On September 20, the Rajya Sabha witnessed uproarious scenes as the opposition members created a bedlam demanding a division on farm bills. They were provoked by the cavalier attitude of Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh who practically behaved like Narendra Modi’s ‘ardali’ rather than a person holding a dignified constitutional post. He refused to allow the opposition members to speak and arbitrarily rejected the demand for voting on the bills; he declared in the turmoil the bills passed by voice vote. The opposition members were so upset that they promptly submitted to the Chairman’s office a motion of no-confidence in Deputy Chairman, bearing nearly 50 signatures.
Some journalist friends were surprised at the manner in which Harivansh had disregarded parliamentary rules and traditions to please his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bosses. Having been a journalist of long-standing, he has many friends and admirers in the journalist community who are unaware of his abominable nature. I came to know of his slimy character at a great personal loss.
When I was posted in Ranchi in the late 1980s, Harivansh was Editor of Prabhat Khabar, a Hindi daily. We became friends. He would sometimes visit my place at Amrud Bagan and we would discuss over a cup of tea the affairs of the State and the country. One day the topic of our discussion happened to be the Emergency and all that had taken place during that unfortunate period. I showed him my ‘Emergency File’ and read out some parts to him. He appeared to be interested and asked me to lend the ‘File’ to him for a few days. In good faith I lent him the ‘File’.
During the Emergency I was placed in a position where I had access to information which was not ordinarily available to other journalists. Besides, there were lots of hearsays and rumours doing the rounds. Some political parties, particularly DMK (which was the ruling party in then Madras State) and Akali Dal in Punjab were working against the Emergency in their own ways. They were regularly sending me reports of their activities by post. The envelopes containing these reports had ‘Wedding Invitation’ or ‘Birthday Celebration’ printed outside to escape detention from censors.
Before going to bed at night, I would take out my Olivetti portable typewriter, put on paper all that I saw and heard during the day, insert the paper(s) in the File and lock the File at a safe place. That was the File that this wicked man took for reading with the promise to return it in a few days but never returned. When I asked him about the File a week or so later, he unashamedly said that it was not available; someone must have stolen it from his house. Idiot. I went on asking him as long as I was in Ranchi but there was no point. Needless to say that our bonhomie had ended.
The piece is author’s personal opinion