There is a belief among Hindus that if a person above the age of 75 (banprast) confesses his sins in public, he is forgiven. He purifies himself. Arjun Singh is doing something similar. He has said that he was opposed to the emergency. Was he really? This is as much news to his colleagues in the Congress, as it is to the media because never before has he touched upon the topic of the emergency. He was a mere education minister in Madhya Pradesh at that time. Telling Mrs Indira Gandhi that she was wrong needed a lot of courage. On the other hand, he says he did not want to annoy "the family" to which he swears his loyalty every second day. R K Dhavan, who was working under Mrs Gandhi during that period, says that there is no direct or indirect evidence to show that Arjun Singh had any second thoughts about the emergency. The question that arises now is why Arjun Singh had to tell a lie? Voicing his complaint against the "family" which is reportedly not associating him with any decision of consequence is Arjun's way of rubbing the family on the wrong side. It is obvious that he wanted to do it as near the date of imposition of the emergency as possible. (The emergency was imposed on June 26, 1975). Let me remind him what the emergency did to the nation: Fundamental rights were abrogated, the press was gagged and 100,000 people were detained without trial. Magistrates issued blank warrants to the police so that they could pick up anyone at the asking of Sanjay Gandhi or his stooges. Some politicians were badly beaten up in jail. It was Mrs Gandhi's way of punishing the nation for demanding that she implement her slogan of garibi hatao. Did Arjun Singh also protest in private against the atrocities because he says that he told Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi in private conversation that he was opposed to what they were doing? Had he whispered even a word of criticism, his fate would have been worse than that of Swaran Singh who was then a minister in Mrs Gandhi's cabinet. It was Swaran Singh who expressed doubt whether another emergency could be imposed when the country was still operating under an earlier one from the time of the Bangladesh war. He was dropped from the cabinet. Why should Arjun Singh sound like a dissenter when the truth of the matter is that he wants the family to trust him as it once did? D P Mishra, once the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, said that Arjun Singh's liberal posturing was only skin-deep and meant to curry favour with Mrs Gandhi and the left-liberal veneer that she cultivated. If Arjun Singh is really sorry for the imposition of the emergency, he should ask for the implementation of the Shah Commission's pronouncements against the excesses. Some of the guilty are his colleagues in the Manmohan Singh cabinet. I do not know if the National Archives of India possesses the full proceedings of the commission that were handed to them. Some scholars have drawn a blank when they have approached the archives authorities. Arjun Singh should know that Mrs Gandhi stopped the awards to some gallant police officers whose only fault was that they were connected with the investigations into the atrocities committed during the emergency. In fact one investiture ceremony was cancelled midway simply because some awardees had participated in the emergency inquiries. Similarly, the recommendations by the Police Reforms Commission appointed by the Moraji Desai-led government and headed by Dharamvira, were not recognised by Mrs Gandhi when she came back to power in 1980. She threw out the report. Consequently, the country still retains the British Police Act of 1826. Arjun Singh could at least tell his prime minister that what the Shah Commission exposed was a dictatorial regime where no laws were respected and when the constitution was suspended without shame. Would Arjun Singh have the courage to do so? This has nothing to do with the loyalty or disloyalty to the family. This is what any democracy-loving citizen would do. He did not speak out when he should have. Maybe, he shares the same traits of authoritarianism. The manner in which he has enforced reservations in high-learning education institutions without giving them adequate time to make the required adjustments shows that he lacks sensitivity to democratic procedures which are bound to be slow in implementation. By saying that he was opposed to the emergency, he aspires to be a true Hindu who after the age of 75 admits his guilt to purify himself. The repentance has only one grain of truth: it comes near the month of June the month in which the emergency was declared 33 years ago. The writer is a former member of the Indian parliament and political analyst E-mail: knayar@nation.com.pk