Emergency in India

18th November, 1990

My dear Pranav,

25th June, 1975 was a black day in the life of Modern India. A democratically elected Prime Minister with a very huge majority was unseated by a High Court on 12th June, 1975. Values by which a democratic society stands, the constitution stands, were at stake. The Prime minister chose to disregard the court order. Indira Gandhi imposed an "Emergency" in India to save her personal rule. The whole country became a jail. All political opponents were imprisoned. A black period in India's political life began.

Vinoba was respected by Jawaharlal. He was respected by Jayprakash. He was also respected by Indira Gandhi, who was clinging to power against democratic traditions. Vinoba and Jayprakash were very close Jeevandani associates. JP had started his Total Revolution agitation. He was jailed, and so were lakhs of people.

For Vinoba, this was an hour of trial. Many of his close associates felt that he did not rise to the occasion. Many people denounced him. They called him "Sarkari Sant" (government patronised saint). Intellectuals, academics and politicians attacked him for his non-action. They even said he was a partisan and afraid of speaking against the government.

Throughout his life Vinoba had been talking against politics (Rajniti) and in favour of Lokaniti (People's power). He always advised the Sarvodaya Samaj people against voting, and joining political parties. They must do only lokashikshan (awakening of the people) about their rights. He never accepted government as a change agent in the society. He was for Swarajya (Self-rule) and not Surajya (good government). All these facts were known to the people and accepted by them. Vinoba's aversion to electoral politics was very well known.

But because of the Emergency, when the political system faced great difficulties, politicians wanted Vinoba to help by siding with them against Indira Gandhi. They wanted him to be partisan in their favour. In fact, he was observing silence (maun) for one year from 25 December, 1974, six months before the Emergency.

As I told you in my earlier letter, Vinoba started his fast unto death for Goraksha in 1976. Cow-slaughter was an issue on which if the people's view or opinion were taken, it would be in favour of a ban. No true democratic leader who knows the people's nerve can go against the people's will. Vinoba staked his life for cow protection. Indira Gandhi, who could bundle all opposition leaders into jail and could not care less, rushed to Pavnar, promised Central Government action and ended Vinoba's fast. As a politician she did nothing thereafter. With the people's support, one man with his life at stake could move the government which was impervious to political opposition. Jayprakash said, "This proves that Vinoba has a great moral influence on the country, even a dictatorial government cannot ignore him." (1)

In 1977 elections, Indira Gandhi lost her support all over the country. Vinoba fasted unto death for the second time in 1979 when Morarji Desai was a prime minister. Morarji promised to support Vinoba who ended his fast, but Morarji lost his power in 1979. The Central Law on Cow-slaughter did not come about.

People's power was asserted at both times first in 1977 and then in 1980. The people had voted for a political ideology. They had not voted for Total Revolution. But one frail man who put his life behind the people's will proved successful twice! Both Prime Ministers were complete politicians. Why did they submit to his pressure? Because it was the people's will. And democracy means people's will. Vinoba proved it without party politics. Party politics was not his language. That was not his way. He proved that in a democracy if the genuine people's will is projected the government has to come to terms with it. The government can be changed. The real need is to project the desires of the people and not those of some people, factions or politicians. Changing people in power means very little. We must change their thinking.

With love,


L. N. Godbole