Congress book aimed at objective assessment of events: Editor

The editor of a book on Congress, which had some critical observations about late Indira Gandhi, said the attempt in its essays was not to give accolades or apportion blame but assess objectively the developments of this period.

Last Updated: Jun 01, 2011, 21:14 PM IST

New Delhi: The editor of a book on
Congress, which had some critical observations about late
Indira Gandhi, on Wednesday said the attempt in its essays was not to
give accolades or apportion blame but assess objectively the
developments of this period.

The editor of the book said in a statement that the
volume does not paper over cataclysmic events like emergency,
Operation Blue Star and the anti-Sikh riots after Indira
Gandhi`s assassination but looks back at them with greater
"complexity and objectivity".
Prof Aditya Mukherjee, Editor of Centenary History of
the Indian National Congress Volume V (1964-`84), said that
this was now possible with the passage of time and necessary
distancing from the immediate event.

In fact, Mukherjee said, this period which was
dominated by Indira Gandhi has by and large not received a
balanced treatment partially because of the intense heat
generated by the cataclysmic events.

"Last, to those Congressmen who, after the controversy
broke, fear that their beloved leader, Indira Gandhi, has been
maligned, I can only urge them to read the book.

"It is a book not written by party loyalists but
independent scholars and yet it is perhaps one of the most
rigourous yet sympathetic accounts of the considerable strides
India made in several directions under the shadow of one of
the tallest leaders India produced since independence, Indira
Gandhi," he said.

The statement comes against the backdrop of political
parties attacking the Congress on the contents of the book and
reservations within the party over critical comments it has
about its leaders, including Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay.

Mukherjee said the recent, rather laboured controversy
has been created over the book has raised some important
issues.

"Many in the media have selectively picked up a few
lines critical of Congress policies and of Indira Gandhi and
have sensationalised it saying that a Congress authorised
volume is criticising the Congress and some of its tallest
leaders," he said.

He said often even the article of the contributor
quoted is not read fully.
Most commentators on television confessed that they
have not seen the book but were only reacting to a quoted
sentence.

"This is unfortunate," he said adding he would like to
set the record straight and clarify what these volumes sought
to achieve.

Recalling that the first four volumes followed the
principle of asking experts in various areas in the period
concerned to contribute chapters, he said the idea was to
objectively evaluate the history of the party leading the
national movement and not to resemble common party pamphlets
full of hagiography of its leaders.

In an earlier volume, he said, while evaluating
India`s foreign and defence policy, particularly vis-a-vis
China, one author felt free to critically comment on
Jawaharlal Nehru`s understanding and its impact.
"This by no means diminished the great role played by
Nehru in the building of independent India and the Congress
party clearly understood this and had no hesitation in letting
these critical views being expressed. There was criticism at
that time too at the volume allowing critical remarks about
Nehru," he said.

Mukherjee said when we was asked to edit the Volume V,
freedom was given to him in selecting the authors and allowing
them to express their views freely.

He said he was able to persuade a team of 16 top
experts, including some of the most renowned academics,
journalists and social activists to write for it. This
included contributors like historians Prof V P Dutt and Bipan
Chandra, journalists B G Verghese and Inder Malhotra and
scholar-social activist Shekhar Singh and Shanta Sinha.

"I must say to the credit of the party that neither
Pranab Mukherjee, the Chief of the Editorial Board, nor Anand
Sharma, the convenor, at any point of time tried to influence
me, leave alone the other contributors, in any way," he said.

PTI