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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 29 New Delhi July 7, 2018

Emergency, Indira Gandhi and RSS

Monday 9 July 2018

by L.S. Hardenia

I do not hold any brief for Indira Gandhi as far as her decision to impose Emergency is concerned. There is no doubt that the Emergency period will be recorded as a black chapter in the democratic history of the country. But certainly I have every reason to differ with Arun Jaitely when he compares Indira Gandhi with Hitler.

Hitler perhaps was the cruellest ruler in the history of mankind. Besides destroying all the democratic institutions of Germany, which had a glorious history of democracy, he targeted one particular community (Jews) and wanted their total physical annihilation. But Indira did not target any particular community. In our country there are leaders who orchestrated the genocide of people belonging to a particular community in Gujarat. Hitler’s cruelty did not have any limits. Because of his brutal attitude even a great scientist like Albert Einstein had to leave his motherland. But during the Emergency there is no record that anybody left India because of the so-called atrocities committed by Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial regime. On the contrary stalwarts like Jayaprakash Narayan were allowed access to the highest possible medical help. Similarly J.B. Kripalani, a great freedom fighter and Gandhi’s chosen disciple, was not arrested despite the fact that he continued to lead the public stir against the Emergency. In fact Kripalani complained that he had been left out while all his friends were given the privilege of imprisonment.

Hitler not only destroyed democracy but destroyed Germany itself. But Jaitely must appreciate the fact that Indira restored demo-cracy, ordered elections knowing fully well that total annihilation awaits her. Perhaps, she was aware that the voters are going to punish her severely for her decision to impose Emergency. Here I will like to draw attention to a point: if the Emergency was so bad why then did the chief of the RSS congratulate Indira Gandhi when the Supreme Court gave judgment in her favour?

M.D. Deoras, in his letter written from Yerwada Central Jail, dated November 10, 1975, wrote: “Respected Smt. Gandhi, Prime Minister, Government of India, New Delhi, let me congratulate you and five judges of the Supreme Court who have declared the validity of your election.” Prior to that Deoras, in his letter written from Yerwada Jail (and dated August 22, 1975) addressed to Mrs Gandhi, stated: “Respectful Namaskar from the jail. I listened with rapt attention to your broadcast message relayed from the AIR and address to the nation on August 15, 1975. Your speech was suitable for the occasion and well balanced. I took my pen to write this letter.” In this letter Deoras praised the programme which Mrs Gandhi announced in the course of her speech. Deoras further wrote: “As you said in your speech delivered on 15th August, 1975 inviting the entire country to this work, it was the most befitting occasion and time.”

At present the BJP and RSS claim that they were the main opponents of the Emergency and it was largely due to their struggle that the Emergency was lifted. But the fact is that the RSS assured Mrs Gandhi that the Sangh keeps itself aloof from power politics. In the same letter, dated November 10, 1975, Deoras writes: “The Sangh has been referred to in connection with the movement of Jaya Prakash Narayan. The name of the Sangh has been linked with the Bihar and Gujarat movements again and again and without any cause.” He clarified that the “Sangh has no connection with these movements”.

Deoras repeatedly reassured the Prime Minister to “set free thousands of RSS workers and remove the restriction on the Sangh. If that is done the power of selfless work on the part of lakhs of RSS volunteers will be utilised for national upliftment (government as well as non-government).”

Deoras also sought the help of Vinoba Bhave in lifting the ban on the RSS. From St. George’s Hospital’s prison ward no. 14, Bombay. Deoras writes: “At the feet of respected Acharya Vinobaji, this is my prayer to you that you kindly try to remove the wrong notion of the Prime Minister about the Sangh and as a result of which the RSS volunteers will be set free. The ban on the Sangh will be lifted and such a condition will prevail as to enable the volunteers of the Sangh to participate in the planned programme of action relating to country’s progress and prosperity under the leadership of the Prime Minister. Prayer for your blessings.”

Shri Jaitely claims that Indira Gandhi was like Hitler. Why then did the top boss of the Sangh, of which he (Jaitley) was a part in 1975 and even now, accept Indira Gandhi as his leader? It may be mentioned here that Vinod Dua in his popular programme “Jan Gan Man Ki Baat” has termed Deoras’ letters as pieces of apology.

During the Emergency a slogan was very popular. The slogan was: “Emergency ke teen dalal, Vidya, Sanjay, Bansilal”. At that time Vidya Charan Shukla was the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Bansilal was the Defence Minister and Sanjay Gandhi was the most confidant of Indira Gandhi. (Sanjay was the younger son of Indira Gandhi.) All these three were the main executioners of the Emergency. Later the BJP co-opted both V.C. Shukla and Bansilal. V.C. Shukla contested the Lok Sabha election on a BJP ticket, the BJP became a part of the Haryana State Ministry headed by Bansilal. Sanjay died in an air crash in 1980 but the BJP admitted his wife, Maneka Gandhi, into the party and made her a Central Minster and she continues to be so. To the best of our information, Maneka Gandhi has not condemned the Emergency so far. If Indira was like Hitler then V.C., Bansilal and Sanjay Gandhi were her main commanders. The Shah Commission, which the Janata Government constituted to inquire into atrocities during the Emergency, found them guilty of doing several acts to enforce the provisions of the Emergency. It was V.C. Shukla who monitored the censorship on the media. What happened that the BJP rewarded Shukla? This was the volte-face of the BJP which is the political wing of the RSS.

In the end it may be mentioned that the RSS has admiration for Hitler. This admiration was reflected in some school textbooks of Gujarat. There was a hue and cry against this act of the Gujarat Government and then the laudable references to Hitler were removed.

The author, who is the convenor of the Rashtriya Secular Manch, is a senior journalist and activist in defence of secular values.

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