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

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

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".

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

Amit Shah accused of inciting communal passion: Demand to postpone Gujarat polls

Counterview Desk  In an email representation to the Election Commission of India (ECI), Dr EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, has objected to the statement reported to have been made by Union home minister Amit Shah, who allegedly justified the 2002 Gujarat riots stating that certain sections of people “taught a lesson” to the rioters. Noting that the statement, if correct, “in effect implies those other than the law enforcement authorities had taken law into their hands”, Sarma says, “Shah's statement needs to be viewed by the ECI in conjunction with the reported fact that it was the Union Home Ministry that cleared the release of the eleven rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, directly related to the infamous Godhra incidents in 2002, which triggered the shameful sequence of events that shook the nation's conscience.” According to Sarma, if the statement is true, “I am constrained to draw the inevitable inference that it would have already impacted th

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Diminishing returns: Hydro projects contribute less than 10% of India's power generation

Counterview Desk  Pointing out that India’s hydro generation remains around 10% for the last six years, the advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said that power generation from hydropower projects continues to show diminishing returns, as has been the story close to three decades now. Yet, says SANDRP in a note, the Government of India continues to push large hydro by announcing a slew of additional subsidies for hydropower projects, more for political economy reason. In fact, attempts are being made to flog unviable hydropower projects with various kind of manipulations, illegalities and violations, it adds. Text : In last six years, from 2016-17 to 2021-22, India’s large hydropower projects (projects above 25 MW installed capacity) have contributed just around 10% of the total power generation, going as low as 9.68% in 2017-18. In fact, in three of these six years, large hydro contributed less than 10% and recovering only marginally in the rest,

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is