MY LIFE AND STRUGGLES – 33
DARK DAYS OF NATIONAL EMERGENCY 1975 – 1977
Consequent to the glorious Railway strike of 1974, a series of struggles and agitations took place in various sectors, including Central and state governments. It was during this period that Allahabad High Court delivered an explosive judgment nullifying election of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It was a bolt from blue. To overcome this situation and subdue agitations, draconian ‘National Emergency’ was declared on 25thJune. It was quite unwarranted. Fully unjustified.
Thousands of opposition party leaders, including M.P.s and MLAs, were arrested and jailed within days of declaration. Many leaders of central trade unions and service unions jailed. Any speech, write-up, criticism against central government was treated as treason and ‘culprits’ jailed. Many student leaders were arrested and tortured. Full censure of newspapers. Entire matter to be shown to censor before printing. Police can enter anywhere and arrest anybody at their sweet will. Democratic rights torn apart. Terrific fascist move to save the chair.
A National Convention by Central- State Employees’ Federations was decided to be held at New Delhi by the end of June 1975. As a delegate from Calicut, I started by train to participate in the same. Reached Delhi in the morning of 26th. New Delhi Railway Station was full of police and CRPF. Comrades who had come to receive us told that National Emergency has been proclaimed and many leaders arrested. We were taken to the official quarters of Com. Jyothirmoyi Basu, M.P. He had already gone underground to avoid arrest. We were directed not to go outside, to be safe.
Since I had been to Delhi several times before and knew where abouts, went to 4, Ashoka Road, official quarters of Com.A.K.Gopalan M.P. to get further information. I used to visit there every time when in Delhi. Com.A.K.G. was in Kerala. Spoke with Com.Narikkutty Mohanan, correspondent of Deshabhimani who was there. He expressed difficulty in passing news to Deshabhimani newspaper, Kerala, since not getting trunk calls. STD and mobile phones were not introduced.
At that time, Com.K.Prabhakaran, P and T leader, Ernakulam, called. Com.Mohanan gave the phone to me. I asked Com.Prabhakaran to connect Ernakulam Deshabhimani office. Com. Mohanan passed all latest information in connection with Emergency, including arrest of opposition leaders.
Deshabhimani daily next day came with all the news, which no other Malayalam papers have received. I remember that there was also a caricature of Prime Minister of Indira Gandhi with a sword in her hand. Com.Narikkutty was questioned several times by the police about the news. There was no proof against him since there was no record of any outgoing or incoming trunk call. There was no telegram. He escaped arrest and jail.
National convention did not take place. On the day fixed for Convention, Mavlankar Hall and premises were surrounded by police. Organisers had already cancelled the Convention. Many comrades who came to the Convention were arrested and jailed later.
Leaders of central and state government employees in W.Bengal, Assam and other states were arrested. In Kerala, NFPTE leaders Com.K.Prabhakaran (Ernakulam), M.G.Sasidhara Kurup (Alleppey), K.Madhavan (Trivandrum), V.Sasidharan Nair (Neyyattinkara), V.A.Ouseph and Sathyanathan (Calicut), were among the arrested.
Arrest at Calicut
As always, trunk lines were busy and calls were naturally being delayed on that day also. State Minister Shri K.G.Adiyodi had booked a trunk call. After some time he called trunk enquiry number 181. Since there was a good number persons calling 181 and it was call queue, there was some delay. He was infuriated and abused the operator and threatened arrest.
Emergency period. Minister immediately called police and asked to arrest the operator. Police rushed to trunk exchange. But Com.Sathyanathan, concerned telephone operator, was shifted from exchange by union leaders before arrival of police. For about one month Sathyanathan was shifted from place to place to avoid arrest. Com.V.A.Ouseph was managing this operation. At last police managed to arrest both Ouseph and Sathyanathan. Sent them to Central jail, Cannanore.
The police took me twice in to custody. The first time they called me to Police Station and warned me about holding of union meetings and addressing them.
Second time, it was in a dramatic manner. I was returning home after morning duty at about 02.00 P.M. When I reached in front of northern gate of office of City Police Commissioner, two constables in mufti stopped me and asked me to get in to their car as S.I. of Police wanted to see me. I told that I can come to police station, after taking lunch from home. They were in no mood to agree. Since I understood that they will forcibly push me in to the car, I agreed. They took me to the Puthiyara Police Station. SI had gone for lunch. They left me in the room and went outside.
Immediately I called 198 (Fault Repair), the section where I used to work and informed that I am in Police Station. Within 10 -15 minutes many comrades from exchange reached police station in cycle and by walk. My wife Pankajam came with lunch. Police was baffled as to how information got leaked and so many persons came within minutes.
Sub Inspector arrived, asked me a few questions. He told our comrades that I will be released after some questioning and there is nothing to worry. They left. By about 06.00 PM, SI told me that police will take me in their vehicle to my house. I said it is only walkable distance and I can walk. He insisted. I got in the police van.
When it reached near my residence, I told driver to stop. But without speaking he continued driving. For about one hour the van rounded here and there and at last stopped at an old two storied building. In the darkness, I could not identify the building or the place. (to be continued)Photos 1. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi 2. Com V.A.Ouseph. 3. V.A.N.Namboodiri 4. K.Prabhakaran. 5. Deshabhimani with Emergency news