‘Where is that love letter with the signatures? I want to fix those journalists’

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Crushing dissent Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar says he paid a huge price for being anti-Emergency Photo: Vijay Pandey (left)

The fortnight from 12 June to 25/26 June and afterwards.

Jagmohanlal Sinha was the judge. When the judgment came, I was then working in the Indian Express. It is true that some of us who were associated with Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) or in the JP Movement very much wanted the verdict to be against her but we were also sure in our mind, where are the judges who can pronounce this kind of judgment against Indira Gandhi, who was very powerful and at her peak. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called her Durga after she cut Pakistan into two in 1971. So, when the judgment came, of course we were all happy but we never thought that it would be taken to its logical end. JP’s headquarters was the Indian Express. Whenever he came (to Delhi), he would call editors of different editions of the Indian Express. So when the judgment came, one or two days later JP came and called us. He asked, ‘What should be done?’ So, we said, ‘Now that she (Indira Gandhi) has gone in appeal, let us wait.’ But then we started discussing that suppose she were to be unseated, there would be elections. JP said it’s no use talking about elections because she would come back. In fact, he said, ‘I’m thinking, if elections are announced, whether we should participate in it or not; why shouldn’t we boycott?’ In the Express then, some of us said that ‘JP, you may be right but (based on the feedback) we are getting from reporters, correspondents and letters to the editor, people seem to be very angry. Whether they would express it or not, we can’t say.’ Fear was one factor. So then we suggested that if we want to see the mood of the people in Delhi, we shall have a small insertion in the Express that tomorrow at Ram Lila Ground JP will address at 5 pm. It was unbelievable that not only Ram Lila Ground but right up to Connaught Place the public was there. So it came as a surprise to JP and to all of us that ‘My God, so many people.’ Now, to the credit of Ramnath Goenka, who was the owner of the Express, he said we should pursue it now. So I said alright. I was in the field at that time. So I went around and I met Jagjivan Ram first. He kept the receiver off the telephone. I said, ‘Why Babuji?’ He said, ‘You don’t know, she [Indira Gandhi] is tapping the phone [and] I am expecting arrest anytime.’ Then I went to Kamal Nath. The Express board was reorganised; now it was taken away from Ramnath Goenka and KK Birla was made the chairman and Kamal Nath a member. I knew Kamal Nath … he used to say hello in Punjabi and also he met me once. He was very close to Sanjay Gandhi. He said, ‘Why don’t you [ask Sanjay Gandhi] to write for us?’ I said if Sanjay Gandhi does anything, yes. ‘Do you want to meet him?’ Kamal Nath asked me. ‘Not necessarily but I can,’ I replied. Later, after Emergency, I told Kamal Nath, ‘Now you come good on your promise.’ So I went to Mrs Gandhi’s house. I still remember Mrs Gandhi was in the veranda. Now she had been defeated and all kinds of papers were littered; it was the Prime Minister’s house at that time. And Sanjay Gandhi was under a tree. Mrs Gandhi came and I said, no, today I haven’t come to interview you, I’ve come to interview Sanjay Gandhi. So I asked Sanjay Gandhi, ‘How did you think you would get away with it?’ He said, ‘What was the problem? With Bansi Lal (who was then the defence minister; he was the first Haryana chief minister but later Sanjay Gandhi brought him to Delhi), we were doing well. Maybe I would have picked up another Bansi Lal somewhere.’ He added, ‘In my scheme of things, there was no election for the next 30 years.’ He said, ‘I had prepared a note, which he gave me a copy of, on a new kind of structure which was presidential in form, not parliamentary, and where the whole power was concentrated in one person. In it, elections were indirect, not direct.’ Everything can be managed indirectly.

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The Judge

I said I must go and meet (Jagmohanlal) Sinha in Allahabad. Upon reaching Allahabad, I enquired about his residence and was directed to Civil Lines. So when he (Sinha) met me, I told him what surprised me was that not a whiff of your judgment was available before it was delivered. ‘How did you manage it?’ I started by asking him. He said that some portions of the judgment dealing with the history of the case, etc, he dictated to his steno but the rest he wrote himself. He told his steno to go on leave. A fellow judge told Sinha that he (the fellow judge) was talking to some higher-ups and Dhawan (RK Dhawan, personal secretary of Indira Gandhi) said something about how they were thinking of making him (Sinha) a Supreme Court judge. He was trying to tell or give him (Sinha) something. Sinha told me all about it. And, as I write in my book The Judgement: Inside Story of the Emergency in India, Charan Singh traced [Sinha] and [punished] him. Sinha told me that he was fond of Sadhus and Sants. So they (Indira Gandhi’s aides) sent many Sadhus and Sants to him to see if they could know something about what he might say in the judgment. ‘I saw through their game plan and by the time the arguments [in the case] concluded, I was clear in my mind that she (Indira Gandhi) had misused and I will punish her,’ Sinha told me. There were many pressures put on Sinha… his family was harassed but Sinha did not [relent or budge or waver.]

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The Advisers

After the judgment, when Indira Gandhi was unseated, here, in Delhi, there was a time when she seriously thought that she should step down. But Sanjay Gandhi held rallies, and which were managed by Dhawan, so that Mrs Gandhi would feel and believe that people see it only as a conspiracy by the judges. But after the judgment, and before the Emergency was imposed, the Press was free. Pressures were there but now the problem with Indira Gandhi was that the Press was writing, people were afraid but they started talking. So what could she do? Either she steps down or she does something else. Siddhartha Shankar Ray advised her to impose Emergency. So, evil genius was Siddhartha Shankar Ray. I remember that night or the next morning I was to go to Kolkata and Ray was on the same flight. He repeatedly went into the cockpit. Afterwards, I gathered that he was enquiring whether the Proclamation of Emergency had happened or not. Emergency was to be imposed after consulting the Cabinet but no Cabinet meeting was called. She (Indira Gandhi) called the Cabinet after imposing Emergency. So proclamation and all else was ex post facto.

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Kamlapati Tripathi

In Delhi, there was a time, I remember, Jagjivan Ram thought the Emergency would be temporary. He thought he was the next but in her mind it was Kamlapati Tripathi, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and a loyal.

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The Shah Commission

The Shah Commission was appointed (by the Government of India in 1977 to inquire into the excesses committed during the Emergency from 1975 to 1977. It was headed by Justice JC Shah, a former chief justice of India) and it went into the whole thing and it had said, specifically, that there were no intelligence reports or information otherwise that law and order machinery was in any way in danger or was not in order or was disturbed. Not at all. Everything was alright. According to the Shah Commission, this was only Mrs Gandhi’s effort to save herself after being indicted by the Allahabad High Court. Because, the Shah Commission had also said, disqualification for six years. The saving (of Indira Gandhi) was done by Justice Krishna Iyer, who said that yes, she (Indira Gandhi) can attend Parliament and she can hold everything except she would not vote, that’s all. So, real help came from him (Justice Krishna Iyer) though he was a Leftist.

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