To The Emergency Detenus, Whether The Hindutva Activists Deserve This
By Subhash Gatade
24 May, 2007
(Nitish Kumar led government,
in the Indian state of Bihar is in the news for its latest proposal
to honour detenus during emergency. While it has generated lot of heat
in the state politics, it has inadvertently or so reopened the chapter
pertaining the not so glorious role of the Sangh Parivar during this
tumultuous period. Concerned citizens have been rightly raising the
issue of secret correspondence of the Sangh bosses with Ms Indira Gandhi
or their instructions to the detained cadres to give an undertaking
to the emergency regime. )
Kumar Modi, a old Sangh activist and the present incumbent to the deputy
Chief Minister’s post in Bihar, is busy these days with an altogether
different responsibility. He is heading the committee appointed by Nitish
Kumar, which has been asked to find out modalities to honour the detenus
during emergency. One hopes that he would be ready with the required
modalities within next few days which would facilitate the state government
to move ahead on this plan.
Many commentators have rightly analysed Nitish Kumar’s extra emphasis
on the plan despite strong opposition from his adversaries in the party
and outside. For them this smart move has the potential of enabling
Nitish Kumar to emerge as the sole carrier of Jai Prakash Narayan’s
legacy and the struggle of the people against the despotic regime of
Congress. And thus despite criticism of various sorts Nitish Kumar does
not seem to be relenting and in one of his recent Janata Darbars' he
advised his opponents to change their mindset to see the importance
of this plan.
One very well knows that
it was only last year that the government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav
a similar plan was started and more than five thousand such people who
were detained during emergency were duly honoured with the title 'Loktantra
Senani' (fighters for Democracy). Question naturally arises what could
be a correct position vis-a-vis this proposal of Nitish led government
in Bihar. Would it be a simple 'Yes' or 'No' or one can qualify one's
position with few caveats.
There is not an iota of doubt
that the internal emergency clamped by the Indira Gandhi regime on 25
th June 1975 to save itself from the impending crisis brought on by
unfavourable decisions of the highest court and the growing mass discontent
was one of the darkest chapter in the postindependence trajectory of
democracy in India. Not only thousands and thousands of people belonging
to different political and social formations were interned but most
of the leading opposition figures were also put behind bars.The suspension
of democratic rights, the clampdown on the press and the forcible sterilisation
campaigns supposedly to control family size were few of the gory aspects
of the whole episode.It is also a fact that the declaration of emergency
gave rise to an underground resistance which was joined in by various
shades of opinion.
Looking back it is clear
that if people would not have put up resistance at various levels, the
cause of democracy could have suffered further damage. And it is in
the fitness of things that a true believer in democracy would make special
attempts to express one's gratitude to all such people who had to face
detention during this period.
But will it be proper to
extend this honour to even those people who exhibited tremendous cowardice
during the period of detention and even expressed willingness to serve
the 'emergency regime' if they were released from jail. Definitely while
making any plan to honour the real fighters one needs to take into consideration
this fact as well.
Any justice loving person would abhor the very idea of 'honouring' such
cowards who 'preferred to crawl when they were asked to bend'. Individuals
apart, as an organisation the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and
activists of its plethora of affiliated organisations proved to be 'pioneers'
in tendering an apology. Time and again the not so glorious role of
the Sangh Parivar and its affiliated organisations during the Emergency
comes under scanner.
It can appear incomprehensible
to a layperson that while the activists of the Sangh Parivar were in
jail its leaders in the words of Tapan Basu et al "revealed a curious
duality". Tapan Basu, Pradip Datta, Sumit Sarkar and others in
their early ninety monograph"Khaki Shorts and Saffrn Flags "
(Orient Longman, 1993) explain the way the top leaders of the RSS reacted.
'RSS attitudes under the emergency revealed a curious duality, reminiscent
of the 1948-49 days. " While the RSS was banned and Sangh Supremo
Deoras was put behind bars , he like Golwalkar in 1948-49, "..quickly
opened channels of communication with the Emergeny regime, writing fairly
ingratiating letters to Indira Gandhi in August and November 1975 that
promised cooperation for lifting a ban (on RSS). He tried to persuade
Vinoba Bhave to mediate between the RSS and the government, and sought
also the good offices of Sanjay Gandhi. (p.52)"
Bapurao Moghe, in an article
in the Sangh mouthpiece Panchajanya (July 24, 1977) had also acknowledged
that such letters had been written by the Sangh supremo. Lawyer and
political commentator A.G.Noorani in his book 'The RSS and the BJP'
(Leftword, 2000,Delhi) tells us that these letters ".[w]ere placed
on the table of the Maharashtra Assembly on October 18,1977." He
adds ," He wrote to the prime minister, first, on august 22 congratulating
her on her speech on Independence day ( 'balanced and befitting to the
occasion') and begged her to lift the ban on the RSS. He next congratulated
her 'as five judges of the Supreme Court have upheld the validity of
your election' (November 11,1975).'(P. 31) It may be added that though
Ms Indira Gandhi had won the case but it was not on the basis of merit
but by a constitutional amendment with retrospective effect. In these
letters he repeated his plea for the release of RSS detenus and lifting
the ban on the organisation. He also underlined that the RSS 'has no
connection with the movements' in Bihar and Gujarat. Deoras ends these
letters by offering the services of 'lakhs of RSS volunteers....for
the national upliftment (Government as well as non government).'
A point which may skip attention
is that in these letters is that Sangh Supremo Deoras was concerned
with the RSS alone. And to save his organisation from the onslaught
of an autocratic regime he was ready to declare that if the ban is lifted
his men would be at the service of the regime. Neither does he asks
for the release of all detenues nor does he asks her to lift emergency.
It seems the only problem which the RSS supremo had was that his organisation
was banned otherwise whatever the Indira regime was doing was good for
When Ms Indira Gandhi refused to budge from her stand, the Sangh supremo
shot another letter ( July 16, 1976) in which he congratulated her for
'your efforts to improve relations with Pakistan and China' and also
declared that she has been given some wrong information about his organisation.
It needs investigation to
see whether some sort of agreement was reached between Deoras and Ms
Indira Gandhi or not through the mediatory efforts of the likes of Vinoba
Bhave but one thing is clear that the RSS workers were instructed from
the top that they give an undertaking for their release from jail. The
undertaking went like this " Shri ..detenu class.. prison agrees
on affidavit that in case of my release I shall not do anything, which
is detrimental to intenal security and public peace... I shall not do
anything prejudicial to the present emergency." (Sanghachi Dhongbaji,
Baba Adhav, Pune,1977) According to leading Socialist activist Baba
Adhav, Deoras had himself acknowledged at a press conference in Delhi
that he had written two letters to Indira Gandhi. Madhu Limaye, a towering
figure of the socialist movement spent 19 months in three jails which
were in RSS areas and knew of the RSS detenues letters of apology.
It is understandable that
the Hindutva Brigade which has built its weltanshauung around the twin
concepts of 'bravery and cowardice' would like to forget this past episode,
when instead of demonstrating uncompromising defiance it had preferred
to cringe.They very well know that if that is not done the whole edifice
of the Hindutva politics can come crumbling down. But history as they
say does not forgive and forget. It keeps excavating and bringing out
the past, howsoever inconvenient it may be. The 'holier than thou' Sangh
Parivar too cannot escape scrutiny.
If Mr Nitish Kumar is really
sincere about honouring the fighters during emergency then first and
foremost he needs to reorganise the very committee which he has constituted
to chalk out the modalities to give pension to emergency detenus and
ask its present head to put in papers. The world very well knows that
Sushil Kumar Modi, who heads the committee, is part of the Sangh Parivar
since his school days itself. A person who owes allegiance to an organisation
which had directed its activists to give an undertaking to the emergency
regime cannot be expected to do justice to the task given to him.
In fact it would be an insult to the broad majority of the one lakh
fourty five thousand detenus ( only a few thousands belonged to the
Sangh Parivar) who faced heavy odds inside the jails to further the
cause of democracy.
Coming back to the pension
issue for emergency detenus, Nitish Kumar has to decide whether he wants
to really honour the true fighters or insult them by adding names of
fake warriors in the list who wear their saffron lineage on their sleeves.
Today the Sangh Parivar may
want us to believe that it led the democratic upsurge during "India's
Second Freedom Struggle" ( as they call the anti emergency struggle
in the Sangh Literature), it may wax eloquent about the way thousands
of its activists were interned by the Indira regime but that will not
hide the fact that its leaders were found to be wanting during that
An irony of the situation
is that while this period is frequently invoked in the political discourse,
scholars of Indian history have not found it fit to examine it in a
thourough manner. Discussions about it normally gravitate towards Indira
Gandhi’s authoritarian personality and the damage to democratic
institutions at that time. It is natural that this personification of
the darkest period in Indian democracy leads us to a blind alley and
the socio-economic factors which led us to this juncture and the real
role of the various organisations remain uninvestigated. Result is that
forces like Sangh Parivar have been able to construct a mythology of
their alleged bravery during that tumultous period.
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