Letter to Philip Potter | Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios

Dear Philip,

I am thankful to you for sending us a copy of your letter addressed to Mrs. Indira Gandhi on October 9. I have also received a letter, Leopold addressed to our Church on October 22. Our Church bodies are yet to have an opportunity to study these letters officially. However I intend to give you a sum up of the outcome of informal discussions I had with a few groups and my personal conversations with some individuals who evinced interest in this matter.

For sure, it is not within my authority to respond to a letter you addressed to our Prime Minister. She will give you a suitable reply at an opportune time. As far as I perceive, most Indians are a lot angered mentally. All of them are not employed by the government. They are of the view that you have demonstrated a sort of senselessness in writing such a letter to the Prime Minister and that it is nothing but an encroachment to the internal affairs of India on the one hand and not throwing enough light into the crux of the real issue on the other.

Indeed, I tried my best to make my friends understand that the World Council of Churches is a body that is keenly anxious about the welfare of humankind and that they have interfered to convince those in power wherever there were incidents attacking the basic human rights of people. The following are the main issues you presented in your letter:

  1. You have expressed concern on arresting many people purely on political grounds and keeping them in jails without trials thereby denying them protection of courts of justice.
  2. You have commented that the action of the government taking over the authority to arrest and keep people in jails without issuing charge sheets under the guise of amended internal security regulations and denying them all personal freedom are nothing but serious aggressions on human rights of citizens.
  3. The state of Emergency was extended beyond three months.
  4. You have stated that the control imposed on information media is tantamount to denying opportunities equally to all segments of citizens to take part in national development processes.
  5. You have expressed the necessity to free political detainees and to reinstate democratic rights.
  6. You have appealed to release Jayaprakash Narayanan and such others who have been maintaining moral ethics and truthfulness in politics.

I am aware that the Council of Churches has its own centers to gather information. Moreover, your working committee is well equipped with people who are good enough to collect data and evaluate situations. Yet, your letter does not carry any hints as to whether you have comprehended well enough to discuss anything at depth regarding the issues under these circumstances. However, I am thankful to the letter from Leopold calling for our opinion as Christians living in this scenario.

I believe, you will pardon me if I say that the theoretical framework you have formulated to evaluate the current circumstances is too inadequate in my view.

You say about primary human rights and the recognized modalities associated with democratic processes. Shouldn’t we, as Christians, have concern about the democratic system we have as one that provides opportunities to the wealthy and powerful to exploit and subjugate the poor? Do you think that it is possible for the ordinary men and women to approach courts of justice or they are protected by other legal systems in most democratic countries? Can we say that whatever is expressed through the media of democratic nations reflect the views of the ordinary public?

One lacuna I have noted in your letter is your not making any mention of the circumstances that led to proclamation of a national internal emergency. By specifically demanding the release of Jayaprakash Narayanan at this stage, I see your joining hands with right wing and left wing democratic extremists who are taking the nation to a rebellion through non democratic insurgences. The latest news we have is that Jayaprakash is being released on parole. I don’t find any injustice in having arrested or detained him.

I can affirmatively say that by proclaiming national emergency, participation of common men in national processes has not diminished at all. This doesn’t mean that I have any great appreciation to the measure of common man’s participation in national development processes prior to declaration of emergency.

If at all there is any dilution at any stage, such dilution pertains to the role played by the wealthy gang of people who have been controlling our daily news papers. I don’t feel that the control imposed over them is not an issue warranting this much anxiety. May be, our news papers are somewhat dry now compared to what they used to be in the past. It is true that they are now under control.  The reason behind this is that they were causing damages to the political ambience of our country by publishing exaggerated pieces of news and views propagated by the right wing and left wing extremist groups. It is not true that news papers are the most important vehicle opening way for the involvement of common man in the nation building process. Ordinary men and women take part in such process even now as they were doing before.

Let me record my firm view here that the government initiatives or national programs we have here are far from adequate for eradication of poverty or reinstatement of justice. I am not at all justifying the current capitalist system of governance prevailing here in the name of a socialist model. However, destroying the existing system without working out ways and means to sustain a political structure based on democratic principles can give rise to inexplicable sufferings to the millions of common men and women here.

During the time of Mrs. Gandhi’s government, the strong wealthy segment in India was not allowed complete freedom. She questioned the high level influence they were enjoying in the economy. Attempts to contain corruption and anti national activities as also the nationalization of major banks were strong indications of this.

Anti Indira movement came up as a sequel to the strong outrages initiated by the right wing extremists. At the same time, left wing extremists showed interest to exploit extreme right wing powers for their selfish agendum. Marxist Communist Party of India has been showing signs of annihilation consequent to the short cuts they have been employing and the lack of discipline within themselves. They are spreading anarchy exclusively for their survival through regeneration. They have no hesitation to align with religious fanatics or fascists to achieve their goal. They engage themselves in anti democratic and anti parliamentary activities. Jayaprakash is a politician with proven immaturity on the one hand and remarkable sanctity of ideas on the other. He was a sign of patriotism embedded in sacrifices and a prominent disciple of Vinoba Bhave, the Indian patriarch and an apolitical leader, but transformed as the central point for right – left extremist powers to come together.  (He had already broken his relationship with Vinoba Bhave)  I shall explain his political immaturity through two of his classic characteristics.

His personal enmity for Mrs. Gandhi made him pass cheap comments to degrade her before the public.

In the absence of a platform with constructive ideas and clarity, all opposition parties chose to join together.

I am quite sure that the enlightened people of India are well aware that Jayaprakash possesses no better talents than that of Mrs. Indira Gandhi to take up the leadership of a government.

He succeeded in earning good following in Gujarat with help of Morarji Desai. Morarji was a pioneer proponent of capitalism in India and was the chief opponent to Mrs. Indira Gandhi; however, he doesn’t have a political future now. The wealthy bigwigs of India and Western countries took interest to make him the supreme power here; but Mrs. Gandhi literally crushed him. His ill feelings to Mrs. Gandhi can be compared with only that of Jayaprakash. He has expressed his desire to join hands not only with the backfired out of the date congressmen but also with the religious fanatics such as Janasangh and RSS. Western governments are extending their support to someone like Jayaprakash. WCC shall not be a party to be supportive to such people.

The movements of protest have been far distanced from non violence. Lots of ugly methodologies were employed such as murder, setting things to fire, looting, Gherao, Bandh and the like. New innovations of these kinds are invented under new names. Parliament members are being threatened to resign. Minister of Railways is assassinated. An attempt was made at the life of the Chief Justice of India. Things are moving like this leading the nation to a sort of anarchy.  We are seeing what is happening in Bangladesh, our neighbor country. We are hopeful of avoiding a similar scenario in India.

Jayaprakash called upon the people to engage in anti democratic activities. He forcibly made members of parliament to resign, imposed Gherao on them, initiated steps to freeze normal functioning of government offices, persuaded people not to pay taxes, worked out parallel governing system, stood against legal court’s rulings, called upon armed forces to revolt and so on. He took up the responsibility of spreading violence on himself and turned out to be the spokesperson thereof. Not that he did not stand for basic human rights, but was against them. By extending support to him, one is aligning with the enemies of democratic processes.

According to what I understand, Mrs. Indira Gandhi saved the country by proclaiming internal emergency. Before emergency came into force, economy of the country was on the verge of a collapse. Moreover, the political anarchy would have caused a total breakdown or explosion of the system.

Had the media been totally free, pieces of news would have reached far and wide causing such a breakdown and revolution spread all over the country. Putting them under effective control was necessary to avoid a situation of political anarchy. Evil forces would have used news papers for spreading anarchy because the wealthy segments of the society were overseeing them.

It is necessary that the internal emergency continue for some more time. It is dangerous to withdraw it at this stage.

A large number of political detainees stand released as of now without any publicity. Most of the detainees now are black marketers, dealers of contraband goods, smugglers and such other criminals.

Had they been left free from detention, they would have succeeded in seeking counsel from the highly efficient lawyers who are capable to create adequate loop holes in the legal system to get them released. They have enough and more financial strength for this.

The legitimate economic structure of the country is growing fast. What stands shattered is the illegal economy of black money. This has been causing troubles to the industry producing luxurious products. Consequent to the internal emergency, this is one issue that stands regulated. This is an issue common to Asian, African and Latin American countries which needs to be tackled with utmost care.

In short, based on the different issues covered in your letter, I am summing up below, what I have as a reply for you.

  1. A large number of people are arrested and detained in jails without any trials. I am not sure about their number. But a good number of them stand released.
  2. Majority of such detainees are from RSS who are fascists in nature and also a few Ananda Margis. Smugglers, black marketers and dealers of contraband goods are another segment of detainees. Along with them, there are a few Sarvodaya leaders and some belonging to CPM. There is justification in asking the government to publish the details of those who are under detention.
  3. I don’t think that detainees are being tortured in their confinement. There may be some complaints here and there that some Police officers have used the alibi of emergency to settle scores with others. Government is ready to rectify mistakes and to give compensation to those who have experiences of misuse of emergency, provided complaints with full details are submitted to the concerned authorities.
  4. There are a few reports about low grade jail employees having misbehaved with detainees. However, there are no reasons to believe that there are systematic and orderly harassments on detainees. I have spoken to some of the released detainees on this issue.
  5. We have incidents of human rights being violated. However, most of the detainees are black market dealers and smugglers. Therefore, inconveniences to common men are too rare.
  6. There were open discussions and sharp attack on government during four or five meetings organized about the current national scenario in which I had participated. As you feel, people are not staying inside with mouths shut off in fear, at least until now. Though outcome of such discussions unfavorable to the government are not published through media, there are open discussions among us.
  7. The internal emergency may be extended for a few more months. The demand for an early withdrawal of emergency is justifiable, but it is not that crucial an issue. I am confident that it will be withdrawn at the right time.
  8. I don’t wish to fall into the trap of a few positives of autocratic regimes at the cost of their short term gains. Moreover, I don’t propose that the state of emergency can answer all our long term problems. Yet, I take the quick gains thereof as worthy.

(a)   The irresponsible activities and political agitations of students and public are now under control which has created an atmosphere of responsibility all over. This sense of discipline may last for some time.

(b)  There has been considerable improvement in the efficiency of governance at Central and state administrations.

(c)   There has been a peaceful atmosphere in most of our industrial belts that targeted growth is achieved. The shattered public sector got vitalized all on a sudden.

(d)  The large parallel economic structure that was very active in the country defying all laws of the land such as black money, contraband goods, bribery, hoarding and the like has been exposed and brought under control. As of now, this field is not seen, by and large. Withdrawal of emergency may cause its resurgence.

(e)  So long Mrs. Gandhi is in power, wealthy bigwigs would not be allowed to overturn the common men.  She may have to compromise here and there looking into the forthcoming elections, but we hope that such compromises would be within certain limits.

  1. Your arguments about people getting involved in the nation building process are not formulated systematically. Allowing freedom of press, freedom to organize and freedom of expression need not make public involvement a reality. These types of freedom are necessary in a community, no doubt. Before proclamation of emergency, all these were available here in large measures. Yet, involvement of people was a big zero. The reason thereof can be attributed to formulation of national schemes and their implementation confined to legalities and the conservative methodologies of putting them on field by government officials.

There were no efficient efforts from the Congress party to raise cadets trained in the basics of agriculture and industries. Our future rests in these elements even now. Such things are not within the freedom to get organized and expressing opinions as the western ideological philosophers openly believe. Leopold, in his letter has pointed out the weakness of Christians to align with the statuesque that is not subject to criticism yet, too emotional in character, which is a consequence of their over dependence and high regard for law and order. You are well aware that I have brought up these issues openly in many of my speeches. However, the prophetic culture that is emotional, but not subject to being criticized, shall be viewed by me with an equally critical mind. I believe that the ultimate virtues of Christianity are the open statements criticizing the statuesque. Our liberal minded Christian brethren often fall into timely and untimely prophetic culture which is sort of middle class weakness.

Let me record here that I have discordance with many of the statements of Mr MM Thomas, the current President of Central Committee.  I don’t say that he wishes to be a martyr. I don’t even say that he is endangering something which other Christians should not endanger, just utilizing his international position. My opposition to him lies with his criticisms that do not contain enough depth or farsightedness, causing others to lose way. I feel, it is enough that we need to have an open debate on these issues only after  private discussions with MM Thomas, Leopold and Ninan Koshy at Nairobi.

After you’re taking over the charge, and going forward with the heavy tasks of the first assembly, I wish you that you are showered with Providential Blessings.

My loving regards to you and Derrin.

In harmony with Christ,

Paulos Gregorios

(Translated from Malayalam by George Joseph Enjakkattil)

ഇന്ത്യന്‍ അടിയന്തിരാവസ്ഥയെക്കുറിച്ച് ഫിലിപ്പ് പോട്ടര്‍ക്ക് എഴുതിയ കത്ത്