ey. You're right, there's another theory. Thieves broke into the archives a few years ago. When we checked, the only thing missing were the records about the Emergency.
Me: Was it the government?
Liar: No, no, my sources tell me it was Pakistan's General Kayani. He wanted to take over power and needed to find a way to do it democratically. He thought the documents on the Emergency could help. Of course, it could also be a Bollywood director who wanted to make a movie out of it. But I don't believe that.
Me: What's your guess?
Liar: I blame the flood. The files from X-Z were stacked at the bottom of the filing cabinet. Someone left the taps in the loo open one night and next morning we found the room flooded with water. The papers at the bottom of the cabinet were lost.
Me: But why should the files about the Emergency be under X-Z?
Liar: The filing clerk was from Tamil Nadu. He filed it under Y for Yemergency.
Me: I refuse to buy that.
Liar: So did those publishers. One of my clerks said he had submitted the entire correspondence on the Emergency between the PM and the president to a publisher, to be published as a book. They sent it back with a rejection slip.
Me: But did they send back the correspondence?
Liar: They said it was devoid of any literary merit whatsoever, the style was horrible and the plot was rubbish.
Me: What did you do then?
Liar: Come to think of it, soon after that when I had bhelpuri from the chap outside the office, the paper he wrapped it in had Indira Gandhi's signature. But some say the documents have been taken by aliens, as written proof of the depths of human stupidity.
Me: Any other excuses?
Liar: Well, there was that time we had no water in the toilet, so we had to use….
Me: Okay, that's enough. What is the real story?
Liar: Oh, there never were any documents. When Indira met President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, he asked her whether the rumours about her wanting to impose an Emergency were true. She winked, poked him in the ribs and smiled sweetly. Next thing we know, he's declared an Emergency.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint Views expressed by the author are personal.