Wednesday 24 June 2015

Emergency Files 01 - Police Raid in JNU and Early Resistance

The Emergency: We Shall Not Forget, We Shall Not Forgive!

25 June 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the imposition of the Emergency in India by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi. The Emergency, which lasted from 25 June 1975 to 21 March 1977, was characterised by widespread attacks on human rights and basic democratic rights of the vast majority of people, and was undoubtedly one of the darkest periods in the history of our Republic.

The SFI unit of Jawaharlal Nehru University played a vital role in fighting the Emergency and the attacks on the students’ democratic rights by the Indira regime and the University authorities. Students who fought the Emergency had to face arrests, jail terms, expulsions, and disciplinary actions. (We shall discuss more details regarding these in subsequent posts.) Several pamphlets and documents were brought out illegally by the SFI JNU Unit during the period of the Emergency. The SFI and the JNU Students Union led by SFI brought out many leaflets in the name of “The Resistance” to organise the struggle against authoritarianism in the campus. The SFI also brought out some leaflets in its own name. In the academic year 1976-77, the SFI took the initiative to form the 'Democratic Students Forum' which was used to unite all the students fighting the Emergency, and leaflets were issued in its name along with other JNU-based publications.

Today we are witnessing an all-round attack on our cherished constitutional values and on the democratic rights of the working people, students, youth and all marginalised sections by the pro-corporate BJP government led by Narendra Modi and backed by the communal-fascist RSS. In this context it becomes all the more important for us that we keep the memory of the struggle against the Emergency alive and resolve to fight to defend democracy and secularism.

Over the next few days, we shall be publishing a selection of the pamphlets brought out by SFI in JNU in the name of various platforms and by the SFI-led Students Union during the Emergency. We shall also publish some later recollections of the events during the period.

8 July 1975: Police Raid in JNU

On the 8th of July 1975 at 5 in the morning, hundreds of armed police in jeeps and vans raided the hostels in JNU campus. They encircled the 2 boys' hostels, woke up the students from their beds and arrested 60 students. They detained 15 students and one karamchari (non-faculty staff member) and released the rest after interrogation in the police station. Among those arrested, 4 had been associated with the Students Union either in the past or at that time, and included the sitting General Secretary of the Union. Despite all their best efforts, the police could not arrest the President of the Students Union. They also arrested the Secretary of the Karamchari Sangathan (Staff Association). A pamphlet detailing these was brought out in the name of 'The Resistance' on 10 July 1975. Attempts to curtail the democratic rights of students were made by the Vice Chancellor in the subsequent days, prominently by seeking to make Students Union membership "voluntary", and by imposing a "Code of Conduct" which was to become notorious. A pamphlet detailing these was published by 'The Resistance', which is reproduced below.

"Fight this Attack on the Union"

(Undated pamphlet; likely to have been brought out in late July or early August 1975)

IMMEDIATELY after the police raid on the campus on 8 July we had pointed out that this was only the beginning of a deliberate attack on the Students’ Union and the democratic forces on the campus. Nine students and one karamchari arrested in the raid have been charged under section 69 of the D.I.R. (Defence of India Regulations Act) on the totally false pretext that the students had held a meeting at Kaveri hostel on the 7th night. Everybody knows that this is a bogus charge and that no meeting was held or planned.  We had pointed out in our first leaflet that the attack is concentrated on the Union, which the Government and the University authorities are bet on disrupting because they know it is the most powerful forum of the students expressing their united interests. The police action carried out under the Emergency exposes the character of the Indira Gandhi regime today. Who is the Emergency directed at? Is the Students Union right reactionary? Are the nine students falsely charged under D.I.R. right reactionaries?

Now the Vice-Chancellor at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat has announced in the latest prospectus that Union membership will henceforth be voluntary. It is in order to cripple the Union and destroy its representative and democratic character that this move has been made under the cover of the Emergency. The V.C., willing stooge of the Congress that he is, has further published a brochure for the new students in which the infamous ‘Code of Conduct’ imposing an unacceptable discipline on the student community has been put forth. It is untruthfully claimed that this has been formulated in consultation with students and faculty. The General Body of Students and the students Council not only rejected outright this contemptible code but condemned even the move to discuss it.

Nag Chaudhari and the authorities are playing with fire by adopting this course.  Unable to terrorise us by sending in 1200 armed police, they are now manoeuvring to undermine the Students Union constitution and put shackles on the students movement. The Union derives its legitimacy and sanction not from Nag Chaudhari or the University authorities, but from the democratic will of the students. Any attempt to tamper with the Union on the part of the V.C. is a threat to our democratic rights and will be met with stiff resistance, Emergency or no Emergency.

We call upon the students to prepare for a big struggle even at short notice to force Nag Chaudhari to end his nefarious activities. We warn those elements on the campus who support this emergency and act as paid agents of the Administration to stop their conspiracies or they will also face the anger of the students.

                                                                                                                  — The Resistance

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