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

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

#StandWithStan: It's about Constitution, democracy and freedom of expression

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is more than three weeks now: On the night of October 8, 2020, the 83-year-old Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy was taken into custody by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) from his residence in Ranchi to an undisclosed destination. According to his colleagues, the NIA did not serve a warrant on Fr. Stan and that their behaviour was absolutely arrogant and rude.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.