Saroj Kumar Mitra
Smt Indira Gandhi imposed her dictatorial regime in India by declaring Emergency on June 25, 1975. Leaders of all major opposition parties were detained under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), and the leading socio-cultural organisation the RSS was banned.
Within a couple of days the entire administration including the judiciary started acting, rather dancing, on the tune of Smt Gandhi. The then Chief Justice of Supreme Court, AN Roy, who was elevated to that post superseding three other judges senior to him, arrived at Ramakrishna Mission Centre, Belur, for consultation. He endorsed the denial of Fundamental Rights and state-sponsored atrocities validating Emergency excesses. The press was censored and fear psyche prevailed throughout the country.
I received a letter from Nanaji Deshmukh, who was made convenor of the Lok Sangharsh Samiti by Jai Prakash Narayan, just before he was arrested. In that hand written letter Nanaji stated how Indira Gandhi consulted Siddharth Shankar Ray and Russian Ambassador before declaring the Emergency. I, as in-charge of the Lok Sangharsh Samiti in Odisha, which was just formed after declaration of Emergency, and also as general secretary of Odisha unit of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), started contacting political leaders in the state. Most of whom were then avoiding direct confrontation with the government. Since Biju Patnaik (with whom I had direct contact) was detained outside Odisha, I met Smt. Malati Choudhury, Sarvodya leader of Odisha and wife of former Chief Minister, Nabakrushan Choudhury, who was detained in Baripada. It was decided to take out a procession on October 2, 1975 on Gandhi Jayanti Day and organise the function on the banks of the River Kathjodi in Cuttak. Then Nanaji was arrested and Dattopant Thengadi took the rein of the Lok Sangharsh Samiti after resigning from the BMS on September 9, 1975. We met Thengadiji in Kolkata where he emphatically declared that Indira Gandhi’s administration would come to a grinding halt after 17 months. The printed posters and pamphlets arrived from Kolkata and were distributed, though I was arrested on September 18, 1975. Of course, the procession followed by a meeting at Gandhi Ghat of Kathjodi River was conducted as per the planned schedule.
In such a situation, thousands of swayamsevaks started demonstrating against Emergency and courted arrest throughout the country. More than 10,000 arrest warrants against RSS activists could not be executed because they were underground. In 1976, some people became restless and advocated resorting to violence. The result was a master piece on Revolution written by Thengdiji, which was circulated among the activists. The analysis made in that booklet titled ‘Revolution’ narrated various coups worldwide, violent activities resulting in government formations, etc and its long term impact on the people and society being counterproductive negated the theory of violence as means of mass movement and championed peaceful democratic mass movement as more enduring. Accordingly, we received letters inside prisons stating it a war of nerves. As Afzal Khan lost patience and entered into the forest within the strategic range of Shivaji, similarly Indira Gandhi must be allowed to come within our strategic range. So, have patience, the letter stated.
I showed that letter to the fellow prisoners, detained under MISA at Keonjhar jail. Two of them belonged to the Jamat Islami Hind and they were so excited that they said, ‘who cares, we may wait for years’. The Emergency was lifted on March 23, 1977 and Smt Gandhi was miserably defeated in the general elections. We were released after 17 months from the prison. Ultimately, it was patience which triumphed.
(The writer is national co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch)