How Post Card News spread lies about Indira Gandhi and Shantiniketan

Written by Ujjawal Krishnam | Published on: June 27, 2018

Letters exchanged between Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore remember Indira and her work at Shantiniketan


Rabindernath Tagore

The act of conspiracy and lust for power coupled together can spell a disaster for the minimum balance in a developing democracy like ours. A conspiracy theory is not only funny, it sometimes proves to be dangerous, it may invite hate, sometimes violence and can also catalyse heinous genocide. Several incidents of rioting and recent lynching of minorities in the suspicion of beef eating, catapult a sense of fear among conscious citizens. It becomes important for us, being conscious citizens of our nation, to hunt the conspiracy theory and expose the strings of hate before they dismantle us.

One among many is the Indira-Shantiniketan conspiracy theory. We, as constituents of internet-driven world village, are hugely dependent on the internet for fact-finding. Our search engine optimization is a good tool and we prefer not to slide down the first page of search engine results as the search metric may not be wrong and we usually tend to think so. Driven by curiosity, I took the help of Google and preferably surfed for ‘Indira Gandhi Shantiniketan’ and what it led me to was utterly shocking. A Quora question and several answers to it, several views and several upvotes to the apparent conspiracy theories. Then, I visited answers’ profile and none appeared fake, but yes, they were strongly misinformed. Their references to the conspiracy theory were echoing it all. One among several others was a pro-Khalistani blog ‘Indira Gandhi and The Shameless Nehru Dynasty.’ It has many stubs, one headline counted ‘Indira Priyadarshini perpetuated immorality in the Nehru dynasty.’ Several social media shares made it quite evident that it was a conspiracy theory triggered by bias.

But accused is not convicted unless proof uncovers the crime. Situated in the cultural capital of Gujarat state is Smt. Hansa Mehta Library which has an immense access to preserved books, manuscripts and data, some banned even. I accessed the original print of ‘A Bunch of Old Letters: Being Mostly Written to Jawaharlal Nehru and Some Written by Him,’ published in 1958 by Jawaharlal Nehru himself. To my surprise, index contained several references to the letters written by Rabindranath Tagore to Jawaharlal Nehru.

Here are some relevant to the context:
 
In a letter dated April 20, 1935, Gurudev writes to Pt. Nehru from Uttarayan, Shantiniketan, Bengal.
-----•-------•-----
[Nehru’s introduction to the letter: Owing to the rapid deterioration in my wife's health, it was decided to send her to Europe for treatment. I was then in Almora Jail and I continued to remain there, though I was allowed out for a day to visit Bhawali Sanatorium to bid her good-bye. My daughter, Indira, who was at Santiniketan, accompanied her mother to Europe.]

My dear Jawaharlal,
It is with a heavy heart we bade farewell to Indira, for she was such an asset in our place. I have watched her very closely and have felt admiration for the way you have brought her up. Her teachers, all in one voice, praise her and I know she is extremely popular with the students. I only hope things will turn for the better and she will soon return here and get back to her studies. I could hardly tell you how sad I feel when I think of your wife's sufferings-but I am sure, the sea voyage and the treatment in Europe will do her immense good and she would be her old self again before long. With my affectionate blessings,
Yours,
- Rabindranath Tagore

In another letter dated October 9, 1935, he recounts,
-----•-------•-----
My dear Jawaharlal,
We have anxiously been following in the daily papers the news of your wife's illness watching for some favourable signs of improvement. I earnestly hope that the amazing strength of mind which she has shown through all the vicissitudes of her life will help her. Please convey to her my kindest wishes.

Every winter Visvabharati rudely reminds me of the scantiness of her means, for that is the season when I have to stir myself to go out for gathering funds. It is a hateful trial for me-this begging business either in the guise of entertaining people or appealing to the generosity of those who are by no means generous. I try to exult in a sense of martyrdom accepting the thorny crown of humiliation and futility without complaining. Should I not keep in mind for my consolation what you are going through yourself for the cause which is dearer to you than your life and your personal freedom? But the question which often troubles my mind is whether it is worth my while to exhaust my energy laboriously picking up minute crumbs of favour from the tables of parsimonious patron~ or keep my mind fresh by remaining aloof from the indignity of storing up disappointments. But this possibly is my excuse for shirking unpleasantness. I have asked Mahatmaji for lending me his voice which he has kindly consented to. Of course, his influence is likely to meet with a greater success than I can ever hope to attain. I must not forget to tell you that Sir Tej Bahadur also has promised to support me.

Kindly remember me to dear Indira. I hope some day or other she will find an opportunity to revisit our ashram and revise her memory of those few months which she had spent here making us happy.
With love,
Yours,
- Rabindranath Tagore

Again, in a letter dated December 21, 1936, Indira Gandhi finds mentions,
------•-------•------
My dear Jawaharlal,
I am indeed deeply touched by Indira's affectionate reference to me in her letter. She is a charming child who has left behind a very pleasant memory in the minds of her teachers and fellow students. She has your strength of character as well as your ideas and I am not surprised she finds herself rather alien to the complacent English society. When you write to her next, kindly give her my blessings. We are in the midst of our anniversary celebrations and, I am afraid, the crowd and the activity mean now a great strain on my physical resources. But I wisely refrain from comparing my lot with that of yours !! With affectionate blessings,
Yours sincerely,
- Rabindranath Tagore

These mentions completely uproot the foundations of misinformation and an evolving conspiracy theory. There existed some loopholes in the career of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, that could be the declaration of Emergency or something else, but to my best view, this is certainly not the one.

Postcard News, a known mouthpiece of right-wing ideology, published an article on Indira Gandhi: ‘My 12 years of sex life with Indira Gandhi came to an end after I saw her with another man behind the curtain: M.O Mathai.’ It earned more than a hundred thousand shares on social media. Recently, Bengaluru police booked co-founder of Postcard News for spreading false information against a Jain monk. Mahesh Hegde, currently out on bail, continues to peddle the ‘fake news.’
The question is why? Why are we so blind? Or, are we preferably neutrally biased?





An answer to this can easily be constructed on the principle of a coin toss where probability to cash a favourable outcome remains totally dependent on the fact whether the event is fairly unbiased or not. Else, the agenda remains constant. The probability of unfavourable outcome undeniably remains one.

Author is a research scholar at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and serves as an editor to Academia.edu. He writes on Indian polity and jurisprudence