21 June, 2021

That Darkness Still Stalks Our Dreams

Amid the beginnings of an attempt to stifle all dissent, the PM must remember JP, one of his gurus

M.G. Devasahayam
That Darkness Still Stalks Our Dreams

On the midnight of June 25, 1975, prime minister Indira Gandhi nearly destroyed India’s democratic framework with a piece of paper that proclaimed a state of emergency. It was carried by her private secretary to the President, who meekly signed it. The misgovernance that followed extinguished freedom, suspended fundamental rights, fettered the press, suppressed dissent. More than one lakh citizens were illegally detained. Draco­nian laws followed. Democratic governance collapsed.

At that time, I was the district magistrate of Chandigarh, a Union Territory governed by the Centre. The home ministry and the PMO were directly monitoring my “eminent prisoner”, Jayaprakash Narain, India’s tallest leader after Mohandas Gandhi, and now Enemy No. 1 of the state. He’d been arrested by the district magistrate of Delhi and sent to me for safe custody. So I had a ringside view of the Emergency, right from the corridors of power in Delhi to the streets of Chandigarh. Everyone could see the Emergency drama around them, but I—a member of the elite...

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