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A Fort, a Time Capsule, a Secret: The Many Mysteries of Indira Gandhi

The Indira Gandhi government had set a time frame of 1,000 years for extracting the copper capsule. It wanted the forthcoming generations to have a rendezvous with India’s magnificent past.

IBN7

Updated:August 11, 2016, 5:19 PM IST
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A Fort, a Time Capsule, a Secret: The Many Mysteries of Indira Gandhi
The Indira Gandhi government had set a time frame of 1,000 years for extracting the copper capsule. It wanted the forthcoming generations to have a rendezvous with India’s magnificent past.
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This was in the initial years of the 1970's, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was at the peak of her career. Her powerful personality had helped shape and define Indian politics, and Sanjay Gandhi was her strength. To glorify 25 splendid years of country’s independence, she decided to bury a time capsule in the Red Fort complex.

The government was keen on documenting the first 25 years of the country — its developments, struggles — in the capsule. It also wanted to manuscript important events in history, along with contemporary achievements.

The Indira Gandhi government named this time capsule Kalpaatra. It assigned the task to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) of drawing out significant happenings from the past. A professor of History from Madras Christian College, S Krishnawamy, was to get the manuscript ready. But before any of this could materialise, the project got embroiled in controversies.

Krishnaswamy had sent a copy of the document to Archives Commissioner and celebrated historian T Badrinath for his opinion. But after a brief assessment, Badrinath said openly that the manuscript misrepresented historical facts.

The political circle, meanwhile, opposed Indira Gandhi's initiative, accusing her of exalting herself and her clan in the time capsule. Despite the hullabaloo, on August 15, 1973, Kalpaatra was suitably buried inside the Red Fort.

In 1977, the Congress government was overthrown and the Janata Party came to power under the leadership of Morarji Desai. The party had promised the people before elections that it would unearth Kalpaatra and reevaluate its contents.

A few days after the government was formed, the time capsule was disentombed. A few veteran journalists claim the capsule’s content was gravid with details about the accomplishments of Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

Another interesting fact was that the Indira Gandhi government had spent a mere amount of Rs 8,000 to bury the capsule. The successive government, however, had to reportedly spend more than Rs 58,000 to exhume it.

That it was unearthed was known to all, but what happened to the capsule after that is not known. And nobody, till this day, is fully aware of its contents.

The Janata Party too, never divulged many details. The controversial capsule made news in 2012, when the editor of Manushi Patrika, Madhu Kishwar, sought information on it from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). In its reply, the PMO said it did not have any details. Kishwar approached the National Information Commission too.

The Indira Gandhi government had set a time frame of 1,000 years for extracting the copper capsule. It wanted the forthcoming generations to have a rendezvous with India’s magnificent past.

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