Gift for the Nation
Director : Dilip Jamdar
Year : 1962
"The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home." — James Madison
The State demands its droit du seigneur in this quick bit of national defense propaganda released on the eve of the disastrous Indo-China war in late October, 1962. Indian troops’ appalling lack of preparation and weapons for fighting the Chinese in freezing cold conditions at high elevations in the Northeast and Ladakh had prompted Nehru’s finance minister Morarji Desai to set up a “National Defence Fund,” issuing appeals to the citizens of India to donate land, valuables and — most symbolically charged of all — their mangala sutras in defense of the nation. Indira Gandhi was one of many high-profile Indians stoking national sentiment with a whopping (and well-publicized) hecatomb of 336 grams of gold jewelry. Indira’s mangalasutra-medha was mimicked by industrialists’ wives and others to whom it would not matter a whit, eventually setting off an outpouring of similar donations by people who could scant afford them.
A story, perhaps apocryphal:
"On October 23, the guard at Teen Murti House, the prime minister’s official residence, was confronted by an elderly couple, obviously from a rural area near Delhi. When they demanded to see the PM, the sentry directed them to his officer, thinking they must have come with some petition. The officer was stunned into silence when the old man took out papers donating his land for the defence of the nation."
So moved were the villagers of Bardhana Khurd in Rajasthan that 250 of its families pledged a son each to the army. Trade unions waived their right to strike until the war was over. The DMK — then in a fierce push for Tamil secession — agreed to cool it on their demands. Donations to the Defence Fund in cash and jewelry added up to more than $220 million.
The China war itself was an unmitigated catastrophe for India; the same could not be said for the efficacy of a well-timed declaration of national Emergency. It seems safe to say that a certain someone — out 336 grams of gold — was taking notes.
Do not miss the stop-motion conclusion to this nationalist quickie, when a tray piled high with jewelry takes on a fantastic life of its own and assembles in the air to shakily, heartbreakingly, spell out “victory.” Twice.