I vividly remember this day 39 years ago. The movement against the removal of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of Congress was at its peak. Her election had been set aside by the Allahabad High Court after her rival Raj Narain filed a petition in the Court against her.
Instead of responding to the judgment she made it an issue to stay in power come what may. On the other hand, the entire Opposition including stalwarts like Atal Behari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Subramaniam Swamy, George Fernandes, Raj Narain, Madhu Limaye united to demand her ouster.
Their political movement got a boost when the Sarvodaya leader Jai Prakash Narain joined this group and gave the movement the name of Sampoorna Kranti and not just a political struggle.
All kinds of rumours were doing the rounds. On June 25, J P held a meeting at Ramlia Ground. Even though I was not a journalist then I was one in the making as I was doing course from Dateline, published form where Palika Bazar exists now.
More than that as an involved youngster I along with like- minded friends decided to listen to the man who had captured the nation’s imagination.
True to his image J P came and spoke his mind clearly and boldly. He had been accused by the ruling class of inciting the police and creating instability by telling them not to obey illegal orders of their superiors.
I don’t know whether it was his sixth sense or his sympathisers who informed him but he knew what was going to happen to him. “ My friends have told me that I am going to be arrested for my call to the army and police not to obey illegal orders. But I am repeating my call from here so that everyone in parliament can hear me. I am telling all the policemen not to obey the orders of this government because this government is illegal”… if I can recollect correctly or words to that effect.
Next morning there was a mysterious silence all around. The official announcement had been made about the imposition of emergence to save the nation as is the usual language. But no one knew anything beyond that as censorship had been imposed and the newspapers did not say a thing. But probably the BBC had announced that all top leaders of the opposition including JP, Morarji Desai, Atal Behari, Advani had been arrested wherever they in a midnight swoop. It was a perfect operation.
I rushed out to Connaught Place where to find out if I could get any more information. Suddenly there was a commotion and I saw people rushing to a hawker who was carrying bundle of ‘Motherland’n the newspaper brought out by the Jan Sangh. This was the only paper as far as I know which carried news and pictures of senior leaders arrested all over the country. The copies were sold ion black and the man vanished at the sight of policemen. But I had got hold on one copy.
After that everyone I met on the road wanted my copy and all I wanted was to reach the comforts of my home with my treasure. Many offered me money but like an idealistic journalist I refused to even consider their ‘indecent proposal.’
What happened later on has been mentioned in many books. But I wanted to write about my personal experience on that day. Many say that had Sanjay Gandhi lived longer India would have prospered but as a journalist earning my bread and butter from my pen for 37 years I will never be able to forgive either Indira Gandhi or Sanjay Gandhi for imposing the emergency.
I don’t know how a man like Arun Jaitley who as a youth leader was tortured most brutally by the then regime can exist in the same party that has Varun Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi. But may be politicians have a thicker skin than us!
By: Amitabh Srivastava
Image Source: JP Narayan