My Bitter Experience of the Emergency

Jun 26, 2023
By Prabhakar Sinha

The emergency promulgated by Indira Gandhi on 25/26 June, 1975 came as a bolt from the blue. There was no agitation or unrest in the country and no immediate cause for it. The political leaders, including JP,  were arrested in a midnight swoop  to prevent any movement demanding Indira Gandhi’s resignation following the SC’s not staying the judgment of the Allahabad High Court quashing her election to the Lok Sabha. The SC allowed her to attend the Lok Sabha but not to vote nor to draw allowance to which she was entitled as an MP. The opposition wanted her to step down as PM till the SC decided her appeal. The emergency was declared to prevent  the inevitable agitation in favour of this legitimate demand.


I, along with a few university teachers, who had been detained under the dreaded MISA for actively participating in the JP led Bihar movement of 1974 wondered about the government’s attitude to us . .We decided to lie low and work secretly as we were under surveillance.  I was informed by friends  that the police were  aware of my activities and were watching my secret movement  to get to know the others involved before arresting me. I was advised to leave Muzaffarpur for a while and go underground. It was sometime in early August that I went on leave from the college and left Muzaffarpur and moved to Patna.

While at Patna, I learnt that the Federation of University Teachers of Bihar (which  was controlled by the CPI) was going to hold a meeting to pass a resolution in favour of the emergency, branding the opposition as fascist. This was Indira Gandhi’s line. Later she organized a number of Anti-fascist conferences in the country.


I was in a dilemma. To go to the meeting to oppose the resolution and be arrested or lie low and  remain underground. This was the question facing me. I decided to attend the meeting and oppose the resolution. The meeting was held at the Darbhanga House of Patna University. I strongly opposed the resolution on the ground that the federation was meant  to protect and  promote teachers’ interest only. Political  issues were outside the jurisdiction of the organisation. . The resolution was passed but not unanimously as planned by the leadership. Immediately after opposing the resolution, I left the meeting and went underground apprehending arrest, which was certain.

I learnt later that the police were ordered to arrest me immediately. The police tried to locate me but failed. On instruction from above,the police at Muzaffarpur were instructed to arrest me by  hook or by crook. They fabricated a case against me and got me declared an absconder.A large number of policemen with a truck reached my flat and asked my mother to let them taken away whatever was there. When I received  the message, I met Radha Raman ji, an Advocate of repute and a champion of  civil liberties ( who was later elected the First President of Bihar PUCL). We had known each other for quite some time. He was quite upset and said that there was no legal remedy, but if I spoke to my maternal uncle (he was an eminent CPI leader and an MLA) the problem could be solved easily.Chandrashekhar Babu  just has to call the CM and tell him ‘catch my nephew but don’t bother my sister . The problem would be solved.’ I told him I won’t do that. He said,” Then there is no way out.”


I called the DM. Mr Sanglura and asked why I was declared an absconder without a notice. He was embarrassed and said that he had no idea. The SP could tell me the reason.



Then, I called Mr A. M. P. Verma SP, Muzaffarpur. When I asked him how I was declared an absconder, even he sounded embarrassed and  said something about the emergency.


I said, ” Do you just want to arrest me or also torment my mother? .

“No. No. We just have to arrest you, and have to arrest you today.”

“Then, arrest me tonight before 12.I have to make some arrangement  before I go to jail because I dont know when I would be free. Meanwhile, withdraw the police from my place.


” I would do it, but you must reach before 12 at night. . ”

The police were withdrawn. They arrived at night and took me in their custody  and sent me to jail the next day  after following the legal procedure.


Life in the jail was comfortable. I was an Upper Division prisoner (along with 18 others) and was entitled to certain  facilities and comforts under the rules. Doctors from the government hospital used to visit us and wanted to do something for us like recommending fruits, extra milk and chicken. We used to thank them and decline. Most of them said, “You all are doing so much for the country. Allow us to do something for you.”


Occasionally, there were clashes between the jail authorities  and the political prisoners on minor issues in which brutal force was used. No authority would come to our help fearing he might be considered anti-government.


But even during the emergency, nobody was treated with the brutality shown to Fr Stainswamy, Varavara Rao. Nobody was treated with the enmity with which Prof Saibaba is being treated. Nobody was harassed as Gautam Navlakha is being done. UAPA was enacted in 1967,but I did not come across anyone charged with it. The people were detained under the MISA, the Defence of India Rules or the Defence of India Act. The purpose appeared to be to prevent or suppress the movement against Indira Gandhi’s continuance as PM.