Skip to main content

Recalling Emergency: How democratic society, under excessive pressure from above, defeated its very purpose

By Suneet Chopra*
It is 43 years since the emergency was declared on June 25, 1975. I was at the Delhi Party (CPI-M) Office and got the news from a journalist friend of Kerala at about 12.30 pm that the Prime Minister had declared emergency and stopped the presses.
I ran to warn Major Jaipal Singh, our party state secretary, upstairs from 14 Vitthalbhai Patel House, where our UP Students Federation of India (SFI) leaders were meeting, as I had sensed the situation and had called my team to discuss what we were likely to expect.
This saved some of them from arrest, but I could not warn Com Major, as the police got there moments ahead of me. Then I ran to warn two Bengal comrades, who were underground and later became MPs. Then I went to the house of Surendra Moha, Socialist Party leader, who was in Bihar. He got the message from his wife and went underground.
In the morning I kept the office open, sent my comrades to go underground, informed both Haryana and UP, went to the party press and brought out a leaflet informing of Com Major's arrest and got it back to the office. Later I too went underground, but as Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) comrades asked me to come to the university,/I went there. 
But the university was attacked by 1200 armed police and I was able to escape when a Japanese student hid me in his room and locked me from outside. Then I came to the party office and informed them that some 68 students had been arrested.
I was asked to go completely underground and did so till the end of the emergency. My main task was to edit and print our SFI journal "Chhatra Sangram" regularly for UP, Haryana and Delhi underground. We planned many actions and I took over guidance of Muzaffarnagar CPI(M). 
I remember attending the rally of Jagjeevan Ram and HN Bahuguna in the Ramlila grounds. Later I participated in the election campaign, especially in the defeat of Bansi Lal by Chandravati in whose house we stayed, which had a police station in front of it that was constructed by Bansilal to keep an eye on her.
Suneet Chopra
I remember how a policeman called me aside. He said I have seen you somewhere. I said no. Then he told me that before he became a policeman, he had heard me speaking in Karnal Court with handcuffs on my hands. He said, "My heart was with you then and it is now too." What should we do now? I told him to protect the votes and not allow rigging. Later I joined a team of two each on motorcycles with guns to protect our votes.
The main lesson I learned was that a democratic society suffering from too much pressure from above revolts and the social structure cracks up from top to bottom, defeating its purpose completely. As a result, I found hiding places in the home of a former Congress minister, daughter-in-law of Diwan Chaman Lal, founder President of All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Mehmood Butt in Lucknow, and other close relatives of mine. 
I also spent nights in the house of Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena, poet and dramatist, Dr Naeem Ahmed and Com Wizarat Husain in Aligarh, doctors in All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Maulana Azad hospitals. I hope some day to write about them all and the help they gave me.
The emergency threw up a number of people best forgotten. The first is Siddharth Shankar Ray, Chief Minister of West Bengal, who was responsible for my uncle Shanti Swaroop Dhawan, who was then Governor there, leaving the state as he wanted mass arrests and a blood bath of his own people. Rather than allow it he left the state. I later participated in the election of HN Bahuguna in Pauri.
Also I remember a cousin, who was in charge of Delhi during the emergency, warning me to leave for two weeks or I would be arrested. He took a great risk to take me away from a book shop me met in to give me the message. So the best and the worst people come out at times like these. 
A repeat of the same tactics will be more disastrous for its perpetrators, as the people of India today have more confidence, self-respect and will to fight such attempts to suppress them. Events in Saharanpur, Tamil Nadu, Mandsaur, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tripura and Jammu & Kashmir give us hope that such things will never happen again so easily.
---
*Joint secretary, All-India Agricultural Workers' Union. Source: Author's FB timeline

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Will Budget 2024 help empower city govts, make them India's growth engines?

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Arjun Kumar* Cities in India are envisioned as engines of growth. Any meaningful long-term vision for India would be incomplete without planning for the cities and quite rightly, urbanization is considered as one of the country’s top developmental challenges. Realization of full potential of cities depends crucially on their ability to provide ‘enabling’ environment especially in terms of sustained provision of a wide range of urban infrastructure and services.