India’s First Dictator — Indira Gandhi

June 25th, 1975 was the day that Indira Gandhi revealed that within her beats the heart of a ruthless dictator. On the 35th anniversary of that day, it is appropriate to remember that the Congress party brought authoritarian rule to India for the first time after independence. More accurately, Indira Gandhi brought dictatorship to the land. What matters today is that the descendants of Indira Gandhi are becoming increasingly powerful and could very well revert to dictatorial ways. Let’s ponder that for a bit.

I have nothing per se against dictators. In small or large measures, organizations and institutions have people at the top who make decisions and enforce their dictates either through force or through persuasion. There’s nothing in a flawed democratic setup that recommends it over the rule of an enlightened dictator. What I am against is the rule of ruthless selfish myopic unintelligent dictators.

Mrs Gandhi’s dictatorship is not the kind that recommends itself to me.

I was not thrilled by the dictatorship of the original Mrs Gandhi. I am even less thrilled by the dictatorship of the Italian Mrs Gandhi. For now, she’s just dictating to her lackeys such as Manmohan Singh and Pratibha Patil, and the party she heads. But if the Congress ever gets a majority in the parliament, we can expect a full-blown dictatorship for India.

Italy gave the world fascism. Mussolini was an Italian. Worth keeping in mind.

But we should pause here to remember that dictators and dictatorships are endogenous, not exogenous, to the population.

In an introduction to Étienne de La Boétie’s Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (1576), Murray Rothbart writes that the fundamental insight was

. . . that every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general popular acceptance. In short, the bulk of the people themselves, for whatever reason, acquiesce in their own subjection. If this were not the case, no tyranny, indeed no governmental rule, could long endure. Hence, a government does not have to be popularly elected to enjoy general public support; for general public support is in the very nature of all governments that endure, including the most oppressive of tyrannies. The tyrant is but one person, and could scarcely command the obedience of another person, much less of an entire country, if most of the subjects did not grant their obedience by their own consent.

India needs enlightened leaders, whether dictators or democrats. But it has been getting stupid leaders — dictators and “democrats” — not because of some unfortunate accident but because the population at large is not “enlightened.”

For India to get decent leadership, Indians have to change. At a minimum, Indians have to stop being impressed by charlatans and crooks. Indians have to demonstrate that they can take the long view, that they are not willing to vote criminals into office.

Indians have granted “their obedience by their own consent” to dictators for a long while. The most recent in living memory is Mrs Indira Gandhi. Before that it was to their British overlords. Before that to the Islamic invaders. It goes into remote antiquity perhaps.

On the 35th anniversary of Mrs Gandhi’s revelation of her true nature as a dictator, it is absolutely important that we remind ourselves that it is high time Indians gave up voluntary servitude.

[See also: “THE POLITICS OF OBEDIENCE: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.”.]

Author: Atanu Dey


34 thoughts on “India’s First Dictator — Indira Gandhi”

  1. Atanu,
    I find your subtle endorsement of”good dictatorship” at odds with your advocacy of free speech.i think what you mean (in spirit)of good intelligent dictatorship is leadership as so well exemplified by Mr.Lee Kuan.
    Politicians across the spectrum need to learn one simple dictum. Democracy is not about choosing people who will give people what they want, It is about doing what is right albeit bitter and painful in the short term



    1. Ravi,

      There’s nothing subtle about my endorsement of ‘good dictatorship’. I would any day take good dictatorship over incompetent ‘democracy’. If given a choice between starving in a slum under incompetent ‘democrats’ and living a decent life under an intelligent dictator, I would choose the latter in a heartbeat. I realize that too many Indians have a romantic love affair with ‘democracy’ but going by what the so-called ‘democrats’ have achieved so far — hundreds of millions of Indians living in degrading poverty — I am sure that I would choose an intelligent dictator over an incompetent idiot. Your mileage my vary, as the disclaimer goes.


  2. > Italy gave the world fascism. Mussolini was an Italian.
    > Worth keeping in mind.

    Wow. You’re really losing it now, aren’t you?


  3. To have a dynamic leadership we need enlightened junta….and to have enlightened junta we direly, need a good education sytem. But the incumbent party won’t let that happen…so that leaves us to ….?!


  4. Thank you for reminding us that we are also responsible for what has befallen us and that we need to give up “voluntary servitude” before any real change can be made.

    “Enlightened leaders” are exactly what India needs, has not got. I agree with you up to that point. Dictators, no matter how ‘enlightened’ to begin with, rarely live up to the promise. Absolute power does what it has to, whether the dictatorship is of an individual, a Family or a an ideology, secular or religious. This is particularly true if a long view is taken.


  5. Everyone should play a little game with themselves. Suppose you do not approve of MMS and her boss. You are told that you can effectively express your disapproval, but there is pain involved:

    * Sacrifice dessert for a day, week, month, year
    * Stop using imported shaving cream
    * Never pay for juvenile media like DNA, ToIlet paper, etc. at the cost of not being able to ogle at the items on display
    * Give up owning a car and use public transport for a day, week, …
    * Spend one full day a month building community in your neighborhood
    * Spend 3 hours a week teaching at least two disadvantaged kids

    You will see how rapidly the ranks thin out.


  6. @Rajkamal, stereotyping is the first step of going wrong.

    @Author, The point here is not about dictatorship but the authority in taking decisions. I will agree with you that Indira Gandhi acted as dictator but will not say so for Sonia Gandhi. Congress is a party having internal politics is a nefarious web of patronage, sycophancy and shady deals. Sonia Gandhi is just riding on the system. Its our habit of kow towing that is keeping them in the power. And democracy doesn’t provide justice or best possible way, it gives majority choosen solution.

    Christopher Hitchens summarises dictatorship governance as : The true essence of a dictatorship is in fact not its regularity but its unpredictability and caprice; those who live under it must never be able to relax, must never be quite sure if they have followed the rules correctly or not. (The only rule of thumb was: whatever is not compulsory is forbidden.) Thus, the ruled can always be found to be in the wrong. The ability to run such a “system” is among the greatest pleasures of arbitrary authority;


  7. @ludwig oh wait, here are better ones:

    lk advani was born in sindh. sindh is the birthplace of partition. ma jinnah was a sindhi.worth keeping in mind.

    atanu dey lives in maharashtra. maharashtra gave us dawood ibrahim. and bal thackeray. and zakir naik. all are maharashtrians. worth keeping in mind.


  8. =>
    “There’s nothing subtle about my endorsement of ‘good dictatorship’. I would any day take good dictatorship over incompetent ‘democracy’.”

    Atanu, and why are these two the only options? False dichotomy?
    Why not make an effort at improving democracy and making it better?


    1. Kaffir:

      No, that does not imply that I only think that there are two options. It’s that if I had to choose between the two, I would choose competent dictators over incompetent ‘democrats’. Like if I was offered a choice between ice-cream and cookies, I choose cookies but that does not mean that there are no other treats possible in the world.

      Regarding ‘improving democracy’: I believe democracy is all fine and good as a mechanism for governance. Where India fails is in meeting the conditions that allow democracy to function. I have written before

      In the case of India, we have a cargo cult democracy. It looks like one with electronic voting machines and election speeches and manifestos, with pollsters and pundits, with election commissioners and voting stations. Only the deep backend is missing. There is no understanding of issues of substance among the people who vote. Put up a name which is recognizable, and they would vote for or against that name. Promise enough freebies (free electricity, for instance) and they will vote for you, never mind that it may bankrupt the state and that eventually it will impoverish the same voting public. For democracy to work, you need accountability — both among those who vote and those who are elected. In an area where the government is seen as a source for endless handouts by the people, and the leaders look upon their stint in the driving seat as an excellent opportunity to steal from the public, democracy is not likely to work. All the talk about the smart voter is so much hogwash that the mind boggles.

      See a previous post May 2004 “Cargo Cult Democracy” for more.


  9. The one who believes in enlightened /competent dictators is either naive or a fool or both. No electorate in the world would understand free trade being beneficial to countries over countries which do not nor do they understand budget deficits.


  10. rajkamal, this is not a site befitting your intellectual abilities. Please watch bollywood movies and spend your leisure time. If I start writing a list of great bengalis, you will never make a stupid statement like that. Iam not a bengali and dont mind being called one…just read the literature son..grow up..


  11. as Francois Gautier said eloquently, India should get rid of Nehru family from Delhi, otherwise there is no future for that land. I dont think India will be governable without the rogue lawmakers getting elected in good numbers, they are better off inside assemblies and parliament than in the street.If thrown in the street they will burn their own nation overnight to smithereenes…on a sidenote,even Margaret Thatcher was described as a dictator


  12. “Italy gave the world fascism. Mussolini was an Italian. Worth keeping in mind.”

    Roman Empire, Constantine, Roman Catholic Church, Popes, Inquisitions, Christianity, ‘witch’ burnings, ‘heathen’ killings, destruction of ‘pagan’ cultures…
    Mussolini is comparatively small fry.



  13. > Losing it now is better than having
    > lost it long ago, isn’t it?

    Yes, in the same manner that dying in your sleep is better than being burned alive in a riot.

    > I bet you are a great admirer of Mr
    > Benito Mussolini who lost it long ago.

    Si, si. How nice of you to continue being so astute. Viva il Duce!

    All the very best.


  14. Why Indira Gandhi withdrew the Emergency?

    “Indira Gandhi may have thought she was invincible after reducing India [ Images ] to a dictatorship under the Emergency, but she had to pay a heavy price for the excesses of those 19 months of autocracy.
    The Congress party was wiped out in North India making way for the first non-Congress government to govern India, though for a short time.”

    also guys read story in the below link


  15. >>Italy gave the world fascism. Mussolini was an Italian. Worth keeping in mind.

    More important than that: Sonia “Gandhi”‘s dad was a fascist, a fact that, predictably, is never mentioned in her hagiographies.

    In other words, Rahul Gandhi has a fascist grandpa on mother’s side, and a fascist grandma on father’s.


  16. “it is absolutely important that we remind ourselves that it is high time Indians gave up voluntary servitude.”- agree with that. One way is to educate people thru blogs; this small step may result in a cascading effect in the course of time. The famous frenchman, Voltaire, was thrown in Bastille for his bok, CASTRIDE. He had emigrated to lead a free life in England after serving the sentence. Englnad was ready for him. But sadly, only later posthumously, France claimed back its illustrious son with all the adulation. As a step in right direction, I myself invaded the blogs of a few Indian (and US) newspapers including the TOIlet paper. I dont call myself an armchair revolutionary anymore instead I call myself Iam an humble activist now.Stop with stupid classifications like maharashtrians, Bengalis, Gujjus so forth. Those states, remember, gave us Vivekananda, Shivaji and Sardar Patel.The state division is only for ease of administrative purposes and nothing more.cheers…surya, chicago


  17. Unfortunately, some people of her times e.g. R K Dhawan, the original sycophant of the bitch, are speaking up now to make brownie points. These sycophants are not normal sychophants who suck dicks to fulfill certain ambitions. R K Dhawan has gone all too far to say that indira gandhi never wanted to enforce emergency (rediff today). Come to think of it, these coterie of people of indira and rajiv gandhi times have kept the whole nation in dark. now they are marketing themselves to the only saviour sonia mata who might give a reward for the demonstrated loyalty to the lineage. Arjun singh was another such character. He still pays obeisance with his ass facing the graves of nehru and indira and spares no opportunity to praise these devils in human disguise.


  18. I would say this – First Official Dictator of Independent India is Indira Gandhi.

    But first non-official dictator of India is Nehru. He led the partition of India, gave away Kashmir and ensured that his next generations continue to dictate India. He ensured all capable leaders are either wiped out or pushed below (sometimes with the support of Gandhi).

    Bottomline: As you have said time and again, Indians are bunch of retards, hypocrites and self serving individuals who do not know what they are doing and only think of short term gain. It is us who have created this dynasty monster. And we continue to do so and are hugely divided in the name of religion, caste, and language.


  19. And even now, some people tell me, that India will become a super dooper developed nation, when Rahul takes on the job of PM!! I am not joking, some educated people debated with me saying that Rahul understands the plight of the common man and rural areas and will do wonders when elected as PM!!!

    I wonder when will this bunch of morons a.k.a Indians forget the Gandhi family!!


  20. I am shocked to read that it takes just two persons (the PM and the President) to change the country from a democracy to dictatorship! I am not sure what were the lessons learned from this emergency period in India. And nobody was even held responsible for the acts done during the emergency period. No doubt our constitution is so fragile!

    Funny part of it all was that Congress could still get 153 MPs in the Lok Sabha in the elections of 1977. If it were a wise society entire party would have perished in the dust forever


  21. Edvige Antonia Albina Maino was born December 09, 1946 to Stefano and Paola Maino in Lusiana, a little village 30 km from Vicenza in the region of Veneto, Italy. Edvige Antonia Albina Maino spent her adolescence in Orbassano, a town near Turin, attending a Catholic school. In 1964, Edvige Antonia Albina Maino went to study English at the Bell Educational Trust’s language school in the city of Cambridge. She met Rajiv Gandhi, who was enrolled in Trinity College at the University of Cambridge in 1965 at a Greek restaurant while working there, as a waitress to make ends meet. In all three years of Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure at Trinity College had not passed a single examination. Edvige Antonia Albina Maino and Rajiv Gandhi married in 1968.Rajiv Gandhi changed his so called Parsi religion to become a Catholic to marry Edvige Antonia Albina Maino. Rajiv became Roberto. His daughter’s name is Bianca and son’s name is Raul. Quite cleverly the same names are presented to the people of India as Priyanka and Rahul. What is amazing is the extent of Indians’ ignorance in such matters. The press conference that Rajiv Gandhi gave in London after taking over as prime minister of India was very informative. In this press conference, Rajiv Gandhi boasted that he was NOT a Hindu but a Parsi.

    Edvige Antonia Albina Maino was given the name ‘Sonia’ by her late mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. But there is no notification in the gazette regarding this change in name. This change of name runs in Nehru family is to fool the Indian public for their votes. Indira Gandhi’s real name was Indira Priyadarshini. In 1935, Indira joined Shantiniketan,a school set up by Rabindranath Tagore. When Indira was found in the bed with her German teacher at Shantiniketan she was chased out of the Shantiniketan Rabindranath. Subsequently, she went to England and sat for the University of Oxford entrance examination, but she failed, and spent a few months at Badminton School in Bristol, before passing the exam in 1937 and enrolling at Somerville College, Oxford where she never finished her degree. Khushwant Singh, who has personally known Indira Gandhi, has said that she felt uncomfortable around educated people because she had no real education. During her stay in the UK, she frequently met Feroze Khan, whom she knew from Allahabad, and who was studying at the London School of Economics. Before Indira’s marriage, the then Governor of Maharashtra Dr Shriprakash had warned Nehru in a meeting and through a letter, that Indira was having an illicit relationship with Feroze Khan. Feroze Khan was quite sympathetic to Indira and Indira married Feroze Khan in a London mosque as per Islamic rites Feroz Khan after converting herself to Islam. Indira’s muslim name was Maimuna Begum and later both had changed their name to fool the public of India by an affidavit in a court to Indira Gandhi and Feroz Gandhi.

    After Rajiv’s birth Indira and Feroze lived separately, but they were not divorced. Feroze used to interfere in Nehru’s political activities. Nehru got fed up and left instructions not to allow him into the Prime Minister’s residence Trimurthi Bhavan. The death of Feroze in 1960 before he could consolidate his own political forces came as a relief to Nehru and Indira. Feroze had even planned to remarry. The second son of Indira known as Sanjay Gandhi was not the son of Feroze Khan. Sanjay’s real father was Mohammad Yunus who served as India’s ambassador to Turkey, Indonesia, Iraq and Spain. Mohammad Yunus represented India at the Non-Aligned Summits at Lusaka, Algiers, Colombo, New Delhi, and Harare. Baby Sanjay had been circumcised following Islamic custom, although the reason stated was phimosis. Incidentally, Sanjay’s marriage with the Sikh girl Menaka took place quite surprisingly through a civil ceremony(on 23 September 1974)in Mohammad Yunus’ house in New Delhi. And the marriage with Menaka who was a model (she had modelled for Bombay Dyeing wearing just a towel) was not so ordinary either. Sanjay never attended college, but took up an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce in Crewe, England. Sanjay Gandhi’s name was actually Sanjeev Gandhi. He was arrested for a car theft in England. Since his passport had been seized, the then Indian Ambassador to England Krishna Menon changed his name to ‘Sanjay’and procured a new passport for him. Mohammad Yunus who cried the most when Sanjay died in the plane accident.

    At the end of Rajiv Gandhi’s five years in office, the Bofors Scandal broke out. Ottavio Quattrocchi an Italian business man believed to be involved was a friend of Sonia Gandhi, having access to the Prime Minister’s official residence.

    In 1980 Sonia’s name appeared in the voter’s list for New Delhi prior to her becoming an Indian Citizen. At the time she was still holding Italian Citizenship. A violation of Form 4 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, which states that “Only the names of those who are citizens of India should be entered on the electoral rolls.” When she did acquire Indian Citizenship, in April 1983, the same issue cropped up again, as her name appeared on the 1983 voter’s list when the deadline for registering had been in January 1983.

    Swiss magazine Schweitzer Illustrierte in 1991 claimed that Sonia was controlling accounts worth $2 billion US dollars in her son Raul’s name.

    Harvard scholar Yevgenia Albats cited KGB correspondence about payments to Rajiv Gandhi and his family, which had been arranged by Viktor Chebrikov, which shows that KGB chief Viktor Chebrikov sought in writing an “authorization to make payments in U.S. dollars to the family members of Rajiv Gandhi, namely Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Paola Maino, mother of Sonia Gandhi” from the CPSU in December 1985.

    Payments were authorized by a resolution, CPSU/CC/No 11228/3 dated 20 December 1985; and endorsed by the USSR Council of Ministers in Directive No 2633/Rs dated 20 December 1985. These payments had been coming since 1971, as payments received by Sonia Gandhi’s family and “have been audited in CPSU/CC resolution No 11187/22 OP dated 10/12/1984.

    In 1992 the media confronted the Russian government with the Albats disclosure. The Russian government confirmed the veracity of the disclosure and defended it as necessary for “Soviet ideological interest.”

    In 2008 Sonia’s party appointed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Manmohan Singh was the only international leader to initially refuse data provided by the German authorities during 2008 Liechtenstein tax affair.

    Indira didn’t have any knowledge about constitution and constitutional procedures.Indira furthered creation of democratic dictatorship, first kicked off by her father Nehru. Indira never trusted anyone but her family only and so made Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi heroes without any deed during her lifetime. Her leadership plunged India into depths of darkness. India needs enlightened leaders. But it has been getting stupid leaders because the population at large is not “enlightened.”

    For India to get decent leadership, Indians have to change. Indians have to demonstrate that they can take the long view, that they are not willing to vote criminals into office.

    Indians have granted “their obedience by their own consent” to dictators for a long while. The most recent in living memory is Indira Gandhi. Before that it was to their British overlords. Before that to the Islamic invaders.


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