The People Versus Emergency: A Saga of Struggle

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Item Code: NAJ391
Author: P.G. Sahasrabuddhe and Manik Chandra Vajpayee
Publisher: Suruchi Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2022
Pages: 647 (8 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 740 gm
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The sun of India’s independence had been eclipsed during the period June 26, 1975 to March 21, 1977. Indira Gandhi bound the whole country with the chains of Emergency. She put thousands of workers and leaders, big and small, behind the bars. They were all innocent. But none could raise his voice protest. The demon of dictatorship stalked the land.


After a few days of superficial calm the Lok Sangharsh Samiti sounded the bugle of Satyagraha. There was a tremendous mass agitation, which had national as well as international repercussions. Lakhs of Indians staunchly opposed dictatorship directly or indirectly. Satyagrahis filled up the jails. Underground bulletins spread the suppressed truth all over the country. Many thinkers all over the world condemned Mrs. Gandhi. As a result she lost the elections. The chains of dictatorship were shattered. The sun of freedom arose. The gates of jail opened. Banned organisations began to function regularly. The present book describes this thrilling struggle.


It was a venturesome task to write the account of this grim struggle with all its social, economic and political aspects.


Those eminent personalities who had led the struggle got so busy after March 21, 1977 that it became difficult for them to spare even a week’s time to do this sort of writing. How then could they spare a year or more? Some said they had chosen to forget whatever they did. Others said let bygones be bygones. Some quoted the Gita, saying the deed was their right, not the fruit thereof. Others replied with a disarming smile that they were the makers of history, not its writers.


It is true that we should not always hark back to history, but it is also true that a society that forgets its past has a bleak future. So this history has been written not to trumpet the past but to take guidance for the future. It is necessary to have knowledge of those circumstances, reasons and shortcomings so that some future power-hungry ruler may not dare to repeat that dark history. To acquire that knowledge is the purpose of this history. At the same time it is necessary for selfless patriots to be always present in the country and for the whole Society to be informed with the sentiment of patriotism. To explain this is another reason for writing all this.


This period is a sea of events. Instead of trying to cover all of them this book has been limited to the agitations conducted by the Lok Sangharsh Samiti, the main character in this struggle. So far as possible we have not tried to exceed this limit. We have kept a positive and constructive point of view. We have not permitted prejudices against anybody to affect us, be it Mrs. Gandhi or the smallest police official committing atrocities. We have considered personalities secondary and given priority to presenting historical facts.


About three hundred books and booklets have been written on this subject. Most of them are based on contemporary, personal experiences and are provincial, regional or partisan by nature. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh achieved what all other parties together could not do. But many of these so- called historians did not even mention the Sangh by name in their’ histories’. Our attempt is to do justice to the Sangh.


We have naturally taken the help of all these books and booklets, but our main source has been the reports and statistics provided by those who actually participated in the struggle. So it can be said that this book has been authored by hundreds of writers. We have only edited the available material and arranged selected portions from it in a certain order. It was impossible to name all places and individuals and describe all events, so only a few representative things have been extensively dealt with and the rest left to the reader’s imagination. Special efforts have been made to see that there is no partiality or imbalance in the presentation. Within the limitations of number of pages, price and our own capacity the maximum possible information has been given and the maximum possible variety maintained. We are aware that there may be many deficiencies. We have tried to make a bouquet of flowers of many hues and many fragrances For in the final analysis we have had to depend upon available source material. So we would welcome some knowledgeable reader pointing out [actual errors, if any, so that they could be corrected in future editions.


A veritable mountain of source material rose before us when an appeal was made to provinces and districts to send books, bulletins, accounts and statistics. At that lime Prin. M.K. alias Bhausaheb Paranjape (retired) of Pune and his associates Look great pains to read it all and classify and categorise it. Then alone could research scholars enter this forest of details. In the actual task of writing invaluable assistance was received from shri Bapurao Warhadpande, retired principal, Nagpur, Shri M.G. Vaidya, retired editor, ‘Tarun Bharat’, Nagpur, Prof. Munindra Mohan Chaturvedi, Gwalior, Dr. Shyam Bahadur Verma, Delhi, Shri H.V. Seshadri and K.S. Nagaraja, Bangalore and H.R. Ranganath Rao, Nagpur. In spite of their preoccupations Sarvashri Seshadri, Kup. Si. Sudarshan, Dattopant Thengadi, Shrikant Joshi, Laxmanrao Bhide and Chamanlal carefully went through the initial draft, made many valuable suggestions and gave guidance in various ways. They all are so close to us that neither can we thank them nor repay their debt. So all we can do is to pray God that their love and affection be always with us. The credit of bringing us into this project goes to Shri Anantrao Gokhale. He gave us this dip in the Ganga of history. Whatever merit this holy dip brought us goes rightfully to him.


Like honey-bees we collected whatever good we got from wherever we got it, but we are especially grateful to the following works and their authors.


(1) ‘Bhuguli’ (Kannad) by H.V. Seshadri, (2) ‘The decline and fall of Indira Gandhi’ by D.R. Mankekar and Kamala Mankekar, (3) ‘Experiment with untruth’ by Michael Hendcrson, (4) ‘When the wind blows’ by S.P. Aiyar, and S.V. Raju, (5) ‘Apat Kal Mein Gupt Kranti’ (Hindi) by Dina Nath Mishra, (6) ‘Mukti Yagya’ (Hindi) by Om Shankar, (7) Apat Kaleen Sangharsh Mein Bihar’ (Hindi) by Dr. Shatrughna Prasad, (8) ‘Tanashahi Ko Chunauti’ (Hindi) Prof. Chandrakant Gupta, (9) ‘Vidarbhacha Mukti Sangharsh’ (Marathi) by Ram Bondale, (10) ‘Hi Julmavar Dheet Chadhai’ (Marathi) by Chandrashekhar Wagh, (II) ‘Ye Unnees Mahinay’ (Hindi) by Laxmi Kant Joshi (12) Chamanlal’s diary, and (13) ‘Historic legal battle’ by S. Ram Jois.


The task of writing this book has brought us a great personal benefit. We two have been old friends and associates. During this project we had the pleasure of passing about a year in each other’s company. During this period we read a lot, discussed at length, wrote as well as dictated for hours and enjoyed each other’s company. Both of us have been sufferers of the Emergency, naturally our own memories of that period helped us to identify ourselves with the subject matter.


It is our great good forture that this book has been graced by a preface by Shri Dattopant Thengadi, known the world over for his basic Indian thinking and a top leader of the struggle throughout its period, and a peroration by Shri H. V. Seshadri, great organiser and well-known man of letters in Kannad, who has many books to his credit including ‘Bhuguli’ an impact-making work on this subject.


After the task of writing is over every book has to go through a long process. We are deeply grateful to those who willingly accepted its responsibility as also to all those who helped us in many other ways.


In the end we crave the reader’s indulgence and request him to favour us with his reaction.




An Emergency is an extraordinary situation; its causes can be ordinary, but putting an end to it requires an extraordinary struggle. An extraordinary struggle of extraordinary courage and valour. The saga of one such struggle is presented here. For all devotees of freedom and democracy this saga would act like a lamp placed on the threshold. In its light they would be able to see . inspiring events of the past and the right way to the future; for dictatorship is as natural a tendency for man as a yearning for freedom. Both are natural to man, so they are to be found everywhere and at all times. Hence the importance of this saga of a struggle also transcends time and place. For it is said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom”.


Enough literature has been published on the struggle against the Emergency, but a comprehensive, proportionate and authentic history has not yet been presented to the people. There are reasons for this.


The material published so far can be divided into two categories- personal accounts and objective writing. Personal accounts have their limitations. For a history fully based on personal accounts it would be necessary to include that of every-one who participated in the campaign, either as a soldier or as a leader. This has not been possible so far, neither is it likely to be in future.


After the Emergency was withdrawn much objective literature on the struggle has also been published. But these writers were faced with a dilemma. People were very eager to know all that happened during this period and it was necessary from the professional point of view that articles or books satisfying this curiosity should reach the market at the earliest. On the other hand it was not possible for anybody to collect all related facts and statistics so quickly, as it was the underground team that had planned all important activities of this period. Had the writing been done after collecting all information there would have been inordinate delay from the point of view of both public curiosity and trade prospects. Hence every writer used the information available to him at the time of writing. This was in the fitness of things. But because of this process a comprehensive objective history of the struggle could also not be compiled so far.


How to write the history of such a struggle is also a problem. How much of underground life and activity should be published and how much kept unpublished is a matter of striking a proportion. Once when Swatantrya Veer Savarkar was asked what trick he had used for his world-famous leap into the sea near the shores of France he replied, “What would an answer to that question achieve? Is anyone of you going to take inspiration from it and do something concrete?” Secondly who can tell if some other revolutionary would not find it necessary to use the same technique? This is a matter to be pondered, although it is true that the situation is now different and a repetition of the Emergency does not seem likely in the near future.


Then again, no model for such a history is available. First generation revolutionaries of India had derived inspiration from our great men of history and from foreigners, especially Joseph Mazzini, Mazzini’s biography is available. Biographies of underground communist leaders like Lenin, Stalin etc. have also been published. Much light has also been thrown on the lives of Indian revolutionaries. Such literature makes it clear that it is easy to publicise the work and achievements of underground workers, but it is generally considered dangerous to give an authentic explanation of how underground life was led in one’s own country, who helped in what way, how underground lines of communication were maintained and so on. It is a matter of pleasure for us that the present book has maintained such a proportion and has endeavoured to give maximum publishable information. Literature published so far has clearly left many deficiencies for want of time, such as the one-day token Satyagraha conducted in U.P. by hundreds of people of the BLD under the leadership of Smt. Gayatri Devi, the Satyagraha of the followers of the Jai Gurudev sect in eastern U.P., the work done by Sarvodaya workers after overcoming the initial stage of doubt, public enlightenment brought about by opposition M.P.s through the medium of Parliament, the PWP campaign in the Kandhar region of Maharashtra, the contribution of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, CPM and CITU in the labour field, the work done by the organisation under the leadership of V.M. Tarkunde for the protection of human rights and civil liberties, the contribution of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti in the women’s field, the leadership and guidance provided by the Vidyarthi Parishad in the students’ field, the Acharya Conference and its effect on the prevailing situation, efforts made by jurists, educationists, retired judges, men of letters etc., efforts made to acquaint delegates to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference with the situation in India, the indirect cooperation of the DMK Government, the direct cooperation of the non-Congress Government of Gujarat, the attitude of the Jammu-Kashmir Government during the struggle, activities undertaken to boost the morale of those in prison, methods used to reach help to affected families, efforts made for the establishment of the Janata Party before elections . were announced and so on. In spite of their importance all these are far from clear. Even a systematic history of the work done by Lok Sangharsh Samiti has \ not yet been published. The Akali Dal, a regional party whose role in the struggle was more glorious than that of any all-India political party, has also not been given its due in the new literature. Information on the contribution of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, on whose strength the whole struggle was possible, is also not available.


Is it possible to write a true and complete history of the struggle?


The more than 10,000 innocent nonviolent souls who fell victims to cruel tortures on official instigation in the Police Raj of the Government of India that had supported, in September 1976, the UN resolution condemning irregular arrests and inhuman tortures, hundreds of patriots who, like Pandurangpant Kshirsagar or Morubhaiya Gadre, became martyrs in jailor due to incarceration, about one and a quarter lakh valiant warriors who went to jail, including about 25,000 who did so on account of MISA and one lakh who courted arrest voluntarily, thousands of underground revolutionaries with whom nonviolence was a creed of faith, thousands of families that were ruined because the head of the family was put in jail, innumerable people victimised by the family planning campaign, innumerable hut-dwellers whose abodes were razed to the ground in the name of urban beautification, about 15000 workers of the Sangh and the Jana Sangh who were kept behind the bars even after elections were announced, the poor who fell victims to disease and death due to starvation, unemployment and price-rise caused by the antipeople policies of the Government - which historian can name everyone of these innumerable people?


In the case of those events that could be referred to very briefly would it be practicable to describe them in detail, although it would be appropriate, in view of the constraints of space? Take, for instance, some important pre- Emergency events.


The various effects of the ‘martial monsoon’ on the political field, the wrong policies deliberately adopted by the Government of India under pressure from Indian as well as foreign capitalists, the student agitations of Gujarat and Bihar, Morarji Desai’s fast unto death for elections in Gujarat; successful efforts of Vidyarthi Parishad leaders Ram Bahadur Rai and Govindacharya in bringing Jai Prakash Narayan into active politics; warnings about coming events by Justice K. Subba Rao, Justice H.R. Khanna, K. Santhanam, Acharya Kripalani, Balasaheb Deoras, Nani Palkhiwala; Atal Behari Vajpayee’s statement on the futility of the parliamentary process in the new situation; the stand taken by Krishna Kant and Chandra Shekhar who had refused to sign the pledge of loyalty to Mrs. Gandhi; behind the scenes improper pressures on Raj Narain, who had approached the Allahabad High Court, and Justice Jagmohan Lal Sin ha, who delivered the historic judgement; physical assaults on prominent and potential opposition leaders, criminalisation of politics; efforts to make the Central police force more powerful than State police forces; activities of RA W and KGB during this period; the use of ‘fear and favour’ for a committed judiciary, parliament (constitution) and press; and above all, the precautions taken to ensure that it would not be possible for the Opposition as well as Congressmen to do a real psycho-analysis of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.


A full treatment of all these is impossible within the constraints of space and price.


It is a different matter with the actual struggle. It was massive and multidimensional in proportion. Its canvas was not only countrywide but global. Therefore, it is proper and expected that its treatment be comprehensive and one that does justice to every concerned party and individual. To how many people and aspects would it be necessary to do justice from this point of view? Every social, economic, political and tactical detail that underwent a change every day during this period; every discussion in the Government camp when a new plot or conspiracy was mooted; changing reactions to the changing situation that took place in the public mind here and abroad; the power equation between friends and foes that kept changing with daily events; the continuous deliberations among the agitationists about the chalking out of new plans of struggle after minutely studying the surrounding scene; different internal responses, caused by different motivations to the same event or plan of the different parties and persons that had joined the camp of the struggle; setting up of ever-changing resource-organisations on both sides; the continuous multi-dimensional struggle in their light; the psychological and physical condition of the innumerable people who participated in it; not only various events but their logical analysis - a treatment that encompasses all these aspects will alone be considered comprehensive and just. Even if the authors have the capacity for it would it be practical to publish such a tome within the constraints mentioned above?





Preface - Lamp at the Threshold



Towards The Fateful Night



The Grip Tightens



The Satyagraha Era



E valuation of Satyagraha



Satyagraha Ended, Not the Struggle






The Underground Movement



Behind The Bars



Struggle on Many Fronts :



The Court of Law



Struggle in Parliament



The Constitution



The Media






Era of New Construction



The Popular Explosion



Inside The Volcano



The Direction



Inspiring Letters









Chronology of Events: 1974 to March 1977



Vinoba Bhave



Namaste Sada Vatsale Matribhoome



Sample Pages

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