01 November, 2020

Dark Chapter & Worse

On the 40th anniversary of that 21-month eclipse on Indian democracy, a seasoned journalist tells us what it was like to live through it

India Today
Dark Chapter & Worse

Twenty-fifth June, Nineteen Seventy-Five, was a sweltering day, made more uncomfortable by the frequent power breakdowns at the Indian Express office at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi’s Fleet Street. Since I covered the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) beat, the news editor, A.P. Saksena, universally addressed as Piloo sahib, had asked me to use my contacts in the Delhi Electricity Supply Undertaking (DESU) to ensure that the power was set right before the printing presses rolled that night. The DESU deputy general manager assured me they were working on restoring the power supply to the entire street. When the lights came on by 8 pm, I left the office, oblivious of the fact that the blackout was just a dress rehearsal and that a coup was in the works a couple of kilometres away. The restoration of electricity was temporary—the newspaper would be in the dark for a long time to come.

The lead headline for the next morning’s edition was to be the anti-Indira Gandhi rally held that evening at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, with Jayaprakash...



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