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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 30 New Delhi July 16, 2016

The Black Day

Sunday 17 July 2016

by Samit Kar

In his recent address in the ‘Man ki baat’ aired through the public broadcasting system all over the country, Narendra Modi described June 26 as the Dark Day in the history of India. This year, this day happened to be the 41st anniversary of the day of the declaration of the Emergency by Indira Gandhi in 1975. The Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, twitted on this day to remind the countrymen how Indira Gandhi on the alibi to restore public order had tried to continue her stint as the Prime Minister beyond five years in the wake of the historic judgement of the Allahabad High Court. The learned High Court observed that owing to severe malpractice in the 1971 Lok Sabha election in the Raibareiley constituency in Uttar Pradesh, the election of Indira Gandhi as an MP was nullified. But considering the nationwide growing unpopularity of her party, she feared to face the repoll and instead declared Emergency to extend her tenure and continue to be the Prime Minister.

The 20-month long Emergency period found India experiencing the worst form of draconian rule putting aside all democratic rights of the countrymen. A spate of arrests of several prominent leaders was made in order to make her the one and only leader of our country. People began to ridicule and say, there is only one male member in the Union Cabinet and the name is Indira Gandhi. Then All India Congress Committee President D.K. Barooah said, Indira is India and India is Indira, and we are proud to be her rubber stamps. Her son, Sanjay Gandhi, began to amass a tremendous amount of exta-constitutional power and many of the severe misuses of power during the Emergency period were his handiwork. The charter of 20-point programme declared at this time was his brainchild. The main brunt of the onslaught was meted out to all the major political parties save the members and leaders of the CPI who were then the ally of Indira Gandhi. Other Left parties were by and large beyond the purview of assault of Indira Gandhi barring a few exceptions. For example, the vocal parliamentarian of the CPI-M elected from the Diamond Harbour constituency, Jyotirmoy Bose, was put behind bars.

Some Professors joined Satyen Sen, then Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, to garland Sanjay Gandhi when he visited the University. But at that time he was not holding any government position. Later, some Professors, who garlanded him, became the most trusted aides of Anil Biswas, the head of the West Bengal unit of the CPI-M. The nexus between the top Left leaders and the Congress party led by the Nehru-Gandhi family was always very cordial. In the event of the marriage of Indira and Feroze, the Left leaders were known to be the witnesses. Though Jyotirmoy Bose was jailed at the instance of Indira Gandhi in 1975, he was not a prominent leader in the party echelon. Moreover, there is a widespread belief, Indira got the approval of some senior leaders of the CPI-M to arrest him as some of his startling accusations against her put the Prime Minister on the wrong foot. Bose, a former Major of the Indian Army, used to have a personal Research Team to expose Indira’s misdeeds and severe corruption. As a consequence, utterly revengeful in character, Indira stated publicly that Bose should not be in Parliament in future. However, the historic victory of the CPI-M-supported Janata Party led to her own removal from the Lok Sabha until she could make her re- entry through her victory from the Chikmagalur constituency in Karnataka.

Like the infamous torture and brutality on the Opposition in the Emergency period, the treatment meted out to the CPI-M members and supporters at the grassroots in West Bengal, Kerala and the newly formed Tripura was very harsh. The emergence of the party, primarily in these States was largely possible due to the consolidation of marginal groups comprising small peasants, plantation workers, industrial workers, refugees, school teachers till then very lowly paid, students, youth and poor and low middle class men and women. The call of socialism in search of a better future cemented the marginal groups to launch a strong anti-Congress movement towards the formation of the new alternative. Therefore, most of the political parties formed at the Central or State levels could germinate due to the incessant anti-Congress movement especially against the authoritarian Indira and inept Manmohan regime. The beginning of the long movement had the kick-start on June 26, 1975, 41 years from now.

Narendra Modi called this day the Dark Day in the annals of the history of our country. During the days of the Emergency, Arun Jaitley was a firebrand student leader studying in the Commerce stream in Delhi University. He and hundreds of students were beaten up by the goons of Sanjay Gandhi and police of the Indira Government. When the Janata Government was founded in March 1977, Arun Jaitley and other student leaders showed the cruel marks on their body due to brutal torture in the victory celebration rally held at Boat Club in New Delhi. More than 11,000 local leaders and supporters of the CPI-M were rendered homeless by the goons and police of Siddhartha Sankar Ray. The birth of the entire West Bengal CPI-M happened due to staunch anti-Congressism. It is not an easy task now to melt the great divide. The day of June 26 is indeed a Dark Day in our memory lane. But it also gave the glorious opportunity in the ushering in of many major political parties and leaders who emerged from the famous Sarvodaya Movement headed by Jayaprakash Narayan from Champaran in Bihar until it spread like a prairie fire across the country leading to the installation of the first non-Congress Government led by Morarji Desai and Jagjivan Ram as his Deputy. Every dark tunnel is succeeded by endless light. No wonder the Dark Day bloosomed into a Sunny Day.

The author is a former Sociology Faculty in the Presidency University, Kolkata.