How we stood up against Emergency in Gaya
Raids by police and even paramilitary forces at our homes to arrest us had become routine.
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There was unrest among the college and university teachers in Bihar much before the Emergency had been imposed on June 25, 1975. There were protests against corruption, price rise, bungling in university administration and demand for removal of Abdul Ghafoor as the chief minister, dissolution of the state assembly and conversion of the affiliate colleges into constituent ones. A committee comprising senior professors was formed to spearhead the agitation.
I was in my early thirties and was head of the Botany department in AM College, Magadh University, Gaya. I, too, got actively involved in the agitation, taking part in meetings and protests. We even went to jail in 1972 and 1973. We were lodged in Central jails in Gaya, Bhagalpur, Patna, Hazaribagh (now in Jharkhand) and other places. This laid the foundation for us lecturers, professors and students to take active part in the Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) movement against the imposition of Emergency.
On April 12, 1974, 12 college and university students died in a police firing in Gaya. However, in the administration's records just three of them had died. I was on the spot when students and teachers were attending a protest meeting. We had called for a three-day Gaya bandh to highlight our demands. We got support from the general public. All post-offices and banks besides schools, colleges and university were closed.
Some miscreants tried to disrupt the meeting by throwing stones at us. This provoked the students who started fighting with the miscreants. A melee followed and the police first ordered lathicharge and then opened fire, killing 12.
Our movement got intensified after this incident. We demanded action against the collector and superintendent of police. Curfew was imposed in Gaya for several days. JP came to Gaya to lend his support to our movement. He addressed us and asked us not to buckle under the pressure of the administration. The government was forced to transfer the two senior officials.
While our agitation against the state government continued, Emergency was imposed in the country and MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) was brought into effect. MISA became a household name after that. The acronym is popular even now. Lalu Prasad even named his daughter Misa who was born in that period.
Meanwhile, we took out a march against MISA and even held a dharna at the collectorate. Soon, a very senior official (I will not reveal his name) secretly told us that the government had prepared a list of people who would be arrested during Emergency. My name was also there. We left our homes for several weeks. We would hold meetings at desolate places like at the foothills of the Brahmyoni mountains and on the banks of river Falgu.
The two years that followed were full of struggle. We did not want to be arrested because we had to keep the momentum of the movement going. Former Union minister George Fernandes was very active amongst us. He held a meeting at the house of Padmakar Singh, head of Philosophy department in my college, and my neighbour. Satyendra Singh and Rajeev Singh, heads of Chemistry and Zoology departments respectively, were also present in the meeting. We were asked to keep guiding the students and provide support to them.
We were on the run. We would visit our homes only to sleep, that too occasionally. We had been declared absconders in the government records. But we kept writing articles in support of the movement. Students would come around midnight to collect them. They would also hand over newsletters and pamphlets, which were replete with anti-government pieces.
Raids by police and even paramilitary forces at our homes to arrest us had become routine. My wife Pramila Singh narrated to me later how once the police knocked hard on the doors on one summer afternoon after they had received intelligence input that a meeting of teachers was being held at my place. She and my children, who were very small, got scared when the machine gun-toting forces surrounded my house and a group of para-military forces came inside looking for us. They were not rude but were very stern. There was no policewoman in the team. They searched our house and left after finding no one. The intelligence was not totally wrong. The meeting that day was indeed being held, but in our neighbour Satyendra Singh's place.
We got immense support from our wives and children. In the evenings, they would come out on the streets in a procession to motivate the people. They would beat steel utensils with spoons and shout slogans.We were not anti-nationals but the government treated us like them. We had our unique ways to celebrate Independence and Republic days since we could not come out in the open. The students would visit our houses to collect specially-cooked food like puri, subzi and sweets to be distributed among the agitators.
This went on till elections were announced. But these five years have remained etched in my memory till now. Though prices continue to be high and corruption is rampant, we only wish our nation does not go through a period like the Emergency ever again.
(As told to Kumar Shakti Shekhar)