Emergency, graduate school and the Four Friends Quartet
When emergency was imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975, we were a Four Friends Quartet in the graduate school¹ (Salam Khan, Jyotish Dubey and Gautam Mukherjee) – all of us burning deep inside with fire and the desire to set right all that was wrong in society and was pulling the country away from the path of rapid progress and growth.
Going down memory lane, I recall how we used to discuss intensely the life and times of Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, “Che” Guevara, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and our freedom fighters who had sacrificed their all for the cause of Indpendence. What troubled us the most was the harm that was being done to the nation by the unworthy successors of leaders who had fought for Independence and were determined to provide corruption free and transparent administration fully accountable to the public – this was the best recipe for rapid progress, growth and welfare of all.
The Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution of India that was enacted during the Emergency by the Congress government headed by Indira Gandhi is regarded as the most controversial constitutional amendment in Indian history as it attempted to reduce the power of the Supreme Court and High Courts to pronounce upon the constitutional validity of laws.
Imposition of Emergency coupled with the Forty-Second Constitution Amendment turned the federal structure of the Constitution into a mangled frame as more powers were transferred to the Central government in relation with the States and it came as a big blow for every citizen as in a single stroke the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution were subordinated to the directive Principles.
As college students we were always in the forefront protesting against the evil of Emergency. during an inter-college extempore speech competiition, when I picked my topic from a freshly shuffled paper slips that were kept in a glass jar, I was excited as I had the option to speak for or against the topic: “Positives of Emergency”. The chief guest on this occasion was Shashank Mukherjee -the then State State Home Secretary. He was a family friend and also my friend Gautam’s father.
I took the mike and started blasting Indira Gandhi without stop or break. First there was a big hush and the auditorium was immediately covered with a blanket of silence and the college principal was also on his feet chiding me to leave the mike. I was brought before the chief guest, who counseled me to leave the revolutionary path and focus on my future. He turned a blind eye to my defiance and just let me go.
Those were the black days of Emergency, when many persons, only known for their closeness to leaders who were the first to go behind bars under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act), were also picked up and put into jails. While some MISA detenus rose to command the highest offices in the country, the others have been given the same status as Freedom Fighters and in many States they are receiving pension for life.
So many years later, People still don’t seem ready for change…there is a famous saying: “People get the government they deserve”. I would add to this, people get the government, TV channels and anchors they deserve….and this adds to their never-ending plight. The problem is they are not ready to realize even though their next generation is against the wall and is being forced to suffer on account of their miserable outlook, distorted and myopic vision, misplaced priorities, vested interests, short-sighted selfish ends and their inherent slave mentality. We are going to remain a nation of robbers and the robbed for a long time to come.
¹Hamidia College, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Mohammad Abdul Salam Khan, popularly known as Salam, and I, both of us joined the Centre of Historical Studies in JNU. Later he chucked the Central Services and joined The Economic Times in 1992 as its first In-house illustrator. Around the same time, I had joined The Hindu as Madhya Pradesh Correspondent. Prior to that I left a corporate job to conduct research and write a book on the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.
Gautam Mukherjee, a debating genious during his graduation days became a musician/singer on leaving college.
Jyotish Dubey became a man of the private sector and his career graph depicted a constantly growing trajectory till he hanged his gloves to devote time to pressing engagements at home.