It was on this day, 38 years ago that the Indian republic faced one of its toughest test in recent history. At midnight on 25th June 1975 the Emergency was imposed thus beginning one of India's darkest periods when a political class full of arrogance and intoxicated with power preferred to destroy the nation's democratic fabric rather than resign when their continuing in office became untenable.
Personally, I have several memories associated with the Emergency. At that time I was a 25-year-old youngster who had recently started working for the RSS but what I witnessed during those dark days remains forever engraved in my memory.
Who can forget the manner in which personal freedom was brutally trampled over? Who can forget the blatant misuse of MISA to target political opponents? Can one forget the lockouts on media houses? How can we not remember the determined struggle of lakhs of people across the nation for 19 long months? Overcoming grave personal risk, so many people devoted themselves to the restoration of democracy.
For youngsters like me, the Emergency gave a wonderful opportunity to work with a wide spectrum of leaders and organisations that were fighting for the same goal. It enabled us to work beyond institutions we had been brought up with.
From stalwarts of our family, Atal ji, Advani ji, late Shri Dattopant Thengadi, Late Shri Nanaji Deshmukh to socialists like Shri George Fernandes to Congressmen like Shri Ravindra Varma, who worked closely with Morarjibhai Desai and were unhappy with the Emergency, we got inspired by leaders who belonged to different schools of thought.
I was fortunate to have learnt a lot from people such as former Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth Shri Dhirubhai Desai, the humanist Shri CT Daru and former Chief Ministers of Gujarat Shri Babubhai Jashbhai Patel and Shri Chimanbhai Patel and prominent Muslim leader late Shri Habib-ur-Rehman. The struggle and determination of Late Shri Morarjibhai Desai, who steadfastly resisted the authoritarianism of the Congress and even left the party, comes to the mind.
It was as if a vibrant confluence of thoughts and ideologies had taken place for a larger good. Rising over differences of caste, creed, community or religion we were working with our common objective- to uphold the democratic ethos of the country.
In December 1975, we worked for a very important meeting of all Opposition MPs in Gandhinagar. This meeting was also attended by Independent MPs late Shri Purushottam Mavalankar, Shri Umashankar Joshi and Shri Krishan Kant.
Organisations, parties and individuals that may not have seen each other eye to eye ideologically now closed ranks for the sake of the nation. For instance, the BMS worked together with Left labour unions for the common cause. We got to work closely with student unions of different parties. These student unions may have been fighting politically in colleges and universities but when it came to preserving democracy for the nation, they were all together.
People and organisations were working with the same RSS, which was considered by many as political untouchable in the preceding years. It was as if the spirit of the 1974 Navnirman Movement in Gujarat and the JP Movement in Bihar was coming alive on the national stage!
Apart from leaders and various political organisations, the Emergency gave me the chance to engage with non-government social organisations, who were also deeply concerned with what was happening in the nation. Working with several Gandhians and people of Sarvodaya Movement was extremely enriching., it was at the residence of Gandhian Shri Prabhudas Patwari that I got the opportunity to meet Shri George Fernandes on a July evening in 1975.
I vividly recall a bearded George Sahib coming in a yellow fiat, adorning his trademark non-ironed kurta, covering his head in a green cloth. I had the opportunity of making him meet with Shri Nanaji Deshmukh. These were two men who could make the then Prime Minister tremble with fear.
When I look back at the Emergency, I cannot but salute the far sightedness of the people of India who rejected authoritarian politics in the very first opportunity in 1977. This despite a heavily censored, biased and one sided print media and radio.
Electronic media was in its pre-infant stages and there was no social media. Infact, I wonder if there was social media during that time, would the Prime Minister have imposed the Emergency at all? Or would it even have lasted for the while it did?
I am sharing my book Aapatkal Me Gujarat in which I have shared in detail my memories of the Emergency. I would like to draw your attention to Page 200 in my book where I wrote this on how different political organizations came together developing a better understanding of each other:
"The gap between different political organizations largely had to do with intentional and accidental differences resulting from rejection of each other's causes. The mindset of "if you are not with us, you are against us" had also contributed to this gap. But events had created an opportunity for every one of these Organizations to rise above their political differences and to develop a deeper understanding of each other."
Many of my young friends would not have been born during those days. I specially urge them to have a look at the book to get a broader understanding of the historical context and what is now remembered as a great victory of people's power.