‘If I have rubbed people the wrong way, I have also been rubbed the wrong way’
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Journalist, former editor and writer Kuldip Nayar speaks about his autobiography Beyond the Lines, Emergency, and journalism then and now. The session was moderated by Contributing Editor Coomi Kapoor
Kuldip Nayar: About my book: I wrote about 800 pages and it has been reduced to 400 pages—that was quite an ordeal. Maybe I have rubbed people the wrong way (by certain statements in the book), perhaps because I have suffered. Maybe I have not been as patient or as tolerant as I should have been.
Coomi Kapoor: You were closely associated with Lal Bahadur Shastri. You also observed Nehru from close quarters. Who has been the best Prime Minister for India?
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the best Prime Minister India could have had at the time. The choice was between Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru. I had read Nehru, he was my hero. For a few days, I was also his press officer. Surprisingly, Maulana Azad said after he had been in Nehru's Cabinet for two or three years, "Humaare se ye galti hui, Sardar Patel ko prime minister banana chahiye tha aur Pandit Nehru ko president."
Ritu Sarin: You were a victim of Emergency and jailed for three months. Yet, in your book, you say you wish Emergency had continued.
I was not thinking of it from a personal point of view. From the country's viewpoint, probably, we would have become a nation dedicated to certain values, dedicated to the ethos of independence. That's why I said the longer we go through this period, the better it is for the nation. It would suffer, it would go through all these pangs and, it would come out of it.
Ritu Sarin: You say this is something that Sanjay Gandhi told you off the record.
Let me explain. I was writing a book, The Judgement, about the Emergency. During the Emergency, the Express Board had been reconstituted and Kamal Nath was included. While I was writing the book, Kamal Nath asked me why I hadn't met Sanjay Gandhi. I said I would have loved to meet him but nobody had allowed me to meet him despite my best efforts. He said he would take me to him. And so he did. This was 48 hours after Mrs Gandhi was defeated in the general elections. Sanjay was sitting under a tree and Mrs Gandhi was on the verandah. She came forward but I told her, "Aaj aapse nahi milna, aaj Sanjay se milna hai." Sanjay asked me not to publish anything he said during his lifetime. That is the reason why it was not included in The Judgement. I asked him, "Sanjay, how did you think that you would get away with it (continuing the Emergency)?" He said, "What is the problem? Nothing was happening. With Bansi Lal and persons like him, we would have ruled for another 25 years." I then asked, "Why did you hold elections?" He replied, "Ask Mrs Gandhi".