1975-77 Emergency Excesses & Sanjay Gandhi’s role.
In the previous article, we read the horror story of Emergency during which hundreds of prominent leaders & thousands of innocent civilians were arrested:
Today lets find out Sanjay’s role during the emergency and its excesses.
Although the early 1970s were dominated by Indira Gandhi’s supremacy in Congress party, over the next few years, her son Sanjay had begun to make inroads into politics. His first stint in politics was the “Maruti project” in which he used his political position to exploit the system, grab land and appoint his own relatives as Managing Director of the fraudulent company.
Following is an excerpt from a committee (setup by Govt) report which accuses Sanjay & Sonia Gandhi of illegal activities.
Sanjay had lot of influence over Indira Gandhi’s decisions, especially during the mid 1970s & during emergency. Sensing that he would be the natural successor of Indira Gandhi, her coterie of loyalists had submitted themselves to his whims & fancies. In fact, so much was his influence over Indira that he had begun to take national decisions and in some cases even bypassed Indira Gandhi. Historical evidences suggests that Sanjay enjoyed being in power (without accountability) and in an interview with Kuldip Nayar, Sanjay had admitted that his plan was to indefinitely extend emergency, get rid of democratic institutions and establish Indira’s dictatorship forever.
Despite the coterie’s submission to Sanjay, their allegiance was towards the High Command (Indira Gandhi) due to the prevalent hierarchy of power structure. This had internally created a tussle and “Two-power” centre (Sanjay’s supporters on one side & Indira’s on another) which led to Sanjay nurturing his own team team of loyalists in the form of “Youth Congress” which eventually had become synonymous with “Rowdy Congress” during emergency. The reason mainly being the political immaturity of Sanjay who had just tasted power (without accountability) now wanted a young Congress team of his own which could counter & bully the Congress under Indira.
Sparing no time, Sanjay initiated a nationwide recruitment drive to grow Youth Congress. Anybody could register as a member of Youth Congress at no cost, nor were there any eligibility criteria. Over the next few months, the member count crossed 60 lakh figure!! Infiltrated by goons & gangsters, they had become a public nuisance, creating adhoc vigilance teams, taking law in their own hands and resorting to violence. Following is an excerpt from the book “The Sanjay Story” by Vinod Mehta explaining the prevailing conditions and hooliganism.
So much was the animosity between Youth Congress and the main Congress that Sanjay even countered Congress party’s 20 point programme with his own 5 point programme which were:
1) Adult Education
2) Ending dowry system
3) Eradication of caste system
4) Tree planting
Although it looked promising on paper, what happened in reality was draconian. The Youth Congress conveniently ignored the first 4 points and focused only on the 5th i.e Sterilization. A voluntary sterilization programme had turned into a threatening process mainly due to the “quota” system introduced by Sanjay in which every Govt servant was supposed to bring a certain number of men (married & having 2 or more kids) for sterilization. If a Govt official had not fulfilled his quota, he would not be eligible for promotion.
In some cases, there were even incentives like bonuses for those who exceeded their quota. Officials were desperate to pull in as many men as possible so as to remain in the good books of Sanjay, but this desperation led to major problems which backfired the party. For example, Muslims, who constituted the major chunk of Congress vote bank, had vehemently protested against the sterilization programme, resulting in riots and police firing and thereby severely affecting Congress votes.
As news of such instances spread across the nation and people became aware of what really those “health camps” were, fear started brewing. Men would run away at the sight of any medical vans to save their “organ” and shout “Indiri Bachao” (means “Save your Organ” in Hindi) as a spoof of the election slogan “Indira lao, garibi hatao, desh bachao“.
Apart from the mismanagement of the sterilization project, Sanjay had initiated “Slum cleanup” project in which hundreds of slums were ruthlessly demolished, without making sufficient alternate arrangement for such slum dwellers. In several instances, slum dwellers who protested were shot down by police and their homes bulldozed.
The most popular case was that of the Turkman Gate slum in which several protesters were shot down to death, but due to censorship, it was not reported in any of the Indian newspapers. Following is a news expert related to that incident from a foreign newspaper:
However, the most notorious case and the only case for which Sanjay was later imprisoned, was for the burning of tapes of the spoof movie titled “Kissa Kursi Ka“.
More about the movie:
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