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When the #Emergency was clamped in India...25-06-1975

The Indian Express edit page was left blank in protest against the Emergency. Photo courtesy: The Indian Express
25th June, 1975. One of the darkest days in Indian democracy, when the Emergency was declared. Growing up, I was fed on a steady diet of anecdotes from those days.  Both my parents worked in Central government offices, so I have heard a million stories about the disciplinary action taken by authorities during the Emergency. Of office gates being closed, so people wouldn't leave before 5.30 pm etc. And stories of colleagues speaking against the government at bus-stops in hush-hush tones. Of the louder ones asked to keep the volume down. My parents recall how they'd have to take a day or half a day's leave even if they were late to work by a few minutes. They recall how union leaders would be put under suspension, and many people dismissed. Some were even demoted as part of disciplinary action.

They also talk of how it was when the Emergency was lifted eventually, and Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister lost the elections after that. My family loves talking about 'those' days. A neighbour's family, my mom tells me, screamed in delight when they heard on radio that Indira Gandhi was trounced. My dad tells me that his family which till then had bought other newspapers switched to the Indian Express, which came out with the now famous empty editorial.

Growing up, dad would also tell me about that famed statement by BJP man Advani, then of the Jan Sangh, that the media "crawled, when they were asked to bend." I have also heard many stories about George Fernandes and Advani going underground. Advani spent time in the Central Jail, Bangalore. I also have heard stories of Snehalatha Reddy, the charismatic actress/theatre person and wife of Pattabhi Rami Reddy, film-maker, who helped George Fernandes in those dark days. Snehalatha herself was arrested, and eventually died during the Emergency. My dad was telling me the other day that he bought her diary which was published as a booklet. Today, I did a google search and found the diary here:

Here is a heart-wrenching entry from that diary:

"{Terrible days 
28th July
29th "
30th "
1st August}

"In a real dark night of the soul, it is always 3 'o' clock in the morning day after day" These were the times I wanted to die really die - "

Many were detained under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act or MISA, and had to spend time in jail. However, Indira Gandhi had to fall and the Congress was wiped out in the 1977 elections. It is another story that Indira would come back and become Prime Minister and stay on till 1984 till she would be assassinated. Was she forgiven by the people of India in spite of her draconian style of governance? Was it the weakness of the combined Opposition? The answer could be a combination of reasons. There are no certainties in politics. Today's hero is tomorrow's villain, and hero back again. There is also no telling what the voter thinks. There is a lesson in all this for today's disposition as well. Nothing is set in stone in Indian politics. 


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