Right Word: A 22-Word Obituary and a Brief Anecdotal Emergency History
The Emergency’s 48th anniversary falls on une 25. It is still the darkest period of India’s democratic past. The then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had declared a national emergency that restricted fundamental rights, imprisoned the opposition, and censored the media on the night of June 25-26. She overturned the Constitution, and the Congress party didn’t even raise an eyebrow. Furthermore, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was the front-runner in challenging her power in order to safeguard Indian democracy and the Indian Constitution.
Anyplace between 1 to 1.5 lakh RSS volunteers were captured, a large portion of them spending close to 12 months and a half in prison in brutal circumstances. At the very least, 87 RSS volunteers were killed. When Congress and Indira’s dictatorial regime asked the Indian media to bend, the foreign press extensively covered the underground movement against the emergency, and they were all in agreement that the Indian democracy could not have been protected without the RSS.
While the older generation still remembers the horrors of Emergency, the younger generation, particularly millennials, barely knows about it or talks about it. However, they are aware that the current anti-Congress sentiment in India, which is influencing contemporary Indian politics, has its roots in those terrible times. Here is a brief anecdotal history of the darkest period of Indian democracy in order to pique the interest of our readers, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the Emergency.
Famous Obituary Three days after newspapers were censored and the Emergency was declared, an obituary was published in the Times of India’s classified section. Ashok Mahadevan, a 26-year-old Mumbai-based journalist working for Reader’s Digest in India at the time, wrote it and put it in the newspaper. Despite the fact that it became the talk of the town and a huge embarrassment for the Indira government, the officer assigned to censor the newspaper let it go because it appeared to be so innocuous. An Indian journalist’s 22-word obituary will go down in history as one of the smartest and sharpest attacks on Emergency. That obituary read as follows: On June 26, O’Cracy, D.E.M., devoted husband of T. Ruth, devoted father of L.I. Bertie, and brother of Faith, Hope, and Justicia, passed away.
MOTHERLAND AND MALKANI KR Malkani, editor of Motherland, a daily English newspaper, was the first person to be arrested under emergency conditions from his Pandara Road home in Delhi on June 26 at around 2.30 a.m. On the 25th and 26th of June, at midnight, the power supply to Motherland’s office was cut off. However, by chance, power was restored in its office around noon, and whatever editorial staff was still there published a special edition that detailed Indira Gandhi’s draconian decision to impose Emergency. Except for a brief article in The Hindustan Times, no other newspaper had reported on the Emergency on June 26.
Motherland, on the other hand, was able to publish a special supplement on June 26 that detailed Indira Gandhi’s decision to impose an emergency. A single copy of this historic edition was sold for Rs 20, which was a princely sum for a newspaper copy at the time. On June 26, it was the only newspaper to publish in-depth Emergency stories and inform the nation and the world of the situation. Malkani wrote The Midnight Knock, a fascinating first-hand account of Emergency’s saga, after spending more than 18 months in jail.
NARENDRA MODI AND THE EMERGENCY The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, was a full-time RSS Pracharak in Gujarat when the Emergency was declared. He hid out, evaded capture, and helped establish Gujarat as the primary publishing hub for underground literature that was distributed throughout other states. Sangharhma Gujarat, Modi’s first book, is a first-hand account of the movement. His covert meeting with the controversial socialist leader George Fernandes, who was one of the Indira government’s primary targets, is discussed in one of the episodes.
Modi writes about his dramatic encounter with Fernandes, a key underground movement leader at the time: The door was near where a yellow Fiat stopped. A person emerged from it. He had a large frame, wore a wrinkled kurta, wore a green bandana on his head, wore a printed tahmat, and wore a gold watch on his wrist. He was referred to as “Baba,” and he was dressed as a Muslim mystic and had a large beard on his face.
“Fernandes entered with this. It was also a joyful occasion back then to meet colleagues involved in the struggle. We gave each other hugs and thanked each other for persevering through the struggle. I gave him all of the information I had about Gujarat and the other provinces.
Modi added, “I was in constant contact with Mr. George, and I also got him to meet Nanaji (RSS’ senior pracharak Shri Nanaji Deshmukh)” after this.
The resistance movement against the Emergency was spearheaded by Nanaji. He was the secretary of the Lok Sangharsh Samiti, a group of people opposed to the Emergency.
At that point, the public authority was attempting to frantically find both Fernandes and Nanaji.
Modi describes the initial agitation as follows: We Pracharaks used to live in the Sangh office. The Sangh was outlawed on July 4 and the government occupied its offices. As a result, I and Shri Keshavrao Deshmukh, the provincial pracharak of the Sangh, used to live with Shri Vasantbhai Gajendragadkar.
Dattopant Thengadi, an RSS adherent and ideologue, wrote the book’s foreword. In Appendix 4, Modi spends about a page and a half discussing the book, stating, “This is my first book.” As a soldier of war, not as an author, I wrote this book to answer some difficult questions about the underground struggle that have remained unanswered up to this point.
In an article titled Yes There Is an Underground, published on January 24, 1976, Foreign Press on Emergency stated, “In formal terms, the underground is an alliance of four opposition parties: The Lok Dal, the socialist party, the Congress party’s breakaway faction, and the Jana Sangh, which is the political wing of the RSS.
However, the majority of the movement’s shock troops are comprised of members of the Jana Sangh and RSS, which together claim to have 10 million members, of which 80,000, including 6,000 full-time party workers, are in prison.
The Economist wrote: “In another dispatch, which was reprinted in the underground journal Satyavani on June 26, 1977, The underground campaign against Mrs. Gandhi denies both class struggle and bloodshed and claims to be the only non-left-wing revolutionary force in the world. Since Jana Sangh and its banned cultural affiliate, the RSS, dominate it, it may even be considered right-wing. However, the only non-ideological plank on its platform at the moment is to restore democracy to India.
It continued, “The actual operation consists of tens of thousands of cadres organized down to the village level into four-man cells.” The other opposition parties, which began as partners in the underground, have effectively given the field to the Jana Sangh and the RSS. The majority of them are regulars at the RSS. The RSS cadre network’s primary function is to disseminate anti-Gandhi propaganda. Any spark can start the revolutionary Prairie fire once the ground is prepared and political consciousness is raised so that leaders can be prepared.
In an article published on August 2, 1976 and titled “The Empress Reigns Supreme,” a minister from the Indira government was quoted as saying, “The RSS continues to be active all over India, Brahmanand Reddy, the Indian Home Minister, said recently.” It has even reached Kerala in the South, a faraway state.
“Pro-CPI (Communist Party of India) journals in India are being given some latitude by the censors because the party is in favor of even stronger measures to suppress the non-communist opposition,” the same article commented on the role of Communists.
The New York Times gave an account of 28 October, 1976, “The main ideological groups which are supporting Congress Party of the public authority in the activities that it is taking are the Socialist Faction of India, the favorable to Moscow Socialist coalition and the Moslem Association.”