‘Attack Me…Not Freedom Fighters’: Ro KhannaMar 29, 2023 | Pratirodh Bureau
US Congressman Ro Khanna has come out in support of his late maternal grandfather Amarnath Vidyalankar, who drew flak on social media recently for supporting former prime minister Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, asserting, “Attack me. Don’t attack India’s freedom fighters.”
Last week, Khanna, a Democrat, termed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha as a “deep betrayal” of Gandhian philosophy. Gandhi, the former Congress president, was disqualified from the Lok Sabha last week, after a court in Surat in the state of Gujarat convicted him in a defamation case.
“The expulsion of Rahul Gandhi from parliament is a deep betrayal of Gandhian philosophy and India’s deepest values,” Khanna said in a recent tweet. “This is not what my grandfather sacrificed years in jail for,” the 46-year-old Indian-American politician added.
After his post in support of Gandhi, Khanna was reminded on social media that his late grandfather Vidyalankar, a Gandhian, was a supporter of former prime minister Indira Gandhi during the time of Emergency.
“Though it seems as If Ro has forgotten that Amarnath Vidyalankar (his grandfather), an INC loyalist, was part of Indira Gandhi’s govt during the harsh period of emergency in India. He did not oppose the brutal atrocities on Indian masses during the Emergency,” according to a post by The Pamphlet on Twitter.
In response, Khanna tweeted: “It’s sad to see people maligning my grandfather who worked for Lala Lajpat Rai, was jailed in 31-32 and 41-45, and wrote two letters to Indira Gandhi opposing the Emergency, leaving parliament right after. Attack me. Don’t attack India’s freedom fighters. And facts matter.”
Describing Vidyalankar as a “great son of the soil,” the All India Radio in its documentary celebrating “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsava” hailed him as a “social worker and freedom fighter” born in pre-partition Punjab. Educated at an Arya Samaj educational institution, Vidyalankar devoted his life to the non-cooperation movement after he completed his education.
Khanna represents Silicon Valley in the US House of Representatives. On Sunday, Khanna ruled out running for the vacant US Senate seat from California and extended his support to his fellow Democratic lawmaker Barbara Lee.
“I have concluded that, despite a lot of enthusiasm from Bernie folks, the best place, the most exciting place, action place for me to serve as a progressive in the House of Representatives, and I’m honoured to be co-chairing Barbara Lee’s campaign for the Senate and endorsing her today,” Khanna told CNN in an interview. He is co-chairing the election campaign of Congresswoman Lee running for the Senate seat in California.
The Emergency in India was a 21-month period from 1975 to 1977 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had a state of emergency declared across the country. Officially issued by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution because of prevailing “internal disturbance”, the Emergency was in effect from 25 June 1975 till its withdrawal on 21 March 1977. The order bestowed upon the Prime Minister the authority to rule by decree, allowing elections to be cancelled and civil liberties to be suspended.
For much of the Emergency, most of Gandhi’s political opponents were imprisoned and the press was censored. Several other human rights violations were reported from the time, including a mass campaign for vasectomy spearheaded by her son Sanjay Gandhi.
The Emergency is one of the most controversial periods of Indian history since its independence. The final decision to impose an emergency was proposed by Indira Gandhi, agreed upon by the President of India, and ratified by the Cabinet and the Parliament. It was based on the rationale that there were imminent internal and external threats to the Indian state.