The death of Feroze in 1960 before he could consolidate his own political
try to keep tabs on our leaders in spite of all the suppressions and
deliberate misinformation, are aware of the fact that the second son of
Indira (Mrs. Feroze Khan) known as Sanjay Gandhi was not the son of Feroze.
He was the son of another Moslem gentleman, Mohammad Yunus. Here, in
passing, we might mention that the second son was originally named Sanjiv.
It rhymed with Rajiv, the elder brother’s name. It was changed to Sanjay
when he was arrested by the British police in England and his passport
impounded, for having stolen a car. Krishna Menon was then India ‘s High
Commissioner in London . He offered to issue another passport to the felon
who changed his name to Sanjay. Incidentally, Sanjay’s marriage with the
Sikh girl Menaka (for Indira Gandhi found the name of Lord Indra’s court
dancer rather offensive!) took place quite surprisingly 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 was notorious in getting unwed young women pregnant. Menaka too was!
rendered pregnant by Sanjay. It was then that her father, Colonel Anand,
threatened Sanjay with dire consequences if he did not marry her daughter.
And that did the trick. Sanjay married Menaka.
It was widely reported in Delhi at the time that Mohammad Yunus was unhappy
at the marriage of Sanjay with Menaka; apparently he had wanted to get him
married with a Muslim girl of his choice. It was Mohammad Yunus who cried
the most when Sanjay died in the plane accident. In Yunus’ book,’Persons,
Passions & Politics’ one discovers that baby Sanjay had been circumcised
following Islamic custom, although the reason stated was phimosis. It was
always believed that Sanjay used to blackmail Indira Gandhi and due to this
she used to turn a blind eye when Sanjay Gandhi started to run the country
as though it were his personal fiefdom. Was he black mailing her with the
secret of who his real father was? When the news of Sanjay’s death reached
Indira Gandhi, the first thing she wanted to know was about the bunch of
keys which Sanjay had with him.
Nehru was no less a player in producing bastards. At least one case is very
graphically described by M. O. Mathai in his “Reminiscences of the Nehru
Age”, page 206. Mathai writes: “In the autumn of 1948 ( India became free in
1947 and a great deal of work needed to be done) a young woman from Benares
arrived in New Delhi as a sanyasin named Shraddha Mata (an assumed and not a
real name). She was a Sanskrit scholar well versed in the ancient Indian
scriptures and mythology. People, including MPs, thronged to her to hear her
discourses. One day S. D. Upadhyaya, Nehru’s old employee, brought a letter
in Hindi from Shraddha Mata. Nehru gave her an interview in the PM’s house.
As she departed, I noticed (Mathai is speaking here) that she was young,
shapely and beautiful. Meetings with her became rather frequent, mostly
after Nehru finished his work at night. During one of Nehru’s visits to
Lucknow, Shraddha Mata turned up there, and Upadhyaya brought a letter from
her as usual. Nehru sent her the reply; and she visited Nehru at midnight
“Suddenly Shraddha Mata disappeared. In November 1949 a convent in Bangalore
sent a decent looking person to Delhi with a bundle of letters. He said that
a young woman from northern India arrived at the convent a few months ago
and gave birth to a baby boy. She refused to divulge her name or give any
particulars about herself. She left the convent as soon as she was well
enough to move out but left the child behind. She however forgot to take
with her a small cloth bundle in which, among other things, several letters
in Hindi were found. The Mother Superior, who was a foreigner, had the
letters examined and was told they were from the Prime Minister. The person
who brought the letters surrendered them…
“I (Mathai) made discreet inquiries repeatedly about the boy but failed to
get a clue about his whereabouts. Convents in such matters are extremely
tightlipped and secretive. Had I succeeded in locating the boy, I would have
adopted him. He must have grown up as a Catholic Christian blissfully
ignorant of who his father was.”
Coming back to Rajiv Gandhi, we all know now that he changed his so called
Parsi religion to become a Catholic to marry Sania Maino of Turin , Italy .
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 our people’s 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 boasted that he was NOT a Hindu but a Parsi. Mind you, speaking of the
Parsi religion, he had no Parsi ancestor at all. His grandmother (father’s
mother) had turned Muslim after having abandoned the Parsi religion to marry
Nawab Khan. It is the western press that waged a blitz of misinformation on
behalf of Rajiv. From the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times and the
Washington Post, the big guns raised Rajiv to heaven.
The children’s encyclopedias recorded that Rajiv was a qualified Mechanical
Engineer from the revered University of Cambridge . No doubt US kids are
among the most misinformed in the world today! The reality is that in all
three years of his tenure at that University Rajiv had not passed a single
examination. He had therefore to leave Cambridge without a certificate.
Sonia too had the same benevolent treatment. She was stated to be a student
in Cambridge . Such a description is calculated to mislead Indians. She was
a student in Cambridge all right but not of the University of Cambridge but
of one of those fly by night language schools where foreign students
come to learn English. Sonia was working as an ‘au pair’ girl in Cambridge
and trying to learn English at the same time. And surprise of surprises,
Rajiv was even cremated as per vedic rites in full view of India ‘s public.
Few journalists interacted with Indira Gandhi the way Khushwant Singh, doyen of Indian journalism, did. As editor of the now defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India and later The Hindustan Times, he was witness to some of the most historic moments in Indira Gandhi’s 16-year-long rule.
Now 90, Khushwant Singh’s door has a warning: ‘Do not ring the bell unless you are expected.’ The years have not numbed his extremely sharp mind as he took a journey down memory lane with Deputy Managing Editor Amberish K Diwanji to recreate the life of Indira Gandhi.
The first of a series of interviews and features on rediff.com to mark Indira Gandhi’s 20th death anniversary.
Twenty years later, how do you look back on Indira Gandhi?
There are two aspects to Indira Gandhi: one as the politician and the other as a human being.
As a politician, it is common knowledge about her but as a human being, very few know about her, such as her family and her staff. The rest is conjecture and make believe.
How did you get to know her?
I first met her when she was still unmarried and came to Lahore on her way to Kashmir, and she was staying with friends who had brought her over.
I have a photograph of her at our house. She was very shy and wouldn’t talk much.
I next met her when she was president of the Congress. It was at a meeting over which she was presiding and I was speaking on Madam Cama, I think. Then when she became information and broadcasting minister in (Lal Bahadur) Shastri’s government, I was asked to do an article for TheNew York Timeson the possibility of her becoming prime minister.
The article was an adverse account because I quoted people saying her leading the country was not possible. India has never been led by a woman. We might have had a Razia Sultan but that was it. I also said she was not qualified except for being Nehru’s daughter and the fact that she had no political base except for having become Congress president by her father.
But she did become prime minister, with the second longest tenure till date?The fact is after Shastri, people did not want Gulzarilal Nanda or Morarji Desai, and so she became prime minister, selected by a bunch who thought they could control her. But this bunch had not reckoned with her innate political sense or that being prime minister has its own power.
She soon sidelined Morarji Desai and others like Kamaraj. She really ruled a bit like a dictator. People would say the Cabinet has only one man (Indira Gandhi) and that the rest are all hijras (eunuchs), but the fact is she reduced them to that level.