UNPARDONABLE ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY

June 26, 2010
print this post

It will always remain a matter of dispute among students of Indian political history as to whether the Emergency clamped on the country in 1975 was on June 25 or on June 26.

Fact is that the President signed the Emergency Proclamation late night on June 25. But the Cabinet was informed about this only at 6.00 AM on June 26. The country came to know about it from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself on June 26 in an All India Radio broadcast made at 8.00 A.M.

In an earlier blog I have quoted from a book by a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office Bishan Tandon. About the events of those crucial days there cannot be a more authentic record than this book titled PMO DIARY. The Foreword to this book has been written by renowned British constitutional pundit Granville Austin.

Austin writes :

“This insider’s account of events, coupled with Mr. Tandon’s analysis of their meaning, would be of little or no value to us had he then not had a reputation as a very accurate reporter – a reputation he possesses today. Well informed political analysts may now occasionally disagree with Mr. Tandon’s views of the time, but the accuracy of his account seems above reproach.”

**

Here are some excerpts from Bishan Tandon’s diary of those days which would give readers unfamiliar with events of those troubled times an idea of what the country was going through.

24 June, 1975

Justice Iyer gave his ruling today on the PM’s appeal.

Palkhivala had argued for an unconditional stay on the Allahabad High Court’s judgement until the Supreme Court disposed of the matter. Shanti Bhushan had opposed this on the ground that in the last twenty years, the Supreme Court had not granted such a stay to anyone, and that the PM should also not get such a stay.

Justice Iyer ruled that as an MP the PM would receive exactly the sort of stay which the Supreme Court had granted in past cases but that this would not affect the PM’s status, except to the extent that she would not be able to vote in the Lok Sabha.

I have learnt that the PM is not happy with this ruling, but the propaganda launched is that it has fully vindicated the party’s and her stand.

The Supreme Court ruling has ended one legal phase of the PM’s case. Her image has taken a beating and her authority is in trouble. The greatest boost she has received is from the cowardice of her partymen, especially of her senior ministers.

Her objective is clear: whatever happens, she must remain PM. The senior leaders will applaud her as she does whatever she wants. Our ideals, values and yardsticks can go to hell. Is democracy nearing its end in our country ?

26 JUNE 1975

As I was leaving for the office, Sharada (Sharada Prasad, PM’s Information Adviser) phoned to say, “You must have heard, it is all over. We will talk when you come to the office.” He sounded very dejected.

On reaching office I went straight to Sharada’s room. He told me in detail whatever he knew. Last night the PM had summoned him and Prof. Dhar to her house at 10 p.m. Barooah (Congress President) and Ray (West Bengal C.M.) were already there. When Prof. Dhar and Sharada reached there, the PM told them, “I have decided to declare an Emergency. The president has agreed. I will inform the cabinet tomorrow.” Saying this, she handed over the draft of the Emergency proclamation to Prof. Dhar. He and Sharada were stunned. They had been summoned only in order to be informed and for their advice on the propaganda to follow. She also told them to prepare a draft of her address to the nation. They were at the PM’s house till about 1 a.m. The cabinet was to meet at 6 a.m.

All those ministers who were in Delhi attended the cabinet meeting. The PM told them what she had decided to do but not one of them protested, not even faintly. The arrests were not discussed at all. Sharada said that all the main leaders of the opposition, including JP, Morarji, Charan Singh have been arrested.

Sharada also told me that Sanjay was now in full control of the PM’s house. After the cabinet meeting he called Gujral to one side and scolded him for the poor propaganda effort. He told him to send every news bulletin to the PM’s house henceforth.

Sharada was very tired. Since June 12 he has had to work the hardest in the PM’s secretariat because the PM’s entire strategy is based on propaganda. But more than physical tiredness, he was in mental agony. I have never seen him like this. He must surely have wondered if this was what he had gone to jail for in 1942. He is a journalist. After independence this is the first time that pre-censorship has been imposed.

I was very depressed the whole day. I felt very bitter as well. Is democracy coming to an end ?

27 JUNE 1975

There were no papers in the morning today also. How long is this going to continue? When I asked Sharada after reaching office, he said that power was still cut off to all newspaper offices, which is why they could not be printed. All this is being done by unlawful force, not under any law.


Palkhivala has declined to continue as the PM’s lawyer. Fali Nariman, the additional solicitor general, has also resigned. Clearly, not everyone has lost his soul and this is the only ray of hope in the prevailing darkness.

**

In the course of my comments on events of the Emergency era, another book I have relied upon is the one by Uma Vasudev. Both these authors are non-political. Neither can be regarded as hostile to Mrs. Gandhi. But both are extremely upset over the manner Mrs. Gandhi is handling the situation.

N.K. Mukherjee was Home Secretary at that time and was reckoned as one of the most competent officers in Government. He was abruptly shifted to Tourism and S.L. Khurana Chief Secretary of Rajasthan brought in his place (In Morarji Bhai’s government, N.K. Mukherjee became Cabinet Secretary).

Uma Vasudev writes :

‘At 11 am on the 25th morning, when Siddhartha Ray saw the prime minister, she showed him a sheaf of reports about the situation in the country. “In her assessment,” said Ray, “something had to be done.”

He came away, but went back at 4 pm with a lot of books and the Constitution of India. That’s when they talked about the emergency. “Does the law permit it?” she asked Ray. “Yes,” he replied. “It does permit a second emergency.”

They both went to the President, who had also seen a number of reports. He agreed within fifteen minutes.

The letter had to be drafted to be sent to the President, suggesting the promulgation of emergency. Two lines would be drafted, and then Mrs. Gandhi would read them out. “Why was it taking so long?” Every five minutes Sanjay (Gandhi) would come in from another room and say, ‘Mummy, come for a minute,’ and she would go,” recalled Ray. Sanjay was busy ringing up chief ministers who happened to be in Delhi, or those in the state capitals, and would call his mother each time to talk to them.

By 6.30 that evening the phones were ringing hectically in select homes or offices of some of the northern states. The pattern was almost identical. The telephone would ring at the residence of the chief secretary, the home secretary, and the inspector general of police – “The chief minister wants you to attend an urgent meeting.” In the office of the chief minister there would be an air of secrecy. “The emergency is being announced in the country and everybody in the opposition has to be rounded up. Wireless messages should be sent to the DIGs in every division to round up the members of the RSS and the hard core of the Jan Sangh. The press should not get to know. Censorship should be imposed. They should be prevented from publishing any news relating to this round up.”

“Why is this happening, sir?” An officer would ask.

“Because a situation has emerged where all institutions of government are threatened and widespread rebellion is likely to take place. If people are not arrested, we’ll not be able to control the situation.

**

In 1977, as Information and Broadcasting Minister in Morarji Desai’s Government I appointed a special committee, headed by a former Secretary in my ministry, to prepare a White Paper on the excesses committed on the media under cover of press censorship. The committee completed its job in record time and I was able to table a White Paper in Parliament in August 1977. The facts and figures that it revealed were shocking.

As many as 253 journalists were arrested during the Emergency. Of these, 110 were arrested under MISA, 110 under DIR and thirty-three under other laws. Entry into India was banned for twenty-nine foreign journalists, which included Mark Tully, the highly popular BBC correspondent. The government disaccredited fifty-one foreign journalists and expelled seven of them.

L.K. Advani
New Delhi

June 26, 2010

***

APPENDIX TO BLOG

Table : Number of Arrests and Detentions in Various States/ UTs during Emergency

Name of State/ UT Detention under MISA Arrests under DISIR
Andhra Pradesh 1135 451
Assam 533 2388
Bihar 2360 7747
Gujarat 1762 2643
Haryana 200 1079
Himachal Pradesh 34 654
Jammu & Kashmir 466 311
Karnataka 487 4015
Kerala 790 7134
Madhya Pradesh 5620 2521
Maharashtra 5473 9799
Manipur 231 228
Meghalaya 39 20
Nagaland 95 4
Orissa 408 762
Punjab 440 2463
Rajasthan 542 1352
Sikkim 4
Tamilnadu 1027 1644
Tripura 77 99
Uttar Pradesh 6956 24781
West Bengal 4992 2547
Andman & Nicobar Islands 41 88
Arunachal Pradesh 1
Chandigarh 27 74
Dadra & Nagar Haveli 3
Delhi 1012 2851
Goa, Daman & Diu 113
Lakshdweep Islands
Mizoram 70 136
Pondicherry 54 63
Total 34988 [MISA Detentions] 75818 [DISIR Arrests]

 TOTAL BEHAIND BARS : 1,10,806
[Source : Shah Commission’s Report on Emergency]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*