Emergency time : Sangh’s contribution in restoring democracy

Indira Gandhi declared emergency through the President, Mr. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed on 25th June 1975 which ran for almost two years till May 1977. Many of us know that this Emergency costed Indira Gandhi her next elections. But, how did it happen? How was RSS a catalyst in the big movement that threw Indira Gandhi out?

In this blog, a few details on what led to Emergency and what was RSS’ role in it, are captured.

What led to Emergency?

During 1970 mid-terms polls were called for and Indira Gandhi won the elections with thumping victory. Over the several years after that, the power vested in the hands of Indira Gandhi gave her over-confidence which built arrogance in her about people’s trust in her. She slowly started ruling the nation autocratically.

In March 1973, in his last bouddhik – “vijay hi vijay”, P.P Sri Guruji had clearly predicted that Dictatorial leadership is imminent on the nation.

During 1971 and 1972, first in Gujarat and then in Bihar, students led movements against corruption. This movement later attracted support from all political parties. Jai Prakash Narayan led this movement across. This built a massive public opinion against corruption, and as a result in 1973, Congress lost elections in Gujarat.

Meanwhile, Raj Narain went to Allahabad High Court alleging that Indira Gandhi won the election unconstitutionally and hence her election should be annulled. The court gave a verdict in favor of Raj Narain.

This verdict gave energy to the opposition in demanding resignation of Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister. All political parties led several agitations demanding Indira Gandhi’s ouster.

Feeling Insecure and being arrogant, Indira Gandhi recommended to the then President, Mr. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, to declare emergency. Thus came emergency on June 25th 1975, even though there was no external threat to the country from any neighbors from invasion, nor any internal disturbances to the constitutional government.

What is Emergency?

Constitution provides powers to declare Emergency during the times when there are either external security threats or internal disturbances leading to lawless situations.

1. MISA (Maintenance of Internal SecurityAct) was used by the Government in arresting all major opposition Leaders, in the name of pre-empting any potential commotions. It also banned organizations like RSS, Jammat e-Islam, the naxaliste based CPI(ML). Even though RSS did not pose any threat to the Government, it banned RSS the second time (the first time being after Gandhi-ji’s assassination in 1948.)

2. Government also enforced censorship on newspaper content. So, any publication in news papers would be censored by the Government. If any publication manages to publish any content which is not liked by the Government, it would ban the organization.

What did Sangh do?

1. Sangha took a resolve to focus on restoring democracy than working towards lifting the ban on RSS.

2. Since newspapers were censored and public were not aware of the ruthless emergency affairs, Sangha planned to distribute the same news across the country through alternate media of informal printing and distribution of pamphlets.

3. Alternate Media:

Within the first one month, Sangha identified a network of anonymous people who would form the infrastructure of passing information/news of any undemocratic events in any part of India. News would go from villages to Delhi and from Delhi back to various villages. For example, Sri dwArakAchAry would send news to Delhi. Since printing is traceable and the printing house could be confiscated by the Government, Sangha took to cyclostyling  of the content.

Swayamsevaks would take the cyclostyled documents and distribute them anonymously to houses, public reading rooms etc. Based on the response of reception by individuals and houses, Swayamsevaks would continue/repeat distribution there.

This continued for about 8 to 10 months. This built confidence in the society to slowly come out in public and join the movement.

4. Satyagraha:

Sangha planned for satyAgraha from 14th November 1975 to sankrAnti of 1976 with only four demands:

  1. Remove Emergency and restore democracy
  2. Lift Censorship on Media house publications
  3. Release arrested leaders and lastly
  4. Lift ban on RSS

In the beginning, except RSS and Akali dal in Punjab, not many used to participate in the Satyagraha. Several Swayamsevaks would come out and participate in satyagraha to build confidence in the society to fight emergency and also to bring awareness of what is going on in the country. For example, ringing all the bells in the temple and continuously ringing bicycle bells while riding them, for no reason, but to attract attention of the people.

Government used another law called ‘Defense of Indian Rules (DIR)’ and arrested several Swayamsevaks. For example, Sri. umAmaheSwara Rao from Visakhapatnam was arrested as part of this DIR. One magistrate however ruled out this arrest and freed the arrested. Other magistrates also attempted in taking this as precedence and denying arrest of Swayamsevaks.

5. As part of this Satyagraha, several locally popular leaders were encouraged and invited to speak in public places, to eradicate fear in the minds of people so that the society can come out and join the movement.

Sri Chilukuru Subrahmanya Sastry also came in public in defiance, only to get arrested. He utilized this opportunity in daily bringing together all the Swayamsevaks in the jail and give them bouddhiks to boost their confidence and keep up their self confidence, since they don’t know how long would they be in the jails. Excepting sharIrik activities, it used to be like a sangha SikshA varga.

Literature was exchanged between sangha and communist parties as well.

Senior adhikaris and karyakartas in jails did their best in keeping lively atmosphere in jails, by singing songs, bhajans etc.

Any anti-public atrocities conducted by police were immediately documented and shared with the public through the pamphlets.

6. Swayamsevaks outside would go collecting nominal funds, in the amounts of five rupees atleast, from common people like Govt employees, to be able to support the families of those who were arrested. Swayamsevaks, outside the jail, raised funds and do activities that would:

  1. help run the movement
  2. boost the morale of those arrested
  3. raise funds to support the families of those arrested
  4. exchange communication between the arrested and their families.

One of the kAryakartAs from Godavarikhani of Karimnagar district was arrested when he was distributing these pamphlets. He was tortured by the police in trying to find out the source and authors of the pamphlets. He didn’t give even one name. In all, they have lit 200 candles on his back making him lie down. He still kept the secret. Once, when he went to the bathroom, secretly some photographs of his back were taken and published again in the pamphlets.

7. Kerala DIG once told Indira Gandhi on Dec 31st 1975 that it was tough to arrest RSS workers as the RSS offices were deserted and Swayamsevak homes were RSS offices and that it is tough to go after so many families.

8. Dr. Subrahmanian Swamy formed Friends of India Society (FOIS) and toured countries like UK, USA and lectured to Indian public and others about the horrible state of affairs of the Indian Government and the society to build the public opinion against Indira Gandhi to pressurize her to lift Emergency.

9. Meanwhile, Sanjay Gandhi went on a massive movement of conducting vasectomy operations  in the name of family planning on a large scale. This drew obvious displeasure and antipathy in the pubic towards Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Congress in general.

10. P.P Balasaheb-ji expressed that because of emergency, sangh work expanded beyond imagination. For example, sangh work was prevalent in about 350 villages before emergency, while after emergency, we have reach from 6 to 8 thousand villages to almost 10 thousand villages in Andhra Pradesh state itself.

How did it restore?

Intelligence reports to Indira Gandhi stated that it might be a good time to go for general elections as all the leaders were in jails. Indira Gandhi called for elections in May 1977. Only few leaders were released and several were still in the jail. Several leaders have filed their nominations while in Jail as well.

The Government tried to entice RSS adhikaris that it would lift ban on RSS if they stop supporting Janata Party. RSS had it clear in their minds that they are fighting for restoring democracy in the nation than for their personal, organizational benefit. In 1948, it fought for lifting the ban imposed on it wrongly alleging it for Gandhiji’s assassination. But it didn’t gain much public support. But during emergency, it fought only for the nation and public, hence it garnered support from all parties and corners of the society.

There was a mass sentiment in the public against Congress during the emergency period. All the political parties realized that  they should come together as one and fight elections. As expected communist parties didn’t join, but Jana Sangh, socialist party and others have come together and formed Janata Party. Youth on their own have come on the roads and would right graffiti against corruption, Congress and Indira Gandhi. Janata Party won elections under the leadership of Morarjee Desai, even though they won only one seat (Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy) in  Andhra Pradesh.

After losing elections, Indira Gandhi herself lifted Emergency and ban on RSS.

There are some accusations on P.P Balasaheb-ji that he offered in writing to the Government about surrendering. There was no such communication. The letters written in formal, courteous and respectful to the Prime Minister was misconstrued by the communists and the media as soft sided with the Government, which is absolutely wrong.

To summarize, following were the contributions by RSS during emergency :

  1. Several Swayamsevaks sacrificed their careers and life and went to jails (over lakhs of Swayamsevaks went to jail as part of the satyAgraha movement)
  2. Provided alternate media to the society in sharing the news of importance
  3. Provided moral support to those who were arrested by keeping constant exchange of communication between those arrested and their families
  4. Raised funds to support the families of those arrested
  5. Restored confidence in the society to come into foray in defiance, through speeches of several people and the distribution of pamphlets
  6. Brought together several political parties and groups to fight the corruption and the government.

Come June 25, 2012 it will be 37 years since the Emergency was imposed. History is to be studied to learn lessons from it to not repeat such mistakes and to keep up the great contributions of the past and go to param vaibhavam state.


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