On His Death Anniversary, Let’s Revisit the Sanjay Gandhi Story
On his death anniversary, a look at the man and the moments that defined him.
(This article was first published on 23 June 2016. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the death anniversary of Sanjay Gandhi.)
History seems to have no memory of Sanjay Gandhi, the individual.
He is either remembered as Rajiv Gandhi’s reckless younger brother or the doted-upon son who led his mother, the Prime Minister, astray during the Emergency.
On his death anniversary, we look back, through Vinod Mehta’s biography, at the man and the moments that defined him.
The Boy Engineer
He was very fond of mechanics and mending things. He made a little workshop in his room and he was always experimenting. We would ask him to mend little things. He was so neat that if he stuck together a broken object with Durafix, it looked brand new. But, even then, he wanted payment- usually a story or a Laurel and Hardy film.Nehru House’s ‘Reception Officer’, Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
A “Colourless Character” at School
To stand out in school, you have to either be very good or very bad. Sanjay was neither. He was, in fact, outstandingly mediocre.A contemporary, Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
Who wanted to make friends with him? He was such a dull and boring character. Whenever you saw him, he looked miserable and unhappy. Who would want to mix with such a duffer?Sandy, Fellow Student, Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
All Grown Up at Home: Stony Silences and Temper Tantrums
...at home, the two brothers and the two wives were barely on speaking terms. Relations between Rajiv and Sanjay were always ‘chilly’...One morning, BK Nehru and his wife Flori were breakfasting with the Gandhis. ‘Sanjay went into a rage and threw his plate across the room when Sonia failed to cook his eggs in the precise way he had ordered.’ Indira did not say a word to Sanjay.Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
The Maruti Debacle
A public limited company, Maruti Limited, was floated in the middle of 1971 with Sanjay Gandhi as Managing Director...[The projected price soon went up from Rs 6,000 to Rs 11,300 primarily due to] inefficient utilisation of machinery and resources...To make ready the first prototype, Sanjay requisitioned a motorcycle engine and tried to adapt it for Maruti. It didn’t adapt. The second prototype, on a trial run, turned turtle, the third got overheated quickly. The car leaked, it made excessive noise, the suspension was faulty, the doors wouldn’t close properly, the steering wheel was too light.Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
Sanjay instructed his dealers to build showrooms suitable for displaying the small cars. Many dealers borrowed the money from banks and pledged their property. Not only did they never see the small car, they received no interest either. A couple of dealers reckless enough to ask for a refund were promptly jailed under M.I.S.A.Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
The Turkman Gate Massacre
Sanjay was not concerned with the problem of slums or even with eradicating them. He was concerned with getting them out of sight...Then he could say he had beautified Delhi. Turkman Gate was one big slum...it had grown over decades. Families had been born there and had died there...The people who lived in this slum were mainly Muslims and among the most destitute... It all began on the morning of 13 April 1976.Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
A single ‘bulldozer started eating its first morsel’...there were reports that the people of the camp ‘were carted out in trucks and dumped into the wilderness’...By 8 am on 19 April, nearly 500 women and 200 children, wearing black armbands, squatted [in peaceful protest]. As the sun rose higher, lorry-loads of police and C.R.P started streaming in. ‘They were in full battle dress – riot shields, tear-gas guns, rifles’...The police shot [young Abdul Malik when he protested]. The firing... lasted 45 days... [there are] stories of atrocities... first hand accounts of rape, robbery, and torture.Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
The Daredevil in His Kolhapuris
In some sense, it [the fatal crash] was the chronicle of an accident foretold. Not only was the novice pilot given to flashy daredevilry and dangerous low-flying, which civil aviation authorities at the Delhi Flying Club had warned Indira about, he also insisted on wearing Kolhapuri chappals in the cockpit. Rajiv had repeatedly warned Sanjay to wear proper shoes and not chappals while flying. Characteristically, he paid no heed to the advice.Extract from Vinod Mehta’s The Sanjay Story (1978)
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