I recently read the story of torture and exploitation of followers of Falun Gong in China, ‘The SOS in my Halloween decorations’, by Jon Kelly. When I visited the US for the first time in 1997 I came across information in this regard by the local Chinese people. Initially, I thought that it might be American propaganda, but later I came across cases of atrocities by the Chinese authorities upon Tibetans and Uighurs and I had to change my opinion. I also recalled the parallel in the erstwhile Soviet Union. We in our youth read stories and novels about the atrocities in the Stalinist era but our Indian communist friends would merely laugh these away as American propaganda. A great scholar like Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan who taught at Leningrad University and was not allowed to bring his Russian wife Lola with him to India in 1947 had been brainwashed like the other Indian communists. (Rahul ji resigned from the CPI over the issue of Hindi and not over any political ideological differences). While doing anthropological field work in Jaunsar–Bawar in Dehra Dun District in 1955–56, I read a book by a Russian writer, who had fled from Russia, that described the atrocities committed on dissenters by the Stalinist regime. The locale of that book was Leningrad. Therefore, I wrote a letter to Rahul ji who was living in Happy Valley, Mussoorie, at that time, requesting him to comment on the book as he happened to live in that area which was the locale of the story of that book. I was dismayed by the response of the great scholar who wrote to me in Hindi on a post card: “It is nothing but propaganda by the decadent capitalist system. You will find similar propaganda books and literature circulated by the American agents. Please read them and you will realise how well oiled this anti-Soviet machinery is.” No direct reply to the specific facts mentioned in the book. I was disappointed as I had great personal regard for Rahul ji as a Buddhist scholar, supporter of Hindi and leader of the peasant movement. Some time earlier the celebrated book The God that Failed had appeared and the episode of the escape of Stalin’s daughter Svetlana from Russia and her being helped by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia in her asylum and migration to the US had already created waves in intellectual circles in the free world. At the CPSU Congress in 1956, Khruschev’s speech fell like a bomb shell. But the Indian communists financed and controlled by the CPSU were so much brainwashed that an old friend and classmate of mine did not believe that Chernobyl had happened, and he called this catastrophe as American propaganda. Not that I am a supporter of the US. On the other hand, I was a victim of McCarthyism in 1958 when I was selected as the only Fulbright scholar from India from the discipline of Anthropology but was denied the US visa as I was considered to be a communist. I decided never to visit the US but after 40 years I visited that country in 1997. Anyway, coming back to our main story, the last nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union was hammered by Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev during 1985–91 through their policies of ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost.’
It is no wonder that in Communist China, which has acquired all the vices of the decadent capitalist culture, democracy and free speech are victims.
Meher Engineer: A Requiem for a Man of Reckonable Height Meheryar Hosang Engineer was born on December 20, 1940 in