Saturday, June 25, 2005

Emergency, 30 years ago

Most of India has almost forgotten about the Emergency, except perhaps those who were unfortunate to suffer the bad effects of it. I have two sets of memories regarding Emergency. I was 10 years old then. My father was listening to the 8.10 am English news on All India Radio (now it is at 8.15). With shock he told me the country was under Emergency. I understood nothing of what he explained. In a few months I began to get some idea of what it was all about.
We were living in the campus of Sainik School near Trivandrum (now called Thiruvananthapuram) the capital of Kerala state. So, we were quite cut off from the humdrum of the real world outside. But one thing I remember is that the transport bus that plied near our house was punctual like never before. There wasn't one day it was cancelled. There were no strikes, government machinery functioned so smoothly.

Much of north India suffered mainly because of Indira Gandhi's wayward younger son Sanjay. The one incident that rattled Kerala was what became known as the Rajan case. He was an engineering college student who went missing. He was -- it is still widely believed -- picked up by the police for his political activities and beaten up. He finally died. His body was never found.

Karunakaran, the home minister in the Achuta Menon's CPI-led ministry, was wildly held responsible. After Emergency was lifted, stories of police atrocities began to be serialised in newspapers and magazines. They read like thrillers. Unique torture techniques employed by police became the talk of the town.
No harm ever came to any of the accused, at least as far as I know. Everyone escaped. Police officers like Jayaram Padikkal got promotions. Karunakaran has prospered so much --- his greed has still not seen its end --- that the next many, many generations will never ever have to worry about anything in their lives!!!


  1. Anish too has written about this in his latest post and it is very sad commentary indeed of a brutal era.

  2. hey this is quite uncanny. i wrote about the rajan case yesterday and one of my thoughts was this "During emergency, trains ran on time, governent service was efficient, civil servants were afraid to strike but personal liberty, "due proces" and fundamental human rights were trampled upon. In the quest for achieving the former nobody should have to give up the latter."

    Oh yeah, and India has not forgotten (and hopefully will never) emergency.

  3. The Rajan case is a sad reminder of the atrocities that the police and the politicians commit and also of what they can get away with

  4. The first time I came to know about Emergency was only when Indira Gandhi was arrested in 1977. I was 10 years old then. I didnt know why she was arrested. All I knew she was a 'big' leader. I was shocked when I heared such a 'great' leader was arrested. But I was surprised to see my father smile when he heard the radio news.
    I asked him why he was smiling. He then explained about Emergency and showed a booklet on the torture methods used by Indira. I think the booklet was by India Today.