ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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More Afterthoughts on Emergency

Much has been written on the Emergency since June 2000 but three unique features of that period have not been mentioned much less highlighted. Arrests even on a larger scale and greater suppression of human rights have many times taken place in one part of the country or the other before the Emergency, though this time the victims were the powerful and the upper class. Pratap Singh Kairon in the Punjab and S S Ray in West Bengal were pre-Emergency phenomena. While arrests during the Emergency did not exceed 50,000, over half a million Akalis courted arrest during 25 years of Punjabi Suba and other agitations before Emergency in Punjab. This excludes the thousands of people arrested time and again for short periods to forestall demonstration or 'hartal' under such irrelevant provisions of law as 'cycling without light' after lighting up time. Similarly S S Ray's excesses in West Bengal far exceeded in brutality those of Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency. A few of those crimes of 'hoodlum years' have been recorded in the pages of EPW through AM's 'Calcutta Diary'.

There are three unique features of Emergency which, however, were not part of the pre-Emergency oppression and suppression nor have these persisted in the post-Gandhi family period even though both corruption and violation of human rights have become more widespread and pervasive. The first of these was referred to by Raj Thapar in her book All These Years. Sanjay Gandhi had asked Taneja, chairman of the Central Bank of India to release Rs 2 crore to him and when Taneja hesitated, Sanjay Gandhi got him removed from the chairmanship of the Bank. Rattan Pochkhanwala and other senior executive of the Bank came to Delhi with a petition to the prime minister to let Taneja continue as chairman. Raj Thapar described in All These Years, how one evening they were sitting in their drawing room, the door bell rang and Rattan, visibly shaken, staggered in and mumbled the sordid story. Someone had rung up Rattan implying he was speaking on behalf of a 'high up' and advised him to do as he was told. He was asked to leave his hotel, go to such and such place in a taxi, get another taxi and go somewhere else when he would be picked up by someone. He ended up in hotel Kutub where he was ushered into a room. There, behind an enormous desk, sat Sanjay Gandhi who told Rattan that as a special gesture he would let Taneja off if he paid Rs 25 lakh. How many industrialists, businessmen, bank managers, company executives and others were likewise threatened by Sanjay Gandhi and how many quietly paid the money demanded by him will always remain a mystery.

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