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Friday, 10 March 2017

Emergency retold: How Indira, Sanjay Gandhi prepared to arrest dissent

Mrs Gandhi was the first PM to use RAW for political intelligence within the country, writes Kuldip Nayar in his book Emergency Retold. Below is the excerpt:


JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) announced the formation of a five-member Lok Sangharsh Samiti (people’s struggle committee), with Morarji Desai as chairman and Nanaji Deshmukh, a top Jana Sangh leader, as secretary, to start a countrywide agitation on June 29 to force Mrs Indiara Gandhi to resign. There were to be non-violent hartals, satyagrahas and demonstrations.

JP asked the gathering to raise their hands to indicate that they, if need be, would go to jail to restore moral values in the country. Everyone raised his hand. Surprisingly, 24 hours later, most of them did not even protest, when protest was called for, much less offer to go to jail. JP also appealed to the police and the military not to obey any “illegal” order as their manual indicated.

Ironically, this was precisely the Congress party’s own stand in the 1930s. Mrs Gandhi’s grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was the moving spirit in getting the party to move a resolution, urging the police to disobey illegal orders. The Allahabad High Court then upheld an appeal by those convicted of distributing leaflets reprinting the resolution. The judges of the British Raj ruled that there was nothing wrong in asking the police to disobey illegal orders.

For Mrs Gandhi, Sanjay and their supporters, however, JP’s appeal to the police and the military was the best propaganda ammunition they could hit upon. Now they could say that he was trying to foment trouble among the armed forces; this was something treasonable.

But that was only a pretext. Much before the rally, Sanjay Gandhi and his trusted men were getting ready for the kill. As midnight approached, there was feverish activity in the PM’s house. Orders had gone out to the states, and many of them wanted to know if they were to do anything more than censor the press and arrest Mrs Gandhi’s opponents.

The lists of leaders to be detained in Delhi and elsewhere were ready and were shown to Mrs Gandhi. In the preparation of these lists, one intelligence branch that made a significant contribution was the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

RAW was constituted in 1962 at the fag end of the war with the Chinese, to improve India’s intelligence abroad, because during the hostilities against the Chinese there was failure of intelligence.

Biju Patnaik had given a helping hand in the initial stage because he had earned a reputation of “working behind the enemy line” when, many years ago, during Dutch rule over Indonesia, he had himself flown a plane to Jakarta to rescue Sukarno, then head of Indonesia’s national movement.

RAW was directly under the prime minister’s secretariat. Mrs Gandhi was the first prime minister to use it for political intelligence within the country. Its advantage was its compactness and the personnel, who were chosen either for their brilliant academic record or for their relationship with a dependable top civil or police officer.

RAW had built up dossiers on government opponents, on critics within the Congress party, businessmen, bureaucrats and journalists. Preparing lists of opponents was no problem; RAW had everything ready in its files.

The Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) had been amended only a year earlier to authorise the government to detain or arrest individuals without producing charges before a court of law. However, when this law was passed, the government had given assurance to the Opposition in Parliament that MISA would not be used to detain political opponents.

Bansi Lal wanted leaders in Delhi to be detained in Haryana. “I have made a big modern jail in Rohtak,” he told Mrs Gandhi.

Mrs Gandhi recalled General Raina, chief of the Army staff, from tour. This was just a precaution.

By this time, the top brass in the Delhi Police had come to know that even people like JP, Morarji, Ashok Mehta, Congress (O) president, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishan Advani, the two Jana Sangh leaders, were to be detained.

Under what law? Since they did not know about the Emergency, they tried to find out how they could be arrested. Under Section 107 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), they were informed. But that was applicable to vagabonds. How could JP and Morarji be arrested under that section?

The Delhi list of names was still being finalised with the help of Kishan Chand. When the police wanted warrants of arrest, Sushil Kumar, Delhi’s deputy commissioner, insisted on knowing the names first. Dhavan, who was informed about it, flew into a rage and made him cower. Sushil then signed blank warrants. PS Bhinder, a “dependable” police officer who had been brought from Haryana into the special (intelligence) branch, filled in the name on each warrant as and when the need arose.

In the states, the chief ministers, who knew what was coming, sat with their inspectors-general of police and chief secretaries to finalise the lists of those to be arrested.

Though preliminary preparations had begun after the chief ministers’ return from Delhi around June 20, the idea was then vague; it was thought that only a few were to be picked up and held for a time to silence them.

(Source: Daily O)

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