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A curious case of mistaken identity

A curious case of mistaken identity

Photo for representational purpose only. iStock file photo



Sankar Sen

A Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice JC Shah was set up in 1977 by the Janata Party government to look into the excesses committed during the Emergency, which had been imposed by the previous PM, Indira Gandhi. At that time, I was working as an Assistant Director in the Intelligence Bureau in Jamshedpur. On my promotion as DIG, I joined the commission and was given the responsibility of investigating cases of gross abuse of police authority and harassment of leaders belonging to Opposition parties.

Justice Shah was determined to complete the exercise within the allotted period of one year. The commission examined the circumstances leading to the proclamation of the Emergency. A team of officers, including me, visited several districts of Haryana to investigate. Our work was arduous and unenviable, but there were some comic interludes. While camping at Hisar, I informed the district authorities that I wanted to visit Haryana Agricultural University (which was later named after former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh). My intention was to get a bird’s eye view of the renowned university and its sprawling campus. But by a strange quirk of fate, I was gobsmacked by an unexpected turn of events. Mine was an unscheduled private visit and I wanted it to be a low-key affair. But to my bewilderment, I found that the Vice-Chancellor (VC) was waiting for me in the portico of the administrative building. He was extremely deferential and wanted to take me around the university complex. Before l could say anything, the VC started ‘sirring’ me profusely and explained with great enthusiasm the landmark achievements of the university. An obliging cameraman appeared from nowhere and started clicking pictures.

Accompanied by the VC, I visited various departments, whose heads vied with one another to explain to me the latest research that was being carried out there. Bombarded with information, I made some amiable, though perhaps not exactly appropriate, remarks.

While I was taken around the library building, the librarian asked me to record my name in the visitors’ register. After I had written my name, I could notice a distinct change in the VC’s manner. He became stiff and standoffish, and after a while he took leave of me.

I could sense that something had gone wrong. The red-carpet welcome and its abrupt end baffled me. The truth finally dawned on me when my batchmate, the Hisar DIG, told me that someone not kindly disposed towards the VC and having a wicked sense of humour had sent a message to him that Justice Shah, chairman of the commission, would be visiting the university. It was a classic case of mistaken identity.

#Indira Gandhi


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