INTERVIEWEE* Name: Jawid Laiq [JL]
- Occupation: Journalist
INTERVIEWER* Farah Yameen [FY]
Medium: Audio recordings* Format: Audio .wav
- Language: English with smatterings in Hindi
- Location of Interview:
- Date of the interview: 19 May 2016
Recording 1: fy_jlaiq_raw_190516_1
- Length 00: 33: 23
- Bit rate: 1536 kbps
- Size: 366 MB
- Date modified: 19 May 2016 01:56
- Bit rate: 1536 kbps
- Size: 244 MB
- Date modified: 19 May 2016 02:18
Recording 1: fy_jlaiq_raw_190516_1
Interview Begins0:00 [FY] : Today is the 19th of May and I'm interviewing Jawid Laiq. So we'll start with your career in journalism and how you got into journalism.
0:16 [JL] : I started my career in journalism in Bombay in 1970 and I was with ...started out as an Assistant Editor, Economic and Political Weekly from 1970 to 1974, so a bit over four years. And then just before the Emergency I got a job with Indian Express in Delhi as a Special Correspondent. 0:46 In...in March or April 1975, and the Emergency of course came few months later in June. So and it was a very interesting period to me, you know, to move from a academic sort of magaziners doing mostly editing and commissioning articles but I always wanted to do, you know, field reporting because at EPW it was mostly, you know, commissioning articles 1:14 ??? then rewriting ...rewriting their articles; so then I moved to Delhi it was mostly economic and political reporting but within two months the Emergency had started, so there was a of course massive clamp down on reporting and so on. And then I was with Express from '75-'78; and then after '78 till now, I work for various other, you know, print magazines and then news agencies and then in between, I was also with ...I was also with Amnesty International, London, as a researcher from '87 -'94; and before that I was with the Centre for Policy Res...Research in ...in Delhi doing some research on regional groupings like SAARC and NASIA 2:10 I mean GCCE and so on. 2:13 So I really been mostly journalist but also done human rights research and academic research.
2:19 [FY] : Ah right! So you joined Indian Express in March, that was the time when the Allahabad Court judgement came - 12th March.
2:29 [JL] : No...no it wasn't in March at all. The judgement came on in June ...in June 1975.
2:36 [FY] : Wasn't that the appeal to the Supreme Court? There were...when there was a stay on her being able to vote?
2:44 [JL] : No, the judgement came, I think it was on June ...probably June 12th if I'm not wrong...2:52 [FY] : Yeah! ---- 2:54 And then that was the Allahabad court judgement and then of course it went to the Supreme Court where I think it was Krishna Iyer who gave a stay on it or something like that. So that really...that stay allowed Indira Gandhi to impose Emergency on the night of June 25th and 26th.
3:15 [FY] : Ah right! So when you joined the Indian Express, what sort of news reporting were you doing at that point of time?
3:23 [JL] : At that time when I joined I was mostly doing reporting on economic ministries like, you know, agriculture and to some extent finance and so on but I was also reporting on you know they allocated different things. So I was reporting on agriculture, finance, and also reporting on the communist parties.
3:48 [FY] : So do you remember a particularly important report that you did just before the Emergency period?
3:56 [JL] : Well, there are so many reports because I used to report every day and that's...I mean...----4:00 [FY] : Something about ...---- 4:01---- .... lot of interesting reports but nothing....I can't remember anything which is really very, you know, outstanding. One report that I did was a...I felt that after Mrs Gandhi had been sort of found guilty by the Allahabad High Court, I sensed that something was going to happen....she's going to react. And that article was published not in Express but was published in ...in Economic and Political Weekly about how there's a build-up going on to project Mrs Gandhi as a sort of leader, you know, who was trying ...who was trying to make the forces against her, you know, who was trying to stop the forces pushing her into a corner. That was in...I think I reported that in June...just...just before the Emergency.
4:58[FY] : Just before the....you were anticipating something.
5:00[JL] : Yeah, definitely.
5:01 [FY] : A reaction?
5:02 [JL] : Actually I'll give you that report.
5:03 [FY] : Ah Okay! That would be nice. So in these three months could you recollect the whether, given that everybody talks about how journalism had been clamped down and there was a sudden clamp down....a lot of people say - we completely did not expect something this drastic. Can you describe the period just before June 25th... between March and June 25th when (muffled spot) 5:25 even Economic and Political Weekly you were reporting and it was...it continues to be a very...
5:29 [JL] : (interjects) That was just one report. No but I was doing mostly other 5:33 ??? doing economic ministries and the communist parties but you see, I think the judgement of the Allahabad High Court came probably as a surprise to many, at least to most journalists and others as far as I can remember. So I don't...I don't think they expected this sort of severe clamp down. 5:53 But at the same time it should be said that most journalists those days used to especially the correspondents used to report mostly, you know, very routine things about government...not all of them but most of them about handouts from ministries, you know, and so on. So it was very routine and dull reporting and ... and I don't think except for a few exceptions most journalists were just in a way reporting in a very clerical routine manner whatever the ministries pushed out. And since then of course things have changed a lot but at that time I don't think...now people say - Oooo, you know, that journalism was a very respectable profession and so on; and actually I think it was pretty dull profession before the Emergency.
6:45 [FY] : So who were the people and what kinds of report would you say were ...well not more than people but more than more specifically what kinds of reports were out of, you know, these dull reporting ...what were the important reports that were making it to the papers? What kind of reports?
7:02 [JL] : Well, that's too general a question. I...its so many years back ....what is it now...almost...what is it...forty years back?7:07 [FY] : Okay, let me make it more specific. You were...you were talking about like the economy and there were a lot of criticisms about the economy during Indira Gandhi's reign, so I mean that was one of the post-19...when the when the elections were declared again...the Janta Party also fought on that front apart from the ...so what were you reporting on the economy and how...what were the reactions from the government on that?
7:34 [JL] : At that time there was no....in early '75, there was no major crises in the economy....of course there had been the railway strike in '74 which was one of the reasons later claimed that Mrs. Gandhi claimed, you know, that they were trying to subvert her rule and so on. 7:52 But otherwise in '75 as far as I can remember there was no major economic crises in ...in ...in early '75. The ...there was a crisis much earlier when she came to power, you know and there was a crisis...there was food crisis and there was ship-to-mouth existence of American supplying grain and so on but that was in the '60s.
8:14 So by '75 I think the economy was fairly steady and ... and I don't think the Emergency was in any way directly related to ...to the economy.
8:28 [FY] : Yea. The...No, I was asking about the economy because the government during the Emergency refused all the criticism. I mean they would not let any criticism of the government reported. So I was wondering what kind of criticism was going on before that. I mean one was of course Sanjay Gandhi.
8:46 [JL] : Sanjay Gandhi was there also what I ...I can't sort of directly connect anything to do with economy with ...with...with the reporting before the Emergency. I think the Emergency became an excuse to stop even the mildest criticism of ...of government policies of any kind and especially of the Family. 9:07 [FY] : You were talking about the ...the railway strike which George Fernandes ... that was by George Fernandes. Was that report in the Economic and Political Weekly...I mean was there an article in the Economic and Political Weekly. I am assuming there would be.
9:20 [JL] : It might have been mentioned but all the other papers had ... had major articles on...on...on...on the ...on the railway strike but I don't know if the EPW had anything specific...must have had it...probably.
9:33 [FY] : So okay...so let's go to the day that the Emergency was declared. Where were you?
9:40 [JL] : On the day or the night the Emergency was declared, I ...I was at home and f course sitting with some friends. So it came as a total ...although one was expecting something might happen and I had written about it but even then it came as quite a surprise; and then of course I was with some journalist friends and we thought my god this is really, you know, how long will it last....how long will we be under dictatorship, and what will happen to me in journalism. I personally felt- O you know that what will happen to me as a journalist because it will be hopeless to be a journalist in this total censorship. 10:21 So there was a....the immediate feeling was of ...of ...of, you know, great despondency and ...and of great sort of concern that, you know, as a journalist how will one work at all.
10:37 [FY] : Right. So ...so the next day when you went to the Indian Express office, what were the conversations that were happening in the journalist circles. And I am assuming there would also be people who were parting with the Congress and then people were parting with the other side, whichever ... whatever the sides were there. There must be people within the newspaper office taking sides.
10:58 [JL] : You see after 40 years you can't recall conversations of, you know, which day what happened and so on. It's impossible to recall. But generally in the Indian Express I think most people were, you know, were totally against what had happened that night. 11:16 So and of course most of them were fairly, I think, people were fairly quiet but at the same time quiet upset about what's happening; and I think except for one or two most people...but Indian Express was an excep...was an exception, you know, defy the Emergency from the beginning. And of course partly defy the Emergency because there were so many people in Indian Express including Kuldip Nayar, the Editor and Chief as Mulgaonkar, and others who were totally against the Emergency. 11:47 So that sense I don't think what happened at Express reflects the rest of journalism. And of course I'm sure there were lot of Hindi paper, Hindi journalists and ...and local language journalists whom you should perhaps interview because lot of them quietly defied. They deified it in a very courageous fashion but we don't much about them.
12:09 [FY] : Exactly! So I have been asking everybody about these people who were reporting in the local or the regional languages and nobody has come up with a single name so far.
12:18 [JL] : No! But you've been mostly meeting people like me nah... from very limited class.12:22 [FY] : So but would you not know your....12:24 [JL] : I mean if you meet Mala (Check the Name)12:24 and me and ???, we'll know nothing about these people. --- 12:26 [FY] : Exactly. ---- ...so you should really cast your net wider, you know. Go to some state capitals and so on and many of them must have died by now...I don't know. You should go to places like Varanasi and there was a very active, you know, journalism against ...Hindi journalism against the Emergency. You should perhaps go...perhaps also to maybe to Bhopal and places like that. From Delhi you won't get anything.
12:51 [FY] : No, I ...I was just asking if given that there should be ...I assume that there would be a network of journalists who irrespective of their languages they wrote in would know - okay there's certain people writing in these places in a different language. 13:04 So was there not like a reporting from the hinterland that was coming to the capital and like in exchange of news between...
13:11 [JL] : Reporting for what sorry?
13:12 [FY] : Wasn't there an exchange of communication between people from the hinterlands to the capital and vice versa?
13:20 [JL] : You know just like now there's definitely a, you know, its very compartmentalised journalism even now between the English language media including TV and so on, and the non-English language media and again then its again compartmentalised between different languages so there was actually never has been much communication although there are, you know, journalists associations and groups and so on but even then there's a definite sort of almost a wall between English language journalism and ...and non-English language journalism; and amongst non-English language journalism differs say between what, you know, Malayalam and Tamil journalism and Hindi journalism and so on. So for that you require massive research. I don't think you can get in by, you know, just talking to English language journalists.
14:17 [FY] : Yeah, okay! Right. So what were your primary assignments during the Emergency when there was a clamp down and you were not allowed to report criticism of the government? Did you....in what form did you defy (a)?
14:33 [JL] : Well at Indian Express, we defied the Emergency in a number of ways which were quite subtle in the sense that we play up, you know, reports of countries where there was a dictatorship and what effect it had there, you know, foreign countries...foreign news and you know played down sort of achievements which the Indira Gandhi regime wanted us to play-up like that 20-point programme and so on. 15:09 And then ...then of course there were all sorts of other things happened and then against Express because it continued to, in a quiet way, defy the Emergency was that, you know, they switched off the electricity in some point, they cut-off government advertising. At one point they also stopped all the foreign news, so we didn't get any foreign news and so on for a few weeks. 15:38 So things like that. Then I remember that as far as the foreign news...what we did was and I personally did was listen to foreign news broadcast on those, you know, old style short wave radios...those days. And Mr Goenka who was the owner of the Express his flat...and from those news broadcast a lot of things were happening in China and, you know, London, Washington and so on. 16:03 So we used to listen to the late night broadcast and BBC and ...and radio Peking, it was called Peking then, and then Voice of America and so on and then wrote those news broadcast and then passed them off as sent by our own correspondents; although it was all done from the, you know, from the radio.16:24 So in that way we were able to, you know, put in foreign news without having any access to the foreign news agency vibes. And at the same time what else did we do that...and then small ways, we'd report small incidents which were not very favourable to the government...nothing major but we ...the reports of small incidents about, you know, things going wrong here and there. 16:52 But the main thing was that the Express went out of its way not to project Indira Gandhi regime in any positive manner except that routine things of course were published but otherwise it did not particularly play-up Indira Gandhi's speeches or ...or so-called Sanjay Gandhi's achievements and so on.
17:15 [FY] : So yeah...what were you...were you still reporting on the economy at this point of time?17:20 [JL] : Yeah, I was reporting on the economy and reporting again on the communist parties.
17:25 [FY] : So the communist parties were like pro-the Emergency...
17:28 [JL] : No, the CPI was for the Emergency....said it was fighting... Indira Gandhi was fighting imperialist forces and reactionary forces. But the CPM was against the Emergency. And I met some people at CPM and so on but they were totally demoralised. It was quite surprising that, you know, some of these ...some of these people in the CMP headquarters were so frightened and totally demoralised. And it was quite surprising that, you know, people at Express were more defiant than the people at CPM.
18:11 [FY] : So well a constant rhetoric is this fear factor during the Emergency... everybody is fearful of the regime. In what way did it manifest itself in the people you interacted with in your circles, like the journalists circles.
18:29 [JL] : Journalist circle at Express I think the fear was ...at least people hid their fear but outside there were lot of concern about whom you talk to and so on, you know, at the Press Club and so on who might be government informers and things like that. So people were very careful but you know, talking of oral history it was amazing that all the major incidents took like in the Emergency, including Turkman Gate or, you know mass sterilisations in Haryana and then Sanjay's antics, you know. And then there was this man called Sawmi ....what was his name?.... Brahmachari or something who was...who used to use his personal plane to go around and was a great favourite of Mrs Gandhi. So and then Bansi Lal was Defence Minister and ...and Sanjay Gandhi roaming round the countryside doing all sorts of things. Surprisingly all these things were known, you know because you're such a ...such a, you know, talkative society that oral…oral history that way would be very useful because within a few days of these incidents, people will say - 'ooo, you know, we are...I'm telling you something in confidence but this has happened.' And of course at that time you didn't quite believe it but you talked to someone else and again he would say - 'Oooo this is totally confidential but...' within days not only in Delhi but I knew people in Bombay and so on who would, you know, people used to phone and talk. 19:58 So actually while it had that dampening effect both amongst journalists and generally society in a hushed tones but word got around very fast; so actually it had the opposite effect...lot of people began to exaggerate what's happening, you know. 20:13 So that...that way censorship and a clamp down is counter-productive because it leads to rumours and exaggerated rumours and so on. And of course a lot of the rumours later were proved true by the Shah Commission and so on, you know, later. They all proved correct.
20:30 [FY] : Yeah, of course we have to talk about the Shah Commission also. So what were the sources of these ...what was the source of this information? I mean given that Mrs Gandhi was trying very hard to keep everything in, how did these ...how did the information get out? What was the source?
20:47 [JL] : Quite often it was from people within her Party and regime because they also liked to talk, you know that...Bansi Lal's behaving this way and Sanjay Gandhi's behaving that way. And you know a lot of people of course were quietly very much against Sanjay Gandhi. So they used to tell their friends....people who were within the regime and of course then it would be conveyed to others. 21:09 So it was...it was quite a porous sort of regime, you know. ---- 21:13 [FY] : This seems like a very... ----- It wasn't...it wasn't like ... it wasn't like North Korea or the Soviet Union or something like that. So in that sense it was...it was quite a sort of....it was if I may say so, it was quite a bungled 21:27 [muffled spot] ...rather bungled sort of dictatorship. And the other thing is of course the big difference was that the middle and upper classes were never face this sort of fear factor....suddenly very careful of whom they talked to and so on. 21:44 But ...but for ordinary people it was much worse because there they really felt it, especially the sterilisation, the two.... two big issues which later came up in the '77 elections were again and again...forced sterilisation and demolition of .... of slums and so on. You know, this government was very fond of cosmetic things like beautifying bits of Delhi, beautifying other places, which really meant knocking down the, you know, dwellings of the poor. And the other thing was mass sterilisation which was mostly...mostly done in and around Delhi, especially Haryana, with some western UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh. It wasn't so effective in the South. 22:33 And a...that really...after she decided to have elections, that really went totally against her.
22:41 [FY] : So when you're talking about, you know, news getting around and people from the Congress talking about it. This is for me, I mean from where I'm seeing it, it's like a very Lytton's Delhi circle things get around and if you have friends there. How did it percolate...I mean this is a power circle so to speak...it's a very elite circle where this news is getting circulated. How did it percolate down to the middle class, like middle class saying outside Lodi and Golf Links? How did it get to may be South Delhi or other parts of Delhi? Did that news get around at all outside these circles?
23:10 [JL] : Yeah, the Congress Party is, you know, quite a ... it has cadres all over the country, it's not just Lytton's Delhi. People talk, you know, to their friends in state capitals or phone them or they...they travel there and so on. So it wasn't Lytton's Delhi at all. It was these stories and rumours were all over the country within few days it'll be in Bombay probably on the phone or something. So it wasn't restricted just to, you know, the ...just to a few people in the Congress Party. Congress Party was of course at that time and even now has lot of members outside Delhi. 23:47 So it just wasn't 23:48 (muffled spot) and then they talk to people who were not a Congress so it'll get around a lot, you know. And then of course, allies in the CPI would also talk about what is going wrong and so on.
24:01 [FY] : So, do you remember a particular rumour that really like flew around? Something that was very big at that time. It might not be remembered now by most people, may not have been written about but it was really big at that point of time.
24:18 [JL] : Well not...it wasn't a rumour. It was noted about how arrogantly Sanjay Gandhi used to behave with officials and so on, you know, wherever he would go, he'd be very rude and ...and then of course he'd ....he had that, you know, bejewelled society lady called Ruksana Sultana who appeared in Turkman Gate and you know had sterilisation camp put up and so on. 24:43 And then what happened in Turkman Gate...there was police firing and so on. And of course that got very known everywhere, especially in Delhi because it was such a major, you know, there was a police shootings and the whole place was knocked down and so on. 25:03 [FY] : Yeah, the whole settlement. Also you were talking about informers. Do you remember an incident where informers had been involved or somebody was adversely affected because of informers?25:16 [JL] : You mean among journalists?
25:18 [FY] : Among journalists or otherwise?
25:22 [JL] : Not really. But ... I was going to tell you something, I think... Ah! the other thing is of course you must put that down, I want to tell you is that....lot of journalists, you know, completely turned overnight and became ....began to curry favour with the ...with the ...with the regime, especially people in the Times of India and so on. And in fact, some very well known personalities who I don't want to name them...still in journalism and so on. You know, senior journalists that time, you know, forces one chap who's now a very senior journalist, retired now, and was an Editor at Times of India, appeared in front of the Pres Club....you know there's a big sign Press Club with some cameras and so on, and then gave a sort of talk about how good the Emergency was for the country and so on. So there were a lot of turncoats whom you'd expected didn't, you know, at least were self-respecting and not show but they thought it'll be good for their careers, and good for their personal improvement to back the Indira Gandhi regime. 26:41 So it mustn't be forgotten that there were a lot of ...they weren't even turncoats I think they were just opportunists you know. And who after the Emergency the Emergency pretended that they defied the Emergency, it was a total lie, you know. So in that way it was quite sad that after the Emergency lot of people who really defied it didn't get their due but were those who supported it or pretended to be you know great heroes of the Emergency.
27:09 [FY] : Yeah also there were a lot of arrest happening during the Emergency, especially of people...I mean Kulpid Nayar himself went to jail. What was happening about....how did news from the jail get to you? And were you aware of what was happening in the jails?
27:28 [JL] : Not really although we'd hear occasionally from like Kuldip's family and so on we'd hear occasionally that, you know, Kuldip had communications with his wife and so on. But I must say we didn't meet the families. We should have but we didn't meet Kuldip's family much, maybe once or something. But we didn't really know what was...you know we'd hear again rumours that these people are in jail and so on but I don't think the journalists were not ill-treated in jail generally. 28:02 I mean they were in jail but were not maltreated. The...again the people who were really suffered were again all these poor people who were picked up for all sorts of things like, you know, who didn't want to be sterilised or picked up for minor offences and so on. So I feel anyway in a way the Emergency was not particularly harsh on the middle class. Of course people were jailed in thousands but the middle class people who were jailed, you know, had special privileges in jail because there's a class system in jail or there was where...where you get graded, you know, what sort of ...what sort of jail conditions you're put in. So you happened to be middle of a class, your treatment was much better than of a prisoners who were ordinary prisoners. 28:53 I don't know what it is called...it was sort of Class A or Class B and so on. I don't know whether it's been demolished, you know, demolished now. But within jails there was definitely grading system.
29:06 [FY] : And there was no reporting about...I mean you could not report about the arrest except in like these small columns- this person has been arrested.
29:14 [JL] : No no, there...that was allowed. I mean that came out in the papers- who all were arrested and so on. But nothing ...nothing much, just so on has been arrested and so on. And of course, you know, the big thing was of course George Fernandes being arrested in the Baroda dynamite case and so on. So when he was arrested that was all in the papers...as a subversive and dangerous sort of, you know, violent sort of man.
29:42 [FY] : So there was this one clan which everybody talks about now is, you know, people who were not supporting the Emergency. What were, I mean of the people who were currying favour with the government...in what ways were they reporting? I mean were they like other papers....just reporting hand-outs from the government or were they report...like going out of their way to report something more and say something better about the government? How was the government portrayed?
30:09 [JL] : Well, it was portrayed in a very positive way by lot of newspapers. I'm talking again only about the English language press.
30:17 [FY] : Yeah yeah yeah, I get what you mean.
30:18 [JL] : That it was... apart from Statesman and ... and Indian Express all the other papers like Times of India, Hindustan Times...other papers in...in regional areas, you know, English language newspapers in the South and so on, I don't know about. I can't remember about what the Hindu did. But in any case they were reporting in glowing terms whatever Sanjay did, whatever Indira did and so on. And of course personally a lot of them used to, you know, meet Congress leaders and so on and you know, say every...how everything's fine and so on. So as I think it was as Advani famously said, although I don't like quoting L. K. Advani but after the Emergency he said that, 'they were asked to bend but they crawled...' something like that.
31:10 [FY] : So, did you attend any of the rallies that were happening because, I mean, post-the Emergency there were a lot of rallies that Sanjay Gandhi organised for his mother and himself?
31:22 [JL] : Well my wife Bharti and I were the first ...first journalists, Indian journalists to ..to go Amethi after the election was declared. And in his first speech there, Bharti and I were there to report and his first speech in Amethi, you know, his election speech, where he said- 'Ooo all these Opposition leaders...' The exact words he used are '...yeh kire hain,' you know, '...they are insects.' And they must be crushed sort...that sort of thing, so remember reporting it. But by then things had opened up because Emergency was still on but she'd declared election. So that was a golden period at least and for Express that we were able to report a lot of things, which the other papers even then were not willing to report, like I was...I did the first interview with Morarji two hours after his release from ...from detention and he said that the opposition must unite and so on but as usual, you know, his way of talk....I said, 'are you going to unite the opposition?' This was five hours after his release. So he said, 32:34??? Bathroom, how can I tell you whether I can, you know, unite the opposition and so on. So things like that. Then of course we went to Amethi and Rae Bareilly and we sensed that the things were going against ...against...against Indira and in fact later I reported from Varanasi that how- I think that was one of the first reports which said that- Mrs Gandhi, that the Congress would lose the elections because by then it was very apparent, especially I travelled quite a bit in UP. It was very apparent that, you know, that...that Congress had become totally unpopular.
33:17 [Telephone rings.......... End of the 1st recording.]
Interview Continues--- Recording 2
0:00 [JL] : And then you know that I, you know, on the first anniversary of the Turkman Gate after the elections I did a very detailed interview based story about what had happened at Turkman Gate. 0:16 So that got me into a lot of trouble later.
0:18 [FY] : Who did you do this....?
0:20 [JL] : It was published in Express.
0:22 [FY] : Yeah, yeah, yeah but who did you do the interview with?
0:24 [JL] : Oh with those people who had been displaced and those people who...relatives of people who had been shot and so on. So all based on people who had been in that area and then who were displaced outside of Delhi.
0:38 [FY] : Can you recall the story in more detail for me?
0:43 [JL] : Well, I decided that I'd known about what had happened, you know, on April 19, 1976, so a year later in April 19, 1977, I wanted to do a detailed interview-based story on what had happened a year back. So I went to Turkman Gate area and met a lot of the people who were still there and then went to the resettlement colonies sort of totally, which were not resettlement colonies at all. They were just like, you know, like just put on empty land and is given a few, you know, a few pieces of tarpal and to live on miserable conditions. So I went and meet...met people there and what they had to say what had happened on that...especially on that day. 1:31 So of course Sanjay was very much involved so was..so was Jagmohan who was Vice Chairman of DDA. But of course he felt defamed in my involving him in this ...in this...by this article. So that case went on for about seventeen years and so on. But of course I feel what I had done was absolutely... what was reported and was from eye-witnesses and of course he felt that I had defamed him.
2:09 [FY] : And then you went to jail for it?
2:11 [JL] : No, I didn't go to jail. I sentenced to jail but then I went in and appealed; and I was sentenced to two months in jail. It went on in the...in the...in the (JL tries to recall) '79 to '82. (Recollection over) Yeah it went on in the Magistrates Court for thirteen years, you know, just the magisterial. So real harassment because I had to go dozens of times and you know, it keeps getting adjourned. That's how the judiciary works. So in the lowest court it was thirteen years then I was sentenced to two months. And then I appealed to that so it went on another four months and then the whole thing sort of fizzled out. 2:48 So I didn't go to jail.
2:50 [FY] : Thank god for that at least.2:50 [JL] : It was a major source of harassment.
2:53 [FY] : Sir you were talking about how you were travelling a lot around UP just after the elections were 2:57(LAST WORD is a Muffled spot...please clarify). Can you describe conversations with people...conversations or can you describe what people were saying about Indira Gandhi because everybody says nobody excepted Indira Gandhi to lose the elections. You say it was evident to you in ...in the reactions of the people that she might ...she might lose.
3:14 [JL] : You know when Bharti and I, we were both...she was a reporter at Indian Express and I was a correspondent. So when we landed in the morning by train at Amethi. The first the most vivid thing, which you should record here, is the first person we met as came out of the station was a rickshaw puller or rickshaw walla. And he was straight away said that..that he would never vote for Indira and Sanjay because they had done such terrible things that, you know, his home had been destroyed and lot of people he knew...he was a young man...had been forcibly sterilised and there was no question of ever voting for Indira and Sanjay. The first people we met. So as we moved around the constituency in Amethi and Rae Bareli, we came across a lot of youngsters and so on, and others especially the younger males who were openly against, especially against Sanjay. 4:18 And at that time we felt that Indira Gandhi might be re-elected from Rae Bareli but it'll be more difficult for Sanjay to be re-elected. That was in February. Then I went again in March. I went to eastern UP, went...went with Chandra Shekar to Ballia, you know, his constituency. So there was a huge turn-out, you know, it was sort of a very huge crowds all cheering him and so on. So by then ..by March it had become ...I'm talking...the earlier bit was February and by March it became very apparent that...that UP had turned totally against Indira. I mean I went to Ballia. I went to Varanasi. I went to Lucknow, and even the Congress had given up. They said ...one Congressman told me that- eis Sanjay ne chopat kar diya. He made a total mess. So by ...by just before the elections... about a week before the elections...I think the election was on 19th and 20th of March. By about 14th of March, it was apparent that, at least to me, that Congress is going to lose.
5:28[FY] : Right! Also, you know, a lot of the books talk about you know songs that were, you know, being sung, around the countryside- jhoot bole janta kaate, and things like that. Do you remember any of that?
5:42 [JL] : No, I don't.
5:46 [FY] : While you were reporting the Emergency what were...I mean because there was no criticism of the government, were you allowed to report things like maybe natural disasters or crimes? Or was that also not permitted?
5:59 [JL] : No, ordinary crime and so on and natural disasters were reported in a ...but it wasn't supposed to be played-up. But there different; they were reported. The other big thing one began to note during the Emergency is that it was really... the Emergency was run more by the bureaucrats, you know, the officials. The political class was side-lined even the Congress Party. 6:26 And apart from a few ministers, the politicians were side-lined and it was... it was the ... the role of the bureaucracy has never been really examined. More than journalists it was the bureaucrats who totally, you know, crawled. They didn't have to but they probably thought they're part of the government and there was hardly anyone in the bureaucracy who...who would defy the Emergency. Although later they claimed they did but ...but most of them really crawled, and within the bureaucracy very often in the districts, it's the district superintendent of police who became more important than the district magistrate, you know. Usually it's the other way round. The district magistrates are supposed to or the collector and somewhere is the commissioner supposed to control the district but very often the powers were taken over by ...by the police officers. 7:19 So what I'm trying to say that I...I...IPS became more important than the IAS.
7:25 [FY] : And you were saying that the bureaucrats became...I mean are there incidents that you remember that... because of which you say this?
7:36 [JL] : It's not incidents...it's...it's what they...what they enthusiastically did, you know like it was so apparent that they were so enthusiastically because again opportunism to really push through the forced sterilisation campaign, you know- push old men, young...young boys to be sterilised because there was a quota system, I mean. So this was done with great fervour and so on. 8:04 Again in a totally opportunistic fashion you know.
8:08 [FY] : Okay, to go back to something you were saying earlier Press Club, there was some...the Times of India journalist would come and announce that. So Coffee House and Press Clubs was...were the places where the journalists would meet constantly and they would....there was also a Coffee House in CP that was shut down because Indira Gandhi thought there was a lot of subversive conversation happening there. Do you remember anything of similar from your own experience?
8:35 [JL] : No, Press Club people would meet and so on; and amongst you naturally talked to people you...you trusted and you were friends with. So that was quite normal. There wasn't any ...any particular...and of course people you didn't disagree...you disagreed on the Emergency you also had chats with them but of course there were distinct groups, you know. A lot of them were at least for the Emergency just for the opportunistic reasons and then of course there were other friends and so on who were totally against the Emergency. 9:07 So there wasn't that much confrontation, you know, people would stick to their own...own groups.
9:15 [FY] : How did you know whom to trust?
9:18 [JL] : Now that's too general a question...how can you...
9:20 [FY] : Would you not be like- I think this person is on the other side or an informer- but you'd not have a ..
9:25 [JL] : No, nothing...you can't, you know, say - how do you trust a... That's instinctive whom you trust or not.
9:32 [FY] : Okay, I mean you did not know who was on which side of the...fence?
9:36 [JL] : No, you'd know who had...who had come out in front...in favour of Indira Gandhi publicly.
9:43 [FY] : Right! So post-the Emergency, how...I mean you...you were talking about how you reported a lot of things from UP. But also some people say that the fear continued until the election results were declared. And then you were like- okay we can...for instance Raghu Rai said his one picture like that's very famous now was this guy sweeping up the Indira Gandhi poster. He was like- it was not published until the time that the election was declared. I mean the results of the elections were declared. So post the Emergency, how did you see...I mean did people come back and say 'Oh! no...we were ...we were like anti-the Emergency all along'. How did the fear change?
10:21 [JL] : You mean after the election result?
10:22 [FY] : Yeah!10:24 [JL] : Yeah, after the election result everyone pretended they'd been against Indira and so on. But in that crucial period between...you know between when she decided to hold the election, I think January to March, most papers continued to be very fearful; except for...I'm talking against the English language basically...except for ... and the daily newspapers...Express...except for Express and Statesman. But I must say in Express, we ...we behaved as if there was no Emergency at all between January and March because we reported everything. 11:01 There was a ...in fact we reported as...as if there was no Emergency. So Express because of the Editors and because of quite a few journalists who were, you know, openly against the Emergency, including myself. There was no fear at all but we ...of course at the back of the mind there was a fear that if she comes back, you know, whether these reports...what would be the result like when I wrote from Varanasi saying 'Congress is going to be defeated', I ...when sending the press telegram...in those days of course was all telegrams and so on...there was no email and fax and so on...So I remember thinking what would happen to me if, you know, I...if she came back to power. But at the same time I wrote whatever I felt like and so did lot of others. I'm talking of Express itself.
11:53 [FY] : Yeah yeah yeah.
11:54 [JL] : So Express was an exception. And it was very...it was quite an exciting and very adventurous time to be with Express right form '75 to '77.
12:08 [FY] : Also while Indian Express and Statesman are like the perceived heroes of this period. There were also smaller pamphlets and notes that were doing the rounds I believe.
12:19 [JL] : There were a lot of that. Although I can only tell you only second hand because you know that... that lot of pamphlets were thrown around here and there and printed mostly by, I think, RSS and other groups. And we heard then of, you know, pamphlets being found in, especially Old Delhi, against the Emergency and being picked up by the police and so on. 12:42 But I didn't see any of the pamphlets myself but I heard about it. Then they were of course in Hindi.
12:48 [FY] : But where were the...who was printing these pamphlets? Where were these presses? I mean I'm assuming the major presses would just have refused.
12:56 [JL] : Yes, small presses were printing them and some of the got into trouble also and I must say at that time the RSS...the youngsters in the RSS did lot of this sort of propaganda.
13:11 [FY] : But nothing like passed through your hands at all?
13:15 [JL] : I might have seen one or two pamphlets but I can't remember now.
13:19 [FY] : Did somebody...when you're saying second-hand, can you recall what other people said about...
13:25 [JL] : Yeah...I heard other reporters say that they'd seen these pamphlets, you know, in Old Delhi...coming out totally against Sanjay Gandhi and Indira Gandhi.
13:36 [FY] : And what these pamphlets say? Do you remember?
13:38 [JL] : No, I don't.
13:39 [FY] : ... the content of these pamphlets?
13:40 [JL] : ... except being anti-Emergency.
13:41 [FY] : Yeah...matlab RSS was very predominantly anti-Emergency. Okay, so have broadly asked my questions. Do you think anything outside...I mean, I've talked about journalism but even outside journalism, is there something specific that you want to say about the Emergency? And how it affected the country?
14:06 [JL] : I think in a major way it probably affected the country was that 14:18 I think the media especially realised that it has to be much more...much more proactive and much more investigative and there was a new generation of magazines and journals, which came out very boldly and started reported things in a much more activist fashion than they did before the Emergency, you know, especially I think this magazine called Sunday nah... ---- 14:42[FY] : Sunday Magazine ---- 14:44 ...which of course was against... at that time against the Congress but I think they began to report much more actively about the political class and ...and about, you know, about atrocities, police atrocities, about ....investigating into public issues about wrongdoing and ...and by the bureaucrats, politicians and so on. 15:14 So in that way I think the Emergency did...did help to change the tone of journalism. And lot of magazines came out, you know. And lot of new publications, which were far more active, especially younger journalists came into the profession who were far more idealistic. Before...before the Emergency lot of journalists were in the profession which they thought will join, they'll write everyday and then they'll retire. But after the Emergency, the younger crowd came in which were very proactive about investigating reports of...of...of wrongdoing.
15:57 [FY] : Is there a specific piece that you remember which you saw and said- 'yeh toh Emergency ke phele or ya during the Emergency would not have been possible at all?' This was like scintillating journalism so to speak without being breaking news-types journalism but really good journalism that you thought this would have been impossible up until now?
16:17 [JL] : No, there were a lot of reports of that kind 16:20 (Muffled spot...unclear)... They cannot become one or two.
16:25 [FY] : But the Telegraph.... (JL continues)...sorry.16:26 [JL] : ... like lot of reports on communal riots and so on, which were reported in great detail, which won't have been earlier.
16:37 [FY] : Communal riots would not have been reported like that?
16:39 [JL] : They would have been but not in such great detail.
16:41 [FY] : Also I believe up until then local correspondents weren't very popular. I mean people would just use stringers, if I am not very wrong. Did that increase post-the Emergency?
16:54 [JL] : Just say it again.
16:55 [FY] : Up until then I believe like...like going to the specific location and then, I mean...you went to UP of course but it wasn't very popular that you go to the location and report. It just that list of stringers would just tell you the information. Did that change?
17:08 [JL] : Yeah, that's quite true that after the Emergency there was a lot of people actually travelling and going to the spot where, you know, some atrocity had taken place while before they just talked to the police officer and just report whatever he had said, you know, just report what the official said. But after the Emergency, there was to some extent...lot of them still reported what the police chap said but after the Emergency there were reports which were much more field reporting.
17:38 [FY] : There was increased field reporting post- the Emergency?
17:41 [JL] : But despite that, you know, the...even after the Emergency the biases continued, especially on communal riots...they'd just report the officer and give the Hindu point of view, you know. 17:53 Very often it would not give ...give accurate things about what had happened, like Muradabad and so on...what happened in Muradabad...lot of. And then the, you know, personal prejudices covered the journalism also. So that trend continues 18:10 (Muffled words)... communal bias of the press. As you can see what's happening now. 18:19 And one more thing I want to mention that although at that I felt there wasn't any overt communalism but in retrospect most of the ..there's a particular concentration of forced sterilisation looking back on Muslim areas...that was definitely so.
18:39 Although at that time I didn't feel it but when you look back, now I see that lot, especially Sanjay and so on would see to it that, not just Muslims but especially...forget Muslims...mostly poor people as always...but amongst the poor even more so on...on minority Muslim areas.
18:57 [FY] : I think that is why the Imam of Jama Masjid had come out to say- we'll defeat the Congress...19:03 touched wood (PLEASE CROSS CHECK THE LAST TWO WORDS) with the RSS leader so on and so forth.
19:07 [JL] : And of course one thing after the Emergency was that for brief period there was a lot of, you know, feeling of great Hindu-Muslim reconciliation during the earlier Janta...Janta period.
19:22 [FY] : But once the Janta...I mean Janta started failing very early on. They didn't have like much of a period ... form or anything. What was it's...like what was sense....what was...were you disappointed? Was journalist...were journalists as such disappointed? Were you? And because, of course, the Shah Commission...I forgot to talk about the Shah Commission completely. 19:41 How were you reporting the Shah Commission? Did you report the Shah Commission?
19:44 [JL] : No, I was...I had gone abroad for a while. But I remember going exactly a year after I had gone in '77 ... I went in '78...exactly a year after the election and by then Raj Narayan, he was then representing Rae Bareli...defeated Indira Gandhi; and I reported in that also how people within a year had become totally disillusioned with the...with the...with Janta Party because they'd done nothing, you know... mainly squabbling with each other. 20:22 And people had such high expectations with...when they came to power...that it'll be a new era and so on. In a way nothing to do with the Emergency but I think same things were replicated now...that Modi had raised such huge expectations, that there's going to be a backlash.
20:40 [FY] : Yeah, in fact ...also you were not around when the ...when Indira Gandhi was voted back into power?20:48 [JL] : I was...I was here.
20:50 [FY] : Was there a fear that the ...she would come around back with a clamp down at all?
20:56 [JL] : Initially there was a fear of ...of what Sanjay Gandhi would do, you know...that he'd pick on people and so on; but then he died shortly afterwards in that air crash. But by then it was quite clear that people were totally fed-up with Janta by '80. And I reported on that election also.
21:19 [FY] : And so...I mean given that you were travelling just on the 1977 election and the...so how did the tables turn by this time? I mean the conversations must have changed completely. Did you ask anybody - have you forgotten about the sterilisation or something like that?
21:34 [JL] : Yeah, I actually did do a lot of that but they said 'what has Janta done for us? Nothing! And it's such a chaotic government nah...Charan Singh overthrew Morarji and then Charan Singh's government was hopeless.' So people began to think, you know, at least Indira had some idea about to rule. These Janta people don't even know how to run a government. 21:56 People wanted some stability and, you know, they were fed-up with instability and the squabbles within the Janta Party.
22:09 [FY] : Okay
22:11 [JL] : What I'll do is ...can you...you know... [ 2nd recording over...abruptly].
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