interviewEE* Name: Chandan Mitra [CM]
- Occupation: Journalist
INTERVIEWER* Farah Yameen [FY]
Medium: Audio recording* Format: Wav
- Language: English with smatterings of Hindi expressions
- Location of Interview: ???
- Date of the interview: 02 June 2016 05:36:37
Clip name/DURATION: * fy_cmitra_raw_020616.wav
- Length : 01:02:09
- Bit rate: 1536 bps
- Size: 682 MB
- Date modified: 02 May 2016
|Interview Begins||Key Words/Phrases|
| 0:01 [FY] : So today is the 2nd of June and I'm interviewing Chandan Mitra for the Archives of the Political. 0:09 So we'll begin with your college days and the impositions of Emergency; and what was happening in North Campus at that point of time.
|| --- Background of Chandan Mitra and his time in Delhi University during the Emergency.
---North Campus a vibrant place---general unrest in India from 1972---1972-73 lots of strikes, price rise, discontent---1974 Railway strike by George Fernandes.
----On George Fernandes and his nature, political inclinations towards socialist---away from Left and Right --- visited Delhi University and spoke---Anti-Gandhi in his predilections.
---idea of something big taking place in the country.
---inconvenience caused by the railway strike.
---Nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1974 under Indira Gandhi believed to be a diversionary tactic to take focus away from the railway strike.
---Jayaprakash Narayan leading the Nav Nirman Movement in Bihar---protest and strikes, campus unrest, caste clashes---1973-74 period of unrest.
---Reverberations especially felt in JNU, Calcutta University.
---Mrs Gandhi becoming unpopular but rebelliousness was of anti-authoritarian type.
| 4:25 [FY] : Of course then....but there was ...would also [a whistle blows- phone- interrupting the interview] --- sorry....(interview continues) So you were talking about (a) one JP Movement and...the JP Movement was big amongst students all over the....I mean at least the north India certain and there is ...was even at that time a considerable Bihari population among the campus. What were the conversations that were happening about the JP Movement?
4:56 [CM] : To be honest the JP Movement itself, I don't think, it really kind of a...got traction in Delhi University. Yes, you're right...there were a large number of Bihari students and the sympathies were obvious but the University was still dominated by more by local Delhi students, basically Punjabis, by5:20 a ??? and the intellectual leadership of Delhi University was always Leftist, and dominated by Bengalis. But the real you know 5:32 the voters and you look at the organised structure that was dominated by ABVP and the Right-wing. So it really was in ...Delhi University was in... it’s difficult to categorise Delhi University. JP Movement...yes...everybody had support and sympathy but the support and sympathy was not really translated into action on the ground because ABVP controlled the unions and the intellectual ferment was largely Leftist and they will be like JP...so it was kind of somewhere in between; and you know, Congress had a fairly strong students' wing. 6:12 And they in fact were probably quite active organising so-called anti-fascist protests and so on and dubbing JP as a fascist but look, you know, there was a lot of ferment as I was telling you...again and again. They were seminars, there were discussions....people were coming and talking to students. George Fernandes I'd mentioned earlier...he was a fairly regular visitor to the campus and within the campus there were quite a few small gatherings and rallies and group discussions which 6:48 how about around the country, the falling economy, the failure of Mrs Gandhi's policies and so on so forth. But I wouldn't say anything ...DU was not really directly part of the Nav Nirman agitation or JP's Sampoorna Kranti but heard about this...the wall writings all over...about Sampoorna Kranti...total revolution...nobody understood what all this meant. But JP was a venerated name. There were others who would take out processions in his name but they were not...nothing major ...I don't think really gripped DU's attention to the extent that it did in Bihar or Gujarat.
| ----More on JP Movement.
---JP Movement did not get as much attention in North Campus due to the origin of the students---DU leadership usually more Leftist and led by Bengalis in addition to the ABVP and the Right-wing inclinations.
---ABVP controlled the unions and Left dominated the intellectual circles.
--Congress too had a fairly strong hold among students.
---much discussions on the campus about politics and the problems faced by the country.
---Very little understanding in North Campus of Sampoorna Kranti.
| 7:31 [FY] : What about the day when the Allahabad court judgement came out before the Emergency was actually declared? What was happening on the campus at that point of time? How were the political groups divided on that day?
7:44[CM] : Look, it so happened I was not in Delhi that day. But I took a train from Delhi....from Calcutta to come to Delhi that day...although it was fairly early but to get my admission in MA, I took the train from Calcutta in the evening ...no sorry...morning because when we reached Patna in the evening...somewhere around 5 O’clock or 6 O’clock in the evening, there were a few other DU students who were on the same train and same bogey...they incidentally all happened to be in Indian Administrative Service...all have just about retired from it by now...but we all in the same coach of this what is used to be known as the Deluxe and now known as Poorva Express. In Patna, we found the station...station completely deserted, which was strange. Actually I didn't know that Emergency had been imposed. 8:43 nor did my fellow travellers. Patna was totally deserted...just police walking up and down...all railway, you know, vendors and chaiwallas shut...shutters down, and there was a sense of, you know, eerie calm. 9:04 So we got down from the platform, primary to get a cup of tea but also to find out what was ...what was happening. And then we asked a few people hanging around...coolies and so on ...so in very hushed tones, they told us, 'ki aap ko patna nahi? That JP has been arrested...all big leaders...BJP leaders...Atal ji, Advani ji...everybody has been arrested. Emergency has been clamped.' And so we were discussing- what is Emergency? Emergency, an external Emergency was in ...had been imposed long back...it was when India had a war with China. We didn't there was something called an internal Emergency. So ...but...we were very very disoriented because we couldn't figure out that why is it that nobody is there in station...it's completely dull and very ordered...everybody seemed to be afraid and hushed tone people are saying that all leaders have been arrested. 10:10 So we came back to the train and one of us...somebody had a small radio...transistor tried repeatedly and managed to catch a whiff of BBC to get idea, just to know...the line used to be very bad...it used to crack all the time...the short waves but whatever we could figure out - was yes Emergency had been imposed...Indira Gandhi had said that the country is in the danger from within and fascist forces are conspiring to destabilise her government and democracy so it has been imposed and so all opposition leaders have been put behind bars and censorship has been imposed on the press. We managed to get this much in a very very kind of staccato manner after we got back into the compartment. 11:01 I was still very confused in as to what Emergency meant except opposition leaders had all been arrested. Know from time to time during agitations opposition leaders had been arrested before but the magnitude of this did not quite hit us at that point of time. Anyways, next morning we were back in Delhi, and I failed to get a three-wheeler to go back...auto to back to College, the hostel. There were just hardly four or five auto-rickshaws standing outside New Delhi station....normally the place would be thronging and you've seen New Delhi station, how busy and bustling the place it is, so disorderly, and chaotic...nothing...absolutely silence...hardly anybody around and just a few autos. 11:54 And then they refused to go but would not ask for extra money either. So after sometime I decided to catch a bus. So eventually with the luggage and everything I somehow managed to get a bus and came to the college. 12:10 When I reached college afternoon...when I first realised the magnitude of the whole thing. Many of my friends had already come back to Delhi....they were...and they all rushed because I was supposed to be the politically active one, so they came to my room and started telling me - you know this has happened...that's happened, so and so got arrested, now the police patrolling all over, and all newspapers have appeared blank. One or two brought them copies of papers...one paper had ...you may have seen that 'Obituary of Democracy'. Then front page blank and you know it was very very disturbing- we'd never seen or imagined something like this. So we were very confused and then in the evening when I went to the Coffee House, which I usually always did, you found complete silence, people talking in hushed tones...very different from the Coffee House that we were used to. 13:08 It was hustle and bustle and loud arguments and table thumping discussions...everybody talking very quietly and all things Emergency...it is like martial law and anybody can be arrested and nobody would get to know. We saw one or two suspicious looking people and sitting there in the corner who we had not seen before so we in hushed tones said- look that must be a spy- probably they weren't but you know at that point in time we were suspecting everybody. So by the end of the first day that was the day it has actually been imposed, when 13:44 ???? we were in a state of I would say disorientation, so after from the Coffee House, I walked to Model Town where a friend of mine used to stay. And there, he told me because he was not a hosteller but he was my classmate and he used to live in a, you know, a normal colony...middle class colony. He told me that - look things are very serious; and says I used to be fond of, you know kind of, letting my steam off. He said, 'look I advise you...you just be quiet for a few days...preferably you stay here, don't go back to the campus. And let's see how things shape.' 14:26 I did that actually. I got a bit scared by then because true that I was known to be a bit of an activist. I was not affiliated with any political party as such but yes I was an activist of sorts as much as is possible in St Stephen's College, which was a very sanitised kind of place. 14:46 So I took my friend's advice and stayed back...go back to college for to attend classes and then go back to his house. Suddenly, you know, I was a very avid Hindi film fan, so every second-third day we would go and watch a movie either the morning show or the afternoon...noon matinee or whatever. Suddenly that week, fresh release, my friend and I went to see it at the Alpana Cinema which was in Model Town for one close to his house. We found all the black market 15:19 (phone rings...too much disturbance)??? and many of them were known to me. 15:49 Some of the black marketers were actually regulars...they were known to me; and my friend was...we were regulars and we would always buy black. They all disappeared. Generally asked the panwallas there- what has happened?- He said, 'aree everybody kind of disappeared because this Emergency...Emergency they can be arrested.' I said, 'what has Emergency got to do with ticket?' He said, 'aree sahab sab police has caught anybody and everybody. And put them in jail so no...no tickets is in black market.' 16:25 Didn't ...couldn't see the film.
| ---On Allahabad court judgement and reaction to it on the Campus.
---CM not in Delhi when Emergency was declared but on his way back from Calcutta.
---CM on trying to figure out why Patna station was quiet and heavily patrolled.
----On hearing about the arrests and declaration of Emergency.
---- On CM’s own understanding of what an Emergency was.
--- On description of ambiance of fear.
---Getting access to a transistor in the train and hearing about the declaration of Emergency and reasons why it was being imposed.
---The magnitude of action against the political leaders not yet understood.
---On CM’s experience of trying to get to the Hostel.
--- On finally grasping the magnitude of Emergency.
--- On friends coming to visit CM and discussing politics and the going-ons of the Emergency.
---CM’s impressions of Coffee House and the sense of gloom blanketing it.
---On what Emergency implied.
---On suspicion of everyone.
--- friend in Model Town warning CM to pip his political opinions down because of the Emergency.
----CM not affiliated with any political party but local nonetheless.
---Narration of strictness and arbitrary arrests of shopkeepers, black-market ticket sellers.
| 16:28 [FY] : What film was it?16:29 [CM] : Ah! That I don't remember. It was... I saw anything and everything...totally indiscriminately. If I 16:35 ??? catch my diary [CROSS CHECK the Last three words]??? but it was something quite vague...nothing...it was a release of a movie but a 16:43 ....anyway we'd gone to see a night show; so we came out of a night show...went to the same panwalla to buy cigarettes and have a ;an...it was shut! So he used to always....this shop always used to be open because, you know, pan shops are normally supposed to close at eleven but near a cinema hall particularly, they would wait till the night show got over, which would be between quarter to twelve- to-twelve but till about twelve-thirty you could always get chai, cigarettes and pan at various identified joints and particularly near cinema halls. And Alpana cinema hall was a big driveway kind of thing and there were shops around the driveway...everything shut! 17:31 It was like curfew. And we asked a few auto- rickshaw-wallas and bole, 'no no no...very clear ...cops came around 11 and shutters down. And they have warned nobody...used to keep shutters up after 11 anyday, they will be arrested immediately.' So this is the way gradually terror strike. And then the stories started multiplying by the word of mouth...very often complete exaggeration...no relation to the truth but this is how the rumour machine started kind of moving. There was this one rumour that somebody, which we heard in the college just in a day or two...that somebody in the bus was told to give up his seat. He was occupying a ladies' seat...a man. So he was told ki, 'bahi sahab, kursi choro.' So he said, 'jab woh kursi nahi chorti toh mei kyon choru.' See....nobody named. He said that, 'when she doesn't leave her kursi....chair, why should I.' And apparently he was arrested and slammed in the thana in Daryaganj and his family was looking all over for him and finally found him in a terrible state...he'd been beaten black and blue, and dumped on the road by the police for saying something -- was it what he said ...what he actually did was...was this incident actually happened ... I've no idea; but this story spread like wildfire. 19:06 I don't know who were the people who were spreading it. I don't know whether it was the official rumour machinery because, you know, this had a sterling effect. 19:14 People actually shut-up. Even these slight jokes about Mrs. Gandhi...reference to her as 'I Gans'...people used to call her 'I-Gans'...no 'I-Gans' was then some people said- this is a very derogatory to call her 'I-Gans', so everybody started Mrs. G...Mrs. G.; no even in abbreviated form...no 'I- Gans'...at least Mrs. G. 19:37 And this story I just told you...this released dread...fear. And then if I were to jump...sometime was nothing much happening...there was really nothing that would happen. But by the, you know, by about...I would say what...it was about say...September-October of '76, resistance was beginning to build-up. I think there was a lot of protest, which was muted but it was happening...number 1. Number 2, the RSS was quite active and they would very systematically spread rumours at the queue outside Mother Dairy's booth. Mother Dairy's booth had just started in those days and people would queue up early morning, there would be some RSS person there who would be spreading rumours particularly about sterilisation. 20:41 Although sterilisation primarily affected Muslims in UP villages but even in Delhi, there was a rumour right across that young children were being sterilised in schools...so don't send your child to school. And actually caught on. Therefore, for several weeks, mothers were terrified and wouldn't send their male children to school at all. 21:09 Government actually had to come out and issue public statements through the radio and so on and say- this is a rumour and don't believe anything. There's no sterilisation happening in...in schools and so on and so forth. 21:22 And then you know you had these busybodies like Ruksana Sultana, who was hyper active...sterilising people in the Jama Masjid area. And every morning in the newspapers...I had discontinued my newspaper subscription...but still out of old habit go to library every morning just have a look at the newspaper; Ruksana Sultana would stare at you every morning from the front page. 21:46 Either Mrs Gandhi or Ruksana Sultana. And how she was kind of, you know, spreading the message of the 20-point programme and so on and so forth at the Jama Masjid in particular. So these were subjects of discussions in hushed tones in colleges and cafes and places but it was a very dull and I would say inactive period in the university, except for some people who were working underground. 22:16 There were Jan Sangh and RSS people who were more prominent in that period who used work underground. Some of them would come and throw leaflets at the Maurice Nagar Chowk, which is the main nerve centre of the university because it was a crossroads of....you know, crossroad there ..where a lot of people...students would be passing by or at least assemble at point; so leaflets would be thrown...they would be arrested...taken to jail, beaten for two days and then released again...even the police got fed up. 22:49 I mean how many people could be arrest for such petty crimes as throwing up a leaflet. And by that time you could sense a build up even among the police and authorities also as such that this has gone too far and you can't go on like this. 23:10 So this is what happened and I would say this was a...say from June 1975 to about June-July '76 was the ...we felt the real monstrous power of the Emergency, the draconian powers. After say one year the affects started waning because people started resisting and even the enforcers were no longer, you know, adamant about enforcing the diktat of the Emergency.
|| ---On implications of Emergency… conversations with the panwalla.
---Shops had to be shut on time or else arrested.
---How such measures spread notions of fear---role of rumours, gossip etc. in exaggerating incidents etc.
---Example of arbitrary punishments.
---People out of fear stopped making jokes on Mrs Gandhi and the government---More examples.
---Beginning of resistance from September-October 1976 to the Emergency.
---On sterilisation of Muslims in UP and Delhi---rumours made it appear far worse.
--- On Ruksana Sultana and her interactions in Jama Masjid.
---On members of Jan Sangh and RSS being active---throwing leaflets at Maurice Nagar Chowk—and being arrested then released.
---Even police got tired of arresting people for petty reasons.
---June 1975 to June-July 1976 people felt the brunt of the Emergency but after that its effects started waning.
| 23:43 [FY] : You were talking about sterilisation...big part of the, you know the sterilisation and the, you know, the slum clearance campaign was around Jama Masjid and some students, I believe, were active in going into these settlements posts, like they went to Kishtipur and Inderlok Puri where these people had been moved. Were you aware of this happening and ..?
24:04 [CM] : We had got to know when the Turkman Gate incident happened. Turkman Gate incident was a very big one actually and it went on for about three-four days. When the police came and indiscriminately opened fire in the early morning and just bundled people, and threw them into the army trucks and took them off to Mangolpuri, Jahangirpuri and other resettlement colonies. Now news of that trickled to the university after a day or so. In fact I remember coming to see what has happened. After a couple of days some friends who had just got up in a bus came upto this point to see what had actually happened and we found the place completely razed...some places burnt, some ...one or two people sitting and some women crying...but curfew-like scenario; and we were actually stopped near the Ramlila Maidan- saying 'can't go any further.' But we saw that it was obviously there had been a lot of oppression and force...forcible rehabilitation... and this was all part of cleaning up, beautification...Sanjay Gandhi's programme and sterilisation. 25:16 So this had happened and not that anybody could anything. See...but all these things, you know, piled up...one-by-one-by-one. And to create that mood that was just waiting to burst and that burst a few...weeks later.
25:34 [FY] : And you said that you were travelling to Delhi like on the day of the Emergency. And a major part of Sanjay Gandhi's 5-point programme was the beautification of this city and...and you know, we remember...at least my generation was not even born in the Emergency.... ---- 25:49 [CM] : Born... ---- .... remember them through posters and things like that and then there are these underground posters and leaflets that are doing their rounds. Can you describe the Emergency to me visually in terms of what was going out there in terms of pamphlets and posters?
26:05 [CM] : You see I think the primary image I would have would be of a man's face with a cross on over his lips, which could mean two things also really - 'you're silenced', you couldn't talk, and also he's been crossed out from the face of 26:26 the earth or his sphere or whatever you mean; and 'there was blood and there was silence...and it was enforced silence'....silence of the graveyard. I think this is what would I would say visually, you know, kind of really a great void...graveyard and a complete silence and people would be enforced to keep shut that I think is the dominant image that I would have in my mind.
26:49 [FY] : Ah! But also of posters that actually went up in terms of I think, there was a poster that says- Kaam azad baatein kam - that I think Sanjay Gandhi had put up. Do you remember such posters around the city?
26:59 [CM] : Oh yes! all over the university.27:00 [FY] : What other kinds of posters were there?
27:02 [CM] : 'Each One, Teach One' Then there was 27:06 missy I forget the exact 27:07 words, they had some rhymes in it. There was something like, you know, I think 'Hum do Hamare ek'... 'Hum do Hamare do'... Hum do Hamare do', 'Each One Teach One' ; ' Kaam azad baatein kam', Talk Less Work More' and these were the official ones but typical DAVP, Government of India stamp on them. Indira Gandhi's photographs in some places, Sanjay Gandhi's in some others...Sanjay Gandhi had no position or authority but yes it was there in posters and he had his goon squad also....moving around from place to place. And their main job was to try and convert people...students who were the more active types and try to bring them into the .... ---- 28:01 [FY] : Youth Congress. ---- .... Youth Congress. And this happened is a very personal story. If you wish I can tell you.
| ---On being aware or not of the slum clearances that took place.
--- Knew of the Turkman Gate demolition a couple of days after it happened---narration of CM and his friend’s impressions when they visited the Turkman Gate.
---Stopped near Ramlila Maidan and not allowed to go further.
----People were not allowed to report the trauma of the demolition but it was projected as a positive step towards the beautification of Delhi.
---On the kind of posters and leaflets that were being circulated on Emergency.
---CM narrates what his own impression of Emergency was a cross on man’s lips as an indication of enforced silence.
---On slogans of posters like Kaam azad baatein kam- by Sanjay Gandhi.
---Examples of posters- ‘Hum do Hamare do,' ‘Each one Teach one’ etc.
---Typical DAVP lines.
--- Job to bring the students to the side of Congress and into Youth Congress.
| 28:07 [FY] : Yes, please.
28:08 [CM] : Well, I had two brushes with the Emergency personally. 28:15 In one, the first one, which was less of a problem- One chap in a kurta-pyjama...white kurta-pyjama...typical politician dress...he walked into my room in the hostel in Stephen's at around 10 O’clock at night. You know, those days there was really no security and people would actually walk in and walk out, till 10 the gates were open...after 10 you had to take permission to enter....just before 10 I think. 28:43 It was exam time so I was studying with a table lamp in the balcony, when this person walked up and introduced himself; and said he was so and so who's some office bearer of the Youth Congress in Delhi University. And he said that, you know, they had heard all about me and heard good things about me- I was a good speaker, I was a good debater and I was somehow was not very happy with the Emergency, so he had come to me and said that he wanted to take me to Sanjay Gandhi and so that I could have a real understanding about what he was trying to do for the country and ...and make me join the Youth Congress. He took out a form from his pocket and kept it there. So I said I need time to think. So he said, 'waise toh sochne ka kuch hai nahi lekin thik hai. You think for a ...a day.' Whipped out a packet of Marlboros offered me a cigarette...I declined politely but he had seen that I had some cigarettes. He said, 'why?' I said, 'nahi, I'll have it later.' 29:58 And those days you see, we could smoke in college hostel and campus...it was open. So ...so, you know, but it was very flashy. There was something very flashy about him. He had a gold cigarette lighter, I still remember. So Marlboro and gold lighter were not a identity of a student of Delhi University. Anyway so he said he'll come back in the following evening and for my decision. 30:34 So that night itself I got out of the hostel, picked up, packed some of my bags, went to the same friend in Model Town, took a bus and went there. He said - okay, okay. But he said he knew this guy. My friend knew this guy. My friend was studying in Law Faculty then. He said, 'acha acha...this fellow. He's a bully, he's a useless chap...don't worry. I'll get him off your back.' 31:00 So anyway next day I stayed back at his house while he settled...obviously talked to some bigger goon and something happened and third day I went with my friend to the Law Faculty Cafe where this guy came along and said, 'I'm sorry I don't...didn't understand...realised you had taken offence...are eis mein bura mane ka kya hai? Aap ko nahi join karna hai matki jiye. Kya hai? Koi jabardasti tohri hai!' I said, 'Stardust Award...jabardasti it was.' But...so (mumbled spot) I don't know, anyway. Know the others someone...I got t know some, you know, major Youth Congress bigwigs. He came and said, 'are thik hai....don't worry. You keep studying, you are a studious type. Tum is mein phaso mat...it's okay...nobody will bother you.'
31:47 I said, 'Chalo thik hai.' But later was...the second incident was serious. You see, Delhi College, now called the Zakir Husain College, they organised a debating contest to celebrate ten years of Indira Gandhi's rule - Indira Gandhi: The Dynamic Decade, 1966-1976. 32:16 So I was among the, you know, part of the debating team in college. And actually I and Ramu Damodaran were usually the pair. Sometime Shashi Tharoor also went but Shashi Tharoor left after his Bacholrs, so during during our MA Ramu Damodaran and I were the two mainstay of the college- the debating team. 32:43 So I went and I was speaking against the motion and I gave a truly, I should say, very very ill-considered speech when I attacked. The Congress left right in centre, and I said, 'what is dynamic? Is dynamic is the way people have been killed? Dynamic is the way people have been dragged out and sterilised...dynamic is some... .' You know narrated various incidents which had been coming out in ribs-and-rags and I mentioned dynamic is the way Turkman Gate happened; and for a long time there was a pin drop silence in the house. 33:30 But when I finished, I said, 'if this is dynamic, I rather not have a dynamo installed anywhere.' And there was thunderous applause. And later they came to me- cooked your moose boy 33:43 I mean this was too much., you know. So far we had you've been privately talking the same thing but now, this is...this is too much. You'll get in trouble. I came back to college. I got a bit worried by then. I realised that, you know, I had been impulsive and probably said more...more than I should have. Even Ra mu said that Chandan is going to discuss this with me. I would advice you to 34:13 (NOT CLEAR) against it. Time will come when you can say all this but today was not the day. Anyway, quickly some of my friends, they said, look let's run from here. This is a Congress bastion, so let's run... left the place. When we went to college, one of our teachers used to be a...I mean he claimed, he was a Communist. He was not exactly a hardcore Communist but Left sympathiser like many, you know, history teachers and we all used to look up to him and also seek advice in these situations. 34:51 So dialling with those coins...seen those coin walla phones? 34:57 [FY] : Yea, yea, yea--- 34:59 So 50 paisa it used to call then...dialled him and I spoke to him and I...and he had already heard. Somebody had gone and told him that your friend and ... this thing...student has cooked his goose..he's done this...this...this...So..so he was a Bengali, he said - what is this? What's wrong with you? What have you done?' And...then he said...still can't forget this. His attempt at quote. He said, 'news by the Russian reva'. (mumbled spot)...I said, 'new by the Russian reva???'..Some of these boys...friends used to do this crossword and all that. So this is...obviously there's a clue here...just try to crack it. 35:54 And then somebody...light-bulb! Meet me at Volga at 9 O'clock. 36:07 News by the Russian reva! News by Russian...Volga 9 O'clock. Took a bus, came to Volga...true enough, he was sitting there...reading. He told me, 'look, this is serious. You run away.' I said, 'where do I run away?' He said, 'run away to Calcutta.' My parents used to live in Calcutta. You just leave for Calcutta. You know, he also had a tendency to exaggerate. He said,'people will be looking out for you everywhere.' You know, so he gave me 500 bucks and he said, 'don't do anything...just take a bus...go to the airport. Buy a ticket, sleep on the ground at the airport and take the first flight out.' I didn't think it was that serious in any case. 36:57 But he did give me 500 bucks, and said, 'you leave.' Then after he left, I said, 'look, this...this is overdoing it. Okay, I'll leave but I am not going to sleep on the ground at the airport...on the floor.' So then college but yes next morning I got up and went to the airport to the...I think there was a 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock flight...I took the flight... reached Calcutta, and he'd told me, 'don't come back till I give you the all-clear.' And I'd write him a postcard in Bengali. So by then I was getting very fidgety because three weeks had passed. I was missing classes. I didn't know what to do...I mean there was a layer of uncertainty...couldn't tell me parents the details either. 37:42 I'd said, 'no! There's some laphara...some of my friends had a fight and I was a witness and so the cops were harassing me, so I left Delhi.' So anyway after two-three weeks, I finally called him. I said, 'ke you haven't...' 37:57 (Beep....interruption caused by somebody at the door)
---CM’s personal account of his brushes with Pro-Gandhi strong-arms.
---Incident 1 when a bearer of Youth Congress visits CM in his hostel room to enrol him into Youth Congress—CM runs to his friend’s house in Model Town---resolution of the problem.
---CM getting to know more Youth Congress thugs.
---Narration of second incident--- part of debate competition at Zakr Hussain College- CM spoke against the motion of ‘Indira Gandhi: The Dynamic Decade, 1966-1976’. Got in trouble---advised to leave Delhi and go to Calcutta.
---CM trying to figure out when he could return to Delhi---Called his teacher---arrest of Hira Singh (arrested because a Congress man wanted to secure a job at the Delhi School of Social Work where Hira Singh worked and was expected to appear for an interview.)
| 38:05[FY] : You called him at... kuch pata nahi chala.
38:07 [CM] : Haan, I called him. He said, 'no...no...no...no, you know,. Then he said- you know what has happened? They have picked up Hira Singh.' --- 'Who's Hira Singh?' ---Hira Singh was our teacher and a very popular teacher of the Sociology Department. And we were good friends. This person I'm talking about ...he is dead...I can name him. His name was Suhas Chakarvarty, we used to call him Fat Chucks because he was very fat. So Fat Chuck said..Fat Chuck, Hira Singh and I...I was a kid compared to them but Hira Singh was a teacher...this thing and so Fat Chuck said, 'you know what happened? - They picked up...picked up Hira Singh.' 38:45 ---I said, 'They picked up Hira Singh?' --- 'They picked up Hira Singh. They've taken him to Tihar.' --- I said, 'why?' ---He said, '...because he some...he was a ...I mean even far Left.' He was a Trotskyite or something and therefore a very harmless man. The more extreme you are actually ...least harmful. So he had this literature and he was a very committed Left-wing but not CPI, CPI (M). He was far Left of CPI, CPI (M)...not a naxalite but he was in his own world, his own theory. And he was, I mean, he couldn't really hurt a fly. 39:21 They'd taken him. They picked him and taken him to Tihar. So I...then I called up another friend and said, 'is it true?' --- 'Haan haan, Hira's been taken away. They picked him up.'--- That really sent...I mean spine chilling because Hira Singh was a nice man, a popular teacher, not associated with any party and really somebody who couldn't hurt a fly. He would live alone...live alone. He had...used to drink heartily and last person you'd think who would be get picked up by the police. Later it was learnt that you see some of those ... politics...how politics came in ways with some appointment, interview for promotion was coming up in Delhi School of Social Work...one of the persons was pro-Congress and needed Hira Singh out of the way. So that Hira Singh couldn't appear for the interview. So went and told the police, the intelligence, that this man is dangerous revolutionary and he's plotting to overthrow Mrs Gandhi and you have to do something. Police raided his house...found some literature, which they don't understand anything about...he was picked, landed him in jail. He was jailed for about three or four weeks. He finally was out on a bail. By that time, the interview had happened and this guy had got the appointment. 40:50 This Congress chap. So this is how the Emergency was used by various people for their very very petty and personal interests and all this were actually building up that anger. It was when Hira Singh came out and told his story, I mean we would tell in turn to twenty people -'ki look what has happened...look what the Congress people are doing.' So I don't know, this is what ...what had come around towards the end. I'm talking about 41:17 (Muffled spot) the debate which had ...this was in December...December '76. So it was really growing to a close at that time but we didn't know. The day the Emergency was relaxed, it came as a really...not a 41:32 (born??? CHECK) but the opposite of it which was a bloom. I mean it was really amazing. I was driving from university, we were going to see...watch a movie...a friend and I...I used to drive a scooter in those days. So we were passing by this road; and outside Indian Express there used to be a lit board where the flash news used to come. There it was only stated- Mrs Gandhi calls for elections on March 18. I still remember the statement- Mrs Gandhi relaxes Emergency- Elections on March 18. 42:13 Stopped...immediately stopped...scooter screeched to a halt...found about fifty-sixty people all avidly watching this three line announcement. There's nothing more...no further information...but they were just stunned...but too scared to jump in joy but quietly hugging each other, and saying-'wah what...what does this mean?' Many people were asking me- 'what does this mean?' I mean, 'are we back to, I mean, has freedom come back?' Toh, we were not sure. See what does relaxed Emergency mean? Anyway went...watched the movie...came...went back...when we reached the university we found that these ABVP chaps had taken out a procession at midnight. Procession with Jan Sangh flags and not shouting...quiet procession going around the things and saying- look lok tantra ki vijay or something from time to time. But yes nobody was touched that day. Next day newspapers give some more details that this is what's gonna happen- Emergency is lifted- no censorship- but this is relaxed only. Emergency has not been lifted. Now elections will happen and after elections it will be decided if the Emergency will continue or not. So it was dangling. The sword was still dangling but yes there was a feeling that 'no, it...this can't come back.' 43:37 And then the way things built up and then the February 3rd rally at Ramlila...it was a turning point. It was just that....changed. And after that there was no way.
---CM told of Hira Singh’s arrest by Suhas Chakarvarty aka Fat Chucks.
----More on Hira Singh.
---On the abuse of power by Congress supporters.
---Contd. Hira Singh’s story.
---How Hira Singh’s story and other stories spread by word of mouth.
---On the feeling when relaxation of Emergency was declared.
---On people trying to understand what the flash board outside the Express’ building was flashing- Mrs Gandhi relaxes Emergency- Elections on March 18.
----Procession taken out by ABVP chaps in University.
---More details on relaxation of the Emergency in the newspapers.
---feeling of slight relief.
| 43:51 [FY] : Did you go to the rally?
43:52 [CM] : Yea, of course.
43:52 [FY] : What do you remember of it? I believe Atal Bihari Vajpayee's speech was really stirring.
43:57 [CM] : Haan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee...I attended several of his speeches in Jama Masjid in particular with Imam...Imam Bukhari. But this ... this rally...I...Ramlila was really...few rallies which have, I think, have turned the course of history...it was one. It was word-to-word by mouth that there's a rally. Jayaprakash Narayan, Vajpayee and Imam Bukhari and all will be there...Bahuguna and so on. 44:30 Now what had happened three days before that we had started listening to the news and radio again. Three days back on the ...this rally was on 3rd February or 6th February...I think it was 6th February. It was a Sunday. Three days before that the news we heard that Jagjivan Ram, ageing Bhauguna and Mrs Satpati (Ref.: Mrs Nandani Satpati, Chief Minister of Odisha from June 1972 to December 1976) had quit...quit the Congress, quit their minister-ship and found a party called Congress for Democracy. 45:01 That was the turning point. Everybody knew that...this has happened...they are the closest confidants of Mrs Gandhi and who had kept quiet all through it. If they quit and then two days later it came out in the papers that they would be joining this rally on 6th February. And you must have read or heard that to try and foil Bobby was telecasted... ---- 45:22[FY] : Bobby was telecasted at that time---- 45:23.... hardly...I mean Doordarshan those days used to telecast films only 10-15 years old and Bobby was '73...'73 December and this is '76 December, so. Anyways so all...all...every trick in the book was tried. We came...took a bus but we could not proceed beyond Red Fort. It was a massive crowd, the police had blocked. 45:48 So we walked from not Red Fort exactly...the Iron Bridge on Daryaganj. So from that place we walked to the rally. And yea, it was, I mean, I've never seen a place so packed and still money being collected. See Devilal, I remember had said- ek note ek vote (trans.: One note One vote)- So some volunteers came up with a gamucha (Ref.: a tradition coarse cotton towel used in India) and chaddar (ref.: sheet) going through the crowd. Everybody...women throwing, you know, anklets and stuff like that. It was 46:19 ??? (Word UNCLEAR). I mean...feeling of release. I mean and freedom...very difficult to describe. I ...I can always compare it to the picturisation of the song 'Kaanto se kheench ke ye aanchal tod ke bandhan baandhee paayal. Aaj fir jeene kee tamannaa hain. It was really like aaj fir jeene kee tamannaa hain.' 46:39 That visual image keeps coming to my mind. It was like collective, aaj fir jeene kee tamannaa hain.' Who spoke what I don't remember. It was not really rally but see everybody was clapping so much that you couldn't hear anything. Hurriedly organised and there were not enough mikes, so half the people couldn't hear anything...doesn't matter. It was that ...it was a moment.
| ----More details on the rallies.
---CM attended many such speeches--- Atal Bihari Vajpayee ---Imam Bukhari---news of impending rally spread by word of mouth.
---Resignation of Jagjivan Ram and Nandani Satpati from Congress and formation of Congress for Democracy implications of their resignation from the Congress.
---Telecast of Bobby to divert people’s presence from the rally.
----On what it was like to attend the rally---not organised well—few mikes but people were ecstatic---people collecting funds for the elections.
--- For CM the mood can best be reflected by a song from film Guide-- Kaanto se kheench ke ye aanchal tod ke bandhan baandhee paayal. Aaj fir jeene kee tamannaa hain.
| 47:00 [FY] : What about Indira Gandhi's own rally? Did you attend any of those post-the declaration of election?
47:04 [CM] : Indira Gandhi's....(muffled spot)....We hated her. 47:09 (muffled words and both speak at the same time..) ??? attending...I was not there. I was...I was ...I was not a journalist. I was not journalist. I wasn't thinking like them. As a journalist of course I would have but no.
47:16 [FY] : So you did not.
47:17 [CM] : No. Nobody wanted to see her face around here.
47:21 [FY] : So okay, so post-the elections and ...oh wait! The election day when the results were coming out. Just describe that to me and then we'll go to when you started your journalism career.
47:32 [CM] : See obviously all for Janta Party and by then Arun Jaitely an other candidate had come out and many of them....some...who was the other thing? Not Arun Jaitley himself, Vijay Bora somebody came and gave me a whole she...sheaf of voter enrolment forms. He said, 'yaar saab ko voter banao.'So I think I got about sixty-seventy people in hostel enrolled as voters because meanwhile RSS had its network. So they had an electoral officer there who would just simply enrol anything with 48:04 (Muffled words)...as took to him. 48:06 So they made about 7-8 hundred false voters. And this is I think I'm just underestimating the point. Then Atal Ji had been released sometime ago because of his prostrate and all that. And he used to stay in the quarters of the Ramjas Proctor....no...no...Principal- Dr Kaul. You know Dr Kaul's daughter who's Namita who's now married to Arindham Bhattacharya. I knew her through another common friend- Nitya Ramakrishnan. So Nitya took me one day to their house and Gunu...we used to call him Gunu...Namita...she said, 'yaar kuch karna chahiye.' Koon? I have to participate. So I said, aaj se chalo. We'll do some postering and all that.' So Nitya's father was in the original Janta Party, so she would get some posters; and this was truly disorganised...this is not any organised activity. Make some group in the house and then go out and posters....postered the place. 49:19 On election day...on election day it was decided ki Arun Jaitley and Vijay Bora were two leaders who I were in touch with and Rajat Sharma. In one of our meetings they said, 'dekho ideal should be go and capture a booth...around do baje (2 O'lock) by that time most people would have gone. The second round of voting, don't allow the Congressy to come in and take...take all the booths. We must take all the booths.' So I remember one-by-one we ...all this Maurice Nagar booth, it was starting from Kamla Nagar...four-five of us...there stood, shout there next ...next booth...next booth and so on. And finally at around 4 O'clock I myself voted at the booth that was set-up just...now though it's not there...there was a Bombay Dyeing showroom...near Maurice Nagar...almost diagonally across from the Law Faculty Coffee House. 50:23 I counted that I had cast forty-five votes myself. Just one more thapa maro (trans.: stamped)...one more thapa...one more thapa...somebody would take fold and put it in, I would...and then you know somebody else would take over. And in Kamla Nagar one of our kind of squads...their idea was...their instruction was ki Congressy ko bhagana hai. So the Congressy was in some strength there. So one of my friend's girlfriend...she was on voting duty there; and so when she found that its really difficult to overpower burly
Congress fellows that had come, so the usual - arre chare diya...chare diya...chare diya...haath lagaya...ye kiya...maro sale ko,'...all this and all the Congressy...they ran.And there was no mobiles so it was only word of mouth literally...the bush telegraph. so when we were here they said, 'ki haan woh Kamlesh ke saath chare chaar hui hai.' So all rushed there, we found no char chaar. She was laughing away. She said this was the only thing I could do to throw these fellows off. There were too many of them. So great! So like this went the whole day and in the evening I took out my scooter and said, 'let's go and see the rest of the city.' Found buses coming from Haryana particularly were really, you know, charged - 'ki Bhajan Lal ki zamanat karo,' 'Bhajan Lal ki zamanat karo'. 51:58 I mean Bhajan Lal ki zamanat jab means that its gone. So it was very clear that day by the evening when we managed to procure a bottle of rum and consume it...everyone is in a great mood ...that yes ...we've probably won the war.
| ---On Indira Gandhi’s rally.
---Indira Gandhi much hated by then.
---On the ambiance when the election results were declared.
--- CM approached by Janta Party to help with the voters’ enrolment---Arun Jaitley—Vijay Bor.
--- Casting of votes in the booths was often rigged---Examples.
---Continuation of rigging of voting booths example.
---On CM’s recollection of going round the city to get a feel of what was happening on election day.
|52:15 [FY] : Okay, so when you started your journalism career and what was the received wisdom about the Emergency at that point of time?52:23 [CM] : I started my journalism career kind of accidentally. I was studying for my D.Phil in Oxford and you know I was on a scholarship but I was already married so I had a fairly expensive family to take care of. I had my wife and kid, so somebody told me that I should visit the BBC and put in a application for a...one of the foreign language broadcasters. So I put in an application and then one day I was called for an audition. They approved and I became a what they called an 'outside broadcaster'. 52:59 So I would be called by telephone that, you know, 'can you come and do our this show in the afternoon..this one in the morning...like that'. It was a day-to-day kind of thing. I would come to London in any case because my library was the India Office Library, which was in London. So I had a monthly train ticket pass. It was a student pass so it was cheap. And then this outside commentator thing worked out. And I would started doing about two commen...commentators, which we would get by then standard then pretty good...something like 8pounds a day I would make by on two programmes. 53:40 And then when my D.Phil was about to coming to an end, one of my...our...this thing...heads...department heads Robert Oppenheimer, his name was, he asked me what I wanted to do further. I said, 'what to do? I'll seek an extension here ... maybe teach for sometime in England and ...' So he told me that ,'look you have flare for journalism. I've seen some of the scripts for BBC normally we don't get people who are outsiders who write scripts but I told you one day to write a script and wrote a very fine, so we repeated you several times. You have a flare for writing. You have a flare for journalism. So my advice- don't stay on here. Go back to your country and go for journalism.' 54:29 Well I was filling some 54:31 copy??? (NOTE: SOUNDS LIKE 'COPY' but check) from there in any case. Ashish Ray who was in Telegraph in those days, he had told me...And I knew him through my Telegraph sources in Calcutta. He told me that from time to time you write something. So I would write for Telegraph and sometimes...sometimes ... yeah I wrote for a few magazines here and there. And then when Oppenheimer told me this, I thought 'okay...not a bad idea.' So I shot off letters to various places...Times of India, Statesman and so on. Statesman I held in very high esteem because I am from Calcutta. I've grown up reading the Statesman and Statesman was very different Statesman from what you see today. And Statesman responded. C. Irani wrote to me saying 'if I happen to be in India, could I come over for an interview?' I came...I was actually...some seminar was going on, I was invited. So I came to Calcutta...went and met him and got a job on a platter. So when I finished, I came back and joined Statesman in Calcutta. That was in 1984. You see still, I mean, Emergency was over for some time. In '77 it lifted and this I'm talking seven years later but it had left an impact on journalism…Emergency. 55:47 You see my basic observation in this was prior to the Emergency and during the Emergency whatever journalism we had in India was very timid. People were afraid. Journalists were afraid. There was a real fear of state power and nobody would have the courage to actually call a spade a spade. And government was a feared institution. Indira Gandhi was a feared personality. Now after the Emergency suddenly the fear evaporated...fear eva... just evaporated. Indira Gandhi was a clay...fallen clay model. Sanjay Gandhi in any case, you know, was a hated figure and he died within a year anyway. And there was I would in the Chinese 56:46 ???? (WORD AFTER CHINESE UNCLEAR) words- A thousand flowers bloomed. And a thousand...hundred schools of thought contended. So by the time I came to journalism, you know, it was probably gone a little overboard. The pendulum had swung from one extreme of the Emergency to another extreme where you could write anything and against anybody and ...and get away with it. And the harsher your language the more you were kind of .... ---- 57:17 [FY] :...celebrated? ---- ..... yeah. But I also came into journalism at a time when insurgencies broke out all of a sudden in a big way. And Punjab was burning ...'84. That very year Indira Gandhi was selected. Punjab was in flames. And I wanted to go to Punjab. I told my editor that 'please allow me'. He said but, you know, 'you don't know the language.' I said, 'look I've lived in Delhi long enough, I can manage the language and but I am in any case a student of history, I'm very interested and all.' So when I said, he allowed me. So I covered Punjab extensively from 1984-87...till it ended. 58:04 And those days I was coming and going out of Delhi. Then Girilal Jain in Times of India noticed my writing because he was very interested in Punjab. And one day he called me in Calcutta and asked me to come over. So I came to Delhi, met him. And he offered me a job immediately again. So it was a bit of a scene to break away from Statesman. They had been very good to me and had given me my first job. 58:30 But then, you know, one has to move on. And I wanted to come back to Delhi anyway. So I came back to Delhi and joined Times of India. Thereafter, there had not been any kind of that challenge that we faced. I would say the generation which was ...had lived through the Emergency, you know, people like Kuldip Nayar, and B. G. Verghese, and so on, they were people who really felt the impact of the Emergency because they were there in editorial positions and had to very often they had to submit and succumb to their owners and to the censors; and while they fumed inside they had to follow orders. We were lucky in that sense that we were born into journalism in a free air. 59:20 As a result of the struggles of our preceding generation, we inherited a journalistic environment which was free and which I think is something that we cherished.|| ---On CM’s beginning of his career in journalism.
---CM started in journalism accidently--- did some work at BBC while doing D.Phil at Oxford in order to earn extra money.
---Once D.Phil was about to get over, one of his heads suggested that CM return to India and get into journalism because of his flare for writing.
---- CM joins Statesman in Calcutta after his interview with C. Irani.
---Did extensive coverage of insurgency in Punjab---travelled to Punjab to report from ground.
---On impact of Emergency on journalism---it pushed the reporters and journalists to report in detail post-Emergency.
--- There was not just one strand of opinion in reporting but several styles --- the control over the freedom of press during Emergency pushed journalists to become often uncritical of the BJP.
----CM on his days of reporting on Punjab.
---On being offered a job at Times of India by Girilal Jain.
----On the legacy left by Kuldip Nayar, B. G. Verghese and so on when they were forced to be silent during the Emergency.
|59:31 [FY] : Right! Okay, last question. If I were to ask you to compare journalism immediately post-Emergency and journalism now when a lot of people are again talking about how freedom of speech is being curbed in various ways, which are not direct but are indirect...what would...what would you say?59:47 [CM] : Look, after the Emergency I think there was absolutely freedom was very much there. It opened up overnight and there was really no curb. And now-a-days there's no curb today. I don't sense it at all and don't ...nobody who's an established newspaper or magazine will say this. It is some sections who are I woul...I mean having agitational tendency, which is perfectly legitimate and credible, they may say that they are censoring this...much maligned word 'intolerance' but I don't see it. I don't see it because press seems to be quite open and critical of the government. When actually in fact after the Emergency, the situation was a little strange. There was so much antipathy towards Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi that journalists became very pro-Janta Party, and uncritical of Morarji Desai and that....whole bunch of, you know, I would say obscure 60:52 (WORD AFTER OBSCURE UNCLEar)who were in power in those days but media...no journalist would criticise, 'Oh! good at least some people, you know, who are not going to throw you into jail. ' So in the process I think there was less discerning journalists then than now. Now toh people are acting as if you like and nobody is going to throw you into jail for writing. There's no Emergency. There may be some people who are...who feel that they should be able to write even more but that's because times have changed and the parameters of freedom have been pushed wider. But otherwise there's no...but in fact I would say that immediately after the Emergency, it was a bit of a biased journalism. Journalism was biased in favour of the Janta Party, and against the Congress Party, which ideally we're talking about objective journalism was really not the case. But see then that always happen...right now see there's a bias against the BJP in mostly in English language newspapers. But thik hai...these things happen but I think that I would still say salute to the... those who fought the Emergency and bequeathed upon us this dawn of freedom. 62:03 [FY] : Right, okay! Thank you. Was there anything else that you want to say about the Emergency?62:06 [CM] :Not really! I think you've covered the most extensive interview I've given.|| ---On curbing freedom of press now (2016-16) by the Government.
--- CM doesn’t feel that the Government of India is imposing any kind censorship on the press.