The dark memories of the draconian ‘National Emergency’ is still not forgotten. It was on 25th June 1975 that the President of India promulgated the ‘National Emergency’ at the instance of then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi. In fact, the declaration was not because there was an emergency situation in the country, but only because there was a danger to the continuance of the Indira Gandhi government after the Supreme Court verdict nullifying her election. It was a fake emergency imposed upon the people to save Indian National Congress and Indira Gandhi.
The 1974 Railway Strike and various agitations by the workers, the strong protest against the anti-people decisions of the government followed by the Supreme Court verdict created a situation, where the ruling party was not in a position to digest. The panacea to pass over the crisis was the declaration of emergency. All political opponents were arrested and put in jail arbitrarily. Trade Union leaders were also jailed. The newspapers were silenced. They could not print any criticism of the government. Functioning of political parties and democratic institutions were literally prohibited. The police and the government machinery were utilised to crush any opposition to the ruling party and the government. It was a real dictatorship.
Leaders of central/state government employees’ unions were also jailed. The emergency prohibited and suppressed all kinds of protests and democratic rights of the people. The newspapers were gagged. Without screening by the government censors, no paper could be published. Meetings, demonstrations – all were prohibited. I was taken in to custody twice, but later released. It was difficult even to hold union meetings. There were spies, CBI, CID etc. every where to report any opposition to the emergency. Student leaders were arrested and jailed. NFPTE had to face a lot of victimisation.
The entire opposition parties united to fight against the National Emergency. Thinking that the entire opposition was derailed, Indira Gandhi declared General election in 1977 after about two years of emergency. But she was mistaken. The people who were suffering under emergency ensured that the Congress was utterly defeated. The Janatha government came to power. The dark days were over.
My own experience: Date: 25th June 1975
I was in the train along with a few other comrades going to Delhi from Kerala to attend a Convention of the Central Government Employees and Workers on 26th June 1975 to chalk out agitation programmes on the urgent demands of the workers. On alighting at New Delhi Railway Station, we found that there were a large number of police personnel. There was complete silence and people spoke in hushed voices only. Some comrades from Delhi came to us and told that National Emergency has been declared by the Government and it is not safe to stay where our accommodation was arranged. We were taken to the residence of Comrade Jyothirmoy Basu, CPI(M) leader and Member of Parliament. He had already gone underground to escape arrest. After reaching there, our comrades told about the explosive situation under the draconian emergency. We were told not to go outside, to avoid arrest.
However, I went to No.4, Ashoka Road,which was the bungalow allotted to Comrade A.K.Gopalan, M.P. I met Comrade Narikutty Mohanan there, who was the Delhi correspondent of Deshabhimani, the CPI(M) daily being published from Kerala. Incidentally at that time a call came from Ernakulam Telephone Exchange.There were no mobile phones at that time.Even STD was not available.Every trunk call was to be connected through Telephone Exchange only. It was fortunate that Comrade K.Prabhakaran, well known P and T leader called at that time. Since all press news were completely barred and communications through telephones and fax were all censured, there was no opportunity for Narikutty to give the latest report to the Deshabhimani in Kerala. When Prabhakaran contacted I asked him to connect Deshabhimani and Narikkutty gave detailed report about the declaration of emergency, the list of the arrested leaders and other information. And in the next day in Deshabhimani, all the news came with photos of the arrested leaders and a strong statement of leaders condemning Emergency. I was told later that Com. Narikkutty was taken into custody and questioned, but the police could not find how the news reached Ernakulam Deshabhimani, because there were no records of fax, trunk call etc.
Next day, I walked through Rafi Marg on the side of which is the Mavlankar Auditorium where the CGE convention was to be held. The entire area was cordoned and a large number of police were there.The convention was already banned and the leaders were compelled to cancel it. So the first taste of emergency for me was in Delhi only.
Later, so many leaders of CGE movement were arrested and put in jail till the end of emergency. Com. Prabhakaran was one among them. I was taken in to custody twice during the emergency and questioned for hours in the night, but was later released. The period of Emergency were black days for the entire country. No criticism of the government or the ruling party was allowed. It was a reign of terror. ‘India is Indira’ became the slogan of the sycophants. People were arrested and jailed without any reason. It was dictatorship. But resistance continued inside and outside.
During Emergency period, myself as Circle President and Com.T.V.Joseph as Circle Secretary of NFPTE E.III Union, went and met Kerala Chief Minister Shri C.Achutha Menon and requested for grant of parole to Com. V.A.Ouseph, NFPTE leader at Calicut, who was in jail, to attend to his sick mother. CM stated that he has no power in the matter and everything was decided by the Home Minister Shri K.Karunakaran only. We met Sri Karunakaran. When we introduced as representatives of the telecom Union, he became irritated. He cited an incident when a telephone operator refused to extend a trunk call he made to Smt. Indira Gandhi for more than six minutes. He told that ‘where I a Minister at that time, he would have been put in jail immediately.’ He also told that ‘all you union people are to be put in jail.’ We kept smiling, because we were interested in getting bail for Com. Ouseph. Fortunately he was given the parole as requested.
By 1977, Indira Gandhi felt that the situation is under control and election can be held. But her calculation failed. In the 1977 General Elections, Congress was routed out. For the first time in India, a non-congress government came in to power consisting of almost all opposition parties which won with thumping majority. The Shah Commission which was appointed to enquire in to the Emergency excesses gave a true picture of what the nation and the people suffered during the Emergency.
No Indian wants a recurrence of that draconian Emergency. But what happens at present gives a resemblance to the pre-Emergency days. RSS and Sangh Parivar with the full support of the government attacks the rights of the people to eat what they want, how to dress, whom to love, what to study etc. etc. The trend is similar to what happened in the early days of the Nazi rule under Adolph Hitler. Trade union rights are curtailed; Achieved benefits are taken away. Public Sector Units are sold for a song. Minorities are attacked under the open eyes of the authorities. Moves are afoot for the creation of a rightist Hindu Rashtra. The secular fabric of the nation is being torn and the dark forces are creating communal tensions.
The National Emergency of 1975-77 and its brutal suppression of people and their rights have not been forgotten. Nobody wants another or similar Emergency and attack on the people.
But what is happening now reminds of the ‘National Emergency -1975’. Even during this pandemic Covid period, corporates are given full freedom to exploit the people. Public sector units, including defence Ordnance Factories are going to be privatised. Railway, Air India, PSU Banks, all are in the line of privatisation. The Kisans and workers are on struggle for the last many months to ensure their existence against the attack from the anti-worker, anti-kisan policies. Freedom of expression is being made a crime.
Dark clouds are hovering over the sky. It is only through the determined mighty united struggle of the people that the recurrence of another Emergency can be avoided.
We learn from the past to defend our future!