Sunday, June 29, 2014


Much is written about the leaders who were jailed in the Emergency.  This is correct.

But there were millions of others who suffered just as much if not more.  And these millions hardly receive much recognition.

And there is the additional fact that amongst these millions, nearly 80% were swaymasevaks.  Many of them were jailed because they were office bearers in the RSS, even at level of the jhilla.  Many of them were elderly and had to bear a lot of physical suffering.

The enclosed article, date December 4, 1976, explains the importance of the RSS in the struggle against the Emergency.



The Economist, December 4, 1976.

India’s underground movement has changed its strategy.  Until a few weeks ago it had tried to press Indira Gandhi - through mass demonstrations, clandes­tine propaganda and open petitions - into lifting her emergency rule.  But last month’s formal postponement of elections for yet another year - breaking explicit promises to members of the ruling Congress party - has convinced the underground leaders that the present gov­ernment is irreversibly authoritarian.  So their prior­ity now is to get Mrs Gandhi out.

Not by violence.  The underground campaign against Mrs Gandhi claims to be the only non-left-wing revolu­tionary force in the world, disavowing any bloodshed and class struggle.  Indeed, it might even be called right-wing, since it is dominated by the Hindu commu­nalist party, Jana Sangh, and its banned “cultural” (some say para-military) affiliate, the RSS.  But the platform at the moment has only one non-ideological plank: to bring democracy back to India.

The underground movement has become progressively bolder in the 17 months since the emergency was im­posed, partly because of tacit support from the forces of Mrs Gandhi’s law and order.  Last week sympathetic policemen helped one of its most wanted leaders, Dr Subramaniam Swamy, to slip out of the country through a major airport.  Sympathetic censors have passed politi­cal messages through the post and in and out of jail; agents in post offices have disconnected troublesome taps on telephones; civil servants have provided access to official files.

One of these files which was leaked to the opposi­tion provides an explanation for Mrs Gandhi’s unexpect­ed decision to postpone the election.  Several of her intelligence services are said to have told her that under present circumstances she would win only 220 to 270 seats in the lower house - at best 130 fewer than the Congress party won at the last election in 1971 and only a bare majority in a 520-seat house.

Communications have become so easy for the under­ground that its top leaders talk by telephone almost every day - sometime on international lines - using codes and false names.  When vulnerable urban printing presses are confiscated, clandestine newspapers are duplicated on hundreds of small local machines and de­livered by truck and bicycle.  Money is no object for the movement: 60,000 to 70,000 small contributions have been collected.  Underground leaders are given sanctu­ary in homes throughout the country, even when they are known to have high prices on their heads.  The movement claims that not a single activist has been caught be­cause of an informer.  Some 30,000 men on the wanted list are still at large.

The ground troops of this operation consist of tens of thousands of cadres who are organised down to the village level into four-man cells.  Most of them are RSS regulars, though more and more new young re­cruits are coming in.  The other opposition parties which started out as partners in the underground have effectively abandoned the field to the Jana Sangh and RSS, especially since the arrest last June of India’s most notable fugitive, the Socialist railway leader, George Fernandes.  The Socialists had been carrying out an independent campaign of railway sabotage: this con­tinues today as a freelance effort by disgruntled rail­waymen.

The function of the RSS cadre network - and of the thousand or so militants who are travelling throughout India at any one time - is mainly to spread the anti-Gandhi word.  Once the ground is prepared and political consciousness raised, so the leaders argue, any spark can set off the revolutionary prairie fire.

One likely flashpoint, according to underground strategists, would be a protest against forced sterili­sation.  There were 21 incidents this autumn in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone in which Mrs Gandhi’s cen­tral reserve police fired on angry crowds; 467 people are alleged to have been killed.

No oil to cook with

Another potential source of spontaneous combustion are the price rises and shortages many Indians are suffer­ing from despite the well-publicised stabilising effect of the emergency.  A disappearance of cooking oil in Bombay recently led to attacks on ration shops and obliged the government to rush in supplies from other states.  Mrs Gandhi conceded at the recent Congress party meeting at Gauhati that price control is weaken­ing - and blamed it on a relaxation of the emergency.

This claim about relaxation is hotly contested by her opponents.  True, some well-known political figures have been released from jail but an estimated 10,000 others are said to have been arrested since June.  About half of these were taken into custody in Bombay at the end of October during a visit by Mrs Gandhi’s son Sanjay, although most were released the next day.  Another category of prisoner, however, is still filling the jails  - such as the Times of India assistant edi­tor, Mr Sundar Rajan, who was recently arrested for a piece he wrote for a foreign newspaper.  He is one of some 270 imprisoned journalists.

Another index of increasing repression cited by the opposition is the number of prisoners who have died under mysterious circumstances.  These include a well-known lawyer and a smuggler who was an ally-turned-ene­my of Sanjay Gandhi.  The smuggler’s body was found in the Jumna river, 11 miles from Delhi’s Tihar jail from which he allegedly escaped.

Stories like these are grist for the underground mill which circulates news (and rumors) not fit to print in India’s censored press.  Underground papers also reprint critical foreign reports on India to con­vince the timid that the outside world cares.  One re­sult of 17 months of underground propaganda, say its purveyors, is that the timid are becoming less so.

They say there is a greater willingness to grumble in public; that people sometimes now hoot at Mrs Gandhi’s picture in cinemas, and heckle at political meetings; and that political posters have been defaced so that Mrs Gandhi’s 20-point emergency programme is amended to read 420 - the number of the fraud section in India’s penal code.  Another sign of anti-Gandhi feeling is a series of defeats for the Congress party in the few local elections which have not been post­poned under the emergency.

Still, the underground leaders do not delude them­selves that revolution is round the corner.  Public opinion, they accept, needs to be further prepared.  Another four key target groups must be mobilised: dis­sident Congressmen; dissident bureaucrats and police; students; and organised labour.  The Jana Sangh is not counting on the peasants as a revolutionary force in the Maoist style because it will not promise radical land reform.  But it is trying to educate the peasants - and solicit their money.

Students and labour, it claims, have already been largely won over: the Jana Sangh controls most of the important student unions, and in October three impor­tant trade unions - one pro-Jana Sangh, one pro-Social­ist and one pro-Marxist - combined forces to fight for a restoration of workers’ bonuses through a series of one-day strikes and petitions.  Bureaucrats and Con­gress party members are harder to draw into the opposi­tion camp because they have more to lose.  Corrupt and power-hungry civil servants and policemen have been the major beneficiaries of the emergency: the going rates for services rendered are said to have multiplied four to ten times.  But many officers and officials are un­comfortable in their new roles and play both sides.

Dr Swamy, who last month became the first member to be expelled from India’s parliament on political grounds, characterises the present system as a bureau­cratic dictatorship.  “If Mrs Gandhi had a party run­ning this country, I would have been apprehensive.  But by transferring power from the party to the bureaucra­cy, she has made it overbearing, irresponsible and cor­rupt.  This is our single biggest advantage.”

Names not on the list

Members of Mrs Gandhi’s Congress party have not been insensitive to this erosion of their power.  Some mem­bers of parliament now insist on police protection when they tour their constituencies.  Others have a more specific reason for opposing the new regime: their names are not on Sanjay Gandhi’s list of 250 new candi­dates to replace sitting members.

Until recently Congress discontent was expressed largely in private criticism, although some party men have gone so far as to offer support and hospitality to underground leaders.  In the last month more than 150 members of the Congress party actually took a public stand.  Before the recent constitutional amending ses­sion of parliament a group of Congressmen told minis­ters of their reluctance to vote for the amendment bill.  They were persuaded to support it - by 366 votes to four - in exchange for a pledge that the election would be announced soon.  When the bill for postponing the election was tabled only days later, the government vote dropped to 210 with over 150 Congressmen abstain­ing and the normally faithful Communist party voting against.

“What the Congress party is waiting for”, said an opposition spokesman, “is evidence that Mrs Gandhi is not all-powerful.”  This is what the underground hopes to provide.

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