June 25,1975, The Day of Emergency, and India Story Beyond!

Ram Lila ground rally of 25 June, 1975 would remain etched in the memories of all those who came there on that momentous day- Vivek Shuka

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the fact that the sun was on fire in national capital, yet the massive Ramlila Ground had no space left even before the start of historic rally. That was June 25, 1975 and it was the mother of all political rallies. Never before Delhi or India had seen such a mammoth rally. And Ramlila ground was jam packed to hear the likes of Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), Acharya Kriplani, Morarji Desai, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Chandrasekhar and many more. People were reaching the venue on DTC buses to cycle and even on foot.

Those were the days when nobody thought Metro Rail would operate in Delhi ever.

That was a rally against the alleged autocratic rule of Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s government. After India’s stunning victory over Pakistan in 1971 war, Mrs. Gandhi became a changed person. K.N. Govindacharya rightly says that the   story of the emergency did not begin on June 25 1975, when it was imposed. It started after Indira Gandhi as prime minister won the Bangladesh war after sweeping the general election against the grand anti-Congress alliance. “The slogan of “Garibi Hatao” was extremely catchy and, in early 1972, she was being likened to the goddess Durga.”

It goes without saying that the victory went to her head and within a couple of years, her son Sanjay Gandhi also started playing a dominant role in politics to help his mother and also to carve out a place for himself. This led to the ‘lumpenization’ of the Congress.

And crowd at the Ramlila ground cheered veteran of 1942 Quit India Movement JP, when he thunderously recited Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’s evocative poetry: ‘Singhasan Khaali Karo Ke Janata Aaati Hai.‘ Those were the heady days as Indira Gandhi was found guilty of violating electoral laws by the Allahabad High Court. JP called Mrs Gandhi to resign, and advocated a program of social transformation which he termed Sampoorna kraanti (Total Revolution). Instead, Mrs. Gandhi proclaimed an Emergency on the midnight of June 25, 1975. In his very spirited speech despite his ill health, JP had asked the military and the police to disregard unconstitutional and immoral orders of the government.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley used to recall the events that unfolded after the rally which he attended and organized with his ABVP friends. “ After attending the Ramlila ground rally I came back to  my Naraina home late in the evening. I was at that time a second-year student of the law faculty Of Delhi University pursuing my studies. I was the President of the Delhi University Students’ Union and convener of JP’s Committee for Youth and Students Organisations.”

At about 2 AM past midnight, Jaitley received a midnight knock at his residence. The police had come to arrest him. His lawyer father got into an argument. He asked cops to inform him as to the nature of offence his son (Arun Jaitley) had committed. The police had simple instructions to arrest him.  While argument was on,  Jaitley escaped from the backdoor and went to the friend’s house in West Delhi.

In the morning, there were no newspapers. The electric supply of the entire press offices, at Bahadurshah Zafar Marg had been disconnected. News started trickling in that the entire political leadership of the opposition including Jai Prakash Narain. Morarji Desai, Choudhury Charan Singh, Atal Behari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani had been arrested. The police station in Timarpur nearby Delhi University was the centre of this activity. All the detained leaders had been taken there and transferred to specific jails in Haryana and Delhi.

Meanwhile, Arun Jaitley along with his co-ABVP workers reached Delhi University Campus by about 10.00 am to organize a protest. This was the only protest against the Emergency which took place that day in the whole country. An effigy was burned by them in protest. The news of the protest attracted a large number of policemen in the Delhi University campus.

The declaration of emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution was accompanied by a Notification under Article 359 wherein fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19, 21 and 22 were suspended. All the newspapers were subjected to pre-censorship. A representative of the Censoring Authority sat in the office of every newspaper and news agency. No news critical of the Government could be published.

Fundamental rights were suspended. The right to oppose the Government was taken away. No protests were allowed anywhere in the country. The Supreme Court, perhaps the worst amongst the post-independence judgments, in the habeas corpus case, ruled that even though political detainees have been illegally detained, they have no right to approach the court and seek relief. The Government took the position that even if a detainee was physically killed, he could not approach the court.

And again, going back to Ramlila ground, it has witnessed many momentous political rallies, public felicitation functions as well as condolence meetings in the past. When the freedom struggle was on, Gandhi ji, Pt. Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and other top leaders of freedom struggle addressed largely attended rallies from here.

A very interesting anecdote is associated with Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with this very ground too. It is said that when he was addressing a rally organized by the Muslim League in 1945, some people sitting close to make-shift stage started shouting, ‘ Maulana  Jinnah Zindabad ‘. Hearing this very slogan, he lost his cool and asked them to stop calling him as Maulana. ‘I am your political leader, hence never call me Maulana,’ he told them rather sternly.

Interestingly enough, even though big rallies have been taking place here since long, the rostrum for speakers were erected when British Queen Elizabeth came to India in 1961 only. There was a public function to felicitate her on behalf of people of Delhi. That was the time when permanent structure was constructed.

The condolence meetings of first President of India Rajindar Prasad and then Pt. Nehru, the first Prime Minister, were attended by thousands of people. The only sour moment of Pt. Nehru’s condolence meeting was when his sister Mrs. Vijay Laxmi Pandit paid her moving tribute in English, while delegates from Japan and the then Soviet Union spoke in Hindi. Local papers pointed out this fact of the meeting very prominently next day.

As recently as couple of years ago, Ramlila ground witnessed a huge congregation when the venerable Imam of Makkah Mukarramah Abdul Rahman Ibn Abdul Aziz offered namaaz. Devout Muslims thronged the ground in a big way. Abdul Raman Ibn Abdul Aziz was the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and the “Islamic Personality of the Year” 2005. He was also known for his frequent sermons calling on believers to help other Muslims in war-torn regions.

And yes, this very ground was host to India against corruption movement. And apart from rallies and other public meetings, Ram Lila ground is also a favourite spot for all those who love kite-flying. And beginning early August,’Patangbaaj’ throng it to enjoy kite-flying.   And last but not least; nation had seen a police action against Yoga guru Baba Ramdev in 2011 when he started his fight against corruption here with his fast.

Still, the Ram Lila ground rally of 25 June, 1975 would remain etched in the memories of all those who came there on that momentous day.

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The story of Emergency, 1975, written by Sr. Journalist and Author, Shri Vivek Shukla. Mr. Shukla has a knack for unearthing hidden history of Delhi and metamorphosis of the city from ancient Mahabharata era into New Delhi, the seat of power of world’s largest democracy.

His daily columns are keenly awaited by lacs of his readers thru’ a national daily and social media.

 

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