Indira Ganback at a sustained campaign of abuse dhi and her family have begun to hit directed at here and her son Sanjay for their conduct during the 20-month state of emergency she imposed on India while she was prime minister.
Four months after the general election that drove Gandhi and her Congress Party from office, the denigration of the gandhi family has turned into something between an industry and a national sport.
Half a dozen poorly researched "histories" of the emergency have already been published, with more on the way. Magazines devote much space to "investigations" of newly discovered horrors, and newspapers find it impossible to keep the past off their front pages.
Three major commissions of inquiry are looking into action in New Delhi, and lasser inquiries proliferate in the states. Questions about the activities of the former prime minister and her son crowd the parliamentary agenda.
Sanjay is schduled for much-her-alded court appearance July 23 nad Aug. 5. Charges against him are theft and conspiriracy to destroy government and private property, and are among a number of criminal cases against the former leader of the youth wing of the Congress Party.
But now the family apparently decided that what it regards as the grosser caluminies must be answered.
When Charan Singh, home minister in the row People's Party government, suggested in parliament last week Indira Gandhi had plans during the emergency to murder imprisoned opponents, the former prime minister gave her first detailed reply to criticism of the emergency.
She described the allegation as "shocking and preposterous," and accused the government of pursuing a "smear campaign of character assassination inside and outside Parliament so as to denigrate not only me but the Congress Party a whole."
Some observers believe that the campaign against Indira Gandhi and her emergency could boomerang if the governmnet fails to make headway on the economic front.
The defense of Sanjay Gandhi has been left to his journalist wife, Maneka who responded bitterly this week to an "inside story" of the emergency called "The judgment" by Kuldip Nayar. A journalist on the Indian Express, Nayar was jailed for some weeks by Indira Gandhi.
Writing in the current issue of the Illustrated Weekly of India, Maneka Gandhi declares that "large chunks" of Nayar's book are "muddled fantasies." Evidently on the authority of her mother-in-law, she denies that there was ever official harrassment of the judge whose conviction of Indira Gandhi for electoral corruption in June 1975 led to declaration of the emergency.
She also repudiates a story, repeated by Nayar, that Sanjay once slapped his mother six times at the dinner table.
"Kuldip Nayar can be sued on over a hundred counts in this book," she says. "But libel laws in India are so tedious that a case could drag on for many years - long after his book has gone out of print."