Fifty-six years ago, a man who commanded the respect of all sides of the Lok Sabha stood up to speak on the States Reorganisation Bill to a packed chamber. He represented the constituency of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, but spoke more feelingly on a matter concerning the future of Maharashtra than any MP from Maharashtra itself. That Bombay would form part of Maharashtra was not a foregone conclusion in 1956. These days, when sections of India’s politicos utter grave, mindless idiocies regarding the exclusi-vity of Maharashtra, they would better educate themselves by reading the full text of this speech. The speech was made by exactly the type of regional demographic they condemn, for a cause he supported more astutely than any of them have managed to do. The man was Feroze Gandhi, who was born a hundred years ago, this week, on September 12, 1912, in what was then Bombay.
Son-in-law to one prime minister, husband to another and father to a third, Feroze Gandhi’s life has remained enigmatic, even mysterious. Those who suggest that Feroze Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed only an uneasy relationship should study their exchanges in Parliament. Following the arrest of Ramakrishna Dalmia, implicated in the Bharat Insurance Co irregularities, Dalmia’s son-in-law, the lesser known S.P. Jain, posted his surety. In the heated exchanges, discussing the finer points of the situation, Feroze Gandhi asked in all innocence: “Will the prime minister be pleased to state the relationship of the surety to the accused?” An irritated Panditji could have chosen to answer that question any way he chose but replied: “The same as that of the questioner to the answerer.” The Lok Sabha choked with laughter.
Parliament just concluded a monsoon session last week, which was historic because never has wilful sabotage of parliamentary sovereignty been so callously and shamelessly carried out. The grit, the temperament, the very stuff of which Feroze Gandhi was made would find few takers among most MPs today and no candidates among those who refused to allow Parliament to function as it is supposed to. Despite being one of the most vocal critics of his own government, Feroze Gandhi was yet able to pilot and pass a bill that proved seminal for freedom of the press. Introducing it, he had said: “For the success of our parliamentary form of government and democracy, and so that the will of the people shall prevail, it is necessary that our people should know what transpires in this House. This is not your House, or my House, it’s the House of the People...they have a right to know what their chosen representatives say and do. Anything that stands in the way must be removed.” To those who no longer consider Parliament a ‘House of the People’, what he said may well seem an obscure language.
At home, Feroze Gandhi was a doting (though not spoiling) father. For a man who often complained that 24 hours were not enough for his work, he spent a significant amount of time with his two sons. As a husband, he was less understanding of the particular strains which his wife, as host and consort to her father, was under. Nonetheless, despite the irritation of state protocols which sometimes separated him from “Indu” and the mercurial reactions he had to these enforced separations, their private situation remained better than their enemies hoped, though they were not always as good as friends wished for. Insidious gossip suggested their marriage was over and the fact that Feroze moved into a house of his own (allotted to him as an MP) appeared to be a validation of these rumours. The truth was more mundane, as he himself explained, “As I am a Member of Parliament, all sorts of people come to me. Some are pro-government, some are vehemently anti-government. Some are bright-eyed fellows, and others are dim-witted. Some visit me to have their grievances redressed, others call on me for no reason at all. It would have been wrong in principle for me to receive them all in the prime minister’s house.”
His own space also permitted him to work without inhibition or disturbance, often late into the night. The long hours of effort he spent on constituency matters, parliamentary papers and other political preparation were all stacking up. In September 1958, he suffered his first heart attack. Indira was there to heal him and with his health, the apparent tensions between them recovered too. His second and fatal heart attack occurred two years later, and on September 8, 1960, just four days before his 48th birthday, Feroze Gandhi passed away. Pandit Nehru was numbed with shock and looking at the huge crowds which came to pay reverence to Feroze at his funeral, he remarked, “I did not know that Feroze was so popular—I did not know that he had done so much good for the people of India.”
(The writer’s forthcoming biography of Feroze Gandhi will be published by Roli Books.)
Outlook chose a great personality, Feroze Gandhi, to state the rot in our Parliament in terms of fallen standards of our MPs (Foursquare Feroze, Sep 24). Indeed, Feroze was made of rare and sterling qualities, as was demonstrated in his standing up to the PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, also his father-in-law. But the credit for parliamentarians like Feroze goes to leaders like Nehru, Kidwai, Pant etc, who were the inspiration for young leaders like Feroze.
Sheela P., Delhi
The borrowing of a quote of Feroze Gandhi’s to criticise the BJP’s stalling of Parliament is a bit rich, considering that Mahatma Gandhi listed Asteya (not stealing) as one of his eleven vows.
Vikram Johri, on e-mail
The late Feroze Gandhi towers above today’s self-centred MPs and politicians who have turned India into a state of endless high drama.
Mickie Sorabjee, Mumbai
The author has given interesting information on the private and public life of Feroze Gandhi. It would have really filled a gap if he was more forthcoming on the enigma surrounding Feroze’s birth and parentage.
B.V. Shenoy, Bangalore
Think of a failed politician. Nehru’s son-in-law!
Rishi Vyas, Kangra
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
This is in response to Radhesh Pai S.
Please present truthful and honest evidence for the fact that Mr.Feroze Gandhi was actually born as Feroze Khan. Please don't ask me to Google. I know you get lot of postings with false accusations and evidence and every one with atleast an IQ of 50 know who these people are and to which organization they belong to.They are worse than Nazi.
Without delving into his personal beliefs and marital controversies, it suffices that born a Parsee, late Feroze Gandhi towers above today's self-centered MPs and Politicians who have turned India from the Land of Rama into a State of endless High Drama. We have a Drama Queen pitched in the East, and a King of Drama digging his heels in the West, with yet another UPping his ante in UP; not forgetting others of their ilk across the pan-Indian political board regrettably scattered across the length and breadth of our groaning country.
In the last 65 Years of Independent India, we had 58 Years of CON-gress rule (directly or indirectly or part of coalition). And huge amount of money, time and space has been spent to glorify and propagate the "GOODNESS" of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
But one question is - why is that the CON party, which has mostly ruled India since independence, has nothing to remember and worship about the man who was the SIL of J Nehru (17 year PM of India), the Husband of I Gandhi (PM of India for 15 years) and the Father of Rajiv Gandhi (PM for 5 years) and Father In Law of Saint Sonia (who is effectively ruling India last 8 and Half years)..
How many statues of Feroz Gandhi are erected ? ZERO
How many roads,bridges, universities, govt scemes are named after Feroz Gandhi ? ZERO
How many people remember the birthday and death day of Feroz Gandhi ? ZERO.
Feroz Gandhi may have been a Parsi or Muslim or whatever , but that is not the real issue.
The real issue is how CON-gress and its ruling dynasty and the Media has completely forgotten Feroz Gandhi..
Now substitute Feroz Gandhi with LB shastri or PVNR and examine the above questions, the answers will still be the same..
Now after reading all this, think if should this DYNASTY that thrives on deceit and lies still continue at DELHI?
Think on this.. The next elections may not be far off...
if you are realistic enough you should also be bold enough to admit that Feroze Gandhi became a persona non grata in his own father-in-law's house. His wife who later became PM was ashamed to even mention his name and also to acknowledge her marriage to him.
As for Feroze Gandhi's transformation from Feroze Khan to Feroze Gandhi, please spend five inutes to google and you will have plenty of proof.
s for the man himself, I have paid him sincere respect for his human qualities. As you are aware, in our mythology, Prahlad was born to a human fiend, who had to be slaughtered by Lord Vishnu.
That doesn't mean we should not know who Feroze's father really was.
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