How Indira Gandhi Systematically Targetted Ramnath Goenka

The second part of the essay recounting the manner in which Ramnath Goenka, businessman and builder of The Indian Express newspaper was systematically hounded by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi before and during the Emergency.

Read Part 1: How Ramnath Goenka Outwitted Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at her Own Game: A Preface


Does the name Paul von Hindenburg mean anything? Does it even figure in the proverbial, “popular imagination” across the globe? In fact, does it even evoke any reaction in a majority section of the Far Left-dominated academia?  Paul von Hindenburg was the president of the Weimar Republic who signed the fatal Enabling Act of 1933, effectively ushering in Adolf Hitler’s genocidal dictatorship for the next twelve years.

Thirty years later, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had her own Hitlerian moment when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed signed the equally-fatal proclamation of Emergency on 25 June 1975. Her dictatorship was extremely short-lived in comparison.

But then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had her Hitlerian moment. Only the moment. The actual Indian Hitler descended upon the country in the form of her son, Sanjay Gandhi. Both were alike in their pathological lack of and total disregard for basic humanity. Both, quite obviously, surrounded themselves with sycophants, flatterers, mouthpieces, pamphleteers, and…oh well, willing slaves.

While the stories of the appalling horrors of the Emergency are mostly well-known, the full story of how total slavery became the only and the most prized qualification for a career in the Congress party and its sewer-like, Sultanate durbar still needs to be written.

Think of M F Hussain, the alleged painter who painted Indira Gandhi as Maa Durga riding a lion. If that’s familiar, here’s something that is less-known. On the Congress annual jamboree held on 28 December 1975 in Chandigarh, this bearded, boggy, barefooted bigot exhibited his limitless capacity for dynasty bootlicking by unveiling canvases showing paintings of horses galloping past twenty posts. The infamous 20-point programme that Indira Gandhi thrust upon the nation during the emergency. At the same junket, the Kuchipudi danseuse Yamini Krishnamurthy, to her everlasting shame, performed a dance piece modelled on the Ramayana, characterized as Indirayana, a toady ode to dictator Indira Gandhi.

Pull out the list of various writers, actors, artists, and cultural luminaries who were extolled and awarded and rewarded during that period…actually, go farther back to Nehru’s era and prepare a similar list…you’ll be surprised what you’ll find.

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The Emergency ended.

But it injected a permanent sickness on the body politic of Bharata. It institutionalised slavery. Made it respectable, even. As a speck-like sample of this vomit-inducing sickness, we can cite the following.  

Sri Sanjay Gandhi, the prince sleeps in peace. 33 years old and too young to die. Beloved mother, the honourable PM, the iron lady of our nation, humanity bows before you in this hour of your grief… but unfortunately, life is a bubble and every day is a bonus. We can only pray to God that he grants us this bonus and youth as long as Providence and mortality permits to guide the destiny of our nation, which is synonymous with your being… The nation and I salute the sleeping prince…I dedicate my loyalty to loving memory of the prince who I never met but who I salute and hope to meet in judgment before the Almighty.  Inshallah!

That was the opening monologue delivered by Feroz Khan as a prelude to his sleazy 1980 movie, Qurbani.

It’s astonishing how quickly people adapt themselves to slavery. Especially when it is rewarding. When the Lal Krishna Advani of those days made the famous remark that the media crawled when it was merely asked to bend, little did he anticipate how artistically the media would innovate the said crawling. If there was even a pretence of courage left, the media wholly abandoned it after the emergency was lifted. It chose to jump right into bed with the schmucks in the highest rungs of the Congress leadership. Yes, it would criticize the Congress party and the dynasty but only so far. The disastrous decade of 2004-14 has shown that the media has dropped even that facade and has since begun to brazen out its allegiance to the Congress dynasty.

When Rahul Gandhi’s thug-in-chief, Anand Sharma, on live TV threatened government officials of dire consequences more than a week ago, it was entirely consistent with Indira Gandhi’s emergency tradition. Of course, over time, the Congress has developed more permanent methods…sudden and unexplained chopper crashes being a favourite one. The usual suspects in the media didn’t even croak a protest.

One of the proven methods of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to hunt and break down her powerful critics—“enemies” is a rather strong word because she would crush any potential enemy in the bud—was harassment. Unremitting, multipronged harassment. Opening your letters. Tapping your phone. Nonstop surveillance. CBI and IT raids. Targeted electricity and water shutdowns. Stalking your family members. Repeated phone calls from strange people. When all these didn’t break you, the dreaded finale would descend: Solzhenitsyn’s proverbial midnight-knock-on-your-door. Quite naturally, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was heavily inspired by this highly-effective Stalinist method.  

And she unleashed all except the last method on Ramnath Goenka because this shrewd businessman and strategic fighter believed in living to fight another day and chose a temporary retreat.

It is difficult to fully appreciate Ramnath Goenka’s courageous legacy in taking Indira and Sanjay Gandhi head-on at the height of the emergency without giving some details of this terror-ridden atmosphere.


Here’s how he begins to narrate it. From Indira Gandhi’s usurpation of absolute power in 1969.

The Government of India got so much identified with the interest of the ruling party…after the Congress split in 1969 and it looked upon me not as a dissenter of the Congress party…but as a potential enemy of the Government of India…For those who were not following closely the politics of subtle and open harassment and coercion at that time…the later happenings might be a surprise, but not to…me who was…a victim of harassment and duress at the hands of the Government for running a newspaper…which remained and wanted to remain independent, uninfluenced by the political centre of power… I resisted such pressures submission to which would amount to intellectual and moral capitulation…My resistance only brought forth…more intensified harassment and…[between] 1969 to 1972 there was an attempt to liquidate me and my companies financially by making several false allegations by using the…Income Tax Department, the Central Bureau of Investigation and other official agencies.

On the subject of false allegations, PM Indira Gandhi used the services of the most eminent presstitute of that period: the despicable Russi Karanjia, editor of the squalid tabloid named Blitz. In 1972, the Blitz ran a shameless smear campaign against Ramnath Goenka as a series of propaganda pieces with such titles as “Goenka Golmal.” In many ways, he provided the unethical intellectual seed capital for today’s presstitutes like Tarun Tejpal & co. Russi Karanjia also mentored such torrid eminences as P. Sainath and Teesta Setalvad. A certain Sudheendra Kulkarni once poured gushing praise on Karanjia. Like peas in a pod, etc. But in the interests of fair disclosure, it must be said that Karanjia later became a very vocal supporter of the BJP and the Ram Mandir movement. Not that it absolves him in any manner.

How we digress!

Ramnath Goenka continues.

I submit that the values for which the freedom fight was waged in India…were gradually given up by the Congress party and the freedom to express dissenting views was looked upon…as a luxurious right. The ruling Congress party took several steps to obtain control over the Express Newspapers by…sustained bureaucratic aggression. The first serious attempt to gain control of Express Newspapers was made in 1972 when the Government of India passed an order…appointing two persons being nominees of the Government to hold office as Directors for…two years… The symbolic democracy in India eclipsed with the declaration of emergency on 26th June 1975…[however] for me and my publication at Delhi emergency was declared prior to mid-night of 25th June itself… The electricity supply to the area in which my Delhi office is situated was cut off and the Indian Express could not be brought out on 26th morning… After having arrested the opposition leaders and workers, imposed press censorship and deprived the citizens of liberties, the Government of India, i.e. the ruling party turned towards me in the third week of July 1975.

In other words, it was now time for Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to tick off the next item in her sick bucket list. The multipronged attack was launched simultaneously on two main fronts: family and business.

The attack on Goenka’s family was the open threat of imprisoning his son B.D. Goenka and his samdhi, Shriyanprasad Jain under the draconian MISA law, which my school Civics textbook hailed as an important legislation to bolster national security and foster a spirit of patriotism. The actual threat to Goenka’s family was carried out by two servile hitmen. The first was the reptilian D.K. Barooah of “India is Indira. Indira is India” infamy. The second was Rajni Patel, grandfather of actress Ameesha Patel.

The attack on Ramnath Goenka’s businesses and the Indian Express was of an entirely different magnitude. It was spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi who unleashed his own Joseph Goebbels to do the actual dirty work. That man’s name is Vidya Charan Shukla.

Continued in the next part.

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Sandeep Balakrishna
Writer, author, and translator. Author of the bestselling "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore," "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History," and "Seventy Years of Secularism." English translator of Dr. S L Bhyrappa's blockbuster Kannada novel, "Aavarana".