Skip to main content

Ex-student activist recalls struggle against Indira-imposed Emergency in Punjab

By Subham Gupta*

Recently, while interacting with me, Dr Dharamveer Gandhi, who was a student leader when the Emergency was imposed in India in 1975, provided a very rich insight how the students’ movement took roots in Punjab, what happened during the protest.
It has been 45 years since the day when entire India was stunned due to a sudden declaration of Emergency by India’s third prime minister. On June 25, 1975, independent India witnessed the start of one of its darkest chapters. “The President has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about” were the words of Indira Gandhi when she announced the news from the All India Radio. The Emergency, which continued for 21 months, was imposed to curb the internal tensions arising within the country.
A slow growth rate of the economy and the increasing unemployment rates stirred a sense of discontentment among the masses. The output of food grains was also delayed due to monsoons in 1972-73. Owing to these reasons, some students of Gujarat went on the streets to protest against the increasing prices of food grains and the corruption of the Gujarat government. A similar movement in Bihar led by Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) took the protest to a national level. The protestors demanded PM Indira Gandhi’s resignation, which concerned the central government.
In 1971, Indira Gandhi won the parliamentary election in Rai Bareli against Raj Narain. The latter filed a case in the Allahabad High Court citing the use of electoral malpractices by the former. The court found Indira Gandhi guilty in June 1975 but gave the Congress 20 days to find the PM’s replacement. Leveraging the time, Indira Gandhi appealed to the Supreme court and utilized the partial stay granted by the court to declare Emergency.
Dr Gandhi
Dr Gandhi, an activist during the time of Emergency, told me that the international and national situation during the time when the Emergency was declared was very encouraging for the social activists to contribute towards their society. The Vietnam war was at its peak, American hegemony was declining in the entire Indo-China region, and there was a strong student agitation in France.
These events diffused a sense of confidence in the masses to fight the authorities on facing dissatisfaction on various grounds. In India, too, there was a period of all-India railway strike and period of Naxal movement which stirred the masses and mobilized a large number of people to fight for their rights. 

Epicentre in Punjab

Dr Gandhi said, the medical college of Amritsar as the epicentre of the anti-Emergency movement in Punjab. Although the movement was labelled as ‘student struggle’, it was not only the students who participated in this movement but also the teachers, the staff and workers who strongly opposed the sudden and unwanted declaration of Emergency. The movement was such that the city’s Deputy Commissioner, the collector, wondered what happened had to the doctor-students who belonged to the high strata of the society getting involved in protests.
The students protesting against the government had to face huge hardships at the time of the Emergency. The hostel in which Dr Gandhi was protesting was raided by 500 policemen who did not allow any student to move in and out of the building. The police even arrested the most vocal leaders in the movement without showing any arrest warrants. 
The leaders were asked to withdraw their movement, but this could not shake their strong will. They continued their agitation quoting ‘our freedom is earned after numerous sacrifices during the independence struggle, and we can’t let it go so easily.’ Regardless of their will, the protestors were forced to withdraw from their movement, often by violent means.
The students, who were sent to prison, had to fight cases in the court demanding the restoration of their fundamental rights. Moreover, these cases took a long time to settle because multiple similar cases, mostly of students and local leaders, were still pending before the court. Even after the students were released and the Emergency ended, many students still continued to fight for their rights in various places. They believed that social interest comes prior to individual interests.

Social action and science

Professions and science are social products, not individual products. People like Galileo, Newton and Copernicus did not work for personal profits but for their passion for science which helped in the betterment of the society at large. The stock of knowledge that we have today is because of the thousands of years of research and sleepless nights put in by our ancestors.
Interaction with Dr Gandhi suggests that nothing just came into existence as we see it today. It was our forefathers who fought for every privilege and luxury that we enjoy today. Similarly, we need to stand up against every injustice or violation of rights that we face today because the fruits of our movements do not only benefit us or our children but also all our coming generations.
---
Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, PGP in Management, Class of 2021

Comments

TRENDING

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".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

Dalit scholar's comment on Lord Shiva 'harming' Muslims, 'damaging' secular cause

Shahid Siddiqui, Bobby Naqvi By Our Representative   Bobby Naqvi, who is with the "Gulf News", and is a well-known name among Muslim intellectuals, strongly objecting to the social media post of Prof Ratan Lal, has said that "a big reason for majoritarian hatred against Muslims is irresponsible remarks by people like Prof Ratan Lal of Delhi University." In a Facebook comment , which has attracted paise, among others, from journaliat-politician Shahid Siddiqui, Naqvi said, "Their commentary on Hinduism and icons of Hinduism (while angering religious and liberal Hindus alike) also triggers a massive backlash against Muslims. When the likes of Prof Lal criticize Hinduism on social media, Hindus bring Islam and Islamic practices and ask 'what about this' or 'what about that'." Naqvi insists, "Muslims (without their fault) and Islam get caught in this crossfire between the so called Hindu liberal class and the religious Hindus. And the ult