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Two things startled me immediately after the imposition of the Emergency. The first was my astonishment and deep disappointment over the complete absence of any kind of protest against the monstrous act in Bombay (now Mumbai) as I drove to work at The Times of India. My hope that people elsewhere would be more courageous was dashed by the evening. It seemed as if the mighty JP movement had vanished into thin air. Maybe people kept their anger within the privacy of their homes and did not want to express themselves publicly for fear of consequences. In fact, the situation was more complex than that.
Not only was there no resistance to the Emergency, but also it appeared to be popular, at least for some initial months, because the return of normal and orderly life after relentless disruption by strikes, protest marches, sit-ins and so on was a relief for most people. Officials, high and low, started arriving to work on time and taking fewer tea breaks. This and the other “gains” of the Emergency were duly publicised by the government’s elaborate propaganda machine. Some morons among its personnel even began boasting that trains were running on time. It must be added that there was a huge spurt in the number of people who suddenly discovered great merit in what Indira and Sanjay Gandhi stood for. Some of them even became cheerleaders of mother and son; earlier, they had played the same role at JP’s rallies.
To return to June 26, the second big hurt at the hands of the Emergency regime hit me only after reaching the office. Those days, the TOI used to publish the Evening News of India, which used to be available to the readers by noon. That morning I begged of my editor and other colleagues that we must not wait for normal timings but bring out the Evening News instantly. I was told that there was no point being so excessively exercised. Censorship would undoubtedly be imposed but the announcement had yet to come. Just when these words were being uttered, the agitated printer came running to inform us that the police had arrived, had switched off the rotary and ordered him not to switch it on without their permission. Obviously, those who had usurped all power had not the least hesitation to act unlawfully. The censorship rules, announced later and administered ruthlessly, turned out to be far stricter than any the Indian press had to face during the British Raj.
As Indira Gandhi’s secretary and principal aide during the period, P.N. Dhar, has recorded in his book, Indira Gandhi, the ‘Emergency’ and Indian Democracy, the prime minister’s secretariat (as the PMO was continued…