Brewing Resistance: Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India 9781108490528

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Brewing Resistance: Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India

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[email protected]@651981FE7E6B7371EA3D5F0319A49400
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[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.002] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ How Anti-Colonial Labour Movements Create An
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.003] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Indira Gandhiâ••s Political Economy of De
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.004] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Social Movements of the 1970s
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.005] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Emergency at Midnight
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.006] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ The Coffee House Movement
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.007] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ â€ÂCoffee House’ Workers’ Anti
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.008] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Conclusion
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.009] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Photographs
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.010] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Political Parties during the Emergency
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.011] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Methodological Appendix
[doi 10.1017_9781108490528.012] Magistrelli Plys, Kristin Victoria -- Brewing Resistance (Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India) __ Bibliography
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Citation preview

Brewing Resistance Decolonisation in 1947 promised a better life for India’s peasants, workers, students, Dalits and religious minorities. However, social justice remained a distant dream even in the 1970s. These diverse groups fought and mobilised movements to achieve what was promised at independence, and in response, the ruling government under the leadership of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended the Constitution, declared Emergency and, with it, curtailed civil liberties. The hope of decolonisation that had turned to disillusion in the postcolonial period quickly descended into a nightmare. In this book, Kristin Plys recounts the little-known story of the resistance movement against the Emergency that brewed in New Delhi’s Indian Coffee House. Created by British plantation owners to weather the empire-wide export commodity surplus crisis of the 1930s, the Indian Coffee House was occupied by its workers in 1946, and eventually transformed into a cooperative as part of an anti-colonial and anti-capitalist workers’ movement. By the 1970s, the Indian Coffee House became more than an economic intervention into the processes of capitalism and empire—it transformed into a radical space where politically and artistically driven intellectuals of various persuasions and viewpoints gathered to resist the Emergency. Based on newly uncovered evidence and oral histories of the people who mobilised the movement against the Emergency, this book fills a major lacuna in the sphere of academic writing on one of the most shocking and darkest chapters of India’s democratic history. Kristin Victoria Magistrelli Plys is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Her work analyses the historical trajectory of global capitalism as seen from working class and anti-colonial movements in the Global South.

Brewing Resistance Indian Coffee House and the Emergency in Postcolonial India

Kristin Victoria Magistrelli Plys

University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia 314 to 321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Information on this title: © Kristin Victoria Magistrelli Plys 2020 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2020 Printed in India A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library ISBN 978-1-108-49052-8 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.




1. Introduction


2. How Anti-Colonial Labour Movements Create Anti-Authoritarian Autonomous Zones 


3. Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development 


4.  Social Movements of the 1970s 


5.  Emergency at Midnight


6.  The Coffee House Movement 


7.  ‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement 


8. Conclusion


Appendix I: Photographs299 Appendix II: Political Parties during the Emergency 305 Appendix III: Methodological Appendix 


Bibliography 319 Index343


I dedicate this book to my maternal grandmother, Winifred ‘Freddie’ Magistrelli. As a young girl, I looked forward to the afternoons when my grandmother would make an instant coffee, sit at the kitchen table, and tell me stories of her childhood during the 1930s and 1940s. The daughter of a coal miner, Freddie’s family immigrated to Frackville, Pennsylvania, just before the Great Depression. As a young girl, she would go with her father on the weekends to help the families of men trapped in caved-in mines (of which there always seemed to be one in the Pennsylvania coal mining region). She and her father would wake up early in the morning on Sundays, Freddie would make a basket of sandwiches, and while her father helped to dig out the trapped miners, she would pass out sandwiches to their wives and try to comfort them. When Freddie was a teenager, her father died of black lung. She recalled to me how the chair in their house where he would sit after long days in the mine still lingered with the smell of pipe smoke and coal soot long after his passing. After graduating high school—rare for a female child of a miner in those days, I was told—Freddie went to work in a shirt factory just outside of Frackville. She would tell me stories about the thousands of young women working in the factory and how they were treated, in Freddie’s words, ‘worse than dirt’. Freddie was soon fired for organising a union, and left rural Pennsylvania for Philadelphia in hopes of better work opportunities. Once settled in South Philadelphia, she worked as a waitress in a diner, and would beam with pride when she spoke of the waitresses’ union she helped to create and how being voted shop steward was among her greatest accomplishments. I hope that through this book I can honour her legacy of trade unionism in the food service industry. This book began when I was a PhD student at Yale. Yale sociology’s department was the best place to begin a book like this because it is the best place in the world to learn how to become a historical sociologist as the programme combines a deep training in historical methods along with the opportunity to be a social theory trickster. Many at Yale helped shape not only this book, but also, me, as a scholar and intellectual. I would like to first and foremost thank my advisor, Julia Adams. I feel infinitely fortunate to be able to learn how to do serious, theoretically grounded, historical research from both her example and her guidance. Charles Lemert is not only a former committee member,


intellectual advisor and interlocutor, but also a close friend who helped reshape (for the better!) the way I think about and do social theory. I thank Immanuel Wallerstein, Jonathan Wyrtzen, Emily Erikson, Steven Wilkinson, Kalyakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan, George Joseph, Naomi Lamoreaux, Tim Guinnane, Michael Denning, John MacKay, Steve Pincus, Rohit De, Yasushi Tanaka-Gutiez, Marc Petersdorff, Shameel Ahmad, Dawn Teele, Anna Jurkevics, Erin Pineda, Wei Luo, Yingyao Wang, Xiaohong Xu, Mustafa Yavas, Dolunay Ugur, Huseyin Rasit, Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, Gabriel Winant, Ted Fertik and Nicholas H. Wilson for their conversations, support, guidance and friendship. At the Yale library, I would like to thank Colleen Brown and Kristin Bogdan. While the book began at Yale, most of the research was conducted in Delhi over a period of several years. There are many Dilliwallon whom I would like to thank for their help, kindness, hospitality, intellectual conversations, advice, friendship and love during my JNU/Delhi years. They include Iqbal Abhimanyu, Milind Eknath Awad, Suraj Beri, Raghav Gaiha, Dr. Lalit Garg, Ketaki Jayawant, Chitra Joshi, Vani Kulkarni, Swasti Kumar, Nilika Malhotra, Mukul Mangalik, Prabhu Mohapatra, Janaki Nair, Avijit Pathak, Vijay Prashad, Vikas Rathee, Edward Rodrigues, Rahul Roy, Tanika Sarkar, Ravi Sundaram, Sqd Ldr Abhishek Singh Tanwar, Divya Vaid, Susan Vishnavanathan and the Delhi Police South District. Above and beyond love and thanks are due to Neha Dhole, and her parents, Dr Sunil Dhole and Ms Deepali Dhole, who through their care and kindness continue to make Delhi feel like a second home for me. In Punjab, I thank the Sidhu/Dyal family: Zorawar Sidhu, Auntie Dyal, Harman ‘Bunny’ Dyal, Avkirat Gurkirat Chabba-Dyal, and in New York, Dr Harleen Sidhu, Mrs Jaswinder Sidhu and Dr. Jagmohan Sidhu. In Thiruvanathapuram, I thank J. Devika, S. Irudaya Rajan, K. J. Joseph and Chief Librarian V. Sriram at the Centre for Development Studies, and J. Prabhash, Joseph Antony, R. Suresh and C. A. Josukutty at the Department of Political Science, University of Kerala. I thank Alpah Shah, Jonathan Parry, David Graeber, Richard Axelby, Jayaseelan Raj, Vikramaditya Thakur, Alessandra Radicati, Subhir Sinha, Rochana Bajpai, Sruthi Muraleedharan and Navtej Purewal for including me in the intellectual community in and around London. Those pints after a day of work at the British Library surely helped to quickly process all that information in the India Office Library! Thanks, Ravi Ahuja, Karin Klenke and the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen along with my colleagues in Göttingen and visitors to CeMIS with whom I had great conversations about the work: Bhaswati Bhattacharya, Srirupa Roy, Pooja Balasubramanian, Nellie Chu, Gaochao He,



Anna Sailer, Rohan Matthews, Marcel van der Linden, Siobhan Doria, Frank Perlin, Saikat Maitra, Gajendran Ayyathurai, Razak Khan and Dag Erik Berg. This book was completed in Toronto, and I thank my current colleagues Zaheer Baber, Bill Magee, Jack Veugelers, Bernd Baldus, Luisa Farah Schwartzman, Beatrice Jauregi, Shivaji Mukherjee, Malavika Kasturi, Kanishka Goonewardena, Catherine Evans, W. Chris Johnson, Josée Johnston and Dana Asbury for conversations about the book. I would also like to thank Rekha Bhardwaj and Vishal Bhardwaj, whom I met in Toronto while they were in town for TIFF, for their encouragement and support for this book. I thank Hira Singh at York University for his encouragement and support, for reading chapters and giving feedback quickly as the book was going to press, and for being one of the brave heroes of the resistance against the Emergency through his involvement in the Naxalite struggle as a young sociology faculty member at Delhi University during the Emergency. Many thanks are due to Iqbal Abhimanyu, Shikhar Goel and Jhanvi Patel for their excellent research assistance. Thanks to SFI Lucknow. I thank the Yale MacMillan Fellowship in Globalization and International Studies, the Yale Joseph C. Fox International Fellowship, the Yale John G. Bruhn Fellowship, the Yale Darius Thompson Wadhams Fellowship, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Fellowship, the Connaught New Researcher Award from the University of Toronto and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute for funding this research. I also thank those who have generously given their time to have conversations with me which helped me think about the book and/or those who have read parts of the book and offered critical feedback: Peter Evans, Monica Prasad, Wenkai He, Kamran Asdar Ali, Ahmad Azhar, Amen Jaffer, Mashal Saif, Matthew Schutzer, Hafsa Kanjwal, Sunil Purushotham, Manu Goswami, Zophia Edwards, Cedric de Leon, Julian Go, Ben Scully, Kevan Harris, Phillip Hough, Rina Agarwala, Sefika Kumral, Sacha White, Meghan Tinsley, Gaurav Garg, Ahmad Shokr, Daniel P. Tompkins, Priyamvada Gopal, Ania Loomba, Ebenezer Obadare, Matthew Quest, Maxime Quijoux, Muhammad Ali Kadivar and Richard Lachmann. Thank you to the Centre for the Study of Social Systems at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Postcolonial Theory Group at Boston University, South Asian Studies at New York University, the Indian Labor History Research Group at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies at the University of Göttingen, and the School of Law, Governance, and Citizenship at Ambedkar University for inviting me to share my work in progress and thereby giving me the opportunity to solicit critical feedback. Bahut shukriya to the narrators who graciously gave of their time and stories for this project. I could not have written this book without them. Getting to know


them through their narratives was my honour and pleasure, and I hope they feel that the book does justice to their bravery, their praxis, and to their vision for a more just and equal India. Thanks to Qudsiya Ahmed, who as editor helped to make the book a much stronger intellectual and political contribution through her suggestions, comments and creative vision. Justin Riley, owner of Yoga Rebellion, and Lauren Daddis are the best yoga teachers in the Philadelphia area and I thank them for helping me cultivate the physical and emotional strength to write the first draft of this book. And most importantly, I thank my family, without whom I could never have completed this book. Jeff Howison and Leslie Lewis as fellow social science PhDs were always there to offer advice. I thank my grandparents, Giuseppe and Freddie Magistrelli, who from a very young age always fully encouraged, supported, financed, and believed in my many intellectual pursuits. I thank my brother and best friend, Evan Jameson Plys, for always finding the time for hours-long phone calls no matter where in the world I happened to be living. And finally, I can never adequately thank my exceptionally wonderful parents, Oleh Julian Plys and Carol Francesca Rita Magistrelli, who supported me in every way a person can be supported. Only through their unfailing love, encouragement, emotional and financial support was I able to complete this book. Carol also served as my focus group by reading excerpts of the manuscript and helping me to communicate my ideas for a more general audience. To my parents, I express my deepest, sincerest gratitude.

1 Introduction

when to be free would cease to mean the ones in power shall gain delhi you will cease to be. —G. J. V. Prasad, Sati

‘I am amazed at how many times in its centuries long journey Dilli has been plundered and resettled,’ wrote Intizar Hussein in Once There Was a City Named Dilli (2016: 6). Delhi has witnessed the rise and fall of Indraprastha, of the Delhi Sultanate, an invasion by Tamerlane, the rise and fall of Shahjahanabad, and then the Rebellion of 1857, the rise of Lutyens’ Delhi, Partition, and its aftermath. With each rise and fall of empire, ‘a new Dilli is inhabited in the midst of the old Dillis’ (Hussein 2016: 36). Each leader of this new city claims that ‘this Dilli will have such vigour and brilliance that all the preceding Dillis and the Dillis to follow will fade before it’ (Hussein 2016: 36). However, ‘not one of these cities was loyal to its founder … whoever built a new city on the land of Dilli would very soon have to lose it’ (Hussein 2016: 46). Ahmed Ali, in the introduction to his novel Twilight in Delhi (1940), describes how after Partition, the new state of India, continuing in the British legacy, moved Delhi further away from its designation as the Mughal capital, Shahjahanabad, towards Indraprastha, the ancient seat of the Hindu empires rumoured to have been located in what is now called Delhi. Ali writes, ‘Seven Delhis have fallen, and the eighth has gone the way of its predecessors, yet to be demolished and built again. Life, like the Phoenix, must collect the spices for its nest and set fire to it, and arise resurrected out of the flames’ (1940: 20). The Emergency created yet another Delhi built by Indira Gandhi, and just two years later, another fallen Delhi with the election of the Janata Party in 1977. But what was resurrected from the flames this time? Delhi has been the capital of several historical world-empires and states. It is a place where many political fortunes rose and fell. Political change


Brewing Resistance

is manifested in the landscape of the city; the remains of the old empires crumble to ruin in clear view of new construction. While much has been written about the fall of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, the British Raj, and other historical rulers of Delhi, the end of the Emergency marked the conclusion of yet another Delhi, one that continues to echo against the architecture of everyday life in the city, even as its remnants remain hidden in plain view. For example, the space in Connaught Place where the Indian Coffee House stood until 1976 remains empty, adorned only with a flagpole that flies an oversized Indian flag. At the site, underground, is Palika Bazaar, built after the Emergency: an underground market that has seen better days and sells mostly illegal items including pornography and sex toys, stolen goods, fake designer handbags, and pirated DVDs. This erasure of the Indian Coffee House remains visible and palpable, but only to those few who have an historical memory of the coffee house. Just like the Mughal monuments across the city of Delhi that stand unmarked, falling into disrepair by the roadside, the significance of the green, empty space above Palika Bazaar is known only to a select few. Amidst the ever-changing landscape, quotidian life in Delhi goes on as before. During the 1970s, several social movements played a key role in resisting Delhi’s totalitarian moment, known as the Emergency (1975–7). These movements subsequently affected the political legacy of the Emergency and, with it, the trajectory of postcolonial political economy in India. Several of the more notable movements that emerged during this period include the Dalit Panther Party (1972–4), the JP Movement (also called the Bihar Movement) (1974–5), the Railway Workers’ Strike (1974), the Turkman Gate Uprising (1976), the Students’ Federation of India Strike at the Jawaharlal Nehru ­University (1975), and the Coffee House Movement (1975–6). The resistance against the Emergency in the Indian Coffee House was inextricable from other contemporaneous social movement activity but not without its unique facets. The space of the Indian Coffee House was a crucial resource for this crucial movement at a crucial time in postcolonial India, but how was this space forged from a British colonial firm and why did it become one of several spaces that fomented resistance against the Emergency? The key advantage of the Indian Coffee House as a space of resistance against the Emergency, I contend, is that it is an autonomous zone. Autonomous zones are important resources for social protest movements because (a) they serve an ideological function of educating the uninformed and uninitiated; (b) they provide a physical space in which like-minded



individuals can meet in order to form a group to engage in a protest action, to form a social movement, and/or to debate what is to be done in response to a particular event or existing struggle; and (c) an autonomous zone is a resource to existing struggles as a meeting space, hideout, and support network (support that could be articulated through awareness raising, fundraising, expressions of solidarity, and so on). The Indian Coffee House is a particular type of autonomous zone—a worker-occupied and self-managed workplace—which not only are spatial interventions in the capitalist world-system but also a direct intervention into the organisation of the workplace in which ownership of the means of production is transferred from capital to labour. It is thus one of the most important occupations, as it strikes at the heart of capitalist political economy. Worker self-management reorganises production horizontally and, by so doing, eliminates the wage relation, and, with it, eliminates the expropriation of surplus value from labour. But rather than refusing to labour, worker selfmanagement withholds labour (and therefore surplus value) from capital, and workers continue working while reaping the total value of their efforts. The worker-occupied and self-managed workplace is an autonomous zone that is a revolution at the level of everyday practices and lived experiences for which Henri Lefebvre and the Situationists called in May 1968 (Lefebvre 2008: 10). Worker self-managed firms and other autonomous zones have been important sites of resistance against the state during moments of Fascism, authoritarianism, and other forms of democratic occlusion, including India’s Emergency. These spaces, while effective in launching resistance against the state, also make the resistance movement more visible, provoking state violence. Thereby, these spaces can escalate social protest from mainly symbolic protest to forms of protest that use symbolic violence to confront the non-democratic state.

World-Historical Coffee Culture Coffee houses have long been a type of autonomous zone that fostered resistance against Fascism. In the 1920s and 1930s intellectuals in Fascist Europe soon found that traditional expressions of leftist politics were illsuited to everyday life under Fascism (Schnapp 2001: 259). This frustration pushed intellectuals from spheres of traditional leftist politics and into the café culture, where a modernist avant-garde offered a potent form of intellectual expression that could and did coexist with life under Fascism (Adamson 1990: 368; Bronner and Kellner 1982: 93). In Berlin, ‘the café remained, to protest


Brewing Resistance

against the cruelty, the loneliness, the vacuity of the city’ (Bronner and Kellner 1982: 97), and even though Nazi repression initially energised coffee house culture, it ultimately decimated the movement that was launched from the German coffee houses (Bronner and Kellner 1982: 108).1 In Italy, the Fascist regime, in attempts to repress this oppositional coffee house culture, banned the installation of new espresso machines in coffee houses and restricted imports of coffee (Morris 2008). Instead, the Italian state subsidised private firms who were competing to create the first espresso machine for home use (Morris 2008), which promised to lure men away from the coffee houses and back into the home (Schnapp 2001: 264). One such firm, Bialetti, claimed in its advertisements, in casa un espresso come al bar, which promised that ‘the home would become a cafe, instead of the cafe becoming a home away from home’ (Schnapp 2001: 264). During the democratic reversal across Latin America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, coffee houses were spaces in which intellectuals and artists gathered to discuss politics and plan activities (Carrillo 2006: 78–9). While the literature on coffee in Latin America tends to focus more on the exploitative conditions of coffee production rather than coffee house culture (Hough 2010; Hough and Bair 2012; Paige 1997; Roseberry 1983; Roseberry, Gudmunson and Kutschbach 1995; Topik 2000: 225), the coffee house had already amassed a centuries-long essential role in Latin American culture and politics (Tocancipá-Falla 2001: 429–30). Latin American coffee house intellectuals resisting dictatorship benefited from this past as well as being explicitly inspired, as Carillo (2006: 79) notes, by both the coffee house culture of the Fascist states of the 1930s and the life and work of Antonio Gramsci and Jean Paul Sartre. Of the cases across the globe in which café culture played an important role in fostering opposition to Fascism, the Indian case is the least well known. While India has had a vibrant coffee culture since the sixteenth century (Government of India 1941: 1; Krug and De Poerck 1968: 369; Mauro 1991: 21, 145) and is currently one of the world’s largest producers of coffee (International Coffee Organization 2019), only recently has a literature emerged that analyses coffee house culture and politics in India (Bhattacharya 2017; Plys 2017; Robinson 2014; R. Sharma 2016; Venkatachalapathy 2006). This project is the first to examine the role of India’s coffee house culture during India’s Emergency (1975–7). Coffee was introduced to India in the late sixteenth century by the Sufi saint Baba-ud-din, who brought the Arabica strain of the plant back to Mysore with him from his pilgrimage to Mecca (Government of India 1941: 1; Krug and



De Poerck 1968: 369; Mauro 1991: 21, 145). However, European colonisers were the first to establish coffee plantations in India. This task was more complicated in the Indian context compared to other colonial contexts since India has many small coffee-growing regions dispersed across the country rather than one large coffee-growing region as is commonplace elsewhere in the coffee growing world (Mauro 1991: 145). The Dutch East India Company established the first coffee plantations in India in Malabar in 1696. And it was a Portuguese colonial official, João Alberto Castello Branco, who brought Indian Arabica coffee from Goa to Rio de Janeiro, thereby introducing coffee cultivation to Brazil in 1760 (Government of India 1941: 1; Mauro 1991: 26). The first British coffee plantation was established in 1840 and that same year the French established a coffee plantation in Pondicherry (Mauro 1991: 21, 146). Though coffee in India predated European colonialism, by the turn of the twentieth century, coffee was generally regarded as ‘the drink of the Europeans’, according to radical Dalit intellectual Ayothidas Pandithar (Venkatachalapathy 2006: 13, 27). Before coffee houses became an important part of European colonial expansion, they were inseparable from Arab-Islamic cultural expression. The first written record of coffee is found in the writings of the Persian physician and philosopher Abu Muhammad ibn Zakiriya El Razi, who lived from 850 to 922 (Mauro 1991: 27; Wild 2005: 29). By the fourteenth century, coffee had developed a particular cultural meaning related to its popularity among Sufi scholars across the Arab-Islamic world. Sufi scholars in Yemen would drink coffee to stay awake late into the night for prayer and the study of religious texts (Ellis 1956:14; Wild 2005: 31), and cities in Yemen were the first to develop an urban coffee culture (Mauro 1991: 20). Coffee culture then spread across the Pan-Islamic world through long-distance trade. By 1500, the world’s first coffee houses had opened in Mecca and Cairo (Tucker 2011: 143); soon, nearly every mosque in large cities had a coffee house attached or nearby where worshipers could discuss theology (Wild 2005: 35). Venetian traders first brought coffee beans to Europe in the early seventeenth century via North African trade routes, which linked African and Asian trade to Venice via Cairo. While some Vatican clergy appealed to the Pope to ban coffee as an invention of Satan because of its strong cultural associations with the Muslim world, Pope Clement VIII famously wrote, ‘This Satan’s drink is delicious … it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall fool Satan by baptising it.’ Pope Clement VIII resolved to reinvent coffee as a Christian drink, thereby popularising coffee in Europe (Mauro 1991: 30).


Brewing Resistance

The first European coffee house was then opened in 1683 in the Piazza San Marco in Venice (Mauro 1991: 31). From there, it spread through Europe and later diffused to the colonial world, rebranded as a European cultural tradition. Coffee was introduced to the Americas in the early eighteenth century when it was brought to Martinique by French colonisers in 1727, after a failed attempt to grow coffee in Saint Domingue in 1715. By 1777, there were nearly 19 million coffee plants growing on the island of Martinique (Mauro 1991: 24). By 1790, coffee was cultivated across the Americas by colonial enterprises in Martinique, Brazil, French Guyana, Jamaica, Santo Domingo, Cuba, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Mexico. By the early nineteenth century, coffee had shifted its cultural meaning from being the preferred drink of Muslim scholars to becoming the world’s second most valuable agricultural commodity, one produced across the Global South but mainly consumed by the Global North (Topik and Clarence-Smith 2003: 2). Coffee, through this lens, can be seen as one of several key commodities that were central to capital accumulation organised first through colonial rule and then later through dependent development (Beckert 2015; Mintz 1985). Under colonial rule, and then later in response to postcolonial authoritarianism, coffee houses flourished as autonomous zones of contentious politics across the colonial and postcolonial Pan-Islamic world. In colonial Zanzibar, Central Development Authority officials utilised the popularity of coffee houses in the capital of Zanzibar City to gather intelligence on nationalists and their politics (Meyers 1995: 1351). These policies were termed the ‘Coffee House Gossip Intelligence Ring’ (Meyers 1995: 1351), indicating the importance of the coffee house for political deliberation among nationalists in colonial Zanzibar. In the postcolonial period, Zanzibar City’s coffee houses remained important spaces of political deliberation. So much so that after independence from Britain, when Zanzibar became a constitutional monarchy under Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah Al Said, the Sultan’s agents placed informants only in two spaces: political party offices and in coffee houses, because coffee houses continued to be one of the most significant spaces of political deliberation and anti-state political discourse in postcolonial Tanzania (Meyers 1995: 1352). In colonial Malay, coffee houses became havens for guerrilla fighters resisting colonial rule. Guerrillas organised their resistance movement from the coffee houses and coffee house owners allowed them to eat for free and sleep in the coffee houses while launching their resistance against the colonial state (Aljunied 2014: 67). In contemporary Malaysia, the kopitiam (Hokkien for coffee house) remains a space that attracts



people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and social classes to engage in critical democratic discourse despite the fact that Malaysia remains a constitutional monarchy (Khoo 2009: 87). In Cairo, Egypt, one of the first places in the world to open coffee houses, coffee houses once again became important sites of political deliberation and meeting places for those organising the Tahrir Square protests during the Egyptian Revolution (Lim 2012: 243). The history of the worker-occupied and self-managed firm, the Indian Coffee House, is a fascinating one in this vexed context of the autonomous zone, the worker-occupied and self-managed firm, and postcolonial authoritarianism. In 1947, during the Indian Freedom Movement, workers of Coffee House, operated by the British colonial coffee board, occupied their workplaces and changed the name to Indian Coffee House. They selfmanaged production and then, a decade later, they formally became a workers’ cooperative. Indian Coffee House workers appropriated a colonial institution, transforming it from an instrument of colonial exploitation to one of national liberation through the praxis of economic democracy. Today, the Indian Coffee House remains the largest worker self-managed firm in the world.

Indian Coffee House Consolidated Coffee Estates The story of Coffee House begins with Ivor Bull (see Appendix I), Chairman of Consolidated Coffee Estates, President of the United Planters’ A ­ ssociation of Southern India, and founder and Chairman of the Coffee Board of India. Ivor Bull, as an employee of the Edinburgh-based management company ­Matheson and Co., was appointed the Chairman of Consolidated Coffee Estates in 1936. He was then sent by Matheson from Edinburgh to Coorg to manage the coffee estate. Consolidated Coffee had been founded in 1922 when M/S Coorg Co. Ltd., London, and M/S Pollibetta Coffee Estates Co. Ltd., London, were purchased by Matheson and Co., Edinburgh, and then merged into one single plantation, the largest coffee plantation in India, both then and today. In 1943, after having managed and having lived on the p ­ lantation in Coorg for seven years, Bull purchased the company from Matheson and then registered it as an Indian company based in Pollibeta, Coorg. Bull owned and managed the company until it went public in 1966. He then retired to a farm in Suffolk, England, where he died in 1971. In 1991, Tata Tea Ltd. purchased a controlling interest in Consolidated Coffee Ltd. and then in 1999 purchased the company. In 2000, Consolidated Coffee Ltd. was renamed


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Tata Coffee Ltd. Tata Coffee Ltd. now holds the largest coffee plantation in the world, with all of its coffee estates located throughout the state of Karnataka in India. Tata Coffee’s special partnership with Starbucks allowed Starbucks to enter the Indian market in 2012, and as part of the partnership agreement between Starbucks and Tata Coffee, along with Starbucks’ agreement with the Coffee Board of India, all coffee beans purchased for Starbucks locations in India originate from Tata’s coffee plantations in Karnataka ( JP Morgan 2013; Starbucks 2012, 2013; Tata 2013). The United Planters Association of Southern India (UPASI), in which Ivor Bull played a key role, was founded in 1923 and registered in Madras under the Indian Companies Act VII of 1913.2 The goal of this unlimited liability company was to promote the interests of south Indian plantation owners by uniting them to strategise how best to promote their industries. UPASI, then and today, promotes legislation to help plantation interests, conducts research on agricultural crops commonly grown by UPASI members, collecting and disseminating statistics about the plantation industry, and acts as an arbitrator in disputes arising out of commercial transactions among members.3 Plantation owners’ membership contribution to UPASI is an annual fee based on their plantation size. In 1930, tea plantation owners paid 1 rupee per acre (as measured at the beginning of each financial year), coffee plantation owners 12 annas per acre, and rubber and all other plantations contributed 6 annas per acre.4 Subscription fees are paid in quarterly payments on the 1st of April, July, October, and January of each fiscal year. In case that the payment is not made by the due date, that plantation loses the ability to attend and vote at meetings of UPASI until the payment and arrears are paid to the association.5 Each district association can nominate two representatives to serve on the general committee. Coffee district associations were Mysore, Coorg, Madras, Travancore-Cochin, Nilgiri, Malabar-Wynaad, Shevaroy, and Palni-BodiSirumalai. These representatives on the general committee have the power to admit new members, raise or lower subscription costs, and elect members of the executive committee to represent one committee member for tea interests, one for coffee interests, two for rubber interests, and three members for the general interest of south Indian plantations.6 Most crucially, the general committee develops schemes to promote south Indian plantation interests. The executive committee addresses legal proceedings, arbitration, bankruptcies and insolvencies, and generally manages the affairs of the association.7 Each year, a general meeting is held for plantation owners, committee members and other interests to discuss routine business of the association.



Coffee in the British Empire In the mid-1930s (see Table 1.1), British East Africa was India’s main intraempire coffee competitor. In terms of volume, Kenya exported the most coffee, followed by Tanganiyka, and then India. India had the greatest amount of acreage under cultivation, followed by Tanganiyka, and then Kenya. And Keynan coffee production was also similar to Indian coffee production in that planters were well organised. In 1932, Indian coffee growers wrote a petition to the Home Department in London requesting that all coffee consumed in the United Kingdom (UK) originate from India.8 At the time, the largest coffee-producing countries across the empire (in order of largest producer) were Kenya, Tanganyika and India. Production in the West Indies was relatively negligible, and 90 per cent of that was consumed by the United States (US) and Canada, making the British market relatively irrelevant for West Indian coffee growers.9 A monopoly in the UK could greatly benefit India and East Africa, as one of the top export destinations for East African and Indian grown coffee was the UK. British East Africa exported 139,842 hundredweights (Ctw) of coffee to the UK in 1934, and India exported 50,682 Ctw, while the British West Indies exported only 2,682 Ctw to the UK in that same year.10 Once the Kenyan Coffee Board learned of Indian coffee growers’ petition to the Home Department for monopoly rights, they offered a counter-petition that all coffee consumed within the UK come from the colonies, as throughout the 1920s and 1930s, a little less than 50 per cent of coffee consumed in the UK originated from the colonies11 (see Figure 1.1). Table 1.1  Coffee in the British Empire 1930–4. Territory

Acreage Average Productivity Estimated Average under production of land Investment amount cultivation (tons) (tons per (in‑millions exported acre) of £) within Empire (in Cwts.)

Average declared value (in £)

Price per Cwt.




















































Source: Author’s calculations based on data from IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL.


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Figure 1.1 Percentage of Empire-Grown Coffee Consumption in the UK 60





1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 Figure 1.1  Percentage of Empire-Grown Coffee Consumption in the UK.

Source: Author’s calculations based on data from IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL.

While, publicly, Indian officials supported the Kenyan Coffee Board’s petition, behind closed doors, they sent letters to the Home Minister asking that India’s previous petition still be considered and that India be given exclusive monopoly rights to sell coffee in the UK, as India was the crown jewel among the British colonies, and Indian growers were worried about competition from the now seemingly more organised and better advertised East African coffee growers. In response to the perceived Kenyan attack on Indian coffee’s consumer market, Sir Muhammed Zafarullah Khan, Indian Department of Commerce, founded the Indian Coffee Cess Act Committee in 1935.12 The goal of the committee was to reduce tariffs on Indian coffee and create a marketing scheme for Indian coffee across the British Empire and within India.13 M. J. Simon Avergal, from Travancore, was appointed Secretary of the Indian Coffee Cess Committee’s marketing wing. As part of his approach to domestic marketing, he created ‘Coffee House’ in order to increase domestic consumption, advertise Indian coffee, and engender a taste for coffee among the Indian public.14 The first Coffee House was opened in Bombay in 1936 (see Appendix I), quickly followed by locations in Hyderabad and then Lahore, both in 1937.15 By 1939, Coffee House had 14 locations16—Simla, Lahore, New Delhi, Old Delhi, Calicut, Cochin, four locations in Bombay, two locations in Hyderabad, and two locations in Secunderabad—all overseen by the Indian Coffee Cess Act Committee and all entirely staffed by labourers from Simon’s home state



of Travancore. Simon made an agreement with Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the Maharaja of Travancore, that all coffee and coffee husk served at all locations of Coffee House would originate from Travancore.17 But the threat to Indian coffee did not emanate only from intra-empire competition. By 1939, coffee plantation owners were concerned that the Second World War would pose a problem for the export market. And in fact, these concerns were shared by agricultural producers across the British Empire. An impending agricultural commodity surplus was a concern for economic and political stability across the empire, as British and European consumption levels were destabilised as a result of the war. In 1940, growing concern over commodity surplus was presented as a report to the War Cabinet on 14 November 1940.18 In early November of 1940, the coffee surplus empirewide was estimated to be 1,150,000 tons and valued at 30–70 pounds per ton according to quality.19 In a handwritten remark on the report, it was noted that the US ‘will take the surplus’.20 The conclusion of this preparation meeting was that ‘we must work in closest possible cooperation with the United States of America’.21 A copy of the report from the War Cabinet was sent to the US Secretary of State, and they responded in a 15 July 1940 telegram stating, … if we were going jointly to consider how the United States,­ Pan-America, and British Commonwealth were to be fully equipped to resist totalitarian aggression we ought not to bother at present too much about capacity to pay. It was for us to put in a statement of what we wanted if we were to do our side of the job. It was for the United States to determine how far she could go in financing it as part of her own policy of defence.22

On the eve of the Pan-American Conference in Havana, Britain devised a plan to leave the US uncommitted to Latin America so that it could absorb the colonial surplus if matters were to worsen. In a telegram on 29 June 1940, the British Embassy in Washington D.C. was told that the strategy going into the Pan-American conference was to use Canada as a pawn against the US and tell the US that if they refused to commit to absorb the colonial surplus, Canada would.23 They also wanted to bar the US from sending cheap commodities to Germany and Italy, to set up an independent diplomatic meeting to convince the US to deport all German and Italian immigrants, and to stop all commodity shipments to Germany and Italy.24 The British ambassador to the US, Phillip Henry Kerr, the Marquess of Lothian, was given the authority to threaten that Britain would blockade any American


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shipments to Europe, but was told that a diplomatic solution was preferred.25 On 1 July, Britain learned that Canada was not invited to participate in the Pan-American Conference—they were invited only to observe—and so the strategy of using Canada to create leverage against the US was no longer viable.26 In a telegram on 7 July 1940 to Kerr, a new strategy was outlined, that the British would blockade any measures at the conference that would commit the US to take on Latin American surpluses. But before the meetings even occurred, British intelligence learned that the US had set up private meetings with South American states to form trade agreements to be finalised at the conference.27 For example, there was a private meeting between the US and Argentine representatives to discuss an agreement regarding Argentine corn, linseed, and tinned meat. British intelligence claimed that Roosevelt gave the go-ahead for the US to commit up to one thousand million dollars from the war reserves for the purchase of Argentine commodities. The British were unsuccessful at the Pan-American conference and, as a result, one of the most desired solutions to prevent the colonial surplus crisis was closed off to the British. In other memos and letters about the colonial surplus, India was singled out as a special case, first, because it produced a lot of many kinds of commodities, but also because it was large in terms of area and population. London was confident, as of September 1940, that India would easily weather the surplus crisis. In an October 1940 memo, it was projected that among India’s export surplus, coffee was the least problematic of India’s export commodities, with only a 16,000 ton surplus.28 Wheat was estimated to pose the largest potential problem with a 10,000,000 ton surplus.29 There was still a lingering concern expressed in internal memos that the surplus in India could lead to price decreases across sectors and spur a second Great Depression for India and the rest of the colonies, which could then lead to ‘agitation’.30 The Indian government’s Department of Commerce wrote to the Secretary of State for India asking for assistance with the surplus but received a reply saying that the African colonies were in far worse shape and, so, London could not help India because of its commitments in Africa.31 In a telegram from December 1940, it was again stated that India was expected to be self-sufficient with regard to its surplus,32 and the Secretary of State for India mentioned that while they had asked the US for help, the US had refused, and, therefore, there was not much that could be done from London. Other letters from December 1940 mention that Indian coffee is the least problematic among all of India’s agricultural commodities, because, as one



letter stated, the ‘well-organised plantation industry has enabled them to devise a scheme with the assent of all parties concerned’.33 But letters and telegrams kept coming from India expressing concern about the surplus problem. The Economic Department assured the Secretary of State that India has its own resources to weather the surplus crisis, while the Department of Commerce writes, on the contrary, that the Empire has a duty to buy all surplus commodities from India. In the ‘Export Surplus Progress Report’ on 11 June 1941, another plan was outlined in which the US would consume Britain’s colonial surplus. However, the US had signed an agreement in August 1940 at the Pan-American Conference in Havana in which they agreed to annual import quotas of up to 80 per cent of many Latin American commodities including coffee and petroleum.34 The US cited this previous agreement as the reason why they could not absorb much of Britain’s colonial surplus but agreed on an import quota for West African Cocoa adding that ‘gradually, cooperation can be built up’ with regard to other commodities.35 The alternate strategy developed after this latest failed negotiation with the US was to extend credit to European countries devastated by the war so that they would consume Britain’s colonial surplus. On 23 July 1941, an all-empire broadcast addressed the surplus issue, stating that the British government had a three pronged plan: (a) to have the US buy the colonial surplus, (b) to send the colonial surplus to ‘Nazidominated and Nazi-looted Europe’ as food aid and (c) that the colonies should develop consumer markets to absorb excess supply.36 Coffee House London had a good basis for making these claims about the strength of the Indian agricultural sector. Most of that success was due to the presence of agricultural cooperative societies in India. Agricultural cooperatives were implemented across British India in 1904, with the Cooperative Credit Societies Act (X 1904). This act was modelled after Sir Frederick Nicholson’s reports written between 1895 and 1897 to the Madras government advocating the introduction of credit societies similar to those found in Germany (Strickland 1922: 35). By 1912, there were over 8,000 societies across rural India, and by 1920, there were 47,000.37 The British cooperative societies inspired imitators, and soon many different types of cooperatives—credit, insurance, producers’ and consumers’ cooperatives—were established. The Bombay Act VII of 1925 legalised housing cooperatives along with general


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societies, thereby further encouraging the Indian cooperative movement. In the late 1920s, this democratic means of organising agricultural production was producing great results (Government of India 1943). A Punjab Administration Report from 1926 stated that the agricultural cooperatives in the state had about 405 lakh (40.5 million) rupees in working capital.38 By 1930, there were nearly 100,000 agricultural societies with a total of 3,000,000 members across India employing about 350,000,000 rupees in working capital. Most of these agricultural cooperatives were located in Punjab and in Travancore, where by 1938, more than 15 per cent of the population in these two states was involved in agricultural cooperatives (Government of India 1943). There was also a significant number of agricultural cooperatives in the United Provinces, with 64,160,000 members of agricultural cooperative societies as of 1951, and in Madras Presidency (which comprised modernday Tamil Nadu, northern Kerala, and part of coastal Andhra Pradesh), where there were 58,050,000 members of agricultural cooperative societies (Government of India 1943). In the 1939 annual meeting of the UPASI Coffee Section, Indian coffee plantation owners discussed a proposal by the Indian Tea Market Expansion Board to carry out an intensive tea propaganda campaign in order to improve the sales of hot liquid tea. A group of coffee plantation owners had approached the Tea Board inquiring whether coffee could be included in the sales scheme, as there was concern about access to European and North American markets if another war on the scale of the First World War broke out again.39 The Tea Board replied that ‘tea propaganda, by encouraging the idea of hot drinks, will indirectly help the sales of coffee’.40 Coffee planters were hopeful, stating that ‘it is hoped that this will prove to be true’.41 But coffee planters became increasingly concerned about coffee being left out of marketing schemes in both Britain and India.42 It was in the context of this colonial surplus crisis, in 1939, that Ivor Bull, then president of the Coffee Section of UPASI, called upon his section to establish the Coffee Market Expansion Board in order to create a monopsony for coffee in India at a time when coffee consumer markets in Europe and North America were destabilising as a result of the Second World War.43 The Coffee Market Expansion Board, of which Ivor Bull was appointed Chairman, subsumed the Indian Coffee Cess Committee of 1935.44 Further expansion of Coffee House through the Coffee Market Expansion Board was a local solution implemented by plantation owners to the global problem of colonial commodity surpluses, especially in the absence of help from the



colonial centre or the US. London’s rationale for the lack of intervention was that the unusually well-organised south Indian coffee plantation owners and the institutions they created were better suited than many other colonial agricultural producers to weather the surplus crisis, and, in the end, London proved to be right in their assumptions about the Indian coffee sector. These institutions—UPASI, the Coffee Cess Committee, and the Coffee Market Expansion Board—ensured that Indian coffee growers would survive the colonial export surplus crisis, even in the absence of support from the imperial centre. In 1942, the Coffee Market Expansion Board became the Coffee Board of India. M. J. Simon, Secretary of the Indian Coffee Cess Committee’s marketing wing, was appointed Secretary of the Coffee Board and set with the task of further expanding Coffee House across India.45 While the Lahore location of Coffee House was a great success from the start, the locations in Bombay and Hyderabad floundered in their infant years. In 1941, new Coffee Houses were opened in Trivandrum, Cochin and Malabar as those locations were, according to Simon, more likely to succeed. In 1942, new Coffee House locations opened in Benares, Lucknow and Calcutta, and in the Calcutta location ‘particularly good progress has been recorded’.46 In 1943, the Coffee Board reported that ‘appreciative reports have been received on the Coffee House locations in New Delhi, Lucknow, Benares, Calcutta, Hyderabad, etc.’47 By 1944, Coffee House was a success, as ‘good progress has been made from all centres’.48 The coffee sold at the Coffee House locations continued to be sourced from Travancore, which was deemed by one board member as a ‘very good market for Robusta’, despite some complaints lodged by Coffee Board members that there was some illicit coffee trading in Travancore that affected the price and reliability of supply.49 In order to improve the quality of coffee powder supplied to the Coffee Houses, M. J. Simon approved a request from the Maharaja of Travancore to supply coffee growers with electric grinders and electric power in order to produce higher quality ground coffee. Simon responded by providing electric coffee grinders with 2–5 horsepower (h.p.) motors in Coffee House locations in Alwaye, Kottayam, Alleppey, Quilon, Trivandrum and Nagercoil for use by coffee growers by April 1946, as Travancore’s Electrical Department claimed that there were other demands for power that should be given priority.50 As a result of various nodes of state support, by the mid-1940s, Coffee House was a thriving firm with locations across British India. This firm would


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undergo several major transformations in the decades to come and continue to be a critically important reflection of India’s postcolonial political economy.

Overview of the Book The politico-economic history of the firm Indian Coffee House provides an interesting lens by which to analyse the economic and social history of the ‘Third World’ of the mid-twentieth century. Initially, the Third World was charged with the optimism of decolonisation by national liberation movements that sought radical social transformation. But by the 1970s, authoritarian regimes had, in many instances, replaced the national liberation state. The initial optimism of national independence had eroded in just a few decades. The very movements that had seemed so full of possibility had themselves tipped into political repression. India’s experiences during the Emergency exemplifies the broader historical trajectory of the Third World in the mid and late twentieth century. In these periods of democratic reversal— including coups, state-declared emergencies that abridge democratic rights, and genuinely totalitarian moments—what are the possibilities for contentious politics given state repression of dissenting views? I look to the social unrest in India just before the Emergency (1975–7) to analyse the possibilities for social protest during this particular totalitarian moment. I follow one particular instance of social protest, the Coffee House Movement (1975–6), which is more important than commonly recognised, but is not the only important resistance movement against the Emergency. One of the biggest puzzles of the Coffee House Movement is: why was it organised around the Indian Coffee House, a colonial institution, rather than a space with more radical origins? I contend that, during colonial rule, labour and left movements push for not just national independence but also a reconfiguring of social relations to redress hierarchies introduced and/or reinforced by colonialism. The radical social justice aims of national liberation are typified by anti-colonial labour movements that push back against both colonialism and the capitalist relations of production that colonialism introduces and intensifies. After independence, the class structure largely remains the same, and the same radical left and labour-oriented anti-colonial movements continue, therefore, to push for the radical aims of national liberation. Postcolonial states attempt to quell this social unrest through the ideology of ‘economic development’. In other words, the new ruling class makes claims that for the good of the nation, the radical



aims of national liberation are secondary to the newly independent state’s economic success in the world arena. While the anti-colonial working class initially accepts economic development as a worthy objective, over time, as the anti-colonial working class becomes increasingly militant in their struggle to fully decolonise postcolonial society, it offers alternative ideologies of development that would realise the anti-colonial working class’ radical social objectives. Therefore, one key form in which the postcolonial class struggle is articulated is through competing ideologies of economic development. However, in situations where postcolonial movements to fully decolonise become more militant and oppositional, postcolonial states abandon the project of liberal economic development and instead resort to authoritarian rule in order to protect the status quo. In this moment of state repression, the repertoire of contentious politics is limited, but certain autonomous spaces preserve the spirit of national liberation, which then animates movements against the postcolonial authoritarian state. The narrative of India’s Emergency illustrates this general theory. I begin the book by detailing Indira Gandhi’s political economy of development in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Her strategies for economic development in India, as I will show, created adverse social outcomes that disproportionately disadvantaged India’s urban poor, peasants, Dalits, Muslims and students. In reaction to these polices, as I detail in Chapter 4, several social movements, including the Dalit Panther Party, the Bihar Movement, and the Railway Workers’ Strike, pushed Indira Gandhi and her administration to deliver the radical social justice promised for India’s Dalits, students, workers and peasants but not yet realised in the nearly three decades since independence. Chapter 5 examines the relationship between the causes of the Emergency and these social movements to determine the role of social protest during the Emergency. Did these movements pose such a great threat to law and order that the Emergency was the only possible response (Dhar 2000; B. Chandra 2003), as Indira Gandhi and several historians have contended? Or was the Emergency Indira Gandhi’s strategy to maintain power after the Allahabad High Court ruling that barred her from holding office (Guha 2007)? I assess these competing explanations for the cause of the Emergency and then detail the events of the Emergency, beginning in December 1975. In Chapter 6, I examine the Coffee House Movement as one of several cases of social protest against the Emergency and analyse the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place, New Delhi, as one of several sites of resistance against the Emergency. Why did the Connaught Place location of a former


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colonial firm, Indian Coffee House, become one of several sites of Socialist resistance to the Emergency? I reconstruct the story of how the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place became a centre of social protest during the Emergency to uncover what about that space made it such a crucial resource for those resisting the state. If the organisational form of the firm as a workers’ cooperative was consequential for its role as a space of resistance during the Emergency, how did it come to be a workers’ cooperative and was this a likely historical trajectory for the firm? In Chapter 7, I take a step back in time to detail how the British colonial firm ‘Coffee House’ was occupied by its workers and then transformed into a workers’ cooperative and autonomous zone. This chapter recovers the history of how after independence, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision for India’s economic development was distinct from that of the left anti-colonial movement generating uncertainty and conflict over the future of occupied Indian Coffee House. In examining Jawaharlal Nehru’s political economy of development, it reveals why he was initially opposed to allowing Indian Coffee House workers to form a cooperative, but also why he eventually capitulated. Uncovering how Coffee House came to be a workers’ cooperative explains how it became an autonomous zone capable of facilitating a movement against the Emergency state.

Notes   1. In the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Museum, there is a video of coffee house patrons watching a political demonstration from the balcony of a coffee house ( online/film/display/detail.php?file_num=3958) (Accession No. 1991.263.1, SSFVA).   2. Mss Eur F174/2031, IOL.   3. Mss Eur F174/2031, IOL.   4. Mss Eur F174/2031, IOL.   5. Mss Eur F174/2031, IOL.   6. Mss Eur F174/2031, IOL.   7. Mss Eur F174/2031, IOL.   8. IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL.   9. IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL. 10. IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL. 11. IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL. 12. IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL. 13. IOR/L/E/8/546, IOL. 14. IOR/V/24/663, IOL. 15. IOR/V/24/663, IOL. 16. IOR/V/24/663, IOL.



17. 6408/38/Development, KSA; 6408/38/Agriculture, KSA; 9426/38/Development, KSA. 18. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 19. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 20. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 21. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 22. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 23. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 24. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 25. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 26. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 27. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 28. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 29. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 30. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 31. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 32. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 33. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 34. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 35. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 36. L/E/8/2333, IOL. 37. Punjab Administration Report 1920, HSA. 38. Punjab Administration Report 1926, HSA. 39. Mss Eur/F174/1984, IOL. 40. Mss Eur/F174/1984, IOL. 41. Mss Eur/F174/1984, IOL. 42. Mss Eur/F174/1984, IOL. 43. IOR/V/27/621/12, IOL. 44. IOR/V/27/621/12, IOL. 45. ST 344, IOL. 46. ST 344, IOL, p. 2, 1942. 47. ST 344, IOL, p. 2, 1943. 48. ST 344, IOL, p. 2, 1944. 49. 418/48/Development, KSA. 50. 21/46/PW, KSA.

2 How Anti-Colonial Labour Movements Create Anti-Authoritarian Autonomous Zones

In certain developing countries, therefore, they are quick to catch on and realize two or three years after independence their hopes have been dashed: ‘What was the point of fighting’ if nothing was really destined to change? —Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1963)

Anti-colonial labour movements created enduring institutions, including worker-occupied and self-managed workplaces that served as autonomous zones, such as the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place. These types of institutions provided key resources to movements combatting authoritarian rule after colonial independence. In this chapter, I will begin with a discussion of the theoretical role of labour struggles in the context of national independence movements. Workers across the Global South played an important role in pushing independence movements to the left, demanding economic redistribution and a more equal society regardless of class, race, gender and caste. However, in the period following independence, the class structure in most states remained unchanged. Frantz Fanon posed the critical question of whether independence movements were really worth the effort if in the postcolonial period (or as Walter Rodney terms it, after ‘flag independence’) not much had changed for the working classes. I take up Fanon’s question with the benefit of an additional seven decades of hindsight and contend that anti-colonial workers’ movements may not have succeeded in their aim of eliminating class hierarchies and exploitation, but they did create various autonomous zones that proved potent during the latter part of the twentieth century when the very movements that brought about flag independence tipped into authoritarian rule. During this authoritarian moment of the 1970s Global South, the autonomous zones that

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anti-colonial workers’ movements created provided a key resource to those who wanted to restore democracy and civil rights. Forming an anti-authoritarian movement is especially difficult under such conditions. Without civil rights or other democratic protections, dissent is typically met with severe repression. Autonomous zones across the 1970s Global South helped anti-authoritarians resist the rollback of democracy and civil rights, supporting anti-authoritarian strategies of resistance that embodied the spirit of the anti-colonial workers’ movements.

Theories of Anti-Colonial Labour Movements Many theories of development emphasise national independence movements’ role in shaping the future trajectory of a state. Such theories tend to look to national class structures as a way of structuring both the national independence movement and the subsequent state-building efforts. In the context of these theories, the different strategies employed by various classes in the context of the national independence movement are important in structuring outcomes (Arrighi and Saul 1973; Chaliand 1989; Guha and Spivak 1988; Nkrumah 1970; Scott 1987; Wolf 1971). While local elites were most often the leaders of anti-colonial movements, without the full support of the working class, national independence movements had little chance of success (Nkrumah 1970: 54; Silver and Slater 1999: 198, 201; Wallerstein 1967: 196). Many anti-colonial workers’ movements saw themselves as distinct from the international proletariat because of the contradiction of the competing identities of ‘colonised’ and ‘worker’. As long as workers were also colonial subjects, they thought of themselves as ‘colonised workers’, distinct from an international proletariat organised by workers in the states that did the colonising. Structurally, they were right. There was often no difference between private employers and colonial administrators, and, therefore, colonial labour movements saw resistance against colonialism and capitalism as a singular struggle (Rodney 1981: 276; see also B. Singh 2007: 65). The 1940s and 1950s saw a wave of strikes that linked labour movements across the Global South to attendant national independence movements (Rodney 1981: 276). Labour unrest in the Global South is related to labour unrest in the imperial centres in that they are both part of ‘a single world-scale historical process of labour–capital conflict’ (Silver 1995: 9). World-systems analysts contend that processes of colonialism and imperialism—within the context of a capitalist world-system but with their own separate logic (Arrighi 1994: 13)—have


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historically engendered two types of working-class resistance in the Global South, namely (a) colonial peasant resistance to being proletarianised and (b) working classes made by colonialism growing increasingly militant as nationalist movements grew (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991: 121; Silver 2003: 145–6). The working classes made by colonialism demanded a more just and equal society as central to their vision for decolonisation. For that reason, Immanuel Wallerstein (1967) refers to the anti-colonial workers’ movement as the avantgarde of the national independence movement. As such, workers and trade union leaders pushed independence movements to take up the issue of inequality and wealth distribution (Wallerstein 1967: 178). For Bhagat Singh, because the foundational goal of the British Raj was to further Britain’s economic interests, colonial rule could only be overthrown through a workers’ movement (B. Singh 2007: 65). However, independence from Britain was insufficient for Singh in his aims of creating a more just and equal Punjab. He wrote, We want a socialist revolution, the indispensable preliminary to which is the political revolution. That is what we want. The political revolution does not mean transfer of state (or more crudely, the power) from the hands of the British to the Indians, but to those Indians who are at one with us as to the final goal, to be more precise, the power to be transferred to the revolutionary party through popular support. (B. Singh 2007: 161–2)

Singh believed that only a Socialist revolution in which power was transferred from the bourgeoisie to the masses would decolonise the subcontinent (see also Habib 2007). ‘After that,’ Singh argued, ‘to proceed in right earnest is to organise the reconstruction of the whole society on the socialist basis, if you do not mean this revolution, then please have mercy, stop shouting, “Inquilab Zindabad” [Long Live Revolution]’ (B. Singh 2007: 161–2). For Singh and many other left leaders of national independence movements across the Global South, national independence was just one step towards decolonisation. Across the Global South, from Algeria (Clegg 1971) to Egypt (Beinin and Lockman 1998), Trinidad (Z. Edwards 2017a) and Haiti ( James 1963; Silver and Slater 1999: 171), Ghana (Crisp 1984), Tanzania (Shivji 1976), Indonesia (Ingelson 2001; Suryomenggolo 2011) and many other states,­ anti-colonial labour movements were key to the success of national independence movements, while also pushing those independence movements to the left. Wallerstein (1967), quoting the founding charter of the All-African Trade Union Federation (AATUF) that states, ‘Colonialism has made of all

Anti-Colonial Labour Movements


Africans, exploited men. Also the workers and peasants constitute the principle stratum of African society, the most awakened and the most dynamic Africa cannot achieve its ends without them or even more against them’ (the AATUF charter quoted in Wallerstein 1967: 196), shows that without workers’ movements independence movements could not achieve their goals. Or, as Beverly Silver (2003) puts it, ‘a successful independence movement required mass agitation’ (Silver 2003: 148). Because of the role workers played in national independence movements, by the mid-twentieth century, much of the Global South won its independence. As Rodney contextualises, ‘the only positive development in colonialism was when it ended’ (Rodney 1981: 261) and ‘It needs to be affirmed (through a revolutionary, socialist, and people-centred perspective) that even “flag independence” represented a positive development out of colonialism’ (Rodney 1981: 279). Surely, ‘flag independence’ was an important and positive political development, but elites who assumed state power after leading successful national independence movements often failed to deliver on the demands of the workers’ movements that were essential in winning independence. Wallerstein concluded that ‘if they [newly independent states] were to survive at all they had to break their links with the world Communist movement’ (Wallerstein 1967: 244). And in fact, the anti-colonial labour movement did have a long history of delinking with Communist parties in the imperial centres ever since Tunisia’s 17 August strike in 1924, during which Mohammad Ali El Hammi founded the world’s first independent anticolonial trade union, the Confédération générale des travailleurs tunisiens (Haddad 2013 [1927]). While Communist parties in the imperialist centres, particularly the Parti Communiste Français, pushed colonial trade unions to affiliate with them as part of a global proletariat, this was not a strategy workers in the colonies cared to pursue. As Rodney writes, ‘So long as African workers remain colonized, they had to think of themselves firstly as African workers, rather than members of an international proletariat’ (Rodney 1981: 276). But this was not the kind of delinking that was called for in the moment of flag independence by the international states system. Newly independent states had to cultivate a certain image for the United States (US), as global hegemon, in order to be fully recognised as participants in the international states system in the context of the Cold War. That meant, a staunch disavowal of Communism and any policies that sniffed of Communism to the US. State imperatives to secure a role within the international states system limited the anti-colonial workers’ movement, leaving it largely unable to


Brewing Resistance

realise its more radical demands after flag independence (Wallerstein 1967: 218). Because of the nationalist movement’s reliance on workers and peasants on the one hand and workers’ demands for radical, often anti-capitalist, social change on the other, anti-colonial movements promised radical social change but largely failed to deliver in the postcolonial period (Arrighi 1990: 52–3; Plys 2016; Silver and Arrighi 2000: 55; Silver 2003: 148). As Rodney put it, most leaders of newly independent states ‘were frankly capitalist, and shared fully the ideology of their bourgeois masters’ (Rodney 1981: 279). As a result of the conflict over anti-capitalist objectives between the working classes and the national bourgeoisie, postcolonial state building often involved a class conflict over who will be the class to secure political power. Once the national bourgeoisie takes power, as historically is almost always the case, they employ certain ideological and political strategies to subordinate working and peasant classes’ demands for radical social change (Silver and Slater 1999: 209). Fanon similarly celebrated flag independence—‘L’indépendance a certes apporté aux hommes colonisés la réparation morale et consacré leur dignité’ (Independence has certainly brought the colonised peoples moral reparation and recognised their dignity) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 79)—but also agonized over declarations made by the US for ‘pays européens de décoloniser à l’amiable’ (European countries to decolonise amicably) that positioned the US as ‘les défenseurs du droit des peuples à disposer d’eux-mêmes’ (the defenders of the right of peoples to self-determination) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 77). In positioning itself as the defender of global human rights, the US asserted ‘leur rôle de patron du capitalisme international’ (their role as the barons of international capitalism) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 77). This call, by the US for imperial powers to minimise the use of violence in combatting nationalist movements in the colonies was revealed by Fanon to be motivated by the US’ economic interests in pursuing neo-imperialism across the Global South. Fanon contends that ‘La persistance des jacqueries et de l’agitation Mau-Mau déséquilibre la vie économique de la colonie mais ne met pas en danger la métropole. Ce qui est plus important aux yeux de l’impérialisme, c’est la possibilité pour la propagande socialiste de s’infiltrer dans les masses, de les contaminer’ (Persistent jacqueries and Mau-Mau agitation disrupt the economic life of a colony but pose no threat to the metropole. A great threat, as far as imperialism is concerned, is that Socialist propaganda might infiltrate the masses and contaminate them) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 77). He identifies US power as a neo-imperialism exerting its economic influence through the rhetoric of self-determination. The US’ intervention in the colonial question,

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as rising global hegemon, constrained newly independent states, thereby limiting the ability of anti-colonial workers’ movements to realise their more radical demands. The US, however, is not solely to blame for the failure of radical change to take root after national independence. The national bourgeoisie ‘dans le même temps où il démolit l’oppression coloniale il contribue par la bande à construire un autre appareil d’exploitation’ (while it is demolishing colonial oppression, it is building another system of exploitation) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 138–9). Fanon writes of the national bourgeoisie that ‘it must be combatted because the national bourgeoisie is “good for nothing”’ (Fanon quoted in Wallerstein 1979: 258).1 The national bourgeoisie instated single-party democracies after independence, which were for Fanon, ‘the modern form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, without mask, without make-up, unscrupulous, cynical’ (Fanon quoted in Wallerstein 1979: 260). However, in asking whether anti-colonial movements can combat both neo-imperialism and the bourgeoisie at the same time, Fanon was unsure. He wrote, ‘The theoretical question posed about underdeveloped countries over the last fifty years, to wit, can the bourgeois phase be skipped or not, must be resolved at the level of revolutionary action and not by thinking about it’ (Fanon as quoted in Wallerstein 1979: 266). In puzzling through the implications of the ways in which both the global hegemon and international state system limit the ability of the workers’ movements to realise its goals post-independence, Fanon asked, ‘dans certains pays sous-développés les masses vont très vite et comprennent, deux ou trois ans après l’indépendance, qu’elles ont été frustrées, que « ça ne valait pas la peine » de se battre si ça ne devait pas vraiment changer?’ (In certain developing countries, therefore, they are quick to catch on and realise two or three years after independence their hopes have been dashed: ‘What was the point of fighting’ if nothing was really destined to change?) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 73). In other words, was it worth the effort to fight colonialism if not much truly changed after independence? In the remainder of this chapter, I will show how Fanon’s question is in need of an update as, as we shall see, oftentimes the ‘problem’ of flag independence was not simply that colonial class structures remained in place, but that things got worse as many newly independent states tipped into authoritarian repression in the decades after independence. Despite the doubts expressed in this important question, Fanon was optimistic about the future of the Global South. He wrote that when it comes to creating a liberated Global South, ‘le projet doit être d’essayer de résoudre les problèmes auxquels cette Europe n’a pas su apporter de solutions’ (the project


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must be to try to solve the problems this Europe was incapable of solving) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 304). What he termed the ‘Third World project’ rejected ‘le prétexte de rattraper’ (the notion of catching up) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 304) and, instead, endeavoured to innovate ‘une pensée neuve’ (a new way of thinking) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 305). Fanon believed in the creativity of the Global South in envisioning and enacting new forms of politics that would provide solutions to longstanding social problems inherited from centuries of colonial rule.

The Political Economy of Authoritarianism in the 1970s Global South While theories of anti-colonial labour movements have been leveraged to explain economic development outcomes (Chibber 2003; Z. Edwards 2017b; Pat. Heller 1999), what theories of anti-colonial labour movements fail to address, however, is why did the Global South take an authoritarian turn in the latter part of the twentieth century? How could it be that the very movements for independence, which seemed so full of promise, descended into authoritarian rule soon after its leaders assumed state power? In this section, I look to theories of political economy in order to explain why authoritarianism proliferated across the Global South in the 1970s. In each systemic cycle of accumulation, there is a dominant ideology that legitimates the world-hegemon. Giovanni Arrighi, in The Long Twentieth Century (1994), reads Marx’s general formula of capital as ‘a recurrent pattern of historical capitalism as world-system’ (Arrighi 1994: 6), which he terms a systemic cycle of accumulation. These systemic cycles of accumulation consist of two distinct phases of world-historical capital accumulation: M-C phases, characterised primarily by productive accumulation and all of its related processes, and C-M’ phases, comprising financialisation and related processes. Underlying these phases of capitalist accumulation is a secular trend of intensification of the capitalist world-system in terms of both deeper penetration and geographical expansion. These successive transformations of the world-economy have been led by particular government and business agencies, as Arrighi contends, following Fernand Braudel, that ‘capitalism [is] absolutely dependent for its emergence and expansion on state power as constituting the anti-thesis of the market economy’ (Arrighi 1994: 10). Each systemic cycle of accumulation is led by a state that achieves world-hegemony, ‘the power of a state to exercise functions of leadership and governance over a system of states’ (Arrighi 1994: 27).

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This world-hegemon manifests its supremacy ‘as “domination” and as “intellectual and moral leadership”’ (Gramsci 1971: 57). The hegemonic project of a dominant state has the goal of securing power and maintaining it in such a way that all other states in the world-system believe that the interest of the world-hegemon is their interest as well (Gramsci 1971: 182). While the hegemonic state’s interests are paramount, the world-hegemon must also make some sacrifices to show that it is acting in the collective interest. However, these sacrifices should not erode the economic interests of the world-hegemon, for hegemony’s appeal is that it benefits the economic interests of the state that achieves hegemony. Gramsci elucidates how even though hegemony’s mechanism is through politics, hegemony is fundamentally an economic concept: ‘there is also no doubt that such sacrifices and such a compromise cannot touch the essential; for though hegemony is ethical-political, it must also be economic, must necessarily be based on the decisive function exercised by the leading group in the decisive nucleus of economic activity’ (Gramsci 1971: 161). An essential component of achieving and maintaining hegemony is the construction of a political ideology, which Gramsci defines as ‘a creation of concrete phantasy which acts on a dispersed and shattered people to arouse and organise its collective will’ (Gramsci 1971: 126). Political ideology is a project of the world-hegemon, constructed to convince all other states that it is acting in the collective interest, thereby securing the world-hegemon’s economic interests across the globe. Ideology is ‘the “cement” which holds together the structure (in which economic class struggle takes place)’ (Hall, Lumley and McLennan 1977: 53). For US hegemony, ‘development’ is that ideology.2 Development policy not only sets the correct objectives for policymakers in the Global South but also dictates the correct way of implementing them. Movements for decolonisation, particularly anti-colonial labour movements that identified both colonialism and capitalism as the object of resistance, could be and were de-radicalised through adherence to economic development policies promoted by policymakers and social scientists in the US, and then implemented by the national bourgeoisie who assumed state power in the aftermath of independence. But anti-colonial working classes did not accept the ideology of ‘economic development’ without contention. Peasants and workers continued to agitate for the radical social change promised by independence but not yet realised. Between core and periphery on the global scale, and between capital and labour on the national level, there is a conflict over the content, implementation and goals of ‘development’ as defined by Harry Truman in 1949 and then by policymakers and social scientists in the US and its allies within the core ever since.


Brewing Resistance

British Imperialism, and then US Hegemony, constrains how the national bourgeoisie dominates its own people and undermines the radical aims of national liberation (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 77). The post-independence bourgeoisie, who struggle with the working class over ideas of development, therefore is not a Hegelian master, and Fanon’s Hegelian slave is the s­emiproletarian who is usually an informal sector worker whose wages are too meagre to eke out a living (Wallerstein 1979: 264). It is the ‘set of relationships’ (Wallerstein 1979: 264), however, that is important, not the categories. Fanon’s class structure includes the coloniser, the national bourgeoisie, the colonial worker, made by processes of capitalism and colonialism, and the lumpenproletariat, largely left outside of the proletariat, or ‘an urban extension of the peasantry’ (Fanon quoted in Wallerstein 1979: 264). Following Eldrige Cleaver, Wallerstein concludes that the colonial working class is the right wing of the proletariat, and the lumpenproletariat the left wing (Wallerstein 1979: 265). Therefore, this ideological struggle over ideas of development in the aftermath of independence, while constrained by the world-hegemon, is articulated as a conflict between the two classes that occupy the middle of Fanon’s class structure—the national bourgeoisie and the Global South worker. This conflict between the anti-colonial labour movement and the newly independent state over development and its outcomes is of profound consequence for the postcolonial national bourgeoisie seeking to establish state power. While Louis Althusser (1971) writes that no class can hold state power without exercising hegemony over and in the ideological state apparatuses (Althusser 1971: 146), in the context of the newly independent state, the nationally dominant class is constrained by the world-hegemon, and, therefore, ruling ideology is designed to be consistent with that of the world-hegemon. Despite diversity and seeming contradictions of postcolonial ideologies of the national bourgeoisie, beneath these ideologies is the ideology of the world-hegemon, the idea that economic growth through capitalist development is not only obtainable but also desirable. To posit some other goal for postcolonial society (workers’ democracy, for example, as Joseph Edwards proposes [ J. Edwards 2014: 119]), is to challenge the very power structures that underlie national and global hegemony. Therefore, development is not just what is at stake, it is the location of the postcolonial struggle. As Althusser writes, ‘the Ideological State Apparatuses may be not only the stake, but also the site of class struggle, and often of bitter forms of class struggle’ (Althusser 1971: 147).

Anti-Colonial Labour Movements


In this macro-reading of Althusser, by way of Arrighi, Gramsci and Fanon, I contend that conflict over ideologies of development within the postcolonial context is a playing out of the global class struggle within a defined state border. Development, therefore, is global class politics, and by the 1970s, it was clear that capital, along with US world-hegemony, was winning the fight to define ‘development’, as the very movements for decolonisation that had the promise of bringing about world-transformative, radical change soon descended into authoritarianism. As Althusser contends, ‘Ideological State Apparatuses function massively and predominantly by ideology, but they also function secondarily by repression, even if ultimately, but only ultimately, this is very attenuated and concealed, even symbolic. (There is no such thing as a purely ideological apparatus.)’ (Althusser 1971: 145). There are physical repercussions and punishments meted out to those who resist dominant ideologies, and by the 1970s, with social movements across the globe escalating the demands for social justice (Silver and Slater1999: 207–8), ideologies of development were increasingly backed by repression as US hegemony began to show signs of coming apart (Hopkins and Wallerstein 1996: 9; Wallerstein 1984: 46, 74, 1995: 26, 2003: 17–19). The process of hegemonic transition is a stochastic one; social gains for civil society that have been realised over the course of a hegemony might be eroded. When cracks appear in the hegemonic apparatus, consent is no longer sufficient for the dominant classes to maintain their moral authority and so they resort to corruption, fraud and, in some cases, force: The normal exercise of hegemony on the now classical terrain of the parliamentary régime is characterised by the combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, without force predominating excessively over consent. Indeed, the attempt is always made to ensure that force will appear to be based on the consent of the majority, expressed by the so-called organs of public opinion— newspapers and associations—which, therefore, in certain situations, are artificially multiplied. Between consent and force stands corruption/fraud (which is characteristic of certain situations when it is hard to exercise the hegemonic function, and when the use of force is too risky). This consists in procuring the demoralisation and paralysis of the antagonist (or antagonists) by buying its leaders—either covertly, or, in cases of imminent danger, openly—in order to sow disarray and confusion in his ranks. In the period following the World War, cracks opened up everywhere in the hegemonic apparatus, and the exercise of hegemony became permanently difficult and aleatory. (Gramsci 1971: n49)


Brewing Resistance

In the 1970s, with the first cracks in US hegemony beginning to show, democratic states, particularly in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and southern Europe, transitioned from democracy to authoritarianism, from a political system ruled through consent to a political system ruled by force. Sefika Kumral (2014) hypothesises that Fascism emerges from the particular form of militarism that emerged from the breakdown of the British-led worldhegemony of the nineteenth century (Kumral 2014: 65), and henceforth, she contends, opportunity structures for Fascism emerge from the intensification of social conflict, the rise of nationalism, and the contradictions of the Polanyian double movement that occur during a hegemonic transition (Kumral 2014: 66). We can see that for the hegemonic transition beginning with the US decline of hegemony in the 1970s, yet again authoritarianism emerges as part of the contradictions of the Polanyian double movement, but in this period authoritarianism is concentrated in the Global South. For Kwame Nkrumah, the proliferation of authoritarian coups across the African continent from the late 1960s and into in the 1970s was a result of intensification of both neo-imperalism and working class movements’ demands for radical social change despite neo-imperial encroachments (Nkrumah 1979: 48–9). Nkrumah observed, ‘Underlying every coup … there is a similar basic situation. On the one hand, there are neocolonialist powers teleguiding and supporting the reactionary bourgeois power elites; and on the other hand, there are the awakening African masses revealing the growing strength of the African socialist revolution’ (Nkrumah 1979: 51). Other social scientists observed similar trends. Samuel Huntington claims that ‘one third of 32 working democracies in the world in 1958 had become authoritarian by the mid-1970s’ (Huntington 1991: 21). While periods of democratic reversal—including coups, state-declared emergencies that abridge democratic rights, and authoritarian moments— proliferated across the Global South in the 1970s, few states experienced the most extreme form of democratic reversal: totalitarianism. Samuel Huntington defines totalitarianism as ‘a single party, usually led by one man; a pervasive and powerful secret police; a highly developed ideology setting forth the ideal society, which the totalitarian movement is committed to realizing; and government penetration and control of mass communications and all or most social or economic organizations’ (Huntington 1991: 12). According to Huntington, the universe of cases that fit this definition of totalitarianism are Italy (1922), Portugal (1926), Germany (1933), Spain (1939), Greece (1967), Brazil (1964), Argentina (1966), Peru (1962), Ecuador (1972),

Anti-Colonial Labour Movements


Uruguay (1973), Chile (1973), Indonesia (1965), Philippines (1972), and India (1975) (Huntington 1991: 17–21).

Theories of Totalitarianism India during the Emergency is one of the few historical cases that fit Huntington’s definition of totalitarianism. In this section, I delve into political theory to show how totalitarianism functions as a particularly pernicious type of non-democratic rule. For Giorgio Agamben, totalitarianism, particularly when imposed by a state of Emergency, or as he terms it, following Carl Schmitt, a ‘State of Exception’, is the establishment of a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination of not only political adversaries but entire categories of citizens who for some reason cannot be integrated into the political system (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 2). Hannah Arendt simply posits that ‘terror is the essence of totalitarian domination’ (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 464). These states of exception are precipitated by periods of political crisis ‘like civil war, insurrection, and resistance’ (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 1). Ideology plays an important role in enforcing these new norms, but it is separated from its core ideas and serves the purpose of disciplining totalitarian subjects through logic. Arendt writes, What distinguished these new totalitarian ideologists from their predecessors was that it was no longer primarily the ‘idea’ of the ­ ideology—the struggle of classes and the exploitation of workers, or the struggle of races and the care for Germanic peoples—which appealed to them, but the logical process which could be developed from it. (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 472)

The ideology of the totalitarian state blurs the distinction between fact and fiction, creating the ideal subjects for totalitarian rule. Arendt contends, ‘The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist’ (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 474). Agamben similarly posits that during States of Emergency, both ‘fact and law seem to become undecidable’ (2005 [2003]: 29). The totalitarian state uses force in the guise of ideology in order to discipline its subjects. The logical deduction of totalitarian ideology leads to self-disciplining, which, when coupled with the terror of totalitarianism, breeds isolation. Arendt writes,


Brewing Resistance

The compulsion of total terror on one side, which, with its iron band, presses masses of isolated men together and supports them in a world which has become a wilderness for them, and the self-coercive force of a logical deduction on the other, which prepares each individual in his lonely isolation against all others, correspond to each other and need each other in order to set the terror-ruled movement into motion and keep it moving. (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 473–4)

Totalitarian regimes not only destroy public life but also repress private life. [Totalitarianism] bases itself on loneliness, on the experience of not belonging to the world at all, which is among the most radical and desperate experiences of man. Loneliness, the common ground for terror, the essence of totalitarian government, and for ideology or logicality the preparation of its executioners and victims, is closely connected with uprootedness and superfluousness which have been the curse of modern masses since the beginning of the industrial revolution and have become acute with the rise of imperialism at the end of the last century. (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 475)

Agamben similarly identifies the loneliness of totalitarianism, or, as he terms it, the ‘zone of anomie’ created by totalitarianism. By way of Walter Benjamin, Agamben concludes that the state of exception is a zone of anomie in which violence pervades. Writes Agamben, ‘The attempt of state power to annex anomie through the state of exception is unmasked by Benjamin for what it is: a fictio iuris par excellence, which claims to maintain the law in its very suspension as force-of-law. What now takes its place are civil war and revolutionary violence, that is, a human action that has shed every relation to law’ (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 59). States of Emergency lift the veil of rule by consent, revealing the inherent violence of the law and of the state. The right of resistance is problematic during Emergency as both totalitarianism and resistance against the state are outside of the law. ‘But in the last analysis, the two positions agree in ruling out the existence of a sphere of human action that is entirely removed from the law’ (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 11). Those who resist totalitarianism, or those who the state suspects are a threat to totalitarian rule, are detained through extra-legal measures. Those detained are ‘neither prisoners nor persons accused, but simply “detainees,” they are the object of a pure de facto rule, of a detention that is indefinite not only in the temporal sense but in its very nature as well, since it is entirely removed from the law and from judicial oversight’ (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 3–4). This indefinite detention is both a threat and imposition of state

Anti-Colonial Labour Movements


violence against political adversaries and those who cannot be integrated into the political system. The solution, for Agamben, is to reclaim politics, ‘because it has been contaminated by law, seeing itself, at best, as constituent power (that is violence that makes law), when it is not reduced to merely the power to negotiate with the law. The only truly political action, however, is that which severs the nexus between violence and law’ (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 88). In other words, contentious politics should not be aimed at negotiating with or making law, but, instead, resisting the violence of the state. Hannah Arendt is less optimistic about possibilities for contentious politics in totalitarian regimes. The destruction of the public sphere in totalitarian states leads to the destruction of the inner lives of individual people along with destroying individuals’ ability to engage in social and political activities. ‘The inner spontaneity of people under its rule was killed along with their social and political activities, so that the merely political sterility under older bureaucracies was followed by total sterility under totalitarian rule’ (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 245). This destruction of inner life, this feeling of loneliness, prepares people for totalitarian domination, but totalitarian domination also leads to its own undoing (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 478). Arendt writes, ‘Every end in history contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise’ (1994 [1948]: 478). So, while Arendt argues that there is little or no possibility for contentious politics in totalitarian regimes, she also is optimistic that the loneliness of totalitarian rule will lead to its undoing.

The Problem of Totalitarianism The major theoretical and political problem associated with totalitarianism is that it is difficult to create a mass movement against it given severe state repression of dissent. It is in the totalitarian moments that resistance is both most necessary and most severely constrained. While theories of totalitarianism, often in the very definition of totalitarianism, contend that in the totalitarian moment, contentious politics are suppressed (Arendt 1994 [1948]), the sociological literature on democratic transition generally claims that social movements are key in transitions to democracy. For example, Rueshemeyer, Stephens and Stephens find that working class movements and other forms of oppositional politics led to Latin America’s second wave of democratisation in the late twentieth century (Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens 1992: 215). Sociology of democratic transition, on the one hand, treats contentious politics as a given, while political theorists, on the other,


Brewing Resistance

contend that possibilities for contentious politics under totalitarian regimes is severely constrained (Agamben 2005 [2003]; Arendt 1944 [1948]). Sidney Tarrow (1998) offers an answer to this puzzle. He contends that, by definition, authoritarian states discourage popular politics but that ‘success in repression can produce a radicalisation of collective action and a more effective organization against opponents, as moderate dissenters defect into private life and more militant ones take center stage’ (Tarrow 1998: 84–5). The goal of radicalised popular politics is to overthrow the authoritarian state; activists see this as the only way to democratic reform. Movements seeking to overthrow the state, Tarrow argues, are even more likely when authoritarian repression threatens the survival of these radicalised groups (Tarrow 1998: 85). But the tactics of contentious politics at the disposal of would-be antistate protestors are limited. In authoritarian regimes, non-violent forms of resistance, epitomised by the tactics of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., are quickly repressed, so opposition movements, according to Tarrow, are best served adopting symbolic forms of resistance instead, such as creating graffiti, wearing certain clothing, writing songs or poetry, and so on (Tarrow 1998: 97). In the 1920s and 1930s, left intellectuals in Fascist Europe soon came to Tarrow’s insight, that traditional expressions of contentious politics were ill-suited to everyday life under totalitarian rule. This frustration pushed intellectuals from spheres of traditional leftist politics and into the café culture, where a modernist avant-garde offered a potent form of intellectual expression that could and did coexist with life under Fascism (Adamson 1990: 368; Bronner and Kellner 1982: 93). In Berlin, ‘the café remained, to protest against the cruelty, the loneliness, the vacuity of the city of Berlin’ (Bronner and Kellner 1982: 97), and even though Nazi repression initially energized coffee house culture, it ultimately decimated the movement that was launched from the German coffee houses (Bronner and Kellner 1982: 108). In Italy, the Fascist regime, in attempts to repress coffee house culture, banned the installation of new espresso machines in coffeehouses and restricted imports of coffee (Morris 2008). Instead, the Italian state subsidised private firms who were competing to create the first espresso machine for home use (Morris 2008), which promised to lure men away from the coffee houses and back into the supposedly tranquil arena of the home (Schnapp 2001: 264). Bialetti claimed in its advertisements ‘in casa un espresso come al bar’, which promised that ‘the home would become a café, instead of the café becoming a home away from home’ (Schnapp 2001: 264).

Anti-Colonial Labour Movements


Spaces like the coffee house become important for social movement organisation during periods of totalitarian rule. ‘Semipublic spaces’, like coffee houses, salons, and analogous spaces, ‘allow for people to come together in places that are insulated from state surveillance and control’ (Kohn 2003: 16). These political spaces are sites of ‘dislocation, rupture, contradiction, and contingency’ in the context of the ‘contradictions and contrasts’ of urban space (Kohn 2003: 22). For Italian Socialist Antonio Vergananini, for example, a workers’ cooperative café was the ideal space for social movement organisation. Margaret Kohn writes, Vergnanini saw the cooperative primarily as a sociopolitical space rather than an economic tactic. The cooperative provided a location that served as an informal social center, a nodal point of communication, and a link between different associations. It condensed dispersed individuals’ inchoate needs and transformed them into a political force. (Kohn 2003: 71)

The space of the cooperative café facilitated the types of collective behaviour that are key to social movement organisation under totalitarian rule.

Anarcho-syndicalist Solutions Typically, when we think of resistance against democratic reversal, we think about social movements or revolutions. Social scientists tend to focus on how to bring about regime change when analysing possibilities for resistance against democratic reversal (Acemoglu and Robinson 2006: 31; Huntington 1991: 141; Przeworski, Alvarez, Cheibub and Limongi 2000: 106; Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens 1992: 204; Tilly 2007: 59). But my focus is not on how democracy was restored, but how people could oppose totalitarianism through institutions with ‘capacities for self-defence and struggle’ (Shantz and Williams 2013: 49) despite the significant high barriers to action. By focusing on ‘everyday anarchy’ (Shantz and Williams 2013: 49) rather than revolution or the seizure of state power, it shows how on a small scale, anti-authoritarians can create urban spaces that are a physical place where people gather to challenge dominant cultural and social norms and envision utopian futures. These spaces are critically important during times of democratic occlusion as they provide a face-to-face meeting place for those who are committed to preserving radical democratic culture during times when it is under threat. The totalitarian moment of the 1970s erased much of the initial optimism about possibilities for ‘development’ in the Global South whether measured


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as equality or growth. The totalitarian experience illustrated to the Global South that the realities of ‘development’ were quite different from its promises. In the totalitarian moment, the veil of development is lifted to reveal that these social conditions are not the exceptions to capitalist modernity, but, in fact, the very essence of capitalist modernity as seen from the Global South. In light of this proliferation of authoritarian rule across the Global South in the 1970s, which admittedly Fanon did not live to see, we need to update his crucial question of ‘dans certains pays sous-développés les masses vont très vite et comprennent, deux ou trois ans après l’indépendance, qu’elles ont été frustrées, que « ça ne valait pas la peine » de se battre si ça ne devait pas vraiment changer?’ (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 73). Instead, the ‘problem’ of national independence can be framed as: what was the point of the anticolonial labour movement if after independence not only did the colonial class structure remain in place but the very movements that brought about independence from colonial rule so often become authoritarian—and in some cases, such as India during the Emergency, totalitarian—abridging and revoking the rights and civil liberties of those who successfully fought colonial rule? The historical trajectory of the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place in New Delhi provides an answer to this question. India’s anti-colonial labour movement occupied the British colonial firm Coffee House, renamed it Indian Coffee House, and transformed it into a worker-owned and self-managed firm that was an economic intervention against capitalism and colonialism. By the Emergency, the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place not only was an economic intervention into capitalism and colonialism but also emerged as an ideological and material resource for movements that resisted Indira Gandhi’s totalitarian rule over Delhi and its environs. In other words, the Indian Coffee House’s key role in fostering resistance during the Emergency shows that the anti-colonial labour movement created possibilities for anti-authoritarians to resist the Emergency. The Indian Coffee House was able to serve this function because of its organisational form and sociocultural meaning. It is a worker-occupied and self-managed workplace and an autonomous zone. These two types of anarcho-syndicalist strategies have long histories of being employed to resist authoritarian and totalitarian rule. In the following section, I detail how anarcho-syndicalist strategies can provide solutions to organising against totalitarian rule.

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Worker-Occupied and Self-Managed Workplaces Worker-occupied and self-managed workplaces are a central intervention into capitalist political economy. Through the act of occupying, workers reclaim space and time, creating a new space of political and ontological freedom. This type of workplace is not just a spatial intervention in the capitalist world-system, but also a disruption in workplace organisation that transfers the ownership of the means of production from capital to labour. Workeroccupied and self-managed workplaces reorganise production horizontally, eliminating the wage relation, and thereby furnishing labour with greater remuneration. Rather than refusing to labour, as is the case with a strike, worker-self management withholds labour and thereby surplus value from capital while workers continue to labour reaping the total value of their efforts. As workers increasingly forfeit control of the labour process (Braverman 1998 [1974]: 86–94), worker self-management promises pushback, in that workers can determine the pace, design, quality, quantity and organisation of their work (Bayat 1991: 3). This holds, even more so, for the peripheries and semi-peripheries of the capitalist world-system. While the combination of the demands of the working class in the core, ‘for relatively few people, but quite a lot per person’, and the demands of the peripheral working class, ‘relatively little per person but for a lot of people’, is more than the capitalist world-economy can provide (Wallerstein 1995: 25), worker self-management has the potential to provide for the demands of peripheral working classes by removing capital and the managerial classes from the production process in places where surplus value is already scarce. In the past century, there have been three waves of worker self-managed firms in the peripheries of the capitalist system. Each of these waves have occurred during periods of systemic chaos marked by economic downturn, war and anti-systemic movements. The first wave can be dated 1917–36 with the cases of Ukraine and Siberia (Archibald 2007; Arshinov 2005; Avrich 1967, 1973; Azarov 2008; Makhno 2007 [1929], 2009 [1936]; Schmidt and van der Walt 2009; Shubin 2013; Skirda 2004; Smith 1983), Italy (Di Lembo 2001; DiPaola 2011; Gramsci 1919; Malatesta 1965; Spriano 1964), and Spain (Ackelsberg 1991; Bookchin 1998; Christie 2008; Dolgoff 1974; Durgan 2011; Paz 2011; Peirats 1998, 2011). The second wave occurred during the mid-twentieth century in the context of decolonisation (Hirsch and van der Walt 2004: lxxvi; Plys 2016). The third wave dates from 2001 to the present and includes cases in Argentina (Atzeni and Ghigliani 2004; Forment 2013;


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Gracia 2011; Pab. Heller 2004; Lavaca 2004; Ranis 2013; Quijoux 2012; Rebón and Saavedra 2006; Sitrin 2006; Vieta 2010; Vieta and Ruggeri 2009; Wyczykier 2009), Uruguay (Burdín and Dean 2009), Paraguay (Guerra 2002), Brazil (Sardá de Faria and Novaes 2011), Venezuela (Azzellini 2011) and Egypt (Benin 2012; de Smet 2012). The concept of workers’ control and self-management of the means of production can be traced to early utopian Socialism in England (for example, the writings of Robert Owen) and France (for example, Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Pierre Joseph Proudhon) (Bayat 1991: 14). But it was anarchosyndicalists who developed the concept that workers’ seizure of the means of production would protect labour from the coercive power of the capitalist state. By the time of the First International (1864–76), anarcho-syndicalists had generally arrived at consensus that there is not a dialectical relationship between the class struggle and a revolutionary political party, but, instead, the everyday class struggle should be prioritised over long-term strategies, and praxis should be prioritised over theory (Bayat 1991: 15). Marx agreed with the Bakuninist anarchists of the First International that ‘self-management was justified on a number of grounds. First, he saw in it the organisational expression of that condition in which human beings experience self-determination (by shaping consciously their own circumstances) and self-actualisation (by free and conscious shaping of their own development)’ (Bayat 1991: 15). But Marx differed from Bakunin in thinking that the future Socialist society would unify the domains of the state and the economic sphere, and so, self-management, for Marx, would be self-governance on the level of the polity not at the point of production. It was not until the Russian Revolution that worker self-management went from theory to praxis. In the Russian Revolution, we find the first instance of worker’s occupation of firms and self-management as part of a broader social unrest (Avrich 1967, 1973; Smith 1983). While there were many occupied and self-managed workplaces across eastern Europe, most worker selfmanaged workplaces were found in Ukraine and Siberia. The Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (sometimes referred to as ‘The Black Army’), led by guerrilla fighter and social theorist Nestor Mahkno, recruited workers and peasants to resist both the Red Armies and the White Armies, all the while initiating and defending worker self-management throughout Ukraine and Siberia (Arshinov 2005; Azarov 2008; Makhno 2007 [1929], 2009 [1936]; Skirda 2004). Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin moved to Italy in the 1860s and was an integral part of the development of anarchism in Italy. Italian anarchists

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had a significant presence at the First International. The contingent of Italian anarchists, including Errico Malatesta and Carlo Caifero, in attendance at the First International helped to found the International Workingmen’s Association. Bakunin, Malatesta and Caifero then attempted anarchist insurrections in Florence in 1869 and in Bologna in 1874. Italian anarchism flourished throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century. In 1912, the Unione Sindacale Italiana was founded in Modena as an attempt to institutionalise the Italian legacy of the First International. In 1919, the Biennio Rosso (1919–20) became the second historical case of worker occupation and self-management of workplaces as part of broader social unrest (Di Lembo 2001; Spriano 1964). The Biennio Rosso was a period of revolutionary turmoil in Italy from 1919 to 1921 during which worker selfmanagement was widespread. Worker self-management was a strategy that was generally advocated by Anarchists during the Biennio Rosso, but there were active debates, mainly in Antonio Gramsci’s journal L’Ordine Nuovo, and the anarchist newspaper Umanita Nova, on how to create enduring worker self-management. Errico Malatesta principally articulated the anarchist perspective, arguing that if workers occupied their workplaces and ran them as cooperatives, capitalism would crumble, while Antonio Gramsci put forth the Marxist strategy that only if workers assumed control of the state could they effectively institute worker self-management. This debate between Gramsci and Malatesta stems from the legacy of the First International. Italian migration to the Americas around the time of the Biennio Rosso, particularly Argentina, but also the northeastern US, diffused anarcho-syndicalist ideas to the Americas. During the Spanish Revolution (1936–9) Buenaventura Durruti, active in the FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica) and CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo), advocated worker self-management (Amorós 2014; Paz 2007). Many members of the Unione Sindacale Italiana, which was outlawed once Benito Mussolini assumed power in Italy, moved to Spain to resume their anarcho-syndicalist activities in exile and to help the FAI and the CNT in their struggle against Francisco Franco (Bookchin 1998; Christie 2008; Di Lembo 2001; Paz 2011; Peirats 1998, 2011). Worker self-management was an integral part of the anarchist strategy during the Spanish Revolution (Dolgoff 1974; Leval 2018). Las Mujeres Libres, an anarcha-feminist organisation whose members had some overlap with the FAI and the CNT, also were proponents of worker self-management in Spain during the revolution (Ackelsberg 1991). Spain continues to be a place where worker self-managed


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workplaces proliferate, including one of the best-known examples of a worker self-managed firm, Mondragón Corporation. During the World Revolution of 1968 (Wallerstein and Zukin 1989: 431), workers across the world enacted worker self-management as resistance to imperialism and capitalism. In the core, workers occupied and self-managed their workplaces. One well-known example is Paris during May of 1968, where one slogan was, ‘On ne revendiquera rien, on ne demandera rien. On prendra, on occupera’ (We won’t ask for anything, we won’t demand anything. We’ll just take and occupy) (Viénet 1992 [1968]: 54). And while in England, France, Sweden, West Germany, Portugal, Canada and the US worker-occupied and self-managed workplace movements proliferated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was not a phenomenon limited to Europe and North America. In Bolivia, Iran, Chile, China, Peru, Malta, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Egypt, Algeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Cuba, Jamaica, Nicaragua and India as well, workers occupied and self-managed their workplaces in the name of class struggle and national liberation (Bayat 1991; Clegg 1971; Hirsch and van der Walt 2004; Mbah and Igariwey 1997; Plys 2016; Porter 2011). Worker self-management in the context of anti-colonial national liberation movements was seen as a way of economic de-linking from both capitalism and empire. The worker who, in the context of decolonisation, occupies and then self-manages the workplace operates from what Gayatri Spivak calls ‘the inside’. He or she borrows ‘ … the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, … transforming conditions of impossibility to possibility’ (Spivak 1985: 8–9). The old structures are a given, but deconstructed and transformed through the process of occupying and transforming relations of production. They become a site of Amílcar Cabral’s strategy of resistance, which enjoins the destruction of the structures that hinder the revolutionary struggle and the construction of new structures that provide for the liberation of all people (Cabral 1969: 4–7). Economic democracy, including workers’ control, was a key component of national liberation theories; as George Padmore declared at the 5th Pan-African Congress, economic democracy would be accepted by national liberation movements as the only true democracy (Padmore 1971: 148). Autonomous Zones While worker-occupied and self-managed firms have been a key intervention from the Russian to the Egyptian Revolutions, anti-Fascists across the globe

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have also employed the tactic of the autonomous zone as a way to combat totalitarian rule. During coups, state-declared emergencies that abridge democratic rights, authoritarian moments and other forms of democratic occlusion, traditional means of social protest are less viable in resisting the state. State surveillance of dissenters increases, as does state repression; therefore, fewer would-be protestors are willing to visibly participate in movements against the state. Media censorship reduces the efficacy of non-violent forms of social protest that rely on public opinion in order to make change, and lack of due process and/or secret police makes the consequences of social protest far more severe. In providing a space where those opposed to the state can gather without having to coordinate through surveilable forms of communication such as mail, phone, email, text, and so on, the autonomous zone provides a space free from state surveillance in which to organise resistance. But the physical location of the autonomous zone, while providing advantages, also makes resistance more visible, and thereby invites state repression (or at least in providing a centralised space for resistance, makes it easier for the state to suppress that movement). Anti-Fascist autonomous zones have been important sites of resistance against the state during moments of various types of democratic occlusion. In all of the classic European examples of Fascism and totalitarianism— Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Francoist Spain, and Salazar’s Portugal—antiFascist autonomous zones were important sites of anarchist resistance to the authoritarian state. In Nazi Germany, various anarchist groups formed anti-Fascist autonomous zones to facilitate resistance against the Fascist state—the Edelweiss Pirates, for example, occupied public parks in Cologne, Dusseldorf, Oberhausen and Essen (Anarchist Federation 2005: 12) in order to create spaces in which teenagers could engage in sex, drinking and listening to music that was restricted by the Nazi regime (Testa 2015: 81). The Edelweiss Pirates also used these spaces to plot and subsequently launch attacks on the Hitler Youth (Testa 2015: 82). The anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the Freie Arbeiter Union (FAUD), used their offices to print material against Fascism and to organise solidarity meetings to aid Spanish anarchists in the fight against Franco (Anarchist Federation 2005: 17–18). In Italy, in 1920, the Arditi del Popolo emerged as a significant anarchist movement against Mussolini (Rossi 2011, 2013; Staid 2015: 27; Testa 2015: 22) though it also included support from Socialist and Communist groups (Arditi del Popolo 2004: 55, 58). It set up free spaces (pubs, anarchist union offices, anarchist newspaper offices including the Umanita Nova, and most famously


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the Casa del Popolo in Milan [Rivista 1973: 44]) across the country, which were significant resources in confrontations between anarchists and the state in Sarzana, Imola, Pisa, Parma, Carrara, Milan and other cities (Rivista 1973: 2–3; Staid 2015: 29) though its stronghold was in Lazio and Tuscany (Arditi del Popolo 2004: 56). Arditi del Popolo’s tactics were twofold: to create a militia that would oppose Mussolini’s blackshirts and to launch a cultural campaign to resist Fascism through music, visual art and literature (Staid 2015: 47–59). In Portugal, anarchists created secret underground unions, guerrilla groups, and other organisations to fight Salazar’s dictatorship (Raby 1988: 65–6, 45, 71, 260). However historians contend that during the Spanish Civil War, the anarchist struggle against Fascism was the best organised of any anarchist movement in European history (Porter 2012). What made this struggle so effective, according to Chris Ealham (2005), was the use of anti-Fascist autonomous zones, especially in the CNT stronghold of Barcelona. Affinity groups met in theatres, bookshops, cafés and bars across the city to discuss current events, anarchist theory and strategies of resistance (Ealham 2005: 31; Guillamón 2014: 28–31). It is worth noting that across Fascist Europe, and the Mediterranean in particular, these autonomous struggles against Fascism were linked. For example, after the Italian anti-Fascist struggle was suppressed, many Italian anti-Fascists went to Spain to join those fighting against Franco (Rosselli 2004: 221). Said Italian Jewish anti-Fascist Carlo Rosselli, ‘Struggle for the freedom of other peoples, show to the world that Italians are worthy of living freely…. Italians, help the Spanish revolution. Prevent fascism’ (Rosselli 2004: 224–6). The European case that most closely mirrors the Indian case, however, is the anarchist student movement against the Greek dictatorship. In 1973, students occupied Athens Polytechnic and transformed the university into an autonomous centre of social and political mass protest, which then led to the end of the military dictatorship (Kritidis 2014: 67). Urban spaces, particularly cafés, were important meeting points for student activists in resisting the state (Kornetis 2016: 114). Student political groups used these spaces to recruit incoming students and used traditional Greek dress—including headscarves, handwoven bags and knitted skullcaps—as cultural markers of the anti-state movement (Kornetis 2016: 117). While at first a cultural/symbolic movement aimed at certain manner of dress, circulating underground materials and singing banned songs in tavernas (Kornetis 2016: 202–3), it soon grew violent. Students were banned from meeting in the university, and the Security Police arrested and tortured students who were believed to be movement

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leaders (Kornetis 2016: 226, 241). By November 1973, the movement had escalated from a cultural/symbolic one to students occupying Athens Polytechnic and defending the occupation through the use of violence. In the resulting confrontation with police, both students and the state used violence against each other—students throwing Molotov cocktails (Kornetis 2016: 272) and the state sending in tanks to bulldoze the university and crushing students who stood in the way (Kornetis 2016: 277–80). In each of these European cases, there is a common pattern of autonomous zones as important resources against a totalitarian state. These autonomous zones, while effective in launching resistance against the state, also make the anti-authoritarian movement more visible, provoking state violence and thereby escalating the movement from one consisting mostly of symbolic protest to one that violently confronts the state. Some contemporary examples of autonomous zones include anarchist squats like the Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus in Berlin that puts on events and public discussions, or anarchist bookstores, such as the Wooden Shoe in Philadelphia or Bluestockings in New York City, that provide not only books and literature on revolution, resistance, and so on, but also lectures, film screenings and other events during which people can gather, discuss and organise. Yet another example includes ideologically oriented cafés and bars, for example, Red Emma’s Coffeehouse in Baltimore, May Day Café in New Delhi, and Café Morgenrot in Berlin, which are not only an economic intervention against capitalism, as worker-owned and self-managed workplaces, but also spaces in which people can gather, discuss, organise and engage in other activities. Infoshops, such as A-Space in Philadelphia, are also autonomous zones that are not only community centres but also a place where meetings of local chapters of different political groups meet—including Books Through Bars, Philadelphia Anti-War Forum, and Food Not Bombs, in the case of A-Space. While most of the above examples are anarchist, an autonomous zone does not have to be ‘anarchist’. For example, the pizzeria Margaret Kohn uses as her in-depth case study in Radical Space (2003), San Martino alla Palma in Florence, is also the headquarters of the Italian Communist Recreational Association and host to a variety of lectures and other events (Kohn 2003: 1). All the spaces listed above as current examples of autonomous zones do three things, namely (a) they bring together people who share a similar political viewpoint; (b) they encourage thought and discussion on political issues of contemporary relevance; and (c) instead of stopping at dialogue and discussion, the autonomous zone encourages those engaged in the space to do something


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about the issue. The autonomous zone is not content to remain a space of theory. It encourages praxis. It is a revolution at the level of everyday practices and lived experiences for which Henri Lefebvre and the Situationists called in May 1968 (Lefebvre 2008: 10). During India’s Emergency, the Indian Coffee House became, in my view, an autonomous zone. These zones appear, in the words of Saul Newman (2011), ‘whether through the permanent or temporary occupation of physical spaces … or through the experimentation with practices such as decentralized decision-making, direct action or even alternative forms of economic exchange which are not striated, conditioned or “captured” by statist and capitalist modes of organization’ (Newman 2011: 345). An autonomous zone is a modern space—separate from church/temple/mosque, the family, as well as state and capital—in which resistance is not only possible but actively nurtured. Autonomous zones are key resources in social protest for several reasons: they educate and initiate people; they provide a physical space in which likeminded individuals can meet, deliberate and plan action; they nurture existing struggles as a focus of community support; and they are important symbols of and for those struggles. They are therefore also vulnerable. The importance of space for contentious politics has been gaining traction in the historical social sciences since the 1990s (Goyens 2009: 440). Charles Tilly (2000) emphasises links between space and contentious politics, arguing that the struggle for the control of public space can validate activists’ claims to political power and allows for otherwise forbidden forms of political expression (Tilly 2000: 137). Doreen Massey (1992) contends that space is critical for the production of history and, thereby, greatly influences what is politically possible. Massey writes, ‘The spatial is integral to the production of history, and thus to the possibility of politics’ (Massey 1992: 84). Or, as Tom Goyens proposes, ‘Anarchists are better understood when we examine their spatial practices’ (Goyens 2009: 441). And, in fact, the concept of spatial resources in direct action has been taken up by several different philosophical traditions. These different philosophical traditions have seized on the role of space in contentious politics and have articulated linkages among space and politics in different ways. In the mainline sociology of social movements literature, ‘free spaces’ are ‘schools for democracy … involving a mix of people and perspectives beyond ones immediate personal ties, and also entails norms of egalitarian exchange, debate, dissent, and openness’ (Evans and Boyte: 1986: ix). The free space, thereby, ‘is the key to a political education that allows people to

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simultaneously draw upon and transform in democratic fashion their inherited identities’ (Evans and Boyte: 1986: ix). The free space is a physical space in which people from different perspectives and groups come together in order to learn more about politics, and to debate and express dissent about current political events. The literature on free spaces emphasises its importance for social movements. On a very basic level, free spaces disseminate information. They serve as a reading room, library, distribution point for pamphlets and a space to discuss, ask questions and share knowledge (Couto 1993: 70; Hodkinson and Chatterton 2006: 310; Rao and Dutta 2012: 631; Springer 2013: 53). Through these functions, Chris Atton contends, the free space functions as a counter public sphere in which revolutionary discourse is nurtured (Atton 2003: 57; Polletta 1999: 2–3). The free space, according to Eric Hirsch, thereby poses ‘ideological and tactical challenges’ (Hirsch 1990: 211) to hegemonic ideas. During times of social struggle, free spaces can ‘transform traditional cultural meanings and construct emergent cultural forms’ because they are ‘liberated zones to which people can retreat, spacial preserves where oppositional culture and group solidarity can be nourished, tested, and protected’ (Fantasia and Hirsch 1995: 146; see also Glass 2010: 199; Polletta and Kretschmer 2013: 3). The free space not only helps a social movement to be successful in its political goals, claim Rick Fantasia and Eric Hirsch, but also helps the movement to initiate a process of cultural transformation (1995: 159). The Foucaudian tradition also examines similar spaces, which are termed ‘heterotopias’, but places emphasis on their role in subverting dominant culture. Michel Foucault defines heterotopias as real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society—which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which there are real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. (Foucault 1984: 3–4)

While this sort of space may be a resource for social movements, the emphasis is on its role in subverting cultural norms and developing new discursive practices. The concept of the ‘autonomous zone’ derives from anarchist theory. For Hakim Bey, an autonomous zone (or TAZ as he terms it) is ‘a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then


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dissolves itself before the state can crush it’ (Bey 1985: 95). In other words, an autonomous zone creates an area which is separate from state and capital in which revolution and resistance are not only possible, but encouraged. Or, as Saul Newman writes, Rather than seeking to take over state power, or to participate in state institutions at the level of parliamentary politics, many contemporary actors and movements endeavour to create autonomous spaces, social practices and relations, whether through the permanent or temporary occupation of physical spaces— squats, community centres and cooperatives, workplace occupations, mass demonstrations and convergences — or through the experimentation with practices such decentralised decision-making, direct action or even alternative forms of economic exchange which are not striated, conditioned or ‘captured’ by statist and capitalist modes of organisation. (Newman 2011: 345)

In other words, an autonomous zone is a physical place where people gather to challenge dominant cultural and social norms and envision utopian futures. The radical politics of the autonomous zone are not just a disruption of the existing order of space. Instead, an autonomous zone can ‘invent its own alternative spatial imaginaries’ (Newman 2011: 345; see also Ince 2012: 1653). The autonomous zone, in other words, is not just a social movement resource, nor is it simply a space in which to develop subversive discursive practices, but a space outside of state and capital in which artists and intellectuals can envision (and, on a small scale, enact) alternate social practices and relations. The autonomous zone, I contend, is preferable to the free space or heterotopias concepts. Because the concept of an autonomous zone is rooted in anarchist praxis, it is best suited to theorise how spaces that are outside of state and capital can develop counter-narratives to mainline politics and create animating concepts for resisting authoritarianism.The focus of the autonomous zone is ‘not on attacking the ruling powers but rather on transforming the city itself ’ (Hardt and Negri 2004: 81). The autonomous zone ‘creat[es] new hearts and minds through the construction of new circuits of communication, new forms of social collaboration, and new modes of interaction’ (Hardt and Negri 2004: 81). In so doing, the autonomous zone is ‘where new cultures and new forms of life were created’ (Hardt and Negri 2004: 82). A focus on the autonomous zone, over free space or heterotopias, shifts our focus away from a social movement’s goals, demands and trajectory, and instead to the social production of urban space. The autonomous zone shifts focus away from whether or not a movement or group is able to effectively make concrete

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political demands on the state, and instead on a group’s ability to critique dominant cultural norms and envision (and, on a small scale, enact) alternate ways of organising society. Though reliant on autonomous left thought, the concept of the autonomous zone abandons the autonomist Marxist emphasis on class struggle and the insurrectionary proletariat (Armitage 1999: 115, 121–2). Instead, the autonomous zone is inhabited by artists and intellectuals whose main objective is to subvert the signs of capital and the state through deliberation and reclamation. Therefore, the autonomous zone’s intervention is a semiotic struggle, not a class struggle. Furthermore, because the autonomous zone is the domain of artists and intellectuals, this semiotic struggle does not translate to a mass movement. The autonomous zone, therefore, might better be viewed as an intellectual vanguard, and that too, one that fails to eliminate all hierarchy. The typical autonomous zone does not attract the most oppressed groups in society, even though those groups may have the most to gain from anti-authoritarian politics (Bey 1985: 61). For example, in the oral histories I conducted, it was rare when narrators spoke of women participating in the movements that were animated by the Indian Coffee House, nor was there much mention of religious and ethnic minorities (except for Jamaat-e-Islami and Akali Dal’s roles in the anti-Emergency movement), or participants of low or no caste. For these reasons, John Armitage (1999) has called autonomous zones and their attendant politics a ‘radical aristocratism’ (Armitage 1999: 119), which, while sharp as far as critique goes, contains a kernel of truth. Autonomous zones are bastions of a cultural elite, albeit an elite engaged in radical left politics. While certainly autonomous zones are not places where radical workers’ insurrections occur, nor are they spaces that are representative of the most oppressed groups in society, they do nevertheless play an important role in times of democratic occlusion as a space where artists and intellectuals gather to resist authoritarianism. While individual autonomous zones should selfexamine and make an effort to be more inclusive, just because the autonomous zone is one that is inhabited by a cultural elite rather than subaltern groups does not make it less worthy as an object of study and analysis. Examining such spaces can provide valuable insights into the role of the artist and intellectual in the context of democratic occlusion. Without well-developed theories to animate the left, it is unlikely that direct action will achieve desired results. The autonomous zone, as a space of debate, deliberation and cultural meaning making, facilitates this important work of creating philosophy for a critical left and translating that theory to praxis.


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The reason why the Indian Coffee House offered anti-authoritarians an advantageous space of resistance against the Emergency, I contend, is because it was an autonomous zone. Autonomous zones have been particularly consequential in resisting the state during various types of moments of democratic occlusion. Hakim Bey, however, reminds us that an autonomous zone is not ‘an exclusive end in itself, replacing all other forms of organisation, tactics, and goals. We recommend it because it can provide the quality of enhancement associated with the uprising without necessarily leading to violence and martyrdom’ (Bey 1985: 95). While the autonomous zone is not a replacement for other forms of contentious politics, nor for a praxis rooted in class struggle, the autonomous zone can be an important resource to movements resisting authoritarianism.

Conclusion Movements across the Global South fought for political independence from colonial rule, but the anti-colonial working class movement had the more radical aim of reorganising the class structure in a more just and equal way. In the initial years of flag independence, the imperative for economic development sufficed to quell further calls for radical social justice, but as movements to realise the full aims of national liberation intensified, some states suspended democracy in order to maintain colonial hierarchies. In this authoritarian moment, contentious politics were suppressed leaving dissenters with a limited menu of tactics by which to oppose the postcolonial authoritarian state. Autonomous zones—both worker-occupied and selfmanaged workplaces, along with anti-Fascist autonomous zones—can, and historically have, provided crucial resources to movements against the authoritarian state. Carl Schmitt’s analysis of postcolonial sovereignty reveals that the sovereignty of an independent former colony derives from the very fact that it was once colonised. Colonial/postcolonial territories were not modern European-style states until they were colonised (Schmitt 2006: 223). After colonisation, the imperial rulers might be evicted, but European-style state sovereignty remains. The transformation of the state after independence, or, to be more precise, the lack thereof, was the central question for Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth (1963). What was the point of independence, he asked, if independent states continued to uphold colonial social hierarchies? (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 35). I contend, however, that given the longer trajectory

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of postcolonial political development that Fanon, tragically, did not live long enough to observe, the question he asked should be modified to reflect how in many instances the postcolonial state took an authoritarian turn by the 1970s. So instead of Fanon’s original question, I ask: what was the point of the anti-colonial labour movement if after independence not only did the colonial class structure remain in place but the very movements that brought about independence from colonial rule so often become authoritarian—and in some cases, such as India during the Emergency, totalitarian—abridging and revoking the rights and civil liberties of those who successfully fought colonial rule? And how does the anti-colonial labour movement structure possibilities for resisting the authoritarian postcolonial state and eventually realising the more radical goals of national liberation given severe repression of dissenting views? During the colonial period, I posit, labour and left movements push for not just national independence but also a reconfiguring of social relations to redress hierarchies introduced and/or reinforced by colonialism. The radical aims of national liberation are typified by anti-colonial labour movements that push back against both colonialism and the capitalist relations of production that colonialism introduces and intensifies. After independence, the class structure largely remains the same, and the same radical left and labouroriented anti-colonial movements continue, therefore, to push for the radical aims of national liberation. States attempt to quell this social unrest through the ideology of ‘economic development’. In other words, the new ruling class makes claims that for the good of the nation, the radical aims of national liberation are secondary to the newly independent state’s economic success in the inter-state system. While the anti-colonial working class initially accepts economic development as a worthy objective, over time, as the anticolonial working class becomes increasingly militant in their struggle to fully decolonise, it offers alternative ideologies of development that would realise the anti-colonial working class’ radical social objectives. Therefore, one key form in which the post-independence class struggle is articulated is through competing ideologies of economic development. However, in situations where postcolonial movements to fully decolonise become more militant and oppositional, postcolonial states abandon the project of liberal economic development and instead resort to authoritarian rule in order to protect the status quo. In this moment of state repression, the repertoire of contentious politics is limited, but certain autonomous spaces preserve the spirit of national liberation which then animates movements against the postcolonial


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authoritarian state. In the chapters that follow, I will show how the narrative of India’s Emergency illustrates this general theory of postcolonial repression and how autonomous zones can offer crucial resources during moments of repression.

Notes 1. I defer to Wallerstein’s translations of Fanon in his essay ‘Fanon and the Revolutionary Class’ because, as he claims, ‘the English translation [of Wretched of the Earth] is frequently careless and misleading, particularly when dealing with the nuances of … controversial concepts’ (Wallerstein 1979: 267), especially those pertaining to class and class struggle. 2. It is important to note here that hegemony includes the ideological, but it cannot be reduced to that level, and that it refers to the dialectical relation of class forces. Ideological dominance and subordination are not understood in isolation, but always as one, though crucially important, aspect of the relations of the classes and class fractions at all levels—economic and political, as well as ideological/cultural (Hall, Lumley and McLennan 1977: 48–9).

3 Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development

If the city of Delhi is globally interesting, it is not because it is an example of a city on its way to maturity. It is interesting because it is already mature, and its maturity looks nothing like what we were led to expect, in times past, that mature global cities looked like. This city, with its broken public space, with its densely packed poor living close to some of the most sweeping, most sparsely populated areas of any big city anywhere in the world, with its aspiring classes desperately trying to lift themselves out of the pathetic condition of the city into a more dependable and self-sufficient world of private electricity supplies and private security—this is not some backward stage of world history. It is the world’s future. —Rana Dasgupta, Capital (2014)

In the decades after independence, the new ruling class makes claims that for the good of the nation, the radical aims of national liberation are secondary to the newly independent state’s economic success in the world arena (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 138–9). To put it another way, one register at which the postcolonial class struggle is articulated is through competing ideologies of economic development (Althusser 1971: 147). Once elected, Indira Gandhi pursued a new ideology of economic development compared to previous prime ministers. Her strategies for economic development, as I will show, created adverse social outcomes that disproportionately disadvantaged India’s urban poor, peasants, Dalits, Muslims and students. The social dislocations that resulted from her economic policies revitalised, for the first time since India’s independence, social movement activity aimed at fully decolonising Indian society by enacting the radical social change promised by national independence—particularly, equality and improvement in living conditions for Dalits, peasants, students and workers—but as of the early 1970s not yet delivered.


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Gandhi’s official narrative of the causes of the Emergency is that ‘a climate of violence and hatred’ (Gandhi 1984: 178) ‘had come in the way of economic development’ in India (Gandhi 1984: 179). And, therefore, as she declared in 1975, ‘a time for unity and discipline’ (Gandhi 1984: 179) was necessary in order to quell ‘false allegations’ (Gandhi 1984: 177), along with ‘bandhs, gheraos, agitations, disruption and incitement’ which aimed ‘to wholly paralyse the government’ (Gandhi 1984: 178). While Gandhi acknowledged that the Bihar Movement was a response to ‘economic difficulties’, including ‘inflation, increased unemployment and scarcity of essential commodities’ (Gandhi 1984: 198), in her view, this protest ‘is not compatible with democracy, is anti-national by any test and could not be allowed’ (Gandhi quoted in Zaidi 1975: 12). Gandhi argued that the Bihar Movement only made economic conditions worse and, therefore, crushing the movement warranted revoking democracy. Decades later, historians debating the causes of the Emergency have largely fallen into two camps. P. N. Dhar, who was the head of Indira Gandhi’s secretariat during the Emergency and then went on to work as a political historian, claims, in Indira Gandhi: The Emergency and Indian Democracy (2000), that the Bihar Movement was primarily to blame for the imposition of Emergency as it was a great threat to law and order. Dhar’s narrative is consistent with the narrative told by Indira Gandhi herself, who claimed, ‘The emergency is not proposed for the convenience of individuals or groups. The Emergency is the direct consequence of various factors and the opposition fronts announced designs to paralyse the government and the open and hidden preparations they were making’ (Gandhi 1984: 182). However, the motives behind Dhar’s account and analysis are questionable, as it is certainly in his interest to show his former boss in a positive light, to minimise allegations of Gandhi’s corruption, and to defend his own role in perpetrating authoritarian rule during the Emergency. Bipan Chandra’s analysis of the causes of Emergency are markedly similar to those of Dhar, even though Chandra is a Marxist historian critical of the Emergency. In In The Name of Democracy: JP Movement and the Emergency (2003), Chandra, critical of the Bihar Movement leader Jayprakash Narayan’s ( JP) collaboration with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which he claims empowered the right after the Emergency, argues that the Bihar Movement went too far in its use of violent tactics, thereby precipitating the Emergency. If only it would have used the tactics of Gandhian non-violence, Chandra contends, then Indira Gandhi would not have had to impose totalitarian rule. While P. N. Dhar, a key figure in the Gandhi administration, and Marxist historian Bipan Chandra similarly argue that the Emergency was a necessary

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response to the real threat posed by the Bihar Movement, Ramachandra Guha, in ‘The Dictator’s Defence: Indira Gandhi and the Indian Emergency’ (2000), alternatively contends, ‘So far as this historian can judge, either before or during the Emergency there was no serious threat to the unity and integrity of India.’ Quoting British journalist Bernard Levin, Guha writes, ‘“Mrs Gandhi’s shabby little regime” definitely qualified for that definitive epithet, “totalitarian.”’ Indira Gandhi may have ‘claimed to have acted in order to save the country from itself ’ (Guha 2007: 492) but was far more concerned about the Allahabad Ruling, which threatened to remove her from power, than she was by the social protest in north India during the early 1970s. This historical debate on the causes of the Emergency remains open. Why did Indira Gandhi declare Emergency? Was the Bihar Movement ultimately to blame for the imposition of Emergency as a very real threat to law and order in India as P. N. Dhar and Bipan Chandra contend? Or was Indira Gandhi a ‘totalitarian’ (Guha 2000) who blew the Bihar Movement’s relative threat out of proportion, as Ramachandra Guha suggests? In my view, the answer to this question, perhaps counter-intuitively, hinges on Gandhi’s policies of economic development. Economic development was the official rationale for Indira Gandhi’s imposition of Emergency (Gandhi 1984: 179, 189), and criticism of India’s economic development policies under Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership first animated the Bihar Movement. The students who led the Bihar Movement and solicited JP’s help in agitating against the Bihar state government were concerned with the human consequences of rapid inflation as a result of Gandhi’s policies (B. Chandra 2003: 39; Shah 1977a: 611, 1977c: 85; Tiwari 1987: 179). Because Indira Gandhi’s main justification for the Emergency was that she could better implement her economic development policies, but the Bihar Movement that allegedly prevented her from executing her development goals was a reaction to the human consequences of these very policies—it begs the question of what, in fact, was the relationship between economic development and social protest in 1970s India? Did social protest hinder economic development goals or did unequal development engender social protest? While some might discount this an esoteric historical question, it has important theoretical consequences. In fact, it is inextricable from the Fanonian question of ‘what was the point if not much has changed?’ Both JP and Indira Gandhi wanted to make real, fundamental changes to India’s political economy. Both JP and Indira Gandhi argued that through their political actions in the 1970s, they were furthering the national development goals that were the very objectives of national liberation. This debate over


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how to translate the objectives of national liberation into development policy became what Althusser would term an ideological class struggle. The stakes of this debate hinged on whether development policies in independent India would primarily benefit the national capitalist class or whether development would promote equality for India’s workers, students, Dalits, Muslims and other historically disadvantaged groups. The consequence of this contention over economic development and the legacy of national liberation was the Emergency, a negation of the very sprit of national liberation.

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development Indira Gandhi, elected prime minister of India in 1966, changed the course of India’s political economy from that of the previous policies of the Congress Party set by her father, and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. While Gandhi furthered Nehru’s vision of non-alignment, she had different views on industrial development in India. Gandhi was the first prime minister to sign agreements with the World Bank, thereby beginning the process of liberalising the Indian economy.1 The cornerstone of her urban development policies, targeted mainly at transforming the city of New Delhi, involved controversial slum clearances and land appropriation, while family planning was integral to her rural development policy. Letters and confidential memos between Gandhi and her advisor, P. N. Haksar, show that she was committed to social justice, economic equality and the diffusion of power in society. However, in practice, her policies engendered increased concentration of wealth in the hands of the urban elite, the further immiseration of the urban poor, and the forced sterilisation of large numbers of peasants. Economic development, for Indira Gandhi, meant remedying the lingering social ills resulting from British imperialism. In a 1971 interview, she claimed, ‘The time has come to get away from the romantic view of British Imperial history. If one talks of so-called advantages one must equally take into account the detriment suffered by India during the period of Imperial domination. The latter is in excess of the former.’2 She claimed that the greatest disadvantages of imperialism were poverty and the postcolonial consciousness. Gandhi said, To me the two of the biggest disadvantages which continue to this day are the impoverishment of India and the undermining of the confidence of the Indians in themselves.… We are still endeavouring to overcome the last vestiges of the feudal order and of the baneful effect of the theory that a common religion can provide a durable basis for a modern nation-state and of loyalty of its citizens to that state.3

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


National independence, Gandhi claimed, did not simply mean having ‘a Government by Indians’ but instead meant ‘taking independent decisions courageously’ and ‘thinking independently in the interest of the country’ (Gandhi 1984: 196). ‘True’ national independence, said Gandhi, ‘can be brought only with economic and social development’ (Gandhi 1984: 349). The three major obstacles to such development, Gandhi contended, was the persistent ‘feudal order’, lingering colonial conceptualisations of nationalism, and casteism (Gandhi 1984: 196). To ameliorate these social ills, she argued that the remnants of the colonial bureaucracy had to be eradicated. Gandhi said, The administrative structure which was largely inspired by the need for the maintenance of law and order is perhaps most difficult to change. Nevertheless, it too is undergoing a gradual change despite its inherent inflexibility. The educational system which we inherited from the past and which has expanded quantitatively on a big scale now needs to be drastically overhauled.4

Just before her election as prime minister, Gandhi was daunted by these seemingly insurmountable obstacles to development. In a 1965 letter sent to her advisor during a diplomatic trip to London, Gandhi wrote, As I see it we are at the beginning of a new dark age. The food situation is precarious, industries are closing. There is no direction, no policy, or any matter. The power shortage is acute. Brave words notwithstanding, there is anxiety to go to America, who will I have no doubt give PL 480 food aid and everything at a price. The manner of execution will be so deft and subtle that no one will realise until it is too late and India’s freedom of thought and action will have both been bartered away. Many actions seem inexplicable but a pattern is emerging—can it be change that Morarji, who stands for the old administrative reform or that CD Pande, the arch reactionary anti-Arab, should lead a delegation to Algeria and Tunisia? As a child I wanted to be like Joan of Arc—I may yet be burnt at the stake!5

In order to make these changes that she viewed as vital to India’s economic development, Gandhi feared at the beginning of her prime ministership that she would have to give concessions to the Americans in order to ameliorate pressing economic issues. In a 1976 speech written by Gandhi’s advisor, Haksar, he stated Gandhi’s administration’s rejection of mainstream views of economic development as developed by economists in the US and Europe. Haksar writes, But it appears to me that models of growth so assiduously built up by the economists all over the world—though intellectually highly


Brewing Resistance

consistent—have failed to foresee and prescribe remedies for the social and political problems which are an inevitable accompaniment of a growth process. The dangerous part is that these abstract models are too often used for policy purposes in national planning schemes in most of our countries. One could roughly put the development theorists into two categories: you have, on the one hand, the advocates of ‘balanced growth’, a sort of simultaneous multiple development in all sectors. This strategy would ensure movement of the economy on all fronts.… Both kinds of theories, those bearing on ‘balanced’ and ‘unbalanced’ growth are irrelevant to the problems of developing countries. To him the institutional factors like the social, political, cultural and psychological variables like inputs, outputs, incomes and levels of living are even more crucial for effecting transition from under-development to development in emerging societies. There are as many theories of growth as there are the number of economists. This is hardly surprising. Perhaps that is why some practical men find economics an inexact science.6

These institutional factors, or, in other words, the human costs of mainstream theories of development, were something that Gandhi and her advisors wanted to minimise. Gandhi said that ‘the benefits of this progress have not yet reached the poor’ and that in order to truly realise the ideals of national liberation the condition of India’s poor had to be ameliorated (Gandhi 1984: 197). Haksar claimed that the human cost of economic development was in-built in mainstream theories of economic development, particularly in the mainline tendency to equate economic development with growth. Haksar alternatively contends, ‘Development is the movement of a whole social system upwards. It has been our experience that increases in national income even if they are faster than the rate of population growth, do not automatically solve social, political, or even economic problems. In fact, a faster growth of national income sometimes creates these problems.’7 For the Gandhi administration, economic development was inseparable from social justice. Haksar writes, The compatibility of social justice with economic growth over a period of time can be easily established, if we spell out the essential elements of social justice. The most crucial ingredient of social justice in any developing society, to my mind, should be a national basic minimum. This national minimum should include not only economic but also social well-being. In concrete terms, every individual living in a developing country should be guaranteed not only a minimum of food, clothing, shelter, health, and education but also freedom from discrimination emanating from caste, creed, colour or birth. Ideally, the social basic minimum should also include the right to employment and a living wage. The second important

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


ingredient of social justice includes the prevention of undue concentration of economic power in a few hands to ensure a reasonable measure of equality between different sections of the community. Concentration of economic power in a few hands must be prevented at all costs, especially if it arises out of unequal opportunities or unequal social, political and economic circumstances. This alone will help bring about a reduction in the wide gulf between the very rich and the very poor sections of society. The argument is sometimes advanced that reduction in the share of the richer classes in the national dividend would act as a disincentive to production efforts. I do not agree with this view at all. The elimination of ‘functionless incomes’ would help the society in every way. A ruthless attack on black money, for example, will accelerate not only economic progress but would also promote the ends of social justice.8

Gandhi’s administration—even in memos and plans not made available to the public—emphasised reducing inequality, eliminating discrimination, providing a higher standard of living for the poor, and attacking corruption and the concentration of power and wealth. This view extended to the entire Global South. Gandhi encouraged other ‘developing countries’ not to be ‘helpless onlookers’ and instead engage in ‘economic cooperation and regional integration’ for mutual benefit (Gandhi 1984: 306). In a speech given the 3rd Summit Conference of Heads of State or Government of the Non-Alignment Movement in 1970, Gandhi claimed that non-aligned states should unite in order to improve the welfare of their citizens, and to avoid trade agreements with the US and Europe that provide further obstacles to economic development and social justice. Gandhi said, ‘We [the non-aligned states] have tried through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to induce the international community to make desirable changes in the economic system. The changes that are overdue are now well understood throughout the world.’9 She continued, Let us at least recognise the complementarity in the economies of our various countries. We can provide excellent markets for one another’s products. It is not only machinery that all of us require but various kinds of raw materials … Is it not time that we endeavoured to meet each others’ needs? By so doing we would diversify our trade, which in these times is a great safeguard against the caprices of international trade, and also reduce our dependence on the great middlemen and brokers. For let us not forget that a good deal of the affluence of the affluent countries comes from re-export and processing. Much of what we lose this way, we can conserve for our own peoples.10


Brewing Resistance

Gandhi envisioned creating a more cooperative Global South in which south– south trade would reduce developing countries’ dependency on the United States, Europe, and International Financial Institutions, thereby allowing them to make necessary improvements to the standard of living for their citizens. In her writings and speeches, Gandhi was critical of foreign aid, claiming, ‘It was hoped that aid would help to bridge this yawning gap. But aid, which is supposed to be impelled by idealism, has come to be too closely identified with the short term policy objectives of donor governments’ (Gandhi 1984: 308). Yet, in practice, Gandhi did not follow this vision she had for the Global South. Gandhi was the first Indian prime minister to strike a deal with the World Bank in 1967 to secure loans which had, as one of their conditions, steps towards liberalising the Indian economy.11 In a series of memos exchanged in 1967 between Indira Gandhi and Haksar, they discuss how even though the Indian economy had made great strides since national independence, it was still far from being economically independent from essential imports. The drought of 1965 and 1966 furthered this dependence on foreign imports. Haksar wrote, Practically all the machines and equipment and most of industrial raw materials except those produced by agricultural sector had to be imported. Exports consisted of jute, tea, oil cake, manganese and mica, raw hides and skin. The savings generated in the economy amounted to 5 per cent of the national income and the growth of income was perhaps just enough to maintain per capita income constant. The economic and social system characterised by large disparities of income and status, and by the prevalence of many institutions and practices which were detrimental to social progress and economic development.12

These contradictions between Gandhi and her advisor’s rhetoric about poverty and social justice and her deal with the World Bank in 1967 could be explained in several ways. Gandhi could have employed the language of poverty eradication and social justice in order to placate the Indian public, and then have made a deal with the World Bank anyway. However, there is evidence that contradicts this interpretation. In private memos between Gandhi and Haksar, she appears to legitimately believe that India would be better served if it did not have loans and other financial obligations to the US, Britain and international financial institutions. There was no reason for her to believe that this correspondence would be seen by the public. Perhaps then, she believed that making this deal with the World Bank was the best option for poverty eradication in India? This too is met with contradictory

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


evidence. In private memos between Gandhi and Haksar, she laments having to make other, similar arrangements that benefit US business interests. Never once, even in public speeches, does she make an argument that a World Bank loan will promote economic development in India. The best explanation for this contradiction between what Gandhi thought was best for economic development in India and what she did in practice by taking conditional loans from the World Bank is that she believed that there was no other viable option for agricultural relief given the drought of 1965–6. Just as India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, did in the 1950s and 1960s, Indira Gandhi and her advisors looked to the agricultural sector as integral to India’s economic independence along with a complimentary and vibrant urban sector. Haksar writes, The growth of agriculture and the recent trends of its modernisation, the expansion and diversification of manufacture and the great improvement in transport, power and educational and training facilities have radically changed the intrinsic capability of the Indian economy. Agriculture, acknowledged as the weakest link in the chain, has registered impressive gains, except for the setbacks of 1965 and 1966 [that is, drought].13

Haksar goes on to argue for the importance of industrial development to compliment agricultural development, Of necessity, the setting up of new industries has required large-scale import of equipment and accessories and know-how in the last few years. With exports not being adequate to cover the import requirements, India drew in the initial stages on the large sterling balances accumulated during the second world war and Korean War years. Very large drafts were made on these accumulated reserves in the initial years of the Second Plan to sustain the large investment undertaken in the economy. Since then, the country has had to draw on the rest of the world for loan assistance, which has come in ample measure from Governments and international agencies. The progressive increase in imports made by this generous assistance has, however, obscured the fact that, simultaneously, much has been achieved by way of import replacement. This is obscured because, with the increase in productive activity that has occurred, new types of imports have become necessary; and even where the production of imports to total supply has fallen, the absolute quantities are still largely large enough to create balance of payments difficulties.14

Haksar was careful to claim that the Indira Gandhi administration’s goals of relative independence for the Indian economy was not a rejection of the


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role of private enterprise. Haksar added, ‘This does not mean, and has in fact not meant, the denial of a vital role to private industry and enterprise in the industrial programme.’15 While the Gandhi administration’s goals of economic development, social justice, economic independence from the Global North, and fostering south– south cooperation were noble, the means by which these goals were realised led to an outcome that was anathema to the spirit of these policies. Until Indira Gandhi was elected prime minister, the Congress Party had followed Jawaharlal Nehru’s urban vision, which consisted of an amicable relation between labour and capital to the end of developing heavy industry, along with agricultural production to support urban populations through increased agricultural production through cooperatives (for Gandhi’s assessment of her father’s policies on agricultural cooperatives, see Gandhi 1984: 375). In contrast, Indira Gandhi’s urban development policies centred around appropriation of urban land on which slum dwellers resided in order to put that land to ‘more productive’ use. Gandhi’s Malthusian agrarian policy consisted of reducing the agrarian population through family planning programmes that decreased the number of peasants that agrarian production had to sustain. Urban and rural development was to be financed through the nationalisation of banks so that capital could be infused to prospective middle- and working-class borrowers, thereby leading to improvements in agrarian production and urban development.

Slum Clearances A confidential report to Indira Gandhi in 1972 details the problems of urban development in New Delhi. ‘At the moment, the following problems appear to be very prominent, vis. law and order, growing traffic difficulties, increasing encroachments on government lands and the question of resettlement of squatters, provision of civic amenities to the growing colonies and increasing population and environmental pollution due to unforeseen developments, etc.’16 Some of the most pressing issues, according to Gandhi’s advisors, was the growth of urban slums. The report analysed the complicated nature of extra-legal settlement in Delhi, reporting, The problem of increasing encroachments on government lands and squatting is fairly well-known. The problem is complicated as it has also a human angle. At the moment our effort is that as far as possible future encroachments should be prevented. We are able to contain the problem to some extent, that planned settlement of unauthorised occupants is

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


possible. I have asked for a rapid socio-economic investigation of squatters so that we are in a position to know the nature of their occupation, place of work etc., as this will facilitate their shifting to suitable sites which need not necessarily be in adjacent areas.17

Squatting and encroachment were identified as a key issue plaguing urban development as was the growth of ‘unauthorised’ residential neighbourhoods in New Delhi. The confidential report continues, I find that the regularisation of the unauthorised colonies is another problem which needs attention. I have asked for a study of this problem so that so that we can evolve some rational procedures for regularisation. The entire problem bristles with difficulties. Effort will have to be made to ensure that they conform to some basic minimum of requirements or pattern so that they do not develop into slum areas. This will need an element of flexibility and realism in the reappraisal of the Master Plan.18

Even though the administration wanted to address illegal settlements in the National Capital Region, in a 1972 secret memo between Indira Gandhi and her advisors, they discuss how urbanisation was a consequence of industrial development, and, therefore, there needed to be some safeguards against prohibitively expensive rents and the prevention of potential civic problems such as inadequate sewage systems, water and electric supply, public transportation, and other infrastructure. We are on the eve of large scale industrialisation in our country. The road may be long and hard, but we are on it. Urbanisation is the inevitable concomitant of industrialisation and every growing urban aggregates presents many economic, social, and civic problems. Cities require sewage, water supply, electric supply, roads, public transport, prevention of slums, slum clearance, housing, recreation facilities, perks, etc. If land were to become privately owned, the creation of each such facility becomes extremely expensive. That is the way urban land and the land which is likely to become potentially urban needs to be nationalised so that the evils of speculation in land, fantastic increase in land values leading to very high costs of providing civic amenities are avoided. There should, therefore, be no private ownership of land in urban areas. Existing freehold rights should be converted into lease holds and where people have acquired large plots of land, they should be made to disgorge this land in the wider interests of the urban community as a whole.19

Again, the administration avowed their commitment to a just and equal urban development policy. But the solution arrived at through these exchanges was


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that the government should appropriate land that is illegally settled in order to keep rents to a minimal level. By nationalising land and converting such existing land as lease hold will yield to Government an immediate return because the lease hold rights would be subject to payment of ground rent which would be reviewed from time to time. As for the properties built on existing urban land, converted into lease hold, we have to carefully consider what to do with such property.20

On the eve of the Emergency, government appropriation of land was the main objective of India’s Urban Planning Commission. In a 1975 report, the commission outlines its principle objective, ‘The objective is only to prevent concentration in urban land in the hands of a few persons to prevent speculation and profiteering in urban land. The objective is also to bring about an equitable distribution of urban land to serve the common good.’21 The Urban Planning Commission worked out a standard procedure for urban land appropriation. As has been provided in the Bombay Metropolitan Region Development Authority Act, 1974 and some of the other laws dealing with the acquisition of land for slum clearance purposes, the amount to be paid to a person for excess land acquired could be a multiple of the net average monthly income derived from the land. However, while this method would be adequate to deal with causes of vacant lands where the net monthly income can be computed without difficulty there might be cases where it may not be possible to determine the net monthly income for such vacant land.22

This 1975 report defined vacant land as urban land where there was no authorised construction. … ‘vacant land’ has been defined to mean urban land or urbanisable land (other than land mainly used for the purpose of agriculture) on which there is no building or structure, and on which there is no prohibition against such construction. In respect of land where there is a building or structure, so much of the land required for convenient enjoyment of the building as permitted by the building regulations would not be treated as vacant land. It is proposed that where there is no such building regulation, land not exceeding the plinth area of the building would be kept for the convenient enjoyment of the building. It is proposed to simplify the present definition of ‘vacant land’ to bring out the above point clearly. It is also proposed to make it clear there where a building or structure has been construction unauthorisedly the land could be treated as vacant land.23

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


In order to allow for the appropriation of land by the government, and for slum clearances on privately owned lands, the Slum Areas Act was changed in order to make it easier for landlords and city Urban Planning Commissions to evict slum dwellers. The law was initially justified as a measure for reducing bureaucratic obstacles for landlords. ‘The provisions of Section 19 of the Slum Areas Act had led to needless multiplicity of proceedings and consequential delays, as a landlord has first to go to the Competent Authority under the Slum Areas Act and after obtaining his permission had to file another suit under the Delhi Rent Control Act.’24

A new proviso was also added to the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956, in order to clear land of slum dwellers. If Sections 19 and 20 of the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956 are to be deleted, then a provision for eviction in the following circumstances may also be made under section 14(1) of the Delhi Rent Control Act by adding another sub-clause (m) to the proviso therein:(m) that the premises are required in the interest of improvement and clearance of slum areas.25

In subsequent documents, these changes to the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956, were justified as helping slum dwellers seek expedited recourse in the event of eviction. There is no remedy in appeal for the aggrieved tenant. As per section 19 of the Act the competent authority had to hold such summary inquiry into the circumstances of the case as it deems fit.… It is obvious the tenant gets a slip shod sort of hearing from a semi-judicial functionary and if defeated at the stage of permission he cannot have recourses to any higher authority. It is therefore highly desirable that Chapter VI of the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956 be put out of operation and the Delhi Rent Control Act suitably amended so that the landlord will get a decree of eviction only if he satisfies the Controller on the points which have now gone to the competent authority under subsection (4) of Section 19 of the first mentioned Act. As has been stated above this will cut down the litigation to one half, there will be only one case to be instituted with the Controller.26

Justified as a matter of tenant rights, another amendment to the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956, was made denying tenants the right to recovery for land or property if the land they inhabited was deemed a ‘slum area’.


Brewing Resistance

We may also insert another sub-section to Section 14 as follows: (12) no order for recovery of possession of any premises shall be made on the ground specified in clause (m) of the proviso to subsection (1) if the competent authority is not satisfied that the following factors have been fulfilled: (i) a decree or order has been obtained in any suit or proceeding instituted for the eviction of a tenant in any building or land in such an area (located in a slum area). (ii) that alternative accommodation within the means of the tenant would be available to him if he were evicted and the competent authority shall record a brief statement of the reasons for such refusal for the evaluation of the tenant.27

These new developments in urban policy, along with new laws regarding slum areas, made it far easier for the state and its agents to evict the poor and working class without recourse. These efforts were intensified during the Emergency—when in the previous 54 months leading up to the Emergency ( January 1973–June 1975), the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) demolished 1,800 structures, during the Emergency ( July 1975–March 1977), the DDA, MCD and NDMC demolished 150,105 structures (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 78). The amount of demolition occurring in Delhi during the Emergency was 84 times that of the same period of time just before the Emergency. According to the Shah Commission, Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay Gandhi had become the de-facto ruler of the NDMC and gave the orders to demolish slums (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: , Vol. 2, 79). Subhadra Joshi of the NDMC wrote to Indira Gandhi informing her of the human cost of the slum clearances. Ms Joshi wrote that in the resettlement areas, public water supplies were unavailable, and both people and animals were severely dehydrated as a result (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 80). Joshi also stated that as many as 10 people were living in a single room in the resettlement areas and that the sewers were choked and overflowing with waste, creating public health concerns (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 80). Sites that were found to have been specifically targeted by Sanjay Gandhi and the DDA included the Jama Masjid area and Turkman Gate, a Muslim neighbourhood in Old Delhi; the Bhagat Singh Market area, a neighbourhood populated by Partition-era refugees from Pakistan; Sultanpur Marza, a village on the periphery of Delhi; Serai Peepalthala and Jahangirpur Bhulswa; the Arya Samaj Temple in Green Park; Samalkha Village, en route to Gurgaon; Karol Bagh, a neighbourhood

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comprising mainly of Partition-era refugees from Pakistan; Andheria Mor; and various other smaller structures (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 80–119). If Gandhi’s goal was to ameliorate the conditions of Delhi’s urban poor, why would she implement policies that resulted in worse conditions for the urban poor and working class? While it is possible that Gandhi and her advisors reasoned that resettling unauthorised neighbourhoods to the outskirts of Delhi could ameliorate their living conditions and provide them with legal rights to property, this explanation fails to take account of all of the evidence. Most of the neighbourhoods in Delhi that were targeted by the DDA were upper middle class neighbourhoods or neighbourhoods in the commercial areas in the centre of New and Old Delhi. With the ‘unauthorised’ poor and working class removed from these neighbourhoods, new luxury development proliferated as property values skyrocketed. Many have speculated about the motivations behind the demolition of 150,000 structures during the 30 months of the Emergency (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 87). According to the Report of the Fact Finding Committee on Slum Clearances, Demolitions, Etc., and Firing in Turkman Gate during the Emergency, several key figures in the MCD believed Sanjay Gandhi had three main reasons for ordering demolitions. First, it was alleged that he targeted majority Muslim neighbourhoods in the walled city ‘with a view to teach a lesson to the Muslims’ (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 98). Second, it was believed that he targeted neighbourhoods that were strongholds of the Jan Sangh (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 97). Finally, it was believed that he targeted neighbourhoods around his factory in Gurgaon and farmhouse in Mehrauli, such as Kapashera, Smalkha and Anderhi Mor, in order to compel those displaced to move into the industrial estate that he had developed in the Maruti complex in Gurgaon (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977, 99). In the oral histories I conducted, several narrators told me that they too had heard rumours that the Gandhi family profited from these demolitions, appropriating some of the more valuable land and developing it into luxury apartments, office buildings and upscale shopping malls. During the Emergency there was no procedure in place for determining what structures to demolish, and many top officials of the MCD—B. R. Tanta, Commissioner, Navin Chawla, Secretary, Krishan Chand, Lt Governor— stated that the MCD was ordered ‘to function under the supervision and control of Sanjay Gandhi’ (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 63).


Brewing Resistance

Nashbandi ka Vakt (The Time of Sterilisation) Gandhi’s administration, however, not only concerned themselves with the urban poor but also looked to make improvements in living conditions for the rural poor. Across the mid-twentieth century Global South, the Green Revolution promised rural development through high yield crops. In India, new technologies improved crop yields, and 1973 was seen as a target year for food self-sufficiency (Dasgupta 1977), though it is worth noting that these improvements were uneven and in many regions, especially Punjab, served to exacerbate existing social inequalities (Dhanagare 1987; Junankar 1975). In a 1969 letter, Haksar wrote to Indira Gandhi stating, ... the Prime Minister cannot help but feel uneasy about some aspects of the growth process in the countryside. The landless labourers, the small farmers and the share-croppers have by and large been left out of this process. All possible stimulus should of course be given to the progressive farmers, so that they could continue with their good work. It would, however, be becoming on their good work. It would, however, be becoming on their part to engage in a little introspection. The simmering discontent in the countryside cannot do them much good, since this might lead to continuous agrarian unrest affecting production; large disparities in a income and wealth usually make this under-privileged feel violent towards those who are having a cushy time. It is in the long-rage interests of the affluent peasants themselves that, on their own, they take steps to ameliorate the conditions of the rural poor.28

Haksar’s recommendations to Indira Gandhi were not to overhaul the existing agrarian structure, but instead to enforce and to ‘apply with compassion and imagination’ laws currently on the books, including the Bihar Tenancy Act of 1885 and the Fixation of Ceiling Area and Acquisition Surplus Land Act of 1961.29 Haksar also suggested that Gandhi’s administration encourage Brahmins, and Thakurs in particular, to adhere to existing laws that proscribe a ceiling on rent extracted from peasants, to treat peasants with more respect and dignity, and to instate recourse against class and caste based discrimination.30 This middle way, of not enacting land reform, but hoping to ameliorate living conditions for peasants, was not sufficient to stave off Maoist insurrections against landlords in eastern India during the late 1960s and through the 1970s. In Chapter 4, I will return to the Naxalite Movement and its alternative views on what constituted economic progress in post-independence India. Another strategy devised by Gandhi and her advisors in order to ameliorate economic and social conditions in rural India was to control the population,

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thereby lessening the number of people that agrarian India had to feed and otherwise provide for. In order to further this objective, Gandhi procured United States Agency for International Development (USAID) loans to establish condom manufacturing in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and to buy condoms from South Korea until domestic production could keep pace with need. International development agencies and population researchers actively promoted family planning as part of the mainline policy programmes of the second half of the twentieth century (Williams 2014: 479–80). The Ministry of Health and Family Planning agreed to buy all condoms produced domestically: Proof of the fact that imports will not affect indigenous producers is a categorical guarantee by the Ministry of Health and Family Planning that they will purchase all the local production, provided it is up to standard. This is despite the fact that the indigenous product is sold at almost double the imported price. The snag however is that the quality of the contraceptives manufactured by the Association is far from good; and of course in a matter like this no relaxation of standards is possible since undependable products are worse than useless. The Association has asked to be provided with certain electronic testing equipment to enable them to improve their quality and we are agreeing to this import. As to the future, one large scale unit has gone into production at Madras and is expected shortly to reach a production of 112 million pieces per year. A public sector unit is being set up at Trivandrum, and by the second half of the next year will produce around 145 million pieces per year. Thus the total indigenous production would in due course reach 277 million pieces. As against this the estimated demand is 385 million in 1968–69, 510 million in 1969–70 and 689 million in 1970–71. Rubber contraceptives will therefore have to continue to be imported in the coming years. The current tender, about which the complaint has been made, was a free foreign exchange purchase. However, contraceptives are now eligible for financing against AID nonproject loans and possibly some other credits. Hence future imports can be aid-financed.31

The US approved India’s request for aid and allowed some discretionary spending of the loan for other projects in addition to the procurement of condoms from South Korea. Secretary will be glad to know that our suggestion regarding use of US AID funds for the purchase of contraceptives from South Korea has not only struck a responsive chord but has opened up much greater possibilities than we had hoped for. US AID have received a message from


Brewing Resistance

AID Washington saying that they find this proposal very attractive and that they would like to make it applicable not only within their bureau for Near-East and South Asia (NESA) but for AID as a whole, i.e. for all aid recipient countries, not just for India. For this purpose they are initiating the necessary consultations and hope to send back final approval before long. As far as South Korea is concerned they intend to follow what is known as the PD 31 procedure whereby the dollars accruing to South Korea will be kept in a blocked account in the US which the South Koreans can use for their payments to the US Government. (We ourselves have accepted the PD 31 procedure in respect of some of our exports under US aid to other countries). Furthermore, NESA is actively investigating the possibility of enlarging the PD 31 procedure in respect of some of our exports under US aid to other countries). Furthermore, NESA is actively investigating the possibility of enlarging the PD 31 procedure to more commodities and more countries and, if the efforts are successful, this may end up in our being able to use US AID non-project funds for the purpose of, say, rock phosphate from Morocco or sulphur from Mexico. If this really happens we will have obtained a substantial improvement in the quality of aid.32

The procurement of condoms abroad was necessary since domestic manufacturing was both of dubious quality and unable to keep up with demand. However, domestic industries were soon established with the help of the state and international lending agencies to ensure that India would eventually meet its own domestic demand for condoms.33 As a result of this legacy, India is today one of the worlds’ leading condom manufacturers. However, there were minor trade and diplomatic repercussions for India’s choice to import condoms from the lowest bidder, South Korea, instead of the US, the lending country. ‘AID/Washington has informed us that they are not able to grant a waiver of Small Business Notification requirement since they believe that at least one major US supplier did not have an opportunity to bid on this tender.’34 USAID retaliated for India’s choice to import condoms from South Korea instead of the US. While USAID financed initial efforts to improve condom manufacturing and the trade deal with South Korea supplied India with cheap and reliable condoms until domestic production could compete with imports, Norway financed the expansion of family planning clinics in India.35 From 1971 to 1979, Norway contributed nearly 35 million kroner to establish family planning clinics that provided affordable vasectomies to rural Indians.36 Most of these funds were earmarked for ‘the construction of operation theatres and sterilisation wards’.37 Vasectomy was the cornerstone of the Department of

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Family Planning while Indira Gandhi was prime minister. In fact, sterilisation became synonymous with the Emergency in many places, so much so that some researchers have reported that older Delhi residents typically refer to the Emergency as nashbandi ka vakt (the time of sterilisation) (Tarlo 2003: 242; Williams 2014: 471). Sanjay Gandhi was a ruthless advocate of the family planning programme (Nayar 1977: 196). While sterilisation was not one of the points of Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme, it was, however, part of Sanjay Gandhi’s 5-point programme (Williams 2014: 473). He took it upon himself to set sterilisation targets for the chief ministers who in turn set quotas for bureaucrats across the country (Nayar 1977: 196). After the Emergency was declared in June 1975, sterilisation camps were opened across north India. In Uttar Pradesh alone, the programme averaged 331 vasectomies per day in June, 1,578 per day in July, and 5,644 per day in August (Nayar 1977: 197). Police were ordered by district officials to round up peasants for forced sterilisation (Nayar 1977: 197). In Muzaffarnagar, a mob threw stones at a family planning clinic, outraged that unmarried young people with no children were being forcibly sterilised alongside older, married people with children (Nayar 1977: 198). In suppressing social protest against the family planning programme in Muzaffarnagar, police retaliated, killing 25 peasants (Lewis 1978: 27; Nayar 1977: 198). Police also entered a mosque near the family planning camp where they shot and killed 3 people inside the mosque. They then threw all of the victims of the police shootings into the Ganga to conceal the fatalities (D. Sharma 1977: 85–6). In Haryana, peasants who resisted sterilisation were arrested and tortured (Nayar 1977: 199). A school-aged boy in Gurgaon was arrested for encouraging his male relatives to resist forced vasectomy. During his detention, his hair and nails were pulled out, and he had lost his hearing (Nayar 1977: 199). An elderly schoolteacher in Rohtak was forced to recruit two men for vasectomy each pay period or else the district refused to pay her salary (Nayar 1977: 199). In Bihar, the majority of those targeted for forced sterilisation were Dalits and Adivasis (Nayar 1977: 199). During a small protest in Patna against forced sterilisation, police fired into the crowd, killing one of the protestors (Nayar 1977: 200). The Shah Commission investigated the issue of compulsion in family planning during the Emergency. They used the village of Uttawar, in District Gurgaon, Haryana—about a two-hour drive south of Delhi—as an example of how the family planning programme was implemented on the local level. Uttawar is a village with a population of about 8,000 and is predominantly


Brewing Resistance

Muslim (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 28). The commission found that a raid was orchestrated by Haryana state officials on this particular village because it had become a point of opposition to Indira Gandhi’s family planning programme (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 29). Villagers had blocked family planning officials from entering the village, and, in retaliation, the Haryana State Electricity Board cut power supplies to the entire village (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 29). Power to the village was disconnected from 12 through 29 October 1976 and again from 5 through 13 November 1976 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 29). In November 1976, a team of 700 policemen entered the village armed with rifles and tear gas and forced 550 villagers into trucks. They were then taken to a nearby police station where they were interrogated, and then 180 of the 550 detained Uttawar residents were placed under arrest and taken to family planning centres where they were forced to undergo sterilisation (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 28–9). Inspector General of Police (IGP) Bajwa told the Shah Commission that it was believed by the Haryana State Police that these villagers had smuggled weapons from Pakistan that they were intending to use in armed insurrection against the state, but according to several official reports, no weapons were ever recovered from the raid on the village (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 30, 32). One villager, Mr Chahat, who was 70 years old when the village was raided, was one of the men forced to undergo vasectomy. He recounted to the Shah Commission that when the police brought him to the family planning clinic, doctors initially refused to perform a vasectomy because of his age but then did so after the police and revenue officials threatened the doctors (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 31). A Mr Abdul Rehman, who was 25 years old at the time of the raid, also pleaded with doctors not to perform vasectomy surgery on him as he and his wife had only one child, a girl, and wanted to have more children. Again, he stated to the commission that doctors initially refused to operate because of his pleas but then did perform a vasectomy under police pressure (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 31). Dr K. B. Lal, Chief Medical Officer for District Gurgaon, informed the Shah Commission that there was ‘an element of coercion in the family planning programmes’ and that not only was the quota for sterilisation for 1976–7 twice revised upwards but that police officers who compelled Haryanavis to undergo sterilisation were given prizes for ‘excellent performance in family planning work’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 32).

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


The Shah Commission found that the family planning programme launched by Indira Gandhi in the 1960s did not become compulsory until after the Emergency was declared (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 153). The commission similarly concluded that the focus of the family planning programme before the Emergency was providing Indians access to condoms and intrauterine devices (IUDs), but that after the Emergency was declared these methods of family planning were de-emphasised ‘in favour of one single method, i.e. sterilisation’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 154). By 1976, the family planning commission had set a target of 4.3 million sterilisations to take place during the year 1976–7 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 154). These already high quotas were then raised by certain state governments. Haryana’s contribution was set at 52,000 sterilisations but was then raised to 200,000; Bihar’s quota was set by the central government at 300,000 but was later doubled to 600,000; and Uttar Pradesh’s quota was initially set at 400,000 but was subsequently raised to 1,500,000 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 155). In order to reach these quotas, the family planning commission offered a series of incentives and disincentives in order to encourage people to undergo sterilisation (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 158). States were given full discretion to adopt their own incentives and disincentives (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 158). Some states instituted a limit on how many children a family could have. Bihar limited families to three children, Uttar Pradesh limited families to two children, and in October 1976, the central government supported these policies by legislating that a family was permitted to send only two children to government schools (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 159). In Himachal Pradesh, these incentives and disincentives were particularly harsh. The state legislated that every government employee in the state who has had two children of different sexes must be sterilised or else would not be given any pay increases or promotions, will be denied treatment at government hospitals, will not be allotted government accommodations, and if already residing in government accommodations will be charged six times the market rate, will be denied government loans, and will be denied maternity leave (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 159). In Bihar, family planning staff and school teachers’ salaries were withheld if they failed to reach their sterilisation target during each given pay period (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 165). In Haryana, government employees who failed to get sterilised were ‘liable to punishment’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 165).


Brewing Resistance

In Bihar, a total of 165,531 sterilisations were performed in 1975–6 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 172). In Haryana, 220,000 sterilisations were performed in 1976–7 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 176). In India as a whole, 2,624,755 sterilisations were performed in 1975–6, and 8,132,209 sterilisations were performed in 1976–7, for a total of 16,529,173 sterilisations over the duration of the Emergency (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 207). In a letter to Indira Gandhi in 1977, Haksar informed her that forced sterilisation fomented opposition to her regime and that in Uttar Pradesh in particular, a disproportionate number of those who were forcibly sterilised were Muslims and Dalits. While Haksar’s account of forced sterilisation is not nearly as sympathetic to those forced to undergo sterilisation as the account presented in the Shah Commission reports, Haksar’s account and the Shah Commission both tell a similar story of forced sterilisation disproportionately affecting north Indian Muslim and Dalit peasants. Haksar writes, Officials in UP and to a minor extent in Bengal have used compulsions to get people sterilised. I shall give instances of these compulsions later. These compulsions are creating a very unfavourable situation for the Government, at places leading to resistance against the Government and clashes with its law and order forces. The element of compulsion has to be eliminated if the Government decides to go in for elections because at least in UP the opposition parties can make this compulsion in sterilisation as their main plank of election propaganda and with its help obtain support from the poor and backward who are the victims mainly of such compulsions…. Camps are held for sterilisation and after operation patients are sent back to their villages. The level of sanitation in villages is very low, villagers mostly living with their domestic animals in the same compound. The consequences are that some of the villagers sterilised developed sepsis or got infected by tetanus in the environment in which they live. This results in deaths. The rumour of deaths from family planning operations spread very fast and often the number of deaths get magnified as rumour spreads along. Such reports and rumours have made the sterilisation programme quite unpopular in rural areas, often leading to organised resistance from villagers and ending in violent actions…. UP must be the state where the largest number of incidents have taken place over the villagers opposition to the sterilisation programme. Muslims as a whole have come out in opposition of sterilisation. Their religious leaders have issued a number of ‘fatwas’ on the subject, which are read out and popularised during Friday prayers. Some fatwas go to an extent of saying that a person who gets sterilised will not be entitled to prayers at his funeral. Others say that persons who have been sterilised should be placed in the category of

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


those belonging to the third sex and they should not be allowed to attend prayers at mosques. It is mostly the poor who have been affected by the compulsion used by revenue officials in getting people sterilised and most of the poor are either Harijans or Muslims. The compulsion, which they have been subjected to, has led to resistance among them towards the family planning programme…. This opposition led to a number of violent actions. On 27th August, the villagers of Rankedih in Sultanpur resisted the police, which wanted to enter the village to investigate a case of some family planning workers being beaten up some days earlier. Villagers not only prevented police from entering the village, but also threw bricks at them. This led to police opening fire on the villagers, in which 9 persons were killed … In Aligarh one heard yet another kind of story about the compulsion used in the family planning drive. It was said that in July some people were arrested at the railway station for ticketless travelling. Then, all of them who were over 18 years of age were sent in for sterilisation while still under detention. As I stated earlier, in a rush operations are not performed properly and due to lack of after-care some people die as a result of sterilisation operations. A number of women have died after tubectomy operations. The deaths as a result of lack of after-care in family planning operations must at least be in a hundred in UP. This method of family planning is causing a very unfavourable situation for the Congress and the Government among the poorest sections of the people…. I cannot help repeating myself by saying that the family planning drive in UP is alienating a large number of poor people. If this goes on, the Congress runs the danger of losing support of Muslims, Harijans, and poor people…. Compulsion in family planning in Bihar is not on the same scale as in UP. There are however rumours of old people and young boys being sterilised.38

Haksar’s objective in writing this confidential memo is to minimise the political fallout from these unpopular family planning policies and, as such, may understate the human toll of Indira Gandhi’s family planning programme. Nonetheless, this memo demonstrates that compulsory vasectomy and tubectomy coupled with poor sanitation in rural areas, communalism and casteism created conditions under which forced sterilisation disproportionately targeted Muslims and Dalits. Moreover, because of the sheer number of vasectomies and tubectomies, lack of medical expertise and care, early discharge of patients and poor sanitation in the homes of people forced to be sterilised, many died as a result of sterilisation. While these policies originated from a Malthusian logic which reasoned that if the land were to support fewer people, those fewer people would have a higher quality of life, the zeal with which these policies were carried out, especially after the Emergency was declared, created perverse incentives that led to forced sterilisation and death.


Brewing Resistance

The Banking System Gandhi’s policies for urban and rural development were built on the foundations of a nationalised banking system. Through state intervention in the banking system, Gandhi and her advisors hoped to broaden access to financial services and supply capital to sectors that were comparatively neglected.39 As Gandhi’s advisor, Haksar, contended, ‘… nationalisation of banks has behind it an urgent economic and social purpose.’40 In India, few citizens had bank accounts or access to any form of credit. In a 1969 memo to Prime Minster Gandhi, Haksar wrote, We have hardly 120 lakh bank accounts for a population of 50 crores. Unless banking is extended geographically and functionally to all sectors of the society our banking system cannot be said to have developed as one would wish. Left to the private sector this could not happen with its halting and hesitant attitude. The problem is to convert a system of class banking into banking for the masses.41

Nationalisation of the banks was an attempt by Gandhi’s administration not only to provide access to banking and other financial services for the average India but also to correct regional disparities in access to banking and attendant services. Haksar writes, Even out of our deposit of Rs. 3,800 crores in 1966, 50 per cent come from three States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and West Bengal while six states representing 40 per cent of the population viz. Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Orissa and Assam contribute only 6 per cent of the deposits. It is imperative therefore that banking should spread more intensively in all these states. Where banking is not well developed, co-operatives are weak, nor are the post offices successful in mobilising deposits.42

Haksar claimed that nationalisation would not only address regional inequalities in access to banking but also prevent the transfer of resources from rural to urban areas, from poor to rich regions and from agrarian to industrial areas. He writes, Banks will be expected to play their role in redressing regional imbalances. It would be a valid criticism, even though there might be good reasons for it, to say that banks have been transferring resources from poorer areas to richer areas—from rural areas to urban areas, from backward States to well-industrialised States. This trend has to be reversed and the success of their branch opening programme will be judged among other things

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


by taking into account the extent of their lending from branches in the non-urban areas.43

Gandhi and her advisors planned to infuse more capital into the Indian economy by increasing access to banking, encouraging more of the population to open new bank accounts and increase their current deposits. Even if the banking system is able to increase the deposits to Rs. 8,000 crores in 5 years these resources representing the savings of the people could help the economic development of the country considerably without our having recourses to deficit financing.… Banks are catering to only a few in the country and when we know that nearly 600 accounts have borrowed 50 per cent of the total advances viz. Rs. 1,500 crores we can appreciate the tragedy of this situation.44

While the wealthiest Indians were making use of the existing banking system, countless smaller pools of capital were not utilised. Nationalisation of the banking industry and the extension of credit to potential small business owners was also seen by Gandhi’s administration as in the national interest, but also as something neglected by the private sector. Haksar writes, Bank credit can act as a potential catalytic in the economic growth of the people. For every successful enterprise there is a bank credit responsible, as you have rightly mentioned in your broadcast to the nation. Denial of credit to such people with ability, enterprise and integrity would similarly have come in the way of their development, leading to frustration.45

To meet economic development goals, Gandhi contended, most Indians regardless of their class status or geographical location needed access to credit and savings. Nationalised banking was the strategy employed by the Gandhi administration to support agricultural development by replacing exploitative money lenders in rural areas and thereby allowing farmers, especially smaller scale farmers, to employ the latest agricultural technologies. Haksar wrote in a memo to Gandhi, Banks have neglected small borrowers completely. Money lending has become a lucrative business in this country living on small farmers, small traders and small scale industrialists. This has to be combated by the banks involving themselves in direct financing. One of the criteria of the successful functioning of banking in any area should be judged by the extent it has replaced money lenders.46


Brewing Resistance

Nationalised banks were thought to be more viable in rural areas where commercial and cooperative banks had failed to make inroads because nationalised banks could provide credit without satisfying the typical requirements that commercial and cooperative banks set as conditions for loans. ‘The cooperatives and the commercial banks have not so far succeeded in satisfying the credit and other requirements of the small farmers and tenant cultivators. In this respect the nationalised banks will be charged with the task of filling in these credit caps.’47 While optimistic about the potential of nationalised banking, Haksar poses some questions about how to promote banking for populations who have not traditionally sought out bank accounts or loans. Haksar asks, What would be the best practicable ways of making the common man feel that he has a stake in development of banking? What facilities can nationalised banks offer to people who do not have banking habits so far to become depositors, particularly smaller people in the countryside? How do the banks propose to reach categories like small farmers, artisans, small retail shopkeepers, self-employed ordinary men to show them that they can actually borrow from banks even small sums of a few hundred rupees for productive purposes, however humble?48

While incentivising bank accounts and loans was a concern for Haksar, nationalising the banking industry in order to serve those previously excluded from saving and borrowing was seen by the administration as the best solution not only to provide financial services to groups who were previously underserved by private banking and moneylenders but also to infuse smaller pools of under-utilised capital into the banking system, thereby putting it at the state’s disposal in order to carry out economic development projects.

Conclusion While some policies, such as nationalising the banking system, achieved their intended goals, in most cases, the stated intent of Indira Gandhi’s policies was often the opposite of her policies’ effect. Generally, policies to improve conditions for the urban working class and poor led to further immiseration with the eviction of slum dwellers without recourse. While new shopping malls, luxury apartments and office buildings proliferated as a result of these slum clearances, former slum residents were pushed to the outskirts of the city in resettlement colonies where their lives were objectively worse as a result, as these resettlement areas lacked basic infrastructure including running water,

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


sewage, electricity, shops, schools, transportation and other services. Gandhi’s urban development policies were supposed to help the poor and working classes but instead initiated gentrification across Delhi made possible by the removal of the poor from central and south Delhi. Gandhi’s agricultural policies identified family planning as the way to lessen agrarian inequality through reducing strain on existing resources. In practice, these policies were overzealous, leading to the forced sterilisation of many peasants, especially those who belonged to marginalised groups such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis. While Indira Gandhi’s family planning efforts made India the global leader in condom manufacturing that it is today, it also led to countless people being sterilised against their will. While much of the archival records of Gandhi’s policies remain closed to researchers, documents that are available raise many questions about the intent and result of these economic development policies. Were these policies simply well intentioned but misguided? Were corrupt bureaucrats to blame for the implementation of these policies that resulted much more frequently in personal benefit rather than social justice and equality? Certainly, material benefits to family planning officials who met or exceeded their sterilisation quotas incentivised zealousness in recruiting for the sterilisation drive, and urban development planners certainly had great incentive to appropriate and redevelop prime urban land into luxury malls, office buildings and apartments as was often the result of slum clearances. Or was the very goal of these policies, particularly urban development policies, to create more wealth for India’s elite through the appropriation of land and other resources? The Gandhi family itself may have benefitted financially (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 99) from these demolitions, which is one of the many reasons such doubts about the intended consequences of Gandhi’s policies linger in the absence of documentation. In this context, we can understand the Bihar Movement as critically necessary and justified both in raising public awareness about the human toll of Indira Gandhi’s development strategies and in proposing alternative ways of thinking about economic development as rooted in a Gandhian Socialism. However, the idea that a social movement that primarily engaged in non-violent tactics posed such a significant threat to the state that the suspension of democracy and civil liberties was necessary is absurd in light of the historical evidence. What the Bihar Movement did was to propose an alternative way of thinking about economic development in post-independence India. The challenge of the Bihar Movement, therefore, was not to democracy,


Brewing Resistance

but against Indira Gandhi’s ideologies of economic development and their implementation (Althusser 1971; Fanon 2002 [1961]; Gramsci 1971). The Bihar Movement revealed the class politics that were underlying Indira Gandhi’s economic development policies (Althusser 1971: 147) and with this loss of moral authority that resulted from having the naked class politics of her policies exposed, Gandhi then, having lost the moral high ground, resorted to force in order to maintain power and authority (Gramsci 1971: n49). In the following chapter, I delve further into the challenges that the Bihar Movement and other social movements posed to Indira Gandhi’s political economy of development, exploring right and left opposition parties and movements and delineating their contrasting views of how India’s postcolonial political economy should be organised.

Notes   1. 11/4/67-CIE(I), NAI; 7/61/67-CIE(I), NAI; 2(20)-B/68, NAI; 1(14)AID/68, NAI; F1(17)AID/67, NAI; 12/43/67-CIE(1), NAI.   2. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile 8, NMML.   3. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile 8, NMML.   4. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile 8, NMML.   5. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 151–171, NMML.   6. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile no. 23, NMML.   7. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile no. 23, NMML.   8. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile no. 23, NMML.   9. PN Haksar Files Instalments I & II, Subfile no. 47, NMML. 10. PN Haksar Files Instalments I & II, Subfile no. 47, NMML. 11. 11/4/67-CIE(I), NAI; 7/61/67-CIE(I), NAI; 2(20)-B/68, NAI; 1(14)AID/68, NAI; F1(17)AID/67, NAI; 12/43/67-CIE(1), NAI; see also Desai 2012. 12. PN Haksar Files Instalment III, Subfile no. 121B, NMML. 13. PN Haksar Files Instalment III, Subfile no. 121B, NMML. 14. PN Haksar Files Instalment III, Subfile no. 121B, NMML. 15. PN Haksar Files Instalment III, Subfile no. 121B, NMML. 16. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 232, NMML. 17. PN Haksar Files Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 232, NMML. 18. PN Haksar Files Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 232, NMML. 19. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 53, NMML. 20. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 53, NMML. 21. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 86, NMML. 22. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 86, NMML. 23. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 86, NMML. 24. File no. 1[3]1973[LAW], DA. 25. File no. 1[3]1973[LAW], DA. 26. File no. 1[3]1973[LAW], DA. 27. File no. 1[3]1973[LAW], DA. 28. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 43, NMML.

Indira Gandhi’s Political Economy of Development


29. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 43, NMML. 30. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 43, NMML. 31. File no. 4(36) AID/67, NAI. 32. File no. 4[36] AID/67, NAI. 33. File no. 4[36] AID/67, NAI. 34. File no. 4(36) AID/67, NAI. 35. 19/25/73-IA, NAI. 36. 19/25/73-IA, NAI. 37. 19/25/73-IA, NAI. 38. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 57, NMML. 39. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 42, NMML. 40. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile 141, Notes on Nationalisation of Banks, 1969. 41. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 42, NMML. 42. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 42, NMML. 43. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile 141, NMML. 44. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 42, NMML. 45. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile 42, NMML. 46. PN Haksar Files, Installment I & II, Subfile 42, NMML. 47. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile 141, NMML. 48. PN Haksar Files, Instalment III, Subfile 141, NMML.

4 Social Movements of the 1970s

thousands of desires, each worth dying for many of them I have realised, yet I yearn for more —Ghalib, Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi (trans. from Urdu)

On the eve of the Emergency, four significant, but also quite different, new left movements marked attempts to enact the radical aims of national liberation that, in the two or so decades since Indian Independence, had not yet been realised (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 73): the Naxalite Movement in West Bengal; the Dalit Panthers in Maharashtra; the Bihar Movement; and the Railway Workers’ Strike. These movements both precipitated the Emergency and, in the face of state repression, fomented resistance against the postcolonial state during its period of democratic occlusion. These left movements were accompanied by religious right wing movements: Akali Dal, Jamaat-e-Islami and Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Both the right and left social movements of the 1970s posed challenges to the economic development policies of the Indira Gandhi administration and the social dislocations those policies created (Althusser 1971). In this chapter, I will detail the many social movements that proliferated in 1970s India (Silver and Slater 1999: 207–8) in the lead-up to the Emergency and show how they pushed for the more radical aims of national liberation that had not yet been realised by the 1970s and challenged the policy programmes of the Gandhi administration.

Formation of the CPI(ML) and CPI(ML)-Liberation The split in the Communist Party was just one of many factionalisations that occurred among the Indian left in the 1960s. The Naxalite Movement and its political party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI[ML]), was formed as a social movement in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967, led by CPI(M) cadres inspired by Maoism, and then became an independent political party in 1969 (Dasgupta 1973, 1974;

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M. Kumar 2012: 2; P. Singh 2006). The party was formed because of a perception among the leaders of the Naxalbari uprising that the CPI(M) was not committed enough to the peasants’ struggle (Banerjee 1980: 121, 131). The Naxalite Movement, like the Socialist movement, began with an orientation towards the social position of peasants in rural India, though it was not without an urban expression. Its initial stronghold was in the east (strongest in and around Calcutta; active in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh; and present, but to a lesser extent, in Punjab [Dasgupta 1973; Judge 1992; P. Singh 2006]). Unlike the Socialists, Naxalites not only believe that the existing agrarian social order fails to give basic rights to people who do not belong to the dominant classes (Bhatia 2005: 1538) but also contend that the existing social order cannot be reformed. India, according to the Naxalite Movement, needs to abolish feudalism in the countryside (Banerjee 1980: 131). The only way to build a more just and equal agrarian society, the Naxalite Movement contends, is through violent revolutionary struggle (CPI[ML] 1982: 12) against the state, landlords, Congress Party and police (Dasgupta 1973; Bhatia 2005: 1540), under the CPI(ML) policy of ‘annihilation of class enemy’ (Dasgupta 1973; Mukherjee and Yadav 1980: 44) by the means of guerrilla warfare (CPI[ML] 1982: 15; P. Singh 2006). The Naxalite Movement’s goal is to lead the peasant revolution in the countryside and then eventually take over the cities in order to ‘liberate the whole country’ (CPI[ML] 1982: 12; P. Singh 2006). The more concrete goals of the movement are land redistribution; the implementation of a minimum wage for agrarian labour; equal pay for women; the eradication of rape; equal rights for Dalits, women and Muslims; abolition of child labour; abolition of indirect taxes on the poor; and free education and health care (Banerjee 1980: 6–7; Bhatia 2005: 1540; CPI[ML] 1982: A-3–A-4). But what makes the Naxalite Movement, and specifically Charu Mazumdar’s theoretical contributions, unique from other forms of Marxism–Leninism–Maoism is that he was able to grasp the revolution’s ‘existential unfolding as praxis’ (Ray 1988: 184). Mazumdar’s revolution is not one in which armed peasants struggle against the dominant classes, but instead one in which unarmed peasants turn on armed dominant classes, stealing their weapons and appropriating their land as a way to peasants’ liberation. This unleashing of a particular kind of violence, ‘annihilation’ as Mazumdar terms it, literally endeavours to kill landlords with the very weapons they use against the peasants, and thereby the means of struggle is just as important in achieving liberation as the end (Ray 1988: 184–5).


Brewing Resistance

While the CPI(ML) began in West Bengal (Dasgupta 1974: 27), I focus on the Naxalite Movement in Bihar and Punjab as the Naxalite Movement in these two states played an important role in the resistance to the Emergency in their opposition to, critiques of, and support for the Socialist Party led resistance movement against the Emergency. The CPI(ML), along with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation (abbreviated as Liberation), reshaped peasant movements in both the most prosperous agrarian economy in India, Punjab ( Judge 1992: 45), and the most impoverished, Bihar (Prasad 2002: 2). Liberation is a faction of the CPI(ML) that split off in 1971 after the murder of CPI(ML) founder and leader, Charu Mazumdar, a former cadre of the CPI(M) (Bhatia 2005: 1536; M. Kumar 2012: 48). Liberation was pro-Mazumdar and pro-Lin Bao, and its support was concentrated in the Bhojpur region of Bihar (M. Kumar 2012: 264). Liberation, led by Subrata Dutta, officially became its own party on 28 July 1974 on the one year anniversary of Mazumdar’s assassination (M. Kumar 2012: 264). In November 1975, Subrata Dutta was assassinated by police, at which time Vinod Mishra became the General Secretary of Liberation (M. Kumar 2012: 265). While north Bihar has large landholdings and Chhotanagpur has a significant tribal population along with a long history of peasant uprisings (Banerjee 1980: 15), the Naxalite Movement in Bihar was concentrated in south Bihar (now Jharkhand) and central Bihar (Prasad 2002: 4). However, the movement first spread west from West Bengal into Purnea district in northeast Bihar in 1967, but the movement ended in 1972 due to state repression and tactical errors (Prasad 2002: 191). The ruling class of Purnea district, the Mithila Brahmins having a strong identity linked to erudition and scholarship in Sanskrit, maintained a hegemony over the masses through this strong, unchallenged Mithila cultural identity through which they were able to continue slavery in the name of religion long after slavery became illegal in Bihar (Prasad 2002: 196). The Maghai and Bhojpur regions by contrast were far more diverse—Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs—and, therefore, the hegemony of the upper castes was weak by comparison to the Mithila region, and so even though the Mithila region was far more unequal and hierarchical, the Naxalite Movement was more successful in Bhojpur (Prasad 2002: 197). By 1973, Bhojpur emerged as the ‘Bihari Naxalbari’ (M. Kumar 2012: 3; Mukherjee and Yadav 1980: 45; Prasad 2002: 191). In the early 1970s, the Naxalite Movement in this area of central Bihar, dominated by Liberation (Bhatia, 1536), focused mainly on underground armed action against police

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and landlords (M. Kumar 2012: 265; Mukherjee and Yadav 1980: 45, 128). However, the CPI(ML) and then Liberation also helped poor and landless peasants struggle for higher wages, land distribution and for the reinstatement of rule of law in Bihar (M. Kumar 2012: 265). During the Emergency, all Naxalite parties were declared illegal, and top leaders of Liberation were killed or jailed (M. Kumar 2012: 3). But 1975 was nonetheless ‘the bloodiest year in Bhojpur’ as a result of confrontation between landlords and Naxalites (Mukherjee and Yadav 1980: 136). The Naxalite Movement also had bases in urban Bihar, particularly in Patna University and other colleges, where Patna-based Maoists would frequent the Patna location of Indian Coffee House and collaborate with the Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (CSS) (Students’ Struggle Committees). By 1976, the Naxalite Movement in Bihar was on the decline. After the Emergency, many former Liberation members aligned with JP Movement participants to revive the Naxalite Movement in Bihar (M. Kumar 2012: 3). Punjabi CPI(M) members followed the Naxalbari uprisings of 1967 with great enthusiasm. The Hoshiarpur district committee leader, Master Bachittar Singh, was expelled from the party for his sympathies for the Naxalite uprising ( Judge 1992: 74). One hundred local CPI(M) party members followed ( Judge 1992: 74). Soon, in Sangrur district, Professor Harbhajan Singh led an inquiry to determine local CPI(M) leaders’ official position on the Naxalite uprising ( Judge 1992: 74). Singh and his followers soon were expelled from the CPI(M) and so formed their own Naxalite group in Punjab ( Judge 1992: 75). Unlike in Bihar where social conditions were bad and deteriorating, the Green Revolution in Punjab had created unprecedented crop yields, a rise in per-capita income, and an increase in wages for casual male agricultural labourers, but these advancements were accompanied with the further concentration of land in just a few hands ( Judge 1992: 52–4). However, many saw the successes of the Green Revolution as an opening for a subsequent Red Revolution that could redistribute land and further improve material conditions for agricultural workers. The Naxalite group in Punjab comprised mainly of educated, high-caste, middle-class activists, most of whom were professors and university students ( Judge 1992: 77; P. Singh 2006: 62). They saw the Naxalite Movement as following in the legacy of the Punjabi left of the years leading up to independence: the Ghadar Party, Babbar Akali Jatha, and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha ( Judge 1992: 77). In fact, many of their leaders were old Ghadarites, Babbar Akali members and CPI(M) members ( Judge 1992: 78).


Brewing Resistance

In late 1967, this group of intellectuals formed the Punjab Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (PCCCR) ( Judge 1992: 79). Their goal was to wage struggle with the state in order to improve agrarian conditions in Punjab ( Judge 1992: 79). They began by conducting several studies of agrarian conditions in Punjab and eventually determined that the class relationships in Punjab were markedly different from those in Naxalbari, West Bengal, and therefore, the Punjab Naxalite Movement necessitated a different strategy. Most of the land in Punjab was owned by middle-peasant proprietors and, therefore, feudal relationships were absent from most of the state. However, in Bhatinda, Sangrur and some areas of Ropar and Hoshiarpur districts, they concluded that agrarian class relations remained feudal ( Judge 1992: 79). They began a campaign in these districts under the slogan ‘Seize the Coming Crop’, encouraging peasants to appropriate the agricultural product of the land they worked ( Judge 1992: 80). But the PCCCR did not just confine their activities to the agrarian movement, it also organised a student movement in support of peasant struggles ( Judge 1992: 80). In 1968, Communist student groups led student agitations in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Sangrur and Bhatinda ( Judge 1992: 86). Most of these were protests of student grievances against the university administration ( Judge 1992: 86). But as the Naxalite Movement grew, some students became interested in solidarity work with the peasants’ struggle. Militant student leader Darshan Singh Bagi broke away from the CPI(M) and formed a student wing of the PCCCR, the Punjab Students’ Union (PSU) ( Judge 1992: 86). And then in December 1968, police shot at students protesting at Sudhar College in Ludhiana, killing a student ( Judge 1992: 86). In response, students across Punjab went on strike. Students burned city busses in protest. Soon arrest warrants for student leaders were issued, forcing the most militant PSU members underground ( Judge 1992: 86). Many of these students were further radicalised by this experience and then went to work as full-time revolutionaries committed to the ‘annihilation of class enemies’ line of the PCCCR ( Judge 1992: 87). Manoj Kumar provocatively claims that the Naxalite Movement, while primarily a class movement, was also caste warfare (M. Kumar 2012: 16). In the east more so than in Punjab, the leaders of the movement were peasants belonging to the lower castes agitating against Brahmin landlords (M. Kumar 2012: 16). For example, the Naxals in Bihar agitated against caste atrocities including the routine rape of Dalit women by Brahmin landlords (M. Kumar 2012: 87). In the 1970s, as the Communist Parties fractured

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into many groups to fight for workers and peasants, a new radical leftist group emerged that endeavoured to better articulate the class–caste struggle (Omvedt 2006: 74).

The Dalit Panther Party The Dalit Panthers (Dalit Sangharsh Samiti), inspired by the Naxalite Movement, B. R. Ambedkar and the US-based Black Panther Party (Clemons and Jones 1999: 181; Gokhale-Turner 1979: 77; Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 320), was founded in Bombay in 1972 (Omvedt 2006: 73; Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 319). Dalit Panthers fused an ideological hybrid of Buddhism, following Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, and Marxism, both of which served to question caste hierarchies and offer a revolutionary means of transforming society ( Jefferson 2008: 52). Dalit Panthers rejected previous words used to describe Dalits, particularly the words ‘untouchable’ and ‘Harijan’ (children of God) as demeaning and hateful (Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 320). The movement sought to rework both Dalit history and the Dalit self, even developing its own greeting, Jai Bhim (‘hail Bhim’, Bhim as a shortened form of Ambedkar’s first name), as a way for Dalits to greet each other without invoking Hindu religious sentiments (Rao 2009: 187). Dalit Panthers offer a critique of Hinduism showing that Hinduism justifies ‘institutional oppression, cultural repression, economic exploitation and religious domination’ ( Jefferson 2008: 53) along with a political economy that exploits Dalit labour while blocking Dalit access to representation in government, state power and state resources ( Jefferson 2008: 54). In the founding manifesto of the Dalit Panther Party, they wrote, We do not want a little place in Brahman Alley. We want to rule the whole land. We are not looking at persons but a system. Change of heart, liberal eduction, etc., will not end our state of exploitation. When we gather a revolutionary mass, rouse the people, out of the struggle of this giant mass will come the tidal wave of revolution. The social system cannot be revolutionised by mere demands for concessions, elections, and Satyagraha. Our rebellious idea of social revolution will germinate in the soil, grow in the minds of the people, and ultimately will flash into existence like hot burning steel. (As quoted in Omvedt 2006: 73; Jefferson 2008: 56; Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 323)

The Dalit Panther movement rejected party politics and instead sought to build a mass-based political movement for social change (GokhaleTurner 1979: 78). The movement soon spread beyond Bombay into other


Brewing Resistance

Maharashtrian cities with large Dalit populations such as Pune, Nasik and Aurangabad and then into rural Maharashtra (Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 323). On 15 August 1973, Dalit Panthers introduced their group and goals to the public on what they termed ‘Black Independence Day’ by holding a procession of 250 Dalit Panthers through the streets of Bombay from Victoria Terminus Railway Station to Azad Maidan (Gokhale-Turner 1979: 86). This public display led to clashes between Dalit Panthers and the Hindu right wing Shiv Sena activists, leading to police intervention and arrests on both sides (Gokhale-Turner 1979: 86). On 2 January 1974, Dalit Panthers and Communists (mostly CPI), after collaborating together on a mill workers’ strike, called for ‘Maharashtra Bandh Day’ (Shut Down Maharashtra Day) to protest Indira Gandhi’s policies against Dalits and the working class (Gokhale-Turner 1979: 87). On 5 January, Dalit Panther Bhagwat Jadhav made critical comments about Hindu deities in a rally speech to which Shiv Sena members responded by stoning him to death (Gokhale-Turner 1979: 87; Rao 2009: 200). The Dalit Panthers then rioted, and instead of protecting the Dalit Panthers from Shiv Sena attacks, police led a tear gas and lathi (baton) charge against Dalit Panthers, chasing them into chawls occupied by high-caste Hindus where they were then beaten by Shiv Sena activists (Gokhale-Turner 1979: 87; Rao 2009: 200). Police mercilessly beat young Dalit Panthers, dragging some by the hair, while other police officers beat them with lathis and the butt of their rifles (Times of India 1974v). During the Worli riots, Dalit Panthers threw stones at buildings and at police (Times of India 1974v). One Dalit Panther was stabbed while police officers received minor injuries from stone throwing (Times of India 1974g). Six police officers were injured, and 71 Panthers were arrested (Times of India 1974v). Dalit Panthers who were arrested went on hunger strike in jail demanding the release of all those arrested in connection with the rioting (Times of India 1974g). Because Dalit Panthers were not permitted to march Jadav’s body through the streets of Bombay, they instead marched behind a Jeep with garlanded photographs of Ambedkar, Buddha, and Jadav (Times of India 1974g). Over 1,000 Dalit Panthers participated (Times of India 1974g). While the Dalit Panther Party officially dissolved in 1974, the Dalit Panthers live on today as a decentralised awareness-raising organisation (Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 326).The political movement had several important achievements: raising awareness against caste oppression, fomenting political resistance against caste atrocities, and fundamentally changing the conversation on Dalits, including changing the language by which we talk about Dalits (Paswan and

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Jaideva 2004: 328). But the most significant and lasting contribution is the Dalit Panthers’ important and enduring contribution to literature and the arts (Gokhale-Turner 1979: 79; Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 321). The Dalit Panther movement generated a literature of protest, still extremely vibrant to this day, that critiques high-caste, bourgeois Marathi literature, instead exploring neglected aspects of caste society to give voice to Dalit characters (Awad 2010: 210, 2012: 1; Gokhale-Turner 1979: 79). Through literature and literary performance, Dalit writers perform their social agency within the Dalit liberation movement (Awad 2010: 211). Dalit literature is both a positive force, creating an emancipatory discourse for the Dalit/working class, and a negative force, critiquing oppressive systems of power that immiserate the Dalit/working class (Awad 2010: 212). The Dalit Panther literary magazine Vidroh (Revolt) wrote that the Dalit literary movement stands for ‘the man who wants to begin the armed struggle in literature and outside the field of literature’ (quoted in Paswan and Jaideva 2004: 321).

The Religious Right: Akali Dal, Jan Sangh, and Jamaat-e-Islami But not all oppositional political organisations and parties turned leftward during the 1960s and 1970s. The Akali Dal, which had some leftist tendencies through the 1940s, turned rightward after independence. Akali Dal went from being an anti-colonial regional party to being the self-proclaimed religious mouthpiece of Punjabi Sikhs. By the 1950s, the party’s chief goal was the creation of a Punjabi-speaking state (Ralhan 1988: 5). Therefore, it was seen as a victory for the Akali Dal in 1966 when Punjab was divided into two Indian states: the Punjabi-speaking, Sikh-majority state of Punjab and the Hindi-speaking, Hindu-majority state of Haryana (Ralhan 1988: 13). But a faction within the Akali Dal, led by Master Tara Singh, wanted an independent Sikh state. In 1967, this faction’s Akali Dal election manifesto called for a ‘Sikhistan’ within the union of India but with the autonomous constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir (Ralhan 1988: 14). The more moderate faction, led by Sant Fath Singh, saw the Akali goals as more secular, based in linguistic differences (B. Singh 2006: 842; Telford 1992: 970). Sant Fath Singh, while wanting Punjab to retain full control of the city of Chandigarh rather than have it as a joint capital for Punjab and Haryana, wanted Punjab to remain part of India. In the 1967 Punjab state elections, the Sant Fath Singh faction defeated the Master Tara Singh faction (B. Singh 2006: 842). But Akalis were surprised


Brewing Resistance

that even though Punjab was now 60 per cent Sikh, they only managed to secure about half of the Sikh vote (Telford 1992: 971). After the elections, moderates in the Akali Dal formed a coalition between the Sikh religious right (Akali Dal) and the Hindu right ( Jan Sangh) in order to secure a larger percentage of the electorate (Chum 2014: 36; Telford 1992: 971). However, the right wing faction of the Akali Dal opposed this alliance with the Hindu right and urged the party to return to a more Sikh-based orientation. In 1972, this call was realised in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which in defining Sikhs as their own nation, some scholars claim, provided the ideological basis for the later demand for Khalistan (an independent Sikh theocratic state) (Telford 1992: 971). There was pressure within the Akali Dal to pursue the demands in the resolution, until the Emergency was declared in June 1975, and the Akali Dal aligned with the JP Movement under the Akali slogan of ‘Save Democracy’ (Kaur 1999: 62; Telford 1992: 972). During the Emergency, over 40,000 Akali Dal activists were arrested, which pushed the party further out of the mainstream and against the Congress Party (Chum 2014: 35; Telford 1992: 972). After the Emergency, the Akali Dal worked closely with the Janata Party (Telford 1992: 973) even though there remained factions within the Akali Dal that still wanted an independent Khalistan. These tensions came to the fore after Operation Blue Star and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, after which point those in the right wing faction of the Akali Dal, now led by Baba Joginder Singh, openly demanded the creation of the independent Sikh theocracy of Khalistan (B. Singh 2006: 843). The story of the Muslim parties mirrors that of the Akali Dal in that they too shifted right. Many leaders in the Khilafat Movement went on to join more conservative Islamist parties after independence. Notably, Nasr Maududi, who in the 1930s was a Khilafat member and committed Marxist, married to a German woman whose family members were active Communists (Ahmad 2009: 54). Maududi became one of the founding members of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind1 ( JIH) in the 1940s as a result of his belief that the Muslim League was too secular to lead Indian Muslims (Ahmad 2009: 62). JIH, in contrast to the Muslim League, called for Muslims in India to boycott secular democratic elections and, instead, wanted to work to build a ‘pure sharia state’ (Ahmad 2009: 218–19). Voting in a secular democratic election was seen by JIH as haram (Ahmad 2009: 219). In 1967, however, JIH leadership rethought this stance and allowed members to vote for Muslim candidates in selected local

Social Movements of the 1970s


elections (Ahmad 2009: 219). During the Emergency, JIH was banned, along with the Naxalite parties and the Hindu right, because of its self-identified goal of instating sharia in India and thereby fundamentally changing the nature of the Indian state. Many of JIH’s leaders were arrested under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) as a result (Ahmad 2009: 230). It was not until after the Emergency, when elections were restored in 1977, that JIH first allowed its members to vote in national elections, urging them to vote to restore democracy in India regardless of whether they voted for Muslim candidates or candidates of other religions (Ahmad 2009: 219–20). Their experience of being banned during the Emergency fundamentally changed JIH from an organisation unconcerned with democratic elections to one that actively encouraged conservative Muslims to vote and participate in Indian democratic politics. But Dr Mohammad Salim, Secretary General of JIH, told me to take secondary sources on JIH with a grain of salt as ‘books that have been written on Jamaat-e-Islami were written without consulting us so that’s not the true picture’, especially, he added, when it comes to depicting JIH during the Emergency. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Hindu right also underwent significant changes. The Jan Sangh, founded in 1951 as the political arm of the Hindu right wing organisation the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), sought access to mainstream politics while still maintaining its RSS identity ( Jaffrelot 1996: 255).2 The RSS was founded in 1925 as a paramilitary movement for India’s independence, advocating cultural nationalism ( Jaffrelot 1989: 831). The long-term goal of the RSS is to re-establish India’s position during the pre-Mughal Hindu empires as among the most powerful nations in the world, because, as the RSS contends, the Islamic invasions in the 1000s AD disrupted Hindus from performing their economic, social and religious duties, thereby weakening the collective social body (Andersen and Damle 2005: 24). The RSS posits that state power is simply an artifice of everyday life, but that a religious monarch will help to bring order to the chaos of existence ( Jaffrelot 1989: 832). Democracy, Capitalism and Socialism are seen by the RSS as Western imports, contrary to traditional principles of Hindu thought and unable to improve social conditions in India (Andersen and Damle 2005: 25). Instead, the improvement of society will be realised through deep mediation and the observance of dharma (divine obligations based on one’s jati [subcaste]) (Andersen and Damle 2005: 27). The ideal economic organisation, according to RSS views, is to have small entrepreneurs and yeoman farmers, since the acquisition and consumption of


Brewing Resistance

luxury items is contrary to the non-materialist spirit of Hindu philosophy (Andersen and Damle 2005: 33). Rejecting the concept of class struggle, the trade unions affiliated with the RSS employ the concept of dharma as an explanation for why workers have a duty to the Hindu nation to maximise their productive efforts but at the same time are entitled to a fair distribution of the fruits of production (Saxena 2005: 346). The Hindu right supports policies of rapid industrialisation, private industries, and advocates liberalisation of the economy (Saxena 2005: 346). During the JP Movement, the Jan Sangh started to develop agitational methods and led numerous satyagrahas against inflation ( Jaffrelot 1996: 256). This new turn to social movement tactics boosted the popularity of the Jan Sangh ( Jaffrelot 1996: 257). The RSS and Jan Sangh participated in the JP movement because it aligned with their very popular campaigns against inflation and corruption ( Jaffrelot 1996: 257). The RSS was banned by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency (B. Chandra 2003:157; Jaffrelot 1996: 273; Nayar 1977: 91) and continued to be close allies with the Socialists’ struggle against the Emergency movement, not because the RSS and Jan Sangh shared the Socialists’ attitude towards democracy, but because they wanted to regain their legal status ( Jaffrelot 1996: 274).

Jayaprakash Narayan and Rammanohar Lohia: Indian Socialism in the 1970s Jayaprakash Narayan and Rammanohar Lohia played a significant role in opposing Indira Gandhi’s development policies and leading the Socialist resistance against the Emergency. Rammanohar Lohia and JP were both Uttar Pradesh natives, Lohia from Faizabad and JP from Sitab Diara, a small village three hours upstream from Patna, Bihar (Devasahayam 2012: 6). Both men travelled abroad in pursuit of advanced studies. JP studied sociology at the University of Wisconsin from 1921 to 1929 (B. Chandra 2003: 94). His master’s thesis, a Marxist study of dialectics and historical materialism supervised by Edward A. Ross, entitled ‘Social Variation’ won the department’s award for best MA thesis that year (Devasahayam 2012: 7). During his student days in the US, JP was a deeply committed Marxist but was also a staunch critic of the Soviet Union (A. Pandey 2011: 60). To finance his graduate studies at Wisconsin, JP worked as an ‘ordinary labourer’ on a local farm.3 However, he never completed his PhD because he fell ill and returned to India. Lohia studied at Friedrich Wilhelms Universität (now Humboldt Universität) in Berlin where he earned a PhD in political economy

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in 1933 (Oesterheld 2010: 86). Lohia’s dissertation, entitled ‘Die Besteuerung des Salzes in Indien’ (Salt Taxation in India), was a study of how Mohandas Gandhi’s strategy in the march against the salt tax in British India suggested a Gandhian political economy in response to British taxation (I. Kelkar 2010: 20; Oesterheld 2010: 87). His supervisor was Bernard Jombart (I. Kelkar 2010: 20). Lohia was active in the Social Democratic Party during his grad student days (I. Kelkar 2010: 21). Both JP and Lohia refused to study at British universities as protest against the empire, even though British degrees were far more prestigious in colonial India than American and German degrees (Oesterheld 2010: 85). Upon receiving his PhD, Lohia had no interest in joining the professoriate and, instead, returned to Calcutta, where he had completed his BA, started work for the Socialist newspaper Congress Socialist, and participated in the student and labour movements in Calcutta (I. Kelkar 2010: 10, 22). Lohia then moved to Allahabad in 1936, where he was recruited by Jawaharlal Nehru to work for the All-India Congress Committee (I. Kelkar 2010: 30). Lohia got along well with the left-leaning Congress Party members since he was not Marxist, nor anti-Marxist, and not a Gandhian but not anti-Gandhian (I. Kelkar 2010: 28). Lohia’s political programme can be summed up in eight points: gender equality, anti-imperialism, economic equality, individual liberties, abolition of caste, non-violence and racial equality (Almust 1998: 236). After independence, Lohia moved to Goa to help organise resistance against Portuguese colonialism (I. Kelkar 2010: 66) and then travelled to Kashmir and Nepal, organising support for the nascent Indian state and resistance against colonial remnants (I. Kelkar 2010: 87). By 1949, he had settled in Delhi and by 1952 helped form the Praja Socialist Party (I. Kelkar 2010: 114). From the 1950s until his death from prostate cancer in 1967, Lohia was an intellectual and political leader for the Socialist Party of India. Lohia spent most of his days at the Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place, New Delhi, clad in a khadi kurta and dhoti, drinking coffee, smoking Charminar brand cigarettes, talking about politics with other coffee house patrons of all political persuasions, and penning Socialist books and pamphlets (I. Kelkar 2010: 6; Menon and Nair: 103). Scholars today claim that Lohia was single-handedly responsible for creating an intellectual culture among the left in New Delhi (Yadav 2010: 47). And Lohia was not simply relegated to discussions of politics, but engaged in discussions about art and literature as well. M. F. Hussain cites Rammanohar Lohia as an important influence, as do many Hindi literary figures including Fanishwarnath Renu, Raghuvir Sahay, Srikant Verma, Sarveshwar and Dayal Saxena (Yadav 2010: 47).


Brewing Resistance

While JP and Lohia were both staunch critics of capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy and the caste system (A. Pandey 2011: 72–89), they also diverged on several key issues. JP contended that Marxism was the most scientific and relevant lens through which to analyse the Third World, but Lohia believed that Marxism was a Eurocentric theory inapplicable to the world outside of Europe (A. Pandey 2011: 92). Lohia instead contended that Gandhian thought was more applicable to the Indian context and more revolutionary than Marxism (A. Pandey 2011: 92). JP, however, thought Gandhianism to be reactionary and bourgeois (A. Pandey 2011: 92). Given his Marxist leanings, JP put more emphasis on structural change in society, while Lohia believed that changing individual consciousness was paramount for social change (A. Pandey 2011: 107, 109). However, both Lohia and JP found an ideal balance between Marxism and Gandhianism in Sarvodaya and the Bhoodan Movement respectively (A. Pandey 2011: 103).

The Bihar Movement Dr Lohia, as he is affectionately called by his followers, is popularly viewed as the intellectual leader of the Socialist anti-Emergency movement, but JP was its praxis. After leaving the US, Jayaprakash Narayan, affectionally called JP by his followers, returned to Bihar and played a leadership role in Sarvodaya (also known as the Bhoodan Movement started by Vinoba Bhave in 1952) (B. Chandra 2003: 95; Devasahayam 2012: 10; B. Pandey 1988: 64).4 While Nehru had tried to cajole JP to join his cabinet, JP preferred to work as a grassroots activist in the Bhoodan Movement in Bihar for the majority of his life rather than take up party politics (Guha 2007: 477). JP claimed that he decided to renounce politics after becoming involved in the Bodh Gaya Sarvodaya Sammelan.5 He explained, ‘I decided to withdraw from party-andpower politics not because of disgust or any personal frustration, but because it became clear to me that politics could not deliver the goods. The goods being the same old goals of equality, freedom, brotherhood, peace.’6 However, JP and Jawaharlal Nehru remained close friends, and JP was also close with Nehru’s daughter, Indira (Guha 2007: 477). Bihar, where JP was a grassroots activist, was the poorest state in India with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of 225 rupees in 1973–4 (Shah 1977a: 606). Threequarters of the population of Bihar had a per capita expenditure of less than 20 rupees per month in 1973–4 (Shah 1977a: 606). In the early 1970s, Bihar was characterised by high unemployment compared to other Indian states, intense

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casteism, rampant corruption, shortages of essential commodities, rapid inflation, and such a great deal of general lawlessness that even politicians gave up the facade of trying to combat these social issues (B. Chandra 2003: 38). The unemployment rate in Bihar was the highest in India in 1974: 45 per cent of Bihari men of working age were unemployed (Shah 1977a: 606). Health services were inadequate in the state with one doctor for every 24,000 people compared to one doctor per 17,000 people as a national average (Shah 1977a: 606, 1977c: 67). And 6,512 of 67,655 Bihari villages had no drinking water within a mile radius (Shah 1977a: 606, 1977c: 67). Land distribution was also grossly unequal with 5 per cent of Bihari families (of high caste) owning 33 per cent of the land in the state (Shah 1977a: 606). In the early 1970s, the Naxalite Movement had grown in rural Bihar. In 1970, there were 643 Naxalite agitations, seven times more than the previous year (Shah 1977a: 610). In 1973, peasants began attacking and looting the houses of landowners (Shah 1977a: 610). In response to increasing inflation, wage stagnation and increased taxation, workers in Bihari cities formed a coalition organisation called Bihar Rajya Mahgai Abhaab Pesha Kar Virodhi Mazdoor Swa Karmachari Sangharsha Samiti (The Bihar State Struggle Committee of Labourers and Employees to Oppose Price Rise and Professional Tax). This organisation was dominated by the CPI but included other left parties as well (Shah 1977a: 610). This group held a large rally in Patna on 16 December 1973 that attracted 120 different trade unions and various political parties (Shah 1977a: 610). Students also voiced their opposition to social conditions in the state. In December 1973, a new wave of student protests started in Patna and spread through the state of Bihar (B. Chandra 2003: 39). The demands of the student movement included the lowering of prices, particularly for food, and lower tuition, textbook and stationary prices; improved conditions of university hostels; higher quality food in the canteen; student’s participation in university management; and jobs for the college educated (B. Chandra 2003: 39). The movement began on 5 December 1973, when students in Patna hijacked two city busses to protest increasing fares (Shah 1977a: 611, 1977c: 85). On 10 December, students protested at the state secretariat where they were met with police who fired 17 rounds of tear gas shells into the crowd (Shah 1977a: 611). In February 1974, students at Patna University held a conference inviting students from across the state to convene and develop a coherent movement strategy. The result of this two-day conference was the founding of the Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (BCSS), which called for the lowering of prices for


Brewing Resistance

essential commodities, reduction in tuition, cheaper textbooks and participation in university management. However, Communist students walked out of the talks when the group called for India to maintain ‘equal distance relations’ with both the US and the Soviet Union (Shah 1977a: 611). Later that month, Communist students organised their own conference and formed their own group, Bihar Chhatra Naujawan Sangharsh Morcha (BCNSM), which called for state-subsidised food, unemployment allowance and the establishment of student unions at all colleges (Shah 1977a: 611, 1977c: 87). The Communist slogan of the Bihar Movement was ‘Indira Gandhi hosh me aao, mahangai par rok lagao’ (Indira Gandhi, come to your senses, put a stop to rising prices) (Tiwari 1987). In March 1974, these student protests turned violent. On 13 March, students at Bihar University in Muzaffarpur held a demonstration that resulted in students setting fire to the university (Shah 1977a: 611). Their slogan was ‘Goli nahin, roti do, hum kisi se kum nahi’ (No bullets, give us bread, we are not less than anyone) (Tiwari 1987: 179). On 14 March, students at Patna University occupied the administration building. On 16 March, the BCNSM organised marches on campuses in Patna, Muzaffarpur, Begusarai, Sahebganj and Motihari demanding the closure of all universities in the state for the next year (Shah 1977a: 611, 1977c: 89). In Patna, Muzaffarpur and Motihari, the protests resulted in police lathi charges and police shooting at student protesters (B. Chandra 2003: 39; Shah 1977a: 611). On 18 March 1974, the BCSS joined the BCNSM, as did several youth wings of the CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML), to protest in front of the state assembly in Patna (Shah 1977a: 611; Tiwari 1987: 22–3). Five students were killed in the clash with police. Students responded by large-scale violence, looting and arson (B. Chandra 2003: 40). The kitchens of five-star hotels were looted, as were food markets and railway cars used to store food (B. Chandra 2003: 40). Students set fire to government buildings and to two newspaper offices, the Searchlight and the Pradeep (Guha 2007: 476; Shah 1977a: 611; Tiwari 1987: 26). Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent the army and state police to Patna to contain the student riots (Tiwari 1987: 26). In the next week, 24 students were killed and hundreds were injured (B. Chandra 2003: 40; Prasad 2002: 208). A curfew was imposed in most of Bihar’s major cities (Shah 1977a: 612). But in response, others joined the movement in Bihar, including lawyers, doctors, shopkeepers and other urban middle class Biharis (B. Chandra 2003: 40). In April 1974, JP, at the age of 72, was enlisted by the students to take charge of this budding social movement (B. Chandra 2003: 40; Guha 2007: 477;

Social Movements of the 1970s


Joshi 1975: 89; Prasad 2002: 208). He had written an essay in December 1973 at the start of the student movement urging them to build their movement into a ‘real people’s movement for democracy’ in India, for ‘total revolution’ (B. Chandra 2003: 42; Rajeshwar 2015: 74).7 On 6 April 1974, JP agreed to lead the Bihari student movement and also openly declared his revolutionary intent (B. Chandra 2003: 44). On 8 April, JP led a silent march through the streets of Patna to protest police brutality (B. Chandra 2003: 44; Tiwari 1987: 31). Those participating bound their mouths with cloth as they marched. After the 8 April march, JP led a five-week programme of dharnas, marches and observation of black days (B. Chandra 2003: 44). The students broadened their demands to include the removal of the Bihar State Assembly under the slogan ‘Paralyse the Government’ (Tiwari 1987: 33). JP mobilised Sarvodaya workers to circulate a petition across the state in support of the students’ new demands (B. Chandra 2003: 44). When exams came in June 1974, JP organised a boycott of exams in support of the student movement (B. Chandra 2003: 42). After the 1973–4 school year had come to a close, JP organised the students from each Bihari university and secondary school into CSS and organised Jana Sangharsh Samiti ( JSS) (People’s Struggle Committees) in each town and village (B. Chandra 2003: 45). CSS groups would meet in Sarvodaya offices or in khadi bhandars (shops selling home-spun cloth) (Shah 1977b: 643). The JSS would be charged with preventing crime, distributing essential commodities at fair prices, distributing Bhoodan land to the landless, and fighting the dowry system and caste oppression, ensuring equal treatment to Dalits (B. Chandra 2003: 45). Not many JSS were successfully formed, and the ones that were formed were soon appropriated by high-caste landowners (B. Chandra 2003: 46). JP was more successful in enlisting the help of political parties than he was in forming JSS. The RSS and the Socialist parties, along with Congress(O), lent their support to what was now termed the JP Movement or the Bihar Movement (Shah 1977b: 653).8 JP also reached out to the CPI(M) and the CPI(ML). The CPI(M) refused to join because (a) the movement did not involve the working class and trade union movement and (b) the CPI(M) refused to enter into any alliance with the RSS (Shah 1977b: 653).9 The CPI(ML) was similarly concerned not only about entering into an alliance with the RSS but also about the involvement of the Congress(O). However, E. M. S. Namboodiripad supported the JP Movement by launching supplementary and convergent protests (Dhar 2000: 248–9).10 The CPI(ML)


Brewing Resistance

also stated that the aims of the JP Movement were not sufficiently radical in its political economy and critiqued the movement for its failure to involve the peasants (Shah 1977a: 653).11 However, many CPI(ML) members were active in the JP Movement even though the party did not give its official support (Shah 1977: 653). JP’s stance on violence was notably more restrained compared to the CPI(ML)’s views on the role of violence in social protest.12 JP said at a youth conference in Allahabad in 1974 that he ‘would not restrain revolutionaries from taking to the gun’ (Narayan quoted in Dhar 2000: 251), but later in Patna, he claimed that he did not want violence but if the people wanted it from him he would take up violent tactics at an appropriate time (Dhar 2000: 251). But he elaborated that a people’s revolution can only be successful if the police and army initiate violence against the people (Dhar 2000: 251). Yashwant Sinha, who was posted in Patna in 1974, recalled to me his firsthand account of the Bihar Movement: I did what I should not have done as a civil servant…. I started meeting JP very regularly as I was posted in Patna. This obviously came to the notice of the government of the day, I knew that they were not very happy about my meeting JP. And they would have perhaps taken some action against me, but in the meanwhile, perhaps by some accidental circumstances, I got transferred to Delhi. So I came to Delhi and the Emergency was declared when I was posted here. Now I have some very vivid memories which I would like to illustrate by giving you an example. JP had addressed a massive meeting in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan which is to this day supposed to be the largest meeting held in that field. And I was returning to Patna by plane and when I was approaching Patna I could look out the window of that plane and see what was happening in the city. And I found that every road was jammed with people. It was like streams of water flowing in one direction and that was the Gandhi Maidan. Then that was the day that JP had held that huge meeting in Patna. The other memory I have is that I had gone to Patna after the Emergency had been imposed, and there was this atmosphere of fear all around and I was driving in Patna where I noticed that 4-5 people were not assembling, they were talking on the road, and the moment they saw a police vehicle coming from a distance they would immediately disperse. That was the extent of the fear. So that massive crowd that came from all directions to hear JP earlier, and this was something which I saw, even small groups of people after the Emergency was imposed describes the fear which had overtaken our society during the Emergency. So nobody was impressed by the government’s claims that trains were running on time and people were attending office on time, and everything was hunky dory. Deep inside people were very upset

Social Movements of the 1970s


because it was very very surprising that commitment to the people at large, true democratic values, was something that nobody could have imagined because India was considered to be poor, illiterate, and large number of people living in villages where they were not privy to information. TV had not yet come and press was censored so it was just word of mouth, it was just word of mouth that through the nooks and corners of this country which convinced the people that things were not all right. They may not have suffered themselves but they knew that other people had suffered.

Railway Workers’ Strike Further violence against the people came in May 1974. Railway workers across India engaged in a strike that lasted 22 days (B. Chandra 2003: 18), until it was declared illegal by Indira Gandhi under the Defence of India Rules (B. Chandra 2003: 19). The militancy of railway workers was, on the one hand, a response to deteriorating economic conditions in 1973, but it was also marked an accumulation of decades’ worth of grievances including absolute and relative decline in income in the decades leading up to the strike (Sherlock 2001: 294). In 1973, drought and oil price increases led to inflation of 70 per cent from 1968 to 1974 and 30 per cent inflation from just 1973 to 1974 (Sherlock 2001: 298). Railway workers had not seen a nominal wage increase since 1959 and with revisions in dearness allowances since the 1950s, railway workers’ real wages had significantly declined (Sherlock 2001: 299). In October 1973, workers decided to organise a strike and enlisted George Fernandes to lead the campaign (Rajeshwar 2015: 74; Sherlock 2001: 299). Fernandes was supported by the Royist Communists, the Samyukta faction of the Socialist Party (SSP), the CPI(M) and various unaffiliated trade unionists (Sen 1997: 425; Sherlock 2001: 301). Initial opponents of the strike included the Praja faction of the Socialist Party, the CPI and Congress (Sherlock 2001: 301). In the months leading up to the strike, workers’ unrest grew. From September 1973 on, sporadic incidence of workers’ unrest in response to inflation, raw material shortages and increased power outages led to a dramatic increase in the number of recorded strikes, lockouts and trade union-related violence in India (Dharmarajan 1974). These strikes, however, were largely not initiated by trade union leaders but by workers acting independently of their trade unions. The Times of India reported that since September 1973 there had been a growing distrust of trade union leadership among rank and file workers (Dharmarajan 1974).


Brewing Resistance

In early January 1974, Central and Western Railways workers joined the Maharashtra Bandh because of state inaction in response to the crisis of inflation (Times of India 1974aaas). Said George Fernandes about the railway workers’ participation in the general strike, ‘It is one more demonstration of the rising tide of people’s anger and resentment at the failure of the Indira Congress to redeem the pledge it gave to the people. It is an expression of the people’s determination not to put up with the present state of affairs much longer’ (Times of India 1974aaas). Later that month, railway workers threatened hunger strike if their independent trade union organisations were not included in the meeting of the official railway workers’ organisations convened in Delhi by the railways minister, L. N. Mishra (Times of India 1974ap). Southern Railways workers went on a wildcat strike in the evening of 12 March over failed negotiations regarding unpaid wages (Times of India 1974aac). All rail service from Madras was cancelled as a result. During the wildcat strike, about 250 gangmen sat on the tracks near the central railway termini in Madras preventing the arrival or departure of trains to the station (Times of India 1974aac). Gangmen demanded the payment of their back wages and threatened an indefinite strike if these demands were unmet (Times of India 1974aac). Later in March, George Fernandes held a press conference in Amritsar explaining that railway workers continued to face economic hardships and required a wage and benefits increase that would bring them to par with other public sector workers (Times of India 1974aaal). If these demands were not met through negotiations with the railways minister, George Fernandes claimed that railway workers were prepared to go on strike starting 10 April (Times of India 1974aaal). That same day, workers formed a new trade union federation, the Indian Railway Workers’ Federation, comprising 225,000 members and affiliated with the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) (Times of India 1974aan). Led by S. A. Dange, the federation was formed because the unions’ strategy for negotiating with the railways ministry over back wages and wage increases was more accommodating to the railways ministry from the view of workers; therefore, workers formed a new federation rather than fall prey to, in the words of S. A. Dange, ‘undemocratic and bureaucratic’ attitudes among trade union leadership (Times of India 1974aan). Railways Minister Mishra responded to workers’ threats to strike by stating that workers’ demands for wages would cost 450 crore rupees and, therefore, was not possible for the railways ministry to meet these demands. However, Mishra warned workers that ‘reactionary forces are trying to disrupt the economy’, urging railway

Social Movements of the 1970s


workers not to strike on 10 April (Times of India 1974ab, 1974aai). But by the end of March, sporadic agitations among railway workers in various locations were disrupting Indian business, particularly affecting the coal mining industry (Times of India 1974aaad). Mishra then proposed giving salary increments to ‘loyal railway workers’ and an improvement in the retirement benefits given to railway workers (Times of India 1974aaad). However, Mishra rejected a proposal to form an inquiry committee to examine the causes of increased railway worker unrest in 1974. He said that the Bihar Movement and the political parties who had become involved in the Bihar Movement would likely hijack the inquiry committee, thereby discrediting the work that Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party had done on behalf of the railway workers (Times of India 1974aaad). While the 10 April strike was avoided, by late April, railway workers’ unrest grew. On 24 April 1974, over 100 trade unions of railway workers across India gave notice that on 8 May, they would begin an indefinite strike (Times of India 1974aaw). Railway workers in Bombay held a demonstration at Victoria Terminus and Churchgate to serve a strike notice for 8 May for the Central and Western Railways, ‘for the realisation of the long-pending demands of 2,000,000 railwaymen’ (Times of India 1974aaao). Workers from the Northern Railways trade unions met with Indira Gandhi in New Delhi that same day to enlist her support in the workers’ cause. While she ‘assured them that their problems would be considered sympathetically’, she urged them not to strike as it would cause, she said, ‘incalculable harm to the already shattered economy’ (Times of India 1974aaao). Railways Minister Mishra also expressed concerns that a strike would negatively impact India’s already faltering economy (Times of India 1974aag). Mishra was not optimistic that workers and the railways could reach a settlement by 8 May because he believed that ‘the demands of the railway unions were unreasonable and there could be no question of meeting them’ (Times of India 1974aaw). Demands included need-based minimum wages and wages and parity in benefits with the public sector, among other demands (Times of India 1974aaw). Mishra added that the railway workers’ strike, if it occured, would be illegal because Indira Gandhi’s ministry of labour had changed labour laws in 1971 to ban all strikes in the railways under the Defence of India Rules (Times of India 1974aaw). George Fernandes countered that the strike was legal under the Industrial Disputes Act, which cannot be suspended by Defence of India Rules. Negotiations with the railways ministry had already begun, but the arrest of railway workers across the country under


Brewing Resistance

the Defence of India Rules had, according to George Fernandes, strained workers’ negotiations with the railways ministry (Times of India 1974aaw). But Fernandes, and others in the Socialist Party, including Socialist Member of Parliament (MP) Madhu Limaye, preferred to settle this industrial dispute through negotiations (Times of India 1974aaat). Limaye told the Times of India reporters that he had seen a secret circular that had been issued by the Superintendent of Railways to authorise the purchase of materials that would facilitate the deployment of military personnel in the event of a railway workers’ strike (Times of India 1974aaat). Therefore, Limaye told reporters, he believed that the government was ‘itching for a fight’ by spending 3 crore rupees to provide resources to break a strike that had not even yet occurred (Times of India 1974aaat). By the end of April, however, the railways ministry conceded to one of the railway workers’ demands—to limit the number of hours of work in a single shift (Times of India 1974aaau). However, as George Fernandes told reporters, the decision by the railways ministry only covered some categories of workers and did not allow any breaks during that shift. Furthermore, Fernandes said, the railway workers were fighting for an eight-hour day with paid overtime, and this offer not only failed to offer an eight-hour day but also calculated overtime pay by a fortnightly average (Times of India 1974aaau). Talks between the deputy railways minister, M. Shafi Qureshi, and George Fernandes ended in deadlock after Qureshi refused to concede to workers’ demands for a bonus and for wage parity with other workers in the public sector (Times of India 1974aaah). While Railways Minister Mishra agreed to meet with Fernandes subsequently to further discuss the matter, it was stated that the railways ministry was unwilling to consider workers’ demands for bonuses and wage parity (Times of India 1974aaah). While Fernandes was dissatisfied with the outcome of the negotiations, the president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), A. P. Sharma, told the press that he was satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations and believed that it marked a victory for railway workers (Times of India 1974aaah). However, George Fernandes was not able to meet with Mishra because before the meeting, he, along with other railway workers’ trade union leaders, was arrested en route to the negotiations with Mishra at 10 a.m. on 1 May 1974 (Times of India 1974av). He described his arrest as follows, I was put in a car without being told where I would be taken, driven straight to the airport, put on a Border Security Force airplane, which had flown from Delhi with the warrant for my arrest, and flown straight

Social Movements of the 1970s


to Delhi. At 5:30 am I found myself in Tihar Jail, a familiar place. From inside the jail I wrote immediately to the Prime Minister and the Railway Minister, protesting against what they had done and suggesting that we wanted a settlement of our dispute, and that there was no provocation. In fact, we were on the verge of a settlement, and I did not see why they had to do this kind of thing. (Matthew 1991: 19)

Fernandes was arrested on the charge of ‘breach of faith’ for refusing to sign the contract proposed by the railways ministry (Khanna 1974). Mishra then rejected the demands of the railway workers’ unions claiming that the two sides had reached a ‘final outcome’ (Times of India 1974aah). In jail, one of the arrested union leaders, Ventkatesh R. Malgi, general secretary of the Railway Mazdoor Union, died later that day after being detained by Bombay Police (Times of India 1974aaaaq). In response to protests from railway workers to release their arrested leaders, Mishra countered that if the strike were called off, union leaders would be released from jail (Times of India 1974aaaak). On 2 May 1974, railway workers went on a wildcat strike in retaliation against the arrest of their leaders. The strike started in the Northern Railways at Pathankot, Ferozepore, Allahabad, Lucknow and Delhi; inthe Eastern Railways at Patna and Gaya; in the North-Eastern Railways at Samastipur and Gorakhpur; in the Western Railways at Baroda and Bhopal (Times of India 1974aaaaw). The railway workers’ strike spread across the country reaching different cities and towns between 2 and 8 May 1974 (Samaddar 2015: 582; Sherlock 2001: 416) and lasted until 28 May 1974. When the strike began, workers walked off the job, some set railway cars ablaze, and others attacked a station master in Pattabiram, and in Mysore, railway workers were beaten in a lathi charge that resulted in injuries to nine policemen (Samaddar 2015: 583). The rank and file took a prominent role in the workers’ actions, as union leadership soon withdrew from the strike. This had major consequences for the strike, as there was no central coordination of actions and there was no organisation to defend workers from state violence. In Bombay, other trade unions joined the railway workers strike, including the seamen’s union and the port and dock workers’ unions (Times of India 1974m). By 7 May, Maharashtra State Transportation Employees decided to join railway workers in their indefinite strike (Times of India 1974aaaaf ). In Madras, workers rushed the train stations and set fire to some of the trains (Times of India 1974m). Police used tear gas to stave off the workers from damaging railways’ property, and workers retaliated by throwing stones. One policeman was injured in the skirmish. In Delhi, workers occupied


Brewing Resistance

the headquarters of the Northern Railways and displayed posters in order to persuade public opinion in favour of the strike (Times of India 1974m). Across India, more than 1,000 railway workers along with their trade union leaders were arrested in connection with the wildcat strike (Times of India 1974aaj). However, the Times of India reported that 85 per cent of cargo trains and 90 per cent of passenger trains remained in operation despite the wildcat strike (Times of India 1974aat). A spokesperson for the railways stated that only some places were severely affected by the strike. The most affected areas, according to the railways ministry, were Bombay and Madras, while the Ahmedabad–Baroda section experienced significant disruptions; strikes in the Pune area led to the suspension of the Deccan Queen for 36 hours, and striking workers in Amritsar disrupted service throughout Punjab and Haryana (Times of India 1974aat). The Times of India reported that in Amritsar, 80 per cent of railway workers, a total of 1,800 workers, joined the wildcat strike at the Amritsar station (Times of India 1974aat). A few days later, railway workers’ unrest in Amritsar grew. Three hundred and seventy-six people were arrested in Punjab and Haryana in connection with this node of railway workers’ unrest (Times of India 1974aai). Among them were Socialist leader Mani Ram Bagri and the general secretary of the SSP, Nand Kishore Soni, who were both arrested after giving speeches to workers (Times of India 1974aai). In Ajmer, Paras Ram Sharma, the vice-president of the Western Railways Labour Union, was arrested, bringing the total of railway workers’ strike-related arrests in the state of Rajasthan to 223 (Times of India 1974aai). Most of these arrests, 62, were made in the city of Kota. In the north, authorities responded to striking workers by deploying military patrols along the railways. In Haryana, armed guards assisted by villagers and gangmen were placed along the railway tracks. Similarly, in Punjab, armed guards were deployed to patrol the tracks (Times of India 1974aaaan). In Rajasthan, orders were made to deploy military personnel, particularly to Kota, where a police constable was beaten by striking workers (Times of India 1974aaaan). In Orissa, 70 arrests were made, including Socialist leader Professor Dayanath Singh (Times of India 1974aaaan); in Madhya Pradesh, 277 were arrested; in Gujarat, 628; and in Andhra Pradesh, 164 arrests were made in connection with the wildcat strike, including two Marxist leaders, I. Balagandadhara Rao and P. Nageshwar Rao, and a Maoist leader, V. Subba Rao, on charges of inciting workers to strike (Times of India 1974aai).

Social Movements of the 1970s


In a press conference, Railways Minister Mishra warned workers that the strike was illegal and that they would be dismissed if they participated in this illegal strike (Times of India 1974aaf, 1974aaaah). Mishra announced that workers who would serve as strike breakers would be rewarded with certain incentives and benefits (Times of India 1974aaf, 1974aaaah). He further claimed that because of the then crisis in the Indian economy, the railways could not afford ‘the luxury of a strike’ and that his main objective was to protect the economy (Times of India 1974aaf, 1974aaaah). Mishra furthermore implied that Fernandes was to blame for the strike, stating (not so eloquently) that the state would ‘not allow the adventurism of some adventurist gentleman’ (Times of India 1974aaaah). Because the strike was a political threat to the state in the context of India’s economic woes, Mishra claimed, there was no option but to arrest Fernandes, as it was in the public interest (Times of India 1974aaaah, 1974aaaao). Mishra told the Times of India that the only way that he would resume talks would be if railway workers were to immediately withdraw the strike notice (Times of India 1974aaf ). In a letter penned from his cell in Tihar Jail, Fernandes urged Indira Gandhi to intervene in the strike to help reach a settlement between the railways ministry and the ‘very legitimate demands’ of the railway workers (Times of India 1974af ). Wrote Fernandes, ‘Even now I want to reiterate, with all the emphasis at my command, that we do not want a strike. We are fully aware of the implications and consequences of a railway strike. But what are we to do when our most reasonable and legitimate demands are rejected?’ (Times of India 1974af ). Opposition parties—specifically, the CPI, CPI(M), Jan Sangh and Socialist parties—rallied around Fernandes, claiming that there was no political motivation for the strike beyond ‘normal trade union practice’ (Times of India 1974aaz), alternatively contending that the crisis was fabricated by the state. The Times of India reported ‘uproarious’ debates in Parliament between Congress Party MPs and Socialist and Communist members over the release of trade union leaders in connection with the railway workers’ strike (Times of India 1974aak). CPI(M) MP A. K. Gopalan told reporters that ‘the railway strike was not a mere fight for a bonus but a struggle to safeguard civil liberties and the freedom of workers’ (Times of India 1974aaac). Jan Sangh president, L. K. Advani, made an appeal to Indira Gandhi, urging her to intervene and reinstate the talks between railway workers’ trade union leaders and the railways ministry (Times of India 1974aaaaj). Advani also spoke out against the arrest of George Fernandes, stating that his arrest was


Brewing Resistance

‘an act of treachery which had no parallel in the history of trade unions’ (Times of India 1974aaaaj). In addition to his letter to Gandhi, Fernandes wrote a telegram to the International Labour Organization (ILO), requesting them to send an international observer in order to safeguard the rights of workers as guaranteed through the ILO conventions (Times of India 1974aaz). Mishra, however, denied that the government had violated ILO conventions in their treatment of the railway workers and trade union leaders (Times of India 1974aas). On 5 May, the Times of India reported that the illegal strike would trigger a ‘break in service’ for all railway workers participating in the strike (Times of India 1974aaay). This would mean, according to an official release, that workers would forfeit all leave earned up until the strike, and their date of increment will be postponed along with a reduction in retirement benefits. Furthermore, in addition to potential dismissal for crimes perpetrated during the strike— including sabotage, violence, intimidation and treason—workers could be arrested under MISA or Defence of India Rules for their participation in the illegal strike (Times of India 1974aaay). In addition to threats from the state to striking workers, establishment trade union leaders, including Vishwa Karma of the Eastern Railways Union based in Patna, quit his leadership post within the union in opposition to the wildcat strike as perpetrated by the rank and file against the wishes of some trade union leaders (Times of India 1974aaaj). Meanwhile, the wildcat strike continued to escalate. By 7 May, there were walkouts throughout the Southern Railways, notably in Madras, Cochin, Mangalore, Bangalore, Mysore City and Guntakal (Times of India 1974aaaae). From Arkonam and Jolarpet, there were reports of sabotage and destruction of railway property, and in Arkonam and Perambur, strike breakers were assaulted by striking workers (Times of India 1974aaaae). In Tamil Nadu, 198 workers were arrested (Times of India 1974aaaae). On 8 May, the start date of the official strike, Mishra made one last appeal to Fernandes to withdraw the strike. From jail, Fernandes replied that ‘the time for action had come. Railwaymen should remain united and beat the government’s attempt to break the struggle’ (Times of India 1974aa). AITUC general secretary S. A. Dange said that a reconsideration of the impending strike was out of the question as long as Fernandes remained in jail (Times of India 1974aa). While workers, now officially, went on strike, their arrested leaders began a hunger strike in jail at 6 a.m. on 8 May 1974 (Times of India 1974as). In the Rajya Sabha, opposition members belonging to the Jan Sangh, CPI(M) and SSP walked out in protest against a failure of the government

Social Movements of the 1970s


to support the striking workers (Times of India 1974ay). On 9 May, CPI MP Ramavatar Shastri was arrested just outside of Patna for instigating workers to walk out (Times of India 1974w, 1974au). In Bombay, ‘highest-ever’ security measures went into effect hours before the official strike was to commence (Times of India 1974aaaa). Forces deployed included the Border Security Force, Home Guards, the Special Reserve Police, and Railway Protector Force (Times of India 1974aaaa). Railway stations were heavily policed and placed, for the first time in Bombay’s history, under the protection of the Commissioner of Police (Times of India 1974aaaa). Officials expected that the Northern Railways’ workers would be particularly militant as the official strike commenced based on the events in the days preceding the strike, but no major incidents were recorded. Eight hundred Northern Railways workers were, however, arrested, and 60 were dismissed on charges of intimidation (Times of India 1974b). In the Southern Railways, several hundred strikers were arrested, and 48 discharged for incitement, threat of violence, and refusal to carry out normal work (Times of India 1974aaaay). One hundred and fifty of those arrests were made in Kerala (Times of India 1974aae). In several places along the tracks, workers blocked or damaged the rails to prevent trains from running. At 10 stations in the Madurai division, workers staged a lockout (Times of India 1974aaaay). At the Madras Central Station, workers threatened strike breakers with knives and bicycle chains (Times of India 1974aae). The strike was less successful in the South-Central Railways. The Times of India reported that except for delays caused by the workers’ strike in some stations in Secunderabad and among a majority of railway workers in Sholapur, the South-Central Railways’ trains experienced few delays (Times of India 1974aaaac). Retired workers were brought in as strike breakers in Secunderabad (Times of India 1974aae) and given breakfast, lunch and dinner at the cost of the railways (Times of India 1974aaa). In total, one-third of all scheduled trains failed to run on 8 May, the first official day of the strike (Times of India 1974aaaf ). The most affected cities, according to the Times of India, were Moghalsarai, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Arkonam, Allahabad, Baroda, Sabarmati and Kota (Times of India 1974aaaf ). By the end of the first day of the strike, Fernandes offered to resume talks from his jail cell, but Mishra responded that no talks would resume until the strike was called off (Times of India 1974aaaf ). Furthermore, Mishra reiterated that any workers who failed to report to work would be terminated immediately and that strike breakers would be hired or promoted in order to replace striking workers (Times of India 1974aaaf ).


Brewing Resistance

The following day, on 9 May, Indira Gandhi addressed the Lok Sabha (Times of India 1974aq). In her speech, Gandhi claimed that in the midst of economic downturn, it was not possible to increase wages for railway workers, adding that there were other categories of Indian citizens who were far worse off than the railway workers (Times of India 1974aq). Said Gandhi, ‘The government is not against strikes if they are for legitimate purposes. But this strike is an unfortunate one. It will not only affect the economy but also the families of the railwaymen themselves’ (Times of India 1974aq). Gandhi claimed that the opposition parties who have supported the railway workers’ struggle have done so not because they are pro-labour but, instead, because they are trying to provoke the Congress-led state (Times of India 1974aq). Gandhi said it was not the workers who were being threatened by the state, ‘we are being threatened. In such a situation, the government needs to take some defensive steps. We do not want to use the military or the BSF to break strikes’ (Times of India 1974aq). But Gandhi defended the deployment of military personnel to the railways in order to defend ‘the interests of the people at large’ (Times of India 1974aq). When asked by opposition MPs to comment on Fernandes’ arrest, Gandhi replied, ‘The arrest came at a very late stage. The government was no doubt interested in the welfare of the railwaymen. But it also had to look after the larger interests of the country’ (Times of India 1974aq). Despite taking a strong stance against the strike, Indira Gandhi nonetheless invited opposition MPs to meet with her on the morning of 10 May to discuss the strike (Times of India 1974aam). When asked to comment on the meeting, Mishra said, ‘I think the ball is in the opposition’s court’ (Times of India 1974l). In response to the prime minister’s speech and meeting, Fernandes commented that because the government refused to consider the railway workers’ demands for bonuses and wage parity, there could be no settlement between the railways ministry and the workers (Times of India 1974aaaag). In a statement issued by Fernandes by the National Coordination Committee for Railwaymen’s Struggle (NCCRS), he said, ‘There can be no settlement if our demands for parity and bonus are not met’ (Times of India 1974aaaag). Indira Gandhi told opposition leaders that the state was very interested in negotiating with the railway workers but only if the strike was called off first (Times of India 1974aaaag). In a subsequent statement to Congress party leaders, Mishra added that Congress should actively rally public opinion against the strike (Times of India 1974aaq). In an address to leaders of her own party, Indira Gandhi expressed regret that the railway workers’ union refused to capitulate. Gandhi stated

Social Movements of the 1970s


that while she had done all she could to prevent a strike, union leaders were intent on striking and, therefore, it could not have been prevented (Times of India 1974aaar). Said Gandhi, ‘They are not interested in suggestions. They are only interested in getting Mr. Fernandes and others released’ (Times of India 1974aaar). Gandhi urged the members of her party to explain to the working classes that the government has been trying to help them but that the opposition parties are intent on weakening the government (Times of India 1974aaar). Soon after, a national committee was established by the Congress to ‘explain to the people the government’s stand on the railway strike’ (Times of India 1974aay). On 14 May, a delegation of opposition leaders called on President V. V. Giri to intervene to help end the stalemate between Congress and the opposition. Giri promised to meet with the prime minister to discuss the strike (Times of India 1974aav). Opposition parties, except for Congress(O) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), then staged a walk out of the Rajya Sabha as a protest against the government’s failure to resume negotiations with the NCCRS (Times of India 1974aas, 1974aaaav). By 10 May, the Confederation of Government Employees announced that it would join the railway workers in an indefinite strike (Times of India 1974aaaas). Many other trade unions, including the AITUC, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sabha, and the Hind Mazdoor Panchayat (HMP), called for a nationwide general strike on 15 May in solidarity with the railway workers (Times of India 1974q, 1974aaaau). The bandh was most successful in metropolitan areas, particularly in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, where dock workers joined the andh, and in Delhi, where taxis, scooters and rickshaw operators joined in and all markets were closed (Times of India 1974aau). In Bangalore, bankers participated in the bandh as did employees in Bharat Earthmovers, HMT watch factory, Indian Telephone Industries, and Bharat Electronics (Times of India 1974aau). However, the INTUC president, B. Bhagavati, called for all affiliated trade unions to ignore the call to strike on 15 May. Said Bhagavati, ‘The bandh is politically motivated and against the wider interests of the common man and the country’ (Times of India 1974ar). On 12 May, a group of left political groups and trade union organisations announced a bandh in the city of Kanpur on 15 May against the state and in solidarity with the railway workers (Times of India 1974at). At the start of the one-day solidarity strike, newspaper reports in Bombay noted how unlikely alliances were formed. Most notably, both the Dalit Panthers and Shiv Sena were active participants of the solidarity strike


Brewing Resistance

(Times of India 1974s). And the one-day general strike was largely a success; all transportation options around the city of Bombay were stopped including buses, rails, ferries and taxis (Times of India 1974n). As the strike wore on, the Northern Railways continued to be a site of militant labour unrest. By 11 May, the number of railway workers arrested in Punjab grew to a total of 373 (Times of India 1974aap). Gurdaspur district and Amritsar continued to be ‘major trouble spots’, and several arrests were made in Bhatinda (Times of India 1974aap). Railway workers in the Jaipur division had particularly high participation rates in the strike with 89 per cent of railway employees in Jaipur on strike, according to Hanuman Prasad Sharma, the joint convener of the co-ordination committee of railway workers of the Jaipur division (Times of India 1974aad). In Delhi, arrests of railway workers and their trade union leaders continued. On 10 May, an additional 23 workers were arrested, along with All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) leader Priya Gupta (Times of India 1974i). In Allahabad, an additional 16 railway workers were arrested, and in Lucknow, CPI leader Babu Khan was arrested at a rally in support of the striking railway workers (Times of India 1974i). In Gangapur, Rajasthan, police tear gassed and lathi charged the striking workers. Forty workers were injured. Later that evening, about 150 striking railway workers attacked a police van injuring five policemen (Times of India 1974aaaap). A train derailed in Porbandar, Gujarat, after striking workers sabotaged the tracks. They had placed stones in between the tongue-rail and stock-rail (Times of India 1974aaaap). By 12 May, the total number of arrests related to the strike was ‘well over 10,000 according to informed sources’, and the number of dismissals had reached over 800 (Times of India 1974aaap). However, Mishra estimated that only 6,000 arrests were made in connection with the strike, while opposition MPs alleged that over 25,000 had been arrested (Times of India 1974aav). In Rajasthan, the threat of arrest did little to quell the strike. Even though authorities arrested 40,000 workers in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota, Ajmer and Bikaner, only 5,000 workers returned to work (Times of India 1974aaax). Ninety-five per cent of workers in Jodhpur and 80 per cent of workers in Bikaner remained on strike as of 18 May 1974 (Times of India 1974aaax). In Delhi, army technicians were brought in to operate trains emanating from the Mughalsarai and Tughlakhabad marshalling yards (Times of India 1974aaaaa). A spokesman for the NCCRS said that ‘morale is high’ and that workers were in ‘no hurry to get back to work’ (Times of India 1974ah). But Marxist MP Jyotirmoy Bosu told reporters that ‘police were committing untold atrocities on railway personnel in Delhi’, which included an attack

Social Movements of the 1970s


on the strikers and their families by hired thugs (Times of India 1974aaaq). Patients from railway hospitals were evicted in response to the strike, and strikers were barred from purchasing food grains from the railway ration shops (Times of India 1974aaaq). President of the Railway Mazdoor Union, P. R. Menon, called these ‘terror tactics of the government’ that were being employed to break the morale of the railways workers (Times of India 1974z). Menon claimed that in the Bombay suburb of Kurla, railway workers were being handcuffed by police and paraded on the railway platform in order to humiliate them and thereby break the strike (Times of India 1974z). President V. V. Giri, as one of the founders of the railway workers’ trade union movement, was concerned that workers were being penalised for the actions and decisions taken by railway union leaders (Times of India 1974aj). While he was concerned about workers being denied wages and the hardship that the strike caused for workers’ families, he stated that the railway workers’ struggle for wages commensurate with work done was a fight that he supported since the colonial period and that working conditions had not changed much since independence (Times of India 1974aj). Giri’s comments were met with opposition from A. P. Sharma, president of the National Railwaymen’s Federation. Sharma opposed the strike, claiming that it was politically motivated and orchestrated by Fernandes in order to destabilise the Congressled government (Times of India 1974aj). In response to Giri’s pleas, Mishra continued his hard line, claiming that the strike was ‘fizzling out very rapidly’, and, therefore, there was no need for the government to capitulate to worker demands (Times of India 1974ak). While Indira Gandhi agreed to a meeting, she declined to set a specific date, frustrating opposition leaders. In response to this development, representatives from members of a wide range of opposition parties met to strategise. In attendance were S. N. Mishra (Congress[O]), D. N. Singh (Congress[O]), Raj Narain (SSP), Dandavate (SP), Samar Guha (SP), Tridib Chaudhary (Revolutionary Socialist Party [RSP]), Shyam Lal Yadav (Bharatiya Kranti Dal), D. B. Thengadi ( Jan Sangh), Jagannathrao Joshi ( Jan Sangh), T. K. Srinivasan (DMK), Era Chezhiyan (DMK) and Samar Mukherji (CPI[M]) (Times of India 1974an). JP also made public statements calling for a settlement (Times of India 1974an). SSP leader Raj Narain appealed to President Giri to use his ‘constitutional power to force the government to arrive at a negotiated settlement with the striking railwaymen’ (Times of India 1974h). On 18 May, however, Gandhi eventually held a 90-minute meeting with opposition leaders to discuss the strike (Times of India 1974aaaab). In this meeting, she and Mishra claimed that the government now regrets previous


Brewing Resistance

negotiations between the state and the railway workers and that while the government is eager to get the railways back to normal, they believed that resuming negotiations with the railway workers would worsen the situation and prolong the strike (Times of India 1974aaaab). Said Gandhi, ‘If we concede the demand now it will lead to further demands. There will be peace for a short term only’ (Times of India 1974aaaab) Through the debates within various nodes of the state over the fate of the strike, unconventional political alliances were formed and tested. According to one reporter, however, the political constellations of the railway workers’ strike was not as simple as the left and the right versus the centre. Within the left faction of support for the railway workers, the CPI and Socialists had conflicting views over the desired outcome of the strike, which threatened to exacerbate tensions between the two parties. While the Socialist strategy was to build independent trade unions to represent the interests of all railway workers regardless of their position or pay grade, the CPI wanted to work through existing CPI-affiliated unions to offer support to certain highergrade sections of the railway workforce (Mukerjee 1974). But the CPI was nonetheless a part of the effort to resume negotiations with the government. CPI leader N. K. Krishnan said that the government showed ‘unprecedented repression’ in their handling of the railway workers’ strike, and that the workers would not back down in this confrontation with the state (Times of India 1974aw). Workers faced a setback when Fernandes wrote a letter from jail to JP enlisting his help (Times of India 1974aaaz). Fernandes claimed that because of the lengthy duration of his stay in jail, he was isolated from the strike and, therefore, unable to assess the current situation and make decisions about the future of the strike (Times of India 1974aaaz). He asked JP to convene an action committee in order assess the current situation and then decide on the next steps to be taken by the NCCRS. Fernandes also expressed disapproval of the way Giri was handling the strike, claiming that he should have attempted to intervene on the behalf of the workers (Times of India 1974aaaz). In attendance at the meeting of opposition leaders who supported efforts to resume negotiations were S. N. Mishra (Congress[O]), Janannathrao Joshi ( Jan Sangh), Bhupesh Gupta (CPI), Tridib Choudhury (RSP), Samar Mukerji (CPI[M]), Madhu Dandavate (SP) and J. B. Dhote (Forward Bloc) (Times of India 1974aaaab). While the railways ministry interpreted this move by Fernandes and allies of the striking workers to regroup and strategise as evidence of ‘spectacular

Social Movements of the 1970s


improvement’ in the position of the state vis-à-vis the railway workers, the NCCRS issued a statement claiming that the strike was just as strong as ever (Times of India 1974aaaz). Any appearance of workers coming back to work, the NCCRS claimed, was a result of force, citing the workers at Moghulsarai who were forced back to work at bayonet point, but as soon as there was no longer a threat of bodily harm, they once again left their posts (Times of India 1974aaaz). In the NCCRS statement, they warned the public that trains were being operated by inexperienced personnel and that as a result train derailments were likely (Times of India 1974aaaz). The railways ministry denied this and said that precautions were in place to prevent train derailments and that if derailments were to occur it would be a result of attempts at sabotage or tampering by striking workers (Times of India 1974aaaz). The day after this statement was released, there were already reports of sabotage being made on the Southern Railways (Times of India 1974u). At Guntakkal Junction in Andhra Pradesh, all fish bolts at 29 joints and three fish bolts each at two joints were discovered to have been removed (Times of India 1974u). On 21 May, A. M. Altar of the National Railway Mazdoor Union filed a writ petition to the Bombay High Court for adjudication of the railway workers’ demands by the national industrial tribunal (Times of India 1974aaaaz). Justice Chandorkar soon issued notice that a hearing would be scheduled for 27 May during which the tribunal would deliberate on the issues of payment of bonuses and parity of wages with public-sector undertakings, claiming that as soon as the official strike had commenced, the assistant labour commissioner should have had immediately begun conciliation proceedings under Section 12 of the Industrial Disputes Act (Times of India 1974aaaaz). Justice Chandorkar further ruled that the Secretary to the Government of India and the Ministry of Labour and Employment were obliged to have referred the dispute for adjudication to a tribunal in the event that the Labour Commission had failed to proceed even though under the law it was obligated to do so (Times of India 1974aaaaz). But the strike continued and state violence against the workers escalated. On 21 May, 1,132 railway workers in Uttar Pradesh were sentenced to two to four months of rigorous imprisonment for their participation in the strike (Times of India 1974t). In the city of Bombay, 49 people had been arrested under MISA and 659 had been arrested under the Defence of India Rules since the strike began (Times of India 1974j). Among those arrested in Bombay were Socialist Kamal Desai, Nadubhai Parmar, S. B. Gupte and P. B. Samant (Times of India 1974j). On 22 May, 24-year-old G. K. Pillai, an ‘active Marxist’ worker


Brewing Resistance

in Byculla, South Bombay, was caught throwing a fire ball onto a moving train and was apprehended by police (Times of India 1974aaaax). The Socialist Party organised gheraos and dharnas across the country on 21  May, which they termed ‘Anti-Repression Day’, to protest what they referred to as the government’s ‘terror tactics’ against striking workers (Times of India 1974r). According to Samar Mukherji, a CPI(M) member who nonetheless participated in the action committee for Anti-Repression Day, claimed that harassment of rail workers by agents of the state were currently taking place in Malda, Asansol, Calcutta and Bongaigaon (Times of India 1974r). On 22 May, Amnesty International called on Indira Gandhi to release 20,000 railway workers and railway union leaders, particularly those against whom no charges had been filed (Times of India 1974f ). While Amnesty International was concerned with the illegal imprisonment of workers and their leaders, the strike was also affecting India’s banking sector. Because banks could not accept outstation cheques, railway receipts or other instruments relying on travel by rail, trade and finance across the country was adversely impacted (Times of India 1974p). The telegraph department and post refused to insure articles because their safe transit by rail could not be assured (Times of India 1974p). Banks, therefore, would not take chances in transporting uninsured cheques or other financial instruments (Times of India 1974p). As of 22 May, the strike showed no signs of letting up. Central and Western Railways were running at 30 per cent of normal services, and more than 90 per cent of staff were on strike (Times of India 1974c). The Central Railways were estimated to be suffering a 20–22 lakh rupee loss per day of striking, while the Western Railways were estimated to have suffered a loss of 6.09 lakh rupees in passenger and parcel traffic alone (Times of India 1974c). The Bombay metropolitan area was estimated to have experienced losses of 3.65 crore rupees since the start of the strike until 22 May (Times of India 1974c). The country as a whole, it was estimated, experienced a loss of 1,500 crore rupees since the start of the strike (Times of India 1974az). Opposition leaders S. A. Dange and S. M. Joshi met to develop a strategy to settle the strike, and in a speech in Parliament on behalf of the AITUC, Dange urged a settlement (Times of India 1974ao). While Indira Gandhi conceded that there was a need to revise the wage structure as a whole, she maintained that no negotiations would be resumed until the strike was called off (Times of India 1974ao). Dange urged the state to allow the leadership committee of the NCCRS to meet either in Tihar Jail or to temporary release members so that a meeting could be held outside of jail (Times of India 1974ao). Dange said,

Social Movements of the 1970s


‘I am sorry to note that the most reasonable demands made by the AITUC and many of the leaders of the NCCRS to solve the deadlock have evoked no favourable response from the prime minster and her cabinet’ (Times of India 1974aaag). The action committee of the NCCRS called an emergency meeting along with the executive committee of the All-India Railway Employees Confederation (Times of India 1974aaae). The goal of this meeting was to strategise on how to compel the government to reinstate talks without preconditions (Times of India 1974aaae). The committee also demanded that NCCRS action committee members in prison should be released and that there be a judicial inquiry into police excesses in relation to the railway workers’ strike (Times of India 1974aaae). However, the CPI tried to strike a different line. S. A. Dange, AITUC leader, made a surprise announcement on 24 May that CPI-affiliated trade unions would try to get an assurance that there would be no victimisation of strikers if the strike were called off (Times of India 1974x). Other opposition leaders interpreted this move as an attempt by CPI leadership to foster and maintain a special relationship with Indira Gandhi’s faction of the Congress Party (Times of India 1974x). The media claimed that this latest development demonstrated that even the facade of unity among the opposition parties in support of the strike was now crumbling (Times of India 1974x). Union leaders claimed that Dange’s formula for a settlement bore suspicious resemblance to the three-point formula proposed by the government (Times of India 1974x). The Socialist Party called a meeting of left parties to further deliberate on strategy for the strike. The participating parties included CPI, CPI(M), RSP, Socialist Unity Centre, Worker’s Party, Forward Bloc, Forward Bloc (Marxist), Biplavi Bangla Congress, and possibly the Samyutkta Socialist Party (Times of India 1974x). AITUC leader S. M. Banerjee made a public statement against Dange’s proposed strategy, claiming that the union’s strategy is to let railway workers decide the future course of the strike on a regional and local basis (Times of India 1974o). The NCCRS expressed some trepidation about the conflict between CPI political leaders and CPI trade union leaders, as disunity among the railway workers would only serve the interests of the state in crushing the strike (Times of India 1974o). Dange’s response to Banerjee was that a localised solution cannot possibly work against a uniform attack on railway workers by the central government and that workers across India would have to be united and uniform in their response if they are to be effective in their opposition (Times of India 1974o).


Brewing Resistance

On 22 May, a worker in Perambur was found dead. According to police, the worker died of coronary occlusion, but K. T. Raju of the Tamil Nadu CPI demanded a judicial inquiry into this worker’s death (Times of India 1974aaab). On 24 May, Sripal Dwivedi, the vice-president of Northern Railwaymen’s Union Allahabad Division, died in police custody after being arrested on 20 May (Times of India 1974aaai). Several Socialist and CPI(M) MPs demanded an inquiry into the deaths of the trade union leaders who died in police custody (Times of India 1974aaai). In Bombay, four labour leaders, R. D. Phadke (CPI), Madhav Shetye (Socialist Party), G. S. Nair ( Jan Sangh) and Ravindra Narwankar (CITU), were arrested under Defence of India Rules for giving speeches in support of the railway strike in Gaodevi Maidan, Thane (Times of India 1974a). In Trichur, A. K. Gopalan was prohibited from entering the railway station premises where he was participating in a dharna in support of local railway workers on strike (Times of India 1974al). Workers in Trichur were agitated as a result and vowed to paralyse the railways system in retaliation (Times of India 1974al). Workers continued to engage in acts of sabotage. In Calcutta, a fire broke out at Howrah Station on 24 May causing extensive damage (Times of India 1974ag). Police could not rule out sabotage as a cause for the fire (Times of India 1974ah). In Kozhikode, a railway gateman and a Socialist Party worker were arrested for a sabotage attempt near the Nadapuram Road Railway Station (Times of India 1974aaaad). Fifty steel keys were removed from the rail track between Kalamassery and Alwaye, about 15 kilometres from the Ernakulam Railway Junction (Times of India 1974k). Despite the efforts of workers and left parties to escalate the strike and resume talks, the government continued its hard stance against resuming negotiations. Mishra was reported to have stated that he and his office were not at that point considering any proposals for resuming a dialogue with the railway leaders (Times of India 1974aax). But trade union leaders in Bombay started to voice concern that workers would not be able to sustain the strike for much longer and that the rank and file were starting to express concern that there was a disjoint between leaders and rank and file in terms of willingness to continue the strike (Times of India 1974aaaar). On 28 May at 6 a.m., the strike ended after 20 days (Times of India 1974aaan). Fernandes and five other members of the NCCRS action committee—J. P. Chaubey (AIRF), Paravati Krishnan (CPI), Sri Krishna (CPI), H. S. Chaudhary, and D. D. Vashisht (AIRF)—decided to withdraw the strike (Times of India 1974aaan). The decision was not unanimous.

Social Movements of the 1970s


Both Samar Mukherji (CPI[M]) and Priya Gupta (AIRF) voted to continue the strike but would not block the consensus of the majority of action committee members (Times of India 1974aaan). The NCCRS claimed that workers were demoralised, the strike was fizzling out, and with the CPI call for workers to act locally, the action committee was not optimistic that all railway workers would vote to continue the strike (Times of India 1974aaan). The railways ministry issued a statement in which it said that its goal was to ‘restore normalcy’ and ‘put as many people as possible quickly to work’ (Times of India 1974aaan). While the railways ministry announced that it would not like to victimise workers who participated in the strike, strict action would be taken against those who engaged in violence, coercion, intimidation or sabotage (Times of India 1974aaan). SSP MPs, including Raj Narain and Rabi Roy, called the strike a defeat for workers (Times of India 1974y). In a joint statement made on behalf of the SSP, they blamed the defeat on the ‘tyranny of the government, particularly the vindictive attitude of the prime minister’ but lauded the ‘heroic resistance to the governmental oppression’ demonstrated by railway workers (Times of India 1974y). L. K. Advani, speaking on behalf of the Jan Sangh, said that he believed the government should immediately implement all demands of the railway workers that were conceded during negotiations given that they had graciously called off the strike (Times of India 1974ai). Advani further appealed to the state to release the arrested leaders and railway workers immediately and to withdraw eviction notices served to workers who had participated in the strike (Times of India 1974ai). CPI(M) leader P. Ramamurthi stated that his party disagreed with the decision to withdraw the strike and was concerned about the consequences of conceding too readily but said that, nonetheless, the party would support the opposition coalition’s decision to end the strike (Times of India 1974ai). Ramamurthi blamed Dange and the AITUC and in a statement to the Times of India alleged that Dange was partaking in private correspondence with the prime minster in which he undermined the efforts of the NCCRS (Times of India 1974d). Said Ramamurthi, ‘I leave it to the working class to draw their own conclusions from the attendant circumstances and decide whose bidding the AITUC leaders had at last resorted to this line of naked disruption’ (Times of India 1974d). CITU president B. T. Ranadive stated that he believed the decision to withdraw the strike was incorrect and premature. In his assessment, the strike should have gone on for a few more days, during which, he claimed, workers could have potentially reached a settlement (Times of India 1974ai). The AITUC


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secretariat, however, supported the end of the strike, calling the decision to withdraw ‘timely’ (Times of India 1974aaaam). But the end to the strike was not solely a result of conflict among the opposition leaders. The funds collected in order to sustain the strike were in a bank account that had been frozen by the state (Times of India 1974aaaat). The joint account was in the name of both George Fernandes and V. R. Malgi. One week before the official strike, Fernandes was arrested and, therefore, was prevented from accessing the account, and then Malgi died in police custody on 3 May, at which time the account was frozen (Times of India 1974aaaat). When the account for strike funds was frozen, the central labour organisation, HMP, and its affiliated unions stepped in to bear the financial expenses related to the strike, but, nonetheless, strikers still had difficulty affording basic necessities, and the railway workers’ union had no procedure in place to provide money for these essentials (Times of India 1974aaaat). On 28 May, George Fernandes, P. K. Barua, J. P. Chaubey, D. D. Vashist and other leaders of the NCCRS were released from Delhi’s Tihar Jail (Times of India 1974ac). Regional leaders, including Namasivayam, convener of the Southern branch of the NCCRS, were also released (Times of India 1974aaak). In Tamil Nadu, 2,200 workers who were arrested and convicted during the strike were released at the end of the strike, but 24 workers convicted of sabotage had to serve out their sentences (Times of India 1974aaak). In Punjab, all but 147 railway workers were released from jail; in Gujarat, 90 of the 200 workers imprisoned under MISA were released; in Delhi, 50 railway workers were released; and in Rajasthan, all 312 workers imprisoned under MISA were released (Times of India 1974aaak). While labour leaders were released from jail, the railways ministry meted out consequences for rank and file workers who participated in the strike. In a speech in Patna, L. N. Mishra said that workers who participated in the strike would not be paid for their period of absence and that dismissals made during the strike would not be reversed, and further dismissals of workers were under consideration (Times of India 1974ac, 1974aaam). Mishra further stated that there would be legal action taken against those who engaged in sabotage, violence and intimidation (Times of India 1974ac, 1974aaam). The official statistics on the strike from the railways ministry states that over the course of the strike, 25,000 workers were arrested, and up to 6,000 workers were dismissed (Times of India 1974ac). According to Times of India reports, in total the Indian economy suffered a loss of 500 crore rupees during the strike, and striking workers had foregone a

Social Movements of the 1970s


total of 25 crore rupees in wages (Times of India 1974aaav). In a statement to the chief ministers, Mishra said, The common man depended on the railways to deliver essential goods from far off places. Millions of commuters needed the railways to go to work. Railwaymen should. therefore, be conscious of the heavy responsibility they had, and carry out their duties diligently, proud of the service they were performing for the nation. (Times of India 1974aaaw)

The NCCRS called for the immediate resumption of negotiations—as the railways ministry and the prime minister had previously promised that if the workers were to withdraw the strike negotiations could be resumed—but the railways ministry refused, stating, ‘The government will not yield on the two main issues of bonus and parity in salary with the employees of public sector undertakings’ (Times of India 1974ac). The railways ministry alternatively offered to look into ‘removing the anomalies in the pay-scales’ (Times of India 1974ac). In Fernandes’ first press conference after his release from jail, he claimed that the prime minister was trying to kill the trade union movement in India and then pledged to work for a wider movement of transport workers (Times of India 1974aaaal). He said, ‘It is a pity that in this great country small liars have come to occupy high places’ (Times of India 1974aaaal). Fernandes, however, expressed optimism that talks would be resumed and denied that conflict among the left was responsible for the end of the strike, calling the strike ‘a success’ (Times of India 1974aaaal). After the withdrawal of the strike, the CPI(M) and its affiliated trade unions protested both the decision taken by the NCCRS to withdraw the strike and the failure of the railways ministry and the prime minister to resume negotiations as promised (Times of India 1974ac). In Kharagpur, South Eastern Railway workers and CPI(M) activists assaulted 70 workers as they were reporting for duty on the morning of 28 May (Times of India 1974aab). About 60 workers were stripped, painted red and paraded around the workshop (Times of India 1974aab). West Bengal police were called in, and they fired five revolver rounds at the CPI(M) workers engaged in protest (Times of India 1974aab). Seventy-four people were injured, some seriously, in the confrontation with police at Kharagpur Station (Times of India 1974aab). But weeks later, negotiations had yet to be resumed. On 10 June, Fernandes called for a meeting with Mishra to discuss the matter, but Mishra’s office claimed that he was permanently indisposed (Times of India 1974ae). While the government claimed to have conceded some of the workers’ demands, Fernandes alternatively contended that no agreement was reached on any of


Brewing Resistance

the workers’ demands (Times of India 1974ae). He claimed that the government had not abided by its policy of ‘no victimization’ of workers who participated in the strike, stating that according to his sources, workers continued to be arrested in connection with the strike (Times of India 1974ae). Mishra stated that no general pardon would be given to workers who participated in the strike but that each case of suspension or removal would be reviewed by the railways ministry (Times of India 1974aao). In response to Fernandes’ comments Mishra said, ‘It is unfortunate that Mr. Fernandes is making such irresponsible statements. Under no circumstances will the government allow any political adventurist to hold the nation to ransom’ (Times of India 1974aao). Meanwhile, the AITUC was on the defensive, holding a meeting in Bombay to counteract efforts to malign the AITUC and CPI for their role in ending the strike (Times of India 1974e). B. S. Dhume, vice-president of the Maharashtra Council of the AITUC, claimed that the recent negative sentiments towards the AITUC among the left in the aftermath of the strike was part of a concerted effort led by the CPI(M) and CITU and supported by sections of the Socialist Party (Times of India 1974e). Dhume claimed that on the contrary, the AITUC and the CPI consistently supported the interests of the workers during the strike (Times of India 1974e). Meanwhile, Fernandes called a meeting of the NCCRS for 26 June in order to assess the current situation and outline a further course of action (Times of India 1974ae). At the meeting, the NCCRS decided to arrange a relief fund for victimised workers (Times of India 1974am). About 1 million workers, claimed representatives of the NCCRS, suffered from foregone wages during the strike, and over 20,000 were arrested under the Defence of India Rules (Times of India 1974am). In order to force Mishra and Gandhi to make good on their promises to resume negotiations if the strike were withdrawn, Fernandes and the NCCRS decided to observe a protest week during the week of 22 July (Times of India 1974am). From the beginning, the state treated the strike as a political challenge to the authority of Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership and not as an industrial relations issue (Samaddar 2015: 576; Sherlock 2001: 416). Government intervention in the strike came swiftly, not only because it was the railway workers’ employer but also because breaking the strike delivered a strong message to the labour movement as a whole. Government workers had long been pacesetters in wages and working conditions in India, and the breaking of a government employees’ strike showed that Indira Gandhi was willing to take strong measures against the labour movement (Sherlock 2001: 416).

Social Movements of the 1970s


On 28 May 1974, Gandhi approved the mobilisation of 600,000 police and paramilitary officers from Delhi and an additional 750,000 state police and state paramilitaries to break the railway workers’ strike (Sherlock 2001: 410). As workers’ leader George Fernandes put it, the workers, ‘did not prepare for civil war’ (quoted in Sherlock 2001: 410). Even in the face of mass arrests and being physically forced back to work, the workers continued to strike, until a wage increase was announced that would take effect on 6 June 1974 (Sherlock 2001: 412). On 6 August, during a four-hour discussion in the Rajya Sabha to reflect on the railway workers’ strike, L. N. Mishra said that in the aftermath of the strike, there was ‘no victor and no vanquished’ (Times of India 1974aaaai). Mishra’s assessment of the strike was that a political game was being played by the opposition parties under the guise of a trade union movement, and that the government would not allow this game to continue (Times of India 1974aaaai). The reason that negotiations had not been resumed, Mishra claimed, was that these opposition leaders were threatening another strike within the next six months and, therefore, the government could not engage with the workers’ demands (Times of India 1974aaaai). Instead, he said, ‘increased productivity and patriotic service to the nation are the only means by which railwaymen can prosper’ (Times of India 1974aaaai). The opposition responded with critiques of how the state handled the strike. Rabi Ray (SSP) said that normalcy was yet to return to the railways, while Bhupesh Gupta (CPI) stated that the level of victimisation workers faced during and after the strike had shocked foreign countries (Times of India 1974aaaai). It only took two months for the railways ministry to roll back wages to their pre-strike levels (Sherlock 2001: 413). Towards the end of August, Fernandes announced that the NCCRS, along with CITU and other trade union organisations, planned several local strikes starting from September onwards to protest what he termed, ‘anti-working class ordinances’ (Times of India 1974ax). Fernandes stated that in addition to calling for an inquiry into the railways strike, he believed that the state’s failure to have any dialogue with railway workers’ representative would have ‘disastrous consequences’ (Times of India 1974ax). The first of these series of strikes was set to begin on 10 September in Kerala, followed by strikes across Maharashtra in the following six weeks (Times of India 1974ax). Said Mishra, ‘Should railmen resort to a strike again, I will adopt the same measures to meet the situation as I did the last time’ (Times of India 1974aar). Mishra denied that railway workers were penalised for their participation in


Brewing Resistance

the May 1974 strike. Official statistics indicated that of the 19,883 railway workers who were arrested during the strike, as of 24 September 1974, 19,874 had been released (Times of India 1974aar). According to the statistics on dismissals, 16,749 railway workers were dismissed during the strike, and by 24 September 1974, 9,500 had been reinstated (Times of India 1974aar). While opposition MPs were questioning Mishra regarding the strike, Mishra failed to answer questions but sat silently in Parliament with a smile across his face. In frustration, one MP shouted, ‘Is this a joke? He should be ashamed. That smile will be removed from his face if he persists in this behaviour’ (Times of India 1974aal). Mishra responded that he was ‘helpless’ in that he was not given the authority to answer questions about the strike posed by opposition MPs, but that once the information was available for dissemination he would readily circulate it among MPs (Times of India 1974aal). Workers participated in sporadic wildcat strikes for the remainder of 1974 and into the first half of 1975 (Sherlock 2001: 413). Railway worker unrest was not quieted until the Emergency was declared in June of 1975.

Assessing the Railway Workers’ Strike and Bihar Movement The railway workers’ strike occurred in the context of many challenges to Indira Gandhi’s policies from a range of left and right parties in various regions of the country—Naxalites in the east (and Punjab), Dalit Panthers in western India, the Akali Dal in Punjab, and the DMK in Tamil Nadu. But most significantly, the railway workers’ strike in combination with the Bihar Movement led the Planning Commission to conclude that the strike was ‘openly intended to paralyse the nation’s economy’ (as quoted in Sherlock 2001: 418). And both the Planning Commission and Gandhi herself claimed publicly that the strike was led by Socialists who wanted to manipulate organised labour for their own political ends (Sherlock 2001: 419). This claim failed to account for the fact that the strike was not supported by the railway workers’ trade unions and what made this strike so unique, and so important for Indian labour history, is that the workers formed new independent trade unions in order to successfully organise and execute this strike (Samaddar 2015: 587; Sherlock 2001: 190). Socialist leadership was not brought in until the rank and file had already decided that worker unrest was necessary in order to address grievances. The strike was one of the few pre-Emergency social movements in which Socialists and Communists collaborated. While Socialist trade union leader

Social Movements of the 1970s


George Fernandes was attacked by Indira Gandhi, CPI leader S. A. Dange wrote a letter to Gandhi defending Fernandes. Dange wrote, ‘The railway workers are neither demanding the resignation of the government, nor anything fantastic, beyond the normal and reasonable demands of a trade union’ (Dange quoted in Sherlock 2001: 421). The CPI failed to support the strike at first, but eventually came around. Its involvement in the strike shows that the CPI was in the most contradictory position of any political party throughout the Bihar Movement and the Emergency. They collaborated with the Congress in Bihar to organise anti-JP Movement demonstrations (Sherlock 2001: 425), and they supported Gandhi and Mishra even though Gandhi and Mishra were the ones most responsible for suppressing the railway workers’ strike (Sherlock 2001: 427). A week before his arrest in connection with the railway workers’ strike, Fernandes presciently told a group of friends that ‘Mrs. Gandhi was not interested in averting the railwaymen’s strike because she intended to use it to declare a national emergency and institute a personal dictatorship’, adding that the attachment of the propertied classes to democracy was superficial, that they preserved its shell only so long as it served their interests and that they would be more than willing to destroy it as soon as they faced a serious crisis and concluded that the use of naked force was necessary to curb popular movements and expectations. Add to this belief the conviction that Mrs. Gandhi is the cleverest representative of the Indian bourgeoise and their picture of the present political scene is complete. ( Jain 1974)

While this account was presented as an attempt to discredit Fernandes’ assessment of the then political climate, and, therefore, perhaps not entirely an accurate representation of his views at the onset of the railways workers’ strike, it was remarkably prescient for May 1974. While the railway workers’ strike was a formidable show of workers’ power and united both the left and right against the centre, it did not lead to JP’s goal of the dissolution of the Bihar Assembly, nor did JP’s 1 November 1974 meeting with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Shah 1977c: 119). The student strike, however, was successful, as only 5 per cent of Bihar’s college students were attending classes in September 1974 (Tiwari 1987: 85). On 3 October 1974, JP called for a three-day ‘Bihar Bandh’, a general strike across the state (Tiwari 1987: 94). Shops remained closed, autorickshaws and taxis refused to ply, university classrooms were empty, banks were closed, and 74 per cent of government employees were absent from work (Tiwari 1987: 94). On the second day of the general strike, railway tracks were sabotaged, disrupting rail


Brewing Resistance

service from Patna to Gaya (Tiwari 1987: 95). Fernandes was taken to task by the railways ministry for his alleged involvement in urging railway workers to participate in the Bihar Movement and his efforts to ‘politicise the trade union’ (Times of India 1974ad). Police killed three strike participants on the second day, and a group of 5,000 protesters responded by burning down the Bhabua Road Railway Station (Tiwari 1987: 95). On the third and final day, JP led a rally through the streets of Patna, and a solidarity rally attracting 50,000 protestors was held in New Delhi (Tiwari 1987: 96). Over the course of the three-day general strike, police killed 13 striking workers in 13 different towns and cities in Bihar, and unofficial sources report more deaths, unconfirmed by government records (Tiwari 1987: 96).

Jayaprakash Narayan in Delhi JP then set his sights on the national stage (Sinha 1977: 45). He went to Delhi and enlisted the support of the Akali Dal and Naxalite Movements in Punjab, along with the national wing of the RSS, Socialist Party and Congress(O) (B. Chandra 2003: 51; Dhar 2000: 258), in order to dissolve the Bihar State Assembly (Tiwari, 102). By some reports, JP found some measure of support in every opposition party except for the CPI (Franda 1975: 7). JP and his allies requested a meeting with Indira Gandhi to voice the grievances of the Bihar Movement, but the prime minister repeatedly refused to meet him (B. Chandra 2003: 59). On 1 November 1974, JP and the prime minister eventually met but failed to reach an agreement (Guha 2007: 481). Gandhi said in an interview to the Indian Nation, ‘I would rather resign than bow to those demands’ (Indira Gandhi quoted in Tiwari 1987: 102). Gandhi and JP continued to clash publicly. In an interview in Blitz, Indira Gandhi claimed that the Congress Party historically tried to avoid class struggle but that the Bihar Movement was an attempt to provoke class struggle and that those involved in the Bihar Movement were opposed to ‘true’ Socialism and social change in India (Tiwari 1987: 110). In an interview with the Indian Nation, JP said in response, ‘It is only that she is standing up in defence of what we are trying to remove’, and referred to Indira Gandhi as a ‘dictator’ (Tiwari 1987: 110).

The Assassination of L. N. Mishra In January 1975, L. N. Mishra was assassinated (Guha 2007: 483). Mishra had travelled to Samastipur to inaugurate the Samastipur–Muzaffarpur

Social Movements of the 1970s


broad-gauge line of the North-Eastern Railways when a bomb exploded as the minister was stepping down from the platform on which he had delivered his address (Times of India 1975t; Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 626). He was immediately taken by train to Patna to receive medical care for his severe injuries (Times of India 1975t). The chief medical officer of the NorthEastern Railways claimed that Mishra’s injuries to his thigh and abdomen were ‘skin deep’ but that he was given a blood transfusion and that surgeons were considering amputating the leg (Times of India 1975t). The next day, on 3 January 1975, Mishra died, as surgeons were removing shrapnel from his intestines, when he bled out on the operating table (Times of India 1975u). Indira Gandhi offered her condolences from Delhi (Times of India 1975u). Said Gandhi, ‘The forces of disruption which have come to the fore lately have spread hatred and indirectly encouraged violence. It is this atmosphere which is responsible for this dastardly crime. I trust that the crime will induce rethinking in the country and redirect political life along saner lines’ (Times of India 1975aa). Congress leaders soon followed with their own analyses of Mishra’s death. Vasant Sathe, a Congress MP, claimed that the ‘violent turn’ is ‘dangerous to democracy’ and added, ‘I hope that this incident of planned violence will be sufficient to persuade Mr. Jayaprakash Narayan to withdraw the Bihar Movement’ (Times of India 1975h). Said D. K. Borooah, president of the Congress, ‘Fascist forces out to destroy democracy have claimed their first victim’ (Times of India 1975d). The opposition leaders retorted that it would be ‘stupid’ at this juncture to link the bombing to the Bihar Movement, as it was still unclear who placed the bomb at the rally and why (Times of India 1975h). E. M. S. Namboodiripad criticised Congress for how quickly they used Mishra’s death to attack opposition parties (Times of India 1975j). Morarji Desai, Congress(O) leader, similarly criticised the ‘style of politics’ employed by Congress in maligning the Bihar Movement in the immediate aftermath of Mishra’s death (Times of India 1975ad). But the CPI soon came out and condemned the attack. A statement issued by the party’s central secretariat in New Delhi said, ‘There is every reason to believe that this attack was very carefully prepared and was politically motivated’ (Times of India 1975e). S. A. Dange, CPI chairman, said that Mishra’s assassination was ‘murder by proxy of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi’ and a ‘byproduct of the new line of counterrevolution’ (Times of India 1975v). Dange added that during the railway workers’ strike, Mishra made every effort to help railway workers (Times of India 1975v). Police and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials soon began an investigation into the bomb blast (Times of India 1975k). The first main


Brewing Resistance

suspect in the case was identified as K. P. S. Kishore, a railway worker who allegedly threw a high-powered hand grenade at Mishra just as he had finished his speech (Times of India 1975k). However, JP expressed concern about the police investigation into the attack stating that ‘the Congress government and its ally, the CPI, might try to malign [the Bihar Movement]. But it is clear that violence has never been a part of the Bihar Movement’ (The Times of India 1975g). JP added, ‘The politics of assassination has been raising its head in Bihar for some time. I am strongly opposed to the Naxalite elements behind such activities. I have always believed that the murders can never solve any of our problems, nor could revolutions come through acts of terrorism’ (Times of India 1975g) L. K. Advani, Jan Sangh president, immediately called for a commission of inquiry to be appointed to investigate the bombing. Advani’s theory behind the bombing was that elements hostile to the Bihar Movement set off the bomb in order to turn public favour against JP and the Bihar Movement. Said Advani, ‘I have a lurking suspicion that this outrage has been engineered by subversive elements fanatically hostile to the JP Movement in order to malign it’ (Times of India 1975c). Several Socialist Party MPs including Samarendra Kundu and Madhu Limaye supported Advani’s call for a commission of inquiry (Times of India 1975c). CPI Secretary Bhupesh Gupta decried what he called Jan Sangh ‘propaganda’, stating that Advani’s statements were a ‘clumsy, crude and vulgar distortion of facts’ (Times of India 1975f ). The CPI added that in the past year, its membership had increased by 125,000 because of its defence of democratic institutions (Times of India 1975f ). On 4 January, the Union Home Minister announced that there would be an inquiry into the bomb explosion in Samastipur (Times of India 1975al). The goal of the commission would be to uncover the culprits of the attack and to investigate the motive. The theory proposed by Bihar Police, that the explosion was perpetrated by a railway worker, was discounted by several eyewitness testimonies (Times of India 1975al). CBI detectives established on 5 January 1975 that the explosive device used to kill Mishra was in fact a military-grade hand grenade and not a homemade bomb as had been suspected by Bihar Police (Times of India 1975l). The CBI and Bihar Police arrested seven people suspected of orchestrating the attack, five of whom were railway officials (Times of India 1975l). Four of these men were known to be active in the railway workers’ union (Times of India 1975l). But JP, in a statement to the press, said that he had no faith in the CBI inquiry either, and that under Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership, any inquiry

Social Movements of the 1970s


would not be impartial (Times of India 1975x). JP told reporters that Mishra was never a target of the Bihar Movement and that ‘it is out of character for railway workers to indulge in such violence’ (Times of India 1975x). But JP added that if democratic channels failed to give the people means to express their frustrations then violence was likely to erupt (Times of India 1975x). That same day, 16 Congress MPs began a petition to JP to end the Bihar Movement claiming, ‘Public opinion has squarely blamed the atmosphere of hatred and violence created in recent months by the so-called “total revolutionaries” for Samastipur explosion which has cost us the valuable life of a great patriot and public servant’ (Times of India 1975a). Indira Gandhi, in what the Times of India described as an ‘emotional speech’, said that the murder of L. N. Mishra was not a mistake and that it was a ‘rehearsal’. She failed to specify what it was a rehearsal for but went on to say, ‘I am not afraid of death’ (Times of India 1975z), implying that Mishra’s assassination was perhaps a rehearsal for her own assassination. Gandhi said that she was saddened to see a figure like JP, who had consistently advocated non-violence, create an atmosphere in which non-violence was no longer possible. She added that JP was not following the ideals and principles of Mohandas Gandhi (Times of India 1975z). JP responded that the Bihar Movement was not at risk of dying out, but in fact would soon spread to other states (Times of India 1975aj). JP further added that not even the Freedom Movement was as peaceful as the Bihar Movement was. He claimed that the people’s struggle would continue until a total revolution was ushered in that completely changed the socio-economic structure. JP said that Indira Gandhi’s hostility towards the Bihar Movement showed that the government had ‘a fear of the people’ and that the prime minister was ‘weakening and suppressing democracy and fostering a totalitarian regime’ (Times of India 1975aj). A few days later, JP added in a statement made to the press, It augurs ill for this country that the prime minister should have worked herself up into such a hysteria as she had done during her speech in New Delhi. She also seems to be trying with the help of the CPI to whip up a climate of hysteria in the country. (Times of India 1975o)

Socialist MP N. G. Goray stated that Gandhi’s rhetoric was irresponsible and criticised the CPI for supporting the prime minister. Said Goray, ‘Their attitude need not cause surprise because they have identified Mr. Jayaprakash Narayan as the one who has committed the unpardonable sin of exposing the cloven feet of Indira’s government to the masses’ (Times of India 1975ab).


Brewing Resistance

In a joint statement, leaders of the DMK, Jan Sangh, Congress(O) and the Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD) denounced the prime minister’s statement that the Samastipur bombing was politically motivated (Times of India 1975y). They asked the prime minister to ‘desist from her campaign of vilification’ and instead to wait for the results of the CBI investigation (Times of India 1975y). But the main purpose of the statement was to deflect blame away from the Bihar Movement. ‘Surely nothing could be more preposterous than the suggestion that the prime minister and her party president keep making that somehow the agitation of Mr. Jayaprakash Narayan to root out corruption is to be blamed for what has happened’ (Times of India 1975y). But West Bengal chief minister, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, criticized the parties supporting the Bihar Movement, stating that the movements would ‘create chaos and confusion all over the country’ (Times of India 1975p). CPI leader Chandrahshekar Singh added that the Bihar Movement was a ‘fascist conspiracy’ led by ‘US imperialist forces and the CIA’ (Times of India 1975p). In a statement to the media, Fernandes retorted that the Bihar Movement was the only hope for continued democracy in India and urged the working classes to lend their support to the movement in Bihar and to help start similar movements in other states (Times of India 1975q). On 8 January, a note was recovered by the CBI and was believed to have been written by K. P. S. Kishore, the first suspect in the Samastipur attack (Times of India 1975i). The note, according to investigators, stated that 28-year-old Kishore wanted to end his life. The note read that after earning his MA degree, he faced long bouts of unemployment and worked as a cyclerickshawalla until his father, a freedom fighter, was able to get him a job in the railways. On the job, he had ‘come into contact with political elements with extremist views’ and became a devoted trade unionist, carrying a photo of Bhagat Singh with him at all times (Times of India 1975i). During the strike, Kishore wrote that he witnessed ‘the worst atrocities perpetrated by the authorities on railway workers’ (Times of India 1975i). From interviews with his friends and colleagues, police investigators learned that he had become ‘emotional’ after seeing police ransacking the houses of striking workers and upon seeing police officers assaulting the wives and daughters of railways workers during these raids (Times of India 1975i). CBI detectives were interested in questioning Kishore’s close friend, a Mr Jagat, but believed that Jagat had fled the country (Times of India 1975s). Through further investigation, it was learned that Kishore was a BA and LLB, not an MA as was earlier believed, and that he was 41 years of age rather than

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28 (Times of India 1975s). Kishore had been living with Jagat, a local school teacher, in the railways quarter (Times of India 1975s). CBI officials in their investigation concluded that Mishra’s speech should not have been held in Samastipur as it was a particularly active node of participation in the railway workers’ strike, and that most of the workers in Samastipur who had been dismissed for their participation in the strike had as of mid-January 1975, nearly nine months after the strike had been broken, remained unemployed (Times of India 1975s). The CBI found that local officials in Samastipur downplayed the militancy of local railway workers in order to attract the function to their town, and that extra measures were not taken to ensure the safety of the railways minister during his visit to Samastipur. But the CBI continued with their inquiry into the causes of the bombing in Samastipur. By 15 January, 90 people had been arrested in connection with the bombing, and the CBI continued to elicit the help of the public in order to find the culprits (Times of India 1975b). Soon, investigators learned that even though the railway authorities had disallowed the movement of trains through Samastipur during Mishra’s speech, a railway engine was moving along the track just before the explosion occurred (Times of India 1975w). By 19 January, the CBI had developed six theories about the cause of the Samastipur blast: (a) disgruntled railway workers; (b) hired criminals; (c) an extremist group; (d) opposition parties; (e) someone with a personal grudge against Mishra; or (f) that the original target was Muzaffarpur but the plan was changed because the platform on which Mishra gave his speech was much higher in Muzaffarpur compared to Samastipur (Times of India 1975ah). The CBI called in help from Scotland Yard in order to uncover who was responsible for the blast (Times of India 1975ag). By the end of February, 14 had been held in connection with the blast, but officials had still not uncovered the motive for the attacks (Times of India 1975ae, 1975af ). One ‘prime suspect’ was arrested near Monghyr, but the investigation remained underway (Times of India 1975ai), until Arun Kumar Thakur from Samastipur confessed during police questioning to have been involved in the Samastipur bombing. His confession then led to the arrest of his associates, Umakant Jha, Shiv Lal Sharma and Vishwakarma (Times of India 1975ak). While the suspects failed to reveal their motives and political affiliation, Jan Sangh sources told Times of India reporters that the four prime suspects were associated with the CPI in Bihar (Times of India 1975ak). CPI sources, however, claimed that the four suspects are part of the Bihar Movement. Bihar Movement sources categorically denied


Brewing Resistance

that the suspects had anything to do with the current agitation (Times of India 1975ak). In June, it was later uncovered that Arun Kumar Thakur had ties to the local police and was permitted to go onto the platform on which Mishra was giving his speech without going through a security check (Times of India 1975r). The Matthew Commission, the inquiry commission charged with investigating the Samastipur bomb blast, alleged that Arun Kumar Thakur had ties to former chief minister of Bihar Karpoori Thakur (Times of India 1975r). It was unclear to the Matthew Commission whether Arun Kumar Thakur and Karpoori Thakur belonged to the same caste or ‘whether Bihar was a casteridden state’ (Times of India 1975r). The CBI investigating team arrested Arun Kumar Thakur in connection with the bomb blast, but the Bihar government secured Thakur’s release, paid him an award of 25,000 rupees, gave him a police medal, and promoted him to the rank of Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Times of India 1975n). The Samastipur Superintendent of Police, D. P. Ojha, was alleged by the Bihar government to have framed Arun Kumar Thakur by giving a 15,000-rupee bribe to Thakur’s brother so that his brother would frame Arun Kumar Thakur for the bombing. When questioned by the Matthew commission, however, Ojha denied the Bihar government’s allegation that he had bribed Thakur’s brother to implicate Thakur in the bombing (Times of India 1975n). Ojha told the commission that he was aware of disgruntled railway workers and potential disruptions they might cause to Mishra’s speech; therefore, he put security measures in place and had made a list of railway workers who would be banned from the event (Times of India 1975n). Ojha, however, stated that he believed that the Jaigurudev cult was responsible for the bombing, as they preached the ‘physical removal’ of MPs, and had circulated leaflets advocating for the ‘physical removal’ of certain legislators, including the prime minister (Times of India 1975n). When asked by the Matthew Commission whether railway workers were followers of Jaigurudev, Ohja said, ‘So far as I know, some railway employees had some respect for Jaigurudev. But I do not know to what extent they were followers of this philosophy’ (Times of India 1975n). But Bhola Prasad Singh, counsel for the Bihar unit of theSSP, told the Matthew Commission that the alleged culprits were tied to the local administration in Samastipur (Times of India 1976). The accused were staying with a clerk in the local administration, who then came forward to the CBI claiming that the culprits stayed with him in Samastipur (Times of India 1976). The Superintendent of Police provided clues to the CBI leading to

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Arun Kumar Thakur, but it was later proved by the CBI that Thakur had ‘no hand in the incident’ (Times of India 1976). While Gandhi continued to blame Mishra’s death on the Bihar Movement and its ‘cult of violence’, the responsible parties were never apprehended, and the motive for the assassination remains unclear (Guha 2007: 483). *** In the conjuncture leading up to the Emergency, left and right opposition movements pressed the state to realise a more just and equal society as these various movements envisioned it. In this confrontation, one observes a playing out of the contestation over ideas of development that my macro reading of Fanon, Althusser, Gramsci and others had posited. The social conflict that these various movements initiated was primarily over ideologies of development. Movements such as the Bihar Movement, the Railway Workers’ Strike, the Naxalite Movement, and the Dalit Panthers wanted justice for India’s peasants, students, workers and Dalits. In the post-independence context, we can read these movements as a push to finally realise the social goals of national independence that the workers, peasants, Dalits, students and other groups who participated in India’s Freedom Movement fought for but had yet to win in the decades following independence. In pushing back against the social dislocations of Indira Gandhi’s policies, these movements collectively triggered a crisis of moral authority for the state, which then led to state violence against these movements and their participants. The lashing out of the state against these movements further escalated the moral crisis of the state and escalated the use of political violence. The increasing escalation of violence along with the crisis of moral authority then led to the suspension of democracy in India (Gramsci 1971: n49). In the following chapter, I will detail how democracy was revoked and assess its immediate consequences.

Notes   1. Indian Islamic Assembly.   2. Jan Sangh (People’s Association); Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Association).   3. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1.   4. Krüger Files, Box 24, File 140-1, ZMO; Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1, ZMO.   5. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1.   6. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1.


Brewing Resistance

  7. This call for students to engage in ‘total revolution’ marked a change from his previous stance on student politics. In a speech at Delhi University in December 1957, JP told students to forsake politics and instead be responsible citizens. He explained that ‘no political party is capable of bringing about such a social change, nor is it possible through coercive power of the government’ (Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1, ZMO).   8. Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2, ZMO; Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-3, ZMO.   9. Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2, ZMO; Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-3, ZMO. 10. Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2, ZMO. 11. Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-3, ZMO. 12. While JP believed that non-violence as practised by Mohandas Gandhi was the ideal form of social protest, in a 1934 letter written to Jawaharlal Nehru, he claimed that he did ‘not fully understand non-violence’, particularly in its ‘spiritual and religious’ dimensions (Krüger Files, Box 45, File 340-1, ZMO).

5 Emergency at Midnight

This was not a first journey. But how disturbing that moment after midnight

—Mrityubodh, Disturbing Moment (trans. from Punjabi)

In the previous chapter, I examined the Bihar Movement along with other social movements of the early 1970s that have often been blamed for the imposition of Emergency. While the Bihar Movement was certainly effective in articulating a more just and equal vision for politico-economic development in India, it was not until the Allahabad Ruling that Indira Gandhi began speaking about this social unrest as such an extreme threat to the state that it warranted the imposition of Emergency. If social unrest was truly the principal threat to law and order, Emergency should have been imposed nearly a year before, in 1974, when the Bihar Movement was at its peak, producing protests on student campuses across Bihar that were met with state violence which killed many students. The year 1974 was also the height of the Railway Workers’ Strike, which similarly provoked significant state violence and brutal repression. By the time of the Allahabad Ruling, the Bihar Movement had become more peaceful in its tactics and approach, and the railway workers had long since accepted defeat. In the several months leading up to the imposition of Emergency, the Bihar Movement had not employed violent tactics. In the weeks leading up to the Emergency, Jayprakash Narayan ( JP) led several public rallies in Delhi in which he read poems that could be interpreted as critiques of the state but certainly no protests that led to violence against persons or property. The historical evidence lends more credence to the interpretation that Gandhi was responding to an attempt to oust her from office on corruption charges by suspending democracy and taking state power rather than the interpretation that she was simply reacting to violent social protest that threatened the existence of the state. While the Bihar Movement and


Brewing Resistance

other attendant social movements may have provided an official justification for the imposition of Emergency, the declaration of Emergency did not occur until there was a real threat that risked removing Gandhi from office. Furthermore, in assessing the goals, demands and tactics of the movement, the Bihar Movement was not a force that threatened the economic development of the nation. On the contrary, the Bihar Movement, the Dalit Panthers, the Naxalite Movement and the Railway Workers’ Strike along with other synchronous social protest pushed India to make the changes that radical national liberation promised but had failed to provide including Dalit rights, improvement in the lives of workers and peasants, opportunities for education, and economic justice. While the Bihar Movement may not have been the precipitating cause of the Emergency, the movement and its contemporary social movements did foster the opposition movement against the Emergency, eventually contributing to the restoration of democracy in India in 1977. In this chapter, I will detail how the Emergency occurred and what its immediate consequences were. Many theorists point to the mid-1970s as a period in which the Global South saw many formerly democratic states tip into authoritarianism in the decades following their independence from colonial rule (Huntington 1991: 21; Nkrumah 1979: 48–9). This breakdown occurs as a result of both global and local forces. Globally, this period coincides with the beginning of the terminal crisis of United States (US) hegemony, which causes a breakdown of the established world order (Arrighi 1994; Kumral 2014: 66). Locally, pressures from the world-hegemon (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 77), along with imperatives for the national bourgeoisie to supplant former colonial rulers (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 138–9), set the stage for local political rulers to maintain colonial social hierarchies and do so through authoritarian rule if rule by consent fails. In this uncertain economic, political and ideological context, states are vulnerable to challenges from civil society, but when these challenges to the state from below succeed and consent is no longer sufficient for the dominant classes to maintain their moral authority, they often resort to corruption, fraud and, in some cases, force (Gramsci 1971: n49). In this chapter, I will show how Indira Gandhi resorted to corruption and fraud, and then force in order to maintain her political authority.

The Allahabad Ruling On 12 June 1975, the Allahabad Supreme Court handed down a decision that was four years in the making. After losing the 1971 elections for prime

Emergency at Midnight


minister, Socialist Party candidate Raj Narain filed an election petition claiming that his opponent, Indira Gandhi, had engaged in corrupt election practices rendering her election as prime minister invalid (B. Chandra 2003: 64; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 17). Justice Jagmohan Sinha ruled that Gandhi was guilty of (a) illegal use of a gazetted government servant, Yashpal Kapoor, during the election campaign and (b) the erection of a platform on which PM Gandhi gave a campaign speech by police officials along with enlisting the police to supply electricity for the speaker system for this campaign event (Bhushan 2017 [1978]: 7; B. Chandra 2003: 64; Franda 1975: 8). The more serious charges against Gandhi—bribery, lavish election expenditure, illegal soliciting of votes, and use of religious symbols for campaign purposes—were all dismissed for lack of evidence (B. Chandra 2003: 64). Her sentence, for the two charges for which she was convicted, was a prohibition from holding office for six years and to resign from the prime ministership (Bhushan 2017 [1978]: 108; B. Chandra 2003: 64; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 17). Gandhi responded to the ruling with an appeal instead of her resignation (B. Chandra 2003: 67). It was in his speech on 18 June defending the prime minister’s refusal to resign that D. K. Barooah coined one of the most notorious Emergency-era slogans: ‘India is Indira, Indira is India.’ Gandhi mobilised government resources in and around Delhi to organise counter-demonstrations (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 20). Records of the New Delhi Transport Corporation show that 1,761 city busses were requisitioned by the All India Congress Committee (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 17). These busses were then used by the Congress Party to transport people to counter-rallies at Raj Nivas in support of Indira Gandhi remaining prime minister (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 17). Legally, only five busses per depot, or 95 busses in total, are permitted to be booked for special hire on a given day (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 17). Furthermore, government employees were compelled to organise these rallies (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 18), including police from stations in Faridabad, Gurgaon, Rai and Sadar Bazaar (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 18). Bansi Lal, the chief minister of Haryana, also sent truckloads of people from Haryana into Delhi to participate in the rallies in support of Gandhi (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 19). Trains from Varanasi, Lucknow and Kanpur were requisitioned by Congress Party members to bring people to Delhi for these rallies, and the Rajasthan State Electricity Board similarly arranged trucks to


Brewing Resistance

bring people from Rajasthan to Delhi for pro-Indira Gandhi rallies (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 20). The Shah Commission found that several employees of Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking (DESU) were beaten by Congress Party members for refusing to attend these rallies in support of the prime minister (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 20). The chairman of the Rajasthan Electricity Board was similarly reprimanded for not compelling electricity board workers to attend the rallies in Delhi (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 20). But adverse consequences were not just reserved for those who failed to support Gandhi’s prime ministership. The Shah Commission found that starting on 18 June 1975, before the Emergency had been declared, Gandhi had begun spying on members of her own party whom she suspected of disloyalty. Surveillance consisted of ‘physical watch and telephone tappings’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 20). The Shah Commission concluded that this surveillance was ‘other than those strictly necessary for ensuring the security of the state’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 20). Furthermore, the Intelligence Bureau was being used by Prime Minister Gandhi, before the Emergency, to assess the election prospects of Congress Party candidates, including Gandhi herself (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 21). The Shah Commission later ruled that surveillance of political leaders ,‘if at all, could be exercised only when authorised by statutory provisions and circumstances strictly necessary for ensuring the security of the state in grave times either of internal disturbance or external aggression or war, and not at other times’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 30). On 24 June 1975, representatives from the Socialist Party, Akali Dal, RSS parties (Bharatiya Lok Dal and Bharatiya Jana Sangh), and the Indian National Congress (Organisation) (Congress[O]), a political party formed by Congress Party defectors who opposed Gandhi’s policies (Sinha 1977: 48), decided to unite in a nation-wide movement to demand Gandhi’s resignation (B. Chandra 2003: 65; Devasahayam 2012: 63). On 25 June 1975, a rally was held at the Ramlila grounds in Delhi where JP called for civil disobedience against the state until Gandhi resigned (Devasahayam 2012: 64; C. Kapoor 2015: 2; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 17; Sinha 1977: 49). At that rally, JP read a Ramdhari Singh poem entitled ‘Singhasan Khaali Karo Ke Janata Aati Hai’ (Surrender Your Throne for the People Are Coming) (C. Kapoor 2015: 3). The Shah Commission reports determined that ‘all this generated a tension but no untoward incident occurred during this period’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 17).

Emergency at Midnight


According to the testimony given by Vengala Rao to the Shah Commission, the day before JP’s rally, on 24 June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told him that because of the prevailing conditions and the contemplated country-wide agitation, it had been decided to take strong and deterrent action; and as this was sure to cause resentment and there was a possibility of some violent action, it would be necessary to take all preventive actions including the arrest of persons who were likely to cause disturbance. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 22)

And in a speech given at the Red Fort on 15 August 1975, Gandhi claimed that the social protest in Bihar, while a response to ‘economic difficulties’, including ‘inflation, increased unemployment and scarcity of essential commodities’ (Gandhi 1984: 198), only made economic conditions worse. Economic conditions will improve, Gandhi contended, only when the ‘students, teachers, writers, artists—would stop thinking only of themselves’ (Gandhi 1984: 199). Therefore, on the afternoon of 25 June 1975, a meeting was held by the prime minister in which R. K. Dhawan, Om Metha, Bansi Lal, S. P. Bajwa and Krishan Chand were in attendance to discuss impending arrests of those deemed most likely to protest the prime minister’s refusal to step down (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 22). After the meeting, the chief secretary of Delhi Administration, J. K. Kohli, was instructed to visit Tihar Jail to make arrangements for those who would be rounded up later that night (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 22). The commissioner of Tihar Jail was told to ‘receive about 200 Naga Political Prisoners by the next morning’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 22). In addition to making these orders to accommodate incoming political prisoners at Tihar Jail, Prime Minister Gandhi also told B. N. Mehrotra, General Manager of Delhi Electric Supply, that he was to cut electricity to all newspaper offices from 10 p.m. on the 25th until 2 a.m. on the morning of the 26th so that ‘important newspapers were prevented from bringing out the morning editions on June 26th, 1975’ (C. Kapoor 2015: 1, 50; Rao and Rao 1977: ix–x; Times of India 1975ac; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 22–3). Similar efforts to prevent the publication of newspapers were made in Chandigarh and Bhopal (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 23). The Shah Commission later ruled that both the disconnecting of electricity to newspaper offices and the arrests of political leaders were‘unauthorised, illegal, and wrongful’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 30).


Brewing Resistance

Emergency At midnight on 25 June into 26 June 1975, the Emergency was declared. By some reports, Indira Gandhi had several meetings with Indian army chief T. N. Raina, Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal, and her son Sanjay about the possibility of staging a military coup (Chum 2014: 61). However, after meeting with West Bengal chief minister Siddharth Shanker Ray, Gandhi instead decided to declare an internal emergency (Chum 2014: 61). This order to declare Emergency was undertaken without the consultation of the home ministry, cabinet secretariat or prime minister’s secretariat (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 25). Reports of law and order by various state governors and by the chief secretaries of the states indicated that ‘the law and order situation was under complete control all over the country’, and, furthermore, there were ‘no reports from state governments indicating any significant deterioration in the law and order situation in the period immediately preceeding the proclamation of Emergency’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 26). When questioned about the lack of an apparent law and order problem on the eve of the Emergency, Gandhi explained, The vicious campaign of character assassination and denigration waged by political opponents denuded Indian politics of all ideological debates. Even in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, the opposition did not put forth any alternative economic or social programme. I was the focus of attack as the first target. Ordinary human decency was lost in the process. Their decisive defeat at the polls frustrated their faith in the democratic process. There was then a short interlude during which India faced one of the gravest challenges with which any nation had been confronted. There influx of ten million refugees from Bangladesh, aggression and the subsequent war, unprecedented country-wide drought and the global inflationary spiral aggravated by the oil crisis, and other factors would have upset the economic balance of any rich and developed country. India was fighting for her economic survival. It was during this period that the then opposition resorted to extra-constitutional means to paralyse our institutions. As I have explained in my previous statement, there was hardly any sphere of national life which was not sought to be disrupted. The inevitable distress of many sections of our people was exploited to mount attacks on duly elected Governments and Assemblies of the day.… It was in this political atmosphere prevailing in the country that the Allahabad High Court was delivered and was seized upon by the opposition to whip up political frenzy against me. Although I was in the immediate target, the real design was to dislodge the Congress Government and to capture power through

Emergency at Midnight


extra-constitutional means. If a duly elected Government can be allowed to be pulled down by threats of violence and demonstrations in the streets and by incitement of revolt, the democratic structure of the nation would collapse. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 28)

By declaring an internal emergency, the military was not drawn into executive rule as was the case in neighbouring Pakistan and in other military dictatorships across the Global South in the 1960s and 1970s (Wilkinson 2015: 148). The Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), which was enacted during the Indo-Pak War of 1971, was amended (Nakade 1990: 117; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 4) to vest the state and its agents with the power to arrest and detain anyone without cause, that detainees had no recourse to constitutional or common law, that MISA detainees were immune to judicial review, that detainees would be kept indefinitely without being informed of why they had been jailed, and that the judiciary had no right to information about MISA detainees (Devasahayam 2012: 33–4; Nakade 1990: 173; Nayar 1977: 134; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 4–5). The court system was severely restricted as well. Courts were barred from pronouncing the validity of the prime ministers’ rules or ordinances, and courts were stripped of the authority to rule on election disputes (Devasahayam 2012: 34). Prime Minister Gandhi then proclaimed a constitutional amendment reversing the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in which her resignation was ordered (Devashayam 2012: 34; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 4–5).

Media Censorship For the first time in postcolonial India, on 26 June 1975, a Censorship Order under Rule 48 of the Defence of India Rules dictated that no news, comment, rumour or other report could be published unless it was submitted to and approved by authorised censor officers (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 490; Sorabjee 1977: 11; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 5). The act granting the press freedom to publish the proceedings of Parliament, ironically introduced to Parliament by Gandhi’s estranged husband, Feroze Gandhi, and named The Feroze Gandhi Act, was repealed (Rao and Rao 1977: xv). All news on the Emergency, the prime minister’s order suspending habeas corpus, the location or condition of persons arrested under MISA, and news or commentary on the family planning programme was explicitly banned (Sorabjee 1977: 11). Gandhi ‘had said that it was the newspapers which were inciting the people and creating a terrible situation. According


Brewing Resistance

to her, the agitation was only in the newspapers and once the newspapers were placed under censorship there was no more agitation’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 33). In a speech in the Rajya Sabha, Gandhi stated that media censorship was justified because in the media ‘anything that the government did was wrong and anybody who opposed the government was right’ (Gandhi quoted in Zaidi 1975: 136); she went on to add, ‘Once there were no newspapers, there was no agitation. The agitation was in the newspapers. If you ask why there is censorship of the press, this is the reason why’ (Gandhi quoted in Zaidi 1975: 44). However, Hindustan Times editor B. G. Verghese told the Shah Commission that, on the contrary, the reason for taking measures against the press was ‘to keep the public in ignorance and instil fear in them thereby suppressing dissent in every form, individual, political, parliamentary, and judicial and that it was used as an instrument of news management aimed at thought control’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 33). Guidelines given to newspaper offices stated, ‘Nothing is to be published that is likely to convey the impression of a protest or disapproval of a governmental measure’ (as quoted in Sorabjee 1977: 13). MISA allowed the Government of India to censor any matter related to the defence of India, civil defence, public safety, maintenance of public order, and efficient military operations (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 34) but in practice, censorship was implemented often and arbitrarily (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 34; Sorabjee 1977: 14). Quotations from Mohandas Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Indira Gandhi’s father, Jawaharlal Nehru, were banned, as was leaving newspaper pages blank in protest, along with any reports on government sector undertakings of any sort including the proceedings of Parliament and the courts (C. Kapoor 2015: 55; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 34–5; Sorabjee 1977: 13). As D. P. Tripathi told me, ‘You could not quote Gandhi, you could not quote Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh, of course, would be unthinkable to quote.’ V. C. Shukla, information and broadcasting minister during the Emergency, explained to the Shah Commission why quotes from Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore were banned, ‘These quotations which were made with reference to the British Raj were now taken out of context, would create misunderstandings and therefore they should be avoided’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 38). As for the rationale behind banning blank space in newspapers, V. C. Shukla said, ‘Space kept blank in a newspaper was a protest against the Emergency. Therefore, it was unlawful and therefore, the Government was entitled to say that it should

Emergency at Midnight


not be left blank’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 38). Examples of specific articles that were censored include an article reporting that the Allahabad High Court ruled that MISA detainees have the right to trial in the High Court; a story about JP’s release from jail; reports of a strike in Ahmedabad; news of police shooting and killing people at Turkman Gate; an article about rising inflation; reports of a police search of a newspaper office in Cochin for unknown reasons; an editorial about employee bonuses; birthday greetings to Morarji Desai on behalf of the editor of Tughlak; many cartoons, satirical articles, and so on (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 36–7; Government of India 1977: 29–32; for a list of all items disallowed by censors during the Emergency see Government of India 1977: Appendix 13). The press was soon restructured in order to make matters easier for censors. The two major English news agencies, the Press Trust of India and the United News of India, along with the two Hindi news agencies, Hindustan Samachar and Samachar Bharati, were merged into one, which meant one point of control for censors (C. Kapoor 2015: 66; Nayar 1977: 163; Rao and Rao 1977: xvi; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 5, 42). All India Radio was subject to rigid constraints after the Emergency was declared. Government policy dictated that most of the air time be devoted to playing the speeches of Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 44). In just the one year from 1 January 1976 to 18 January 1977, Indira Gandhi spoke on All India Radio 171 times, Sanjay Gandhi spoke 24 times, and 192 programmes about Sanjay Gandhi were aired (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 44). The Enquiry Committee on the Misuse of Mass Media stated that All India Radio ‘was being operated by a coterie of the Youth Congress who used the Station mainly for publicising the activities of the Youth Congress and Sanjay Gandhi’ (Government of India 1977: 6). Additionally, a number of films were produced by the Films Division of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry depicting Sanjay Gandhi as not just a youth leader but a leader in his own right (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 46). Remarked George Fernandes, ‘Her radio has become a permanent joke. The censored press and the Samacharred news do not fool the people anymore’ (D. Sharma 1977: 189). During the Emergency, many Indians began to turn to BBC Radio as their news source, as it was the only news source available in India that was not subject to government censorship (Chum 2014: 77). The print and radio media were not the only types of media affected by the Emergency. The Hindi film industry was similarly affected. In January


Brewing Resistance

1976, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting assembled a group of film actors and directors to create a television programme celebrating Indira Gandhi’s 20-point plan to be aired on India’s national television network, Doordarshan. While famous Hindi film industry figures such as G. P. Sippy and B. R. Chopra participated in this project, Kishore Kumar refused, citing health issues (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 8). His refusal to cooperate angered the Information and Broadcasting officials involved in organising this project, and they retaliated against Kumar by banning his songs from airing on All India Radio and Doordarshan, by ending production on all films he was currently in the process of making, and by banning the sales of his records (Government of India 1977: 88; C. Kapoor 2015: 69; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 8). The Shah Commission concluded that these actions were taken not only to punish Kishore Kumar but also as a warning to others in the film industry that there were consequences for refusal to participate in government propaganda projects (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 8). Entire films were censored as well, most notoriously the film Kissa Kursi Ka, a political satire that had a character based on Sanjay Gandhi. Not only was the film censored but all copies, including the master proof, were ordered to be burned (C. Kapoor 2015: 69; Government of India 1977: 17). In the days after the Emergency was declared, blank editorials appeared in newspapers across India as a form of protest (Sorabjee 1977: 14). The prime minister interpreted this as a victory, claiming that the lack of resistance of the press indicated their support for the Emergency. Each of the leading newspapers were unwilling to challenge the newly imposed censorship. The Hindustan Times was owned by K. K. Birla, a staunch Congress supporter and friend of Sanjay Gandhi (Nayar 1977: 160; Sorabjee 1977: 15). Birla fired Hindustan Times editor B. G. Verghese when he voiced protest against censorship (Henderson 1977: 81; Nayar 1977: 160–1). One-third of the Times of India’s directors were government nominees and, therefore overnight, all political cartoons had disappeared from its pages. The Hindu was printed and had its largest readership in south India and therefore being so far away from Delhi believed it best not to antagonise the central government (Sorabjee 1977: 15). The Indian Express and the Statesman both refused to submit to government censorship and faced repercussions (Kalhan 1977: 55; Sorabjee 1977: 15). Because of a ‘pervasive atmosphere of fear in the media’, many smaller publications closed down as they could no longer find printers to print their copies (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 33). The Shah

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Commission uncovered that newspapers across the country were given grades by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting based on how friendly or hostile they were to the Emergency (C. Kapoor 2015: 59; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 39). The national newspapers given the most favourable grades were Hindustan Times and Times of India, while the Statesman and the Indian Express were given the worst grades, meaning that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting deemed them the most hostile newspapers to the Emergency (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 40). The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was found by the Shah Commission to have favoured the newspapers that were most supportive of the Emergency by purchasing advertising space in these papers for the placement of Emergency propaganda ads at rates higher than the market rate (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 41). Private advertisers were also pressured by the ministry to place advertisements exclusively in those newspapers which supported the Emergency (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 42). And in fact, the government issued a bulletin to all department and public sector undertakings not to issue any advertisements in the Indian Express group of newspapers (Government of India 1977: 35). Former Times of India editor Khushwant Singh remained a vocal supporter of the Emergency, and in his memoir, bluntly entitled Why I Supported the Emergency (2009), claims that while he had ‘enormous respect and admiration’ for JP Narayan, he believed that the Bihar Movement had gone too far with its use of violent tactics (K. Singh 2009: 2). While Singh believes that the right to protest is essential to democracy, the Bihar Movement was too often violent and, therefore, needed to be ‘suppressed by force if necessary’ (K. Singh 2009: 1). Singh alternately contends, ‘The Emergency, when first imposed, was welcomed by the people. There were no strikes or hartals, schools and colleges re-opened, business picked up, busses and trains began to run on time’ (K. Singh 2009: 3). In describing Indira Gandhi as a ‘great leader’ Singh writes, She had dictatorial tendencies, indulged in gross favouritism, overlooked corruption and systematically undermined democratic institutions. She wanted to set up dynastic succession. She manipulated and gagged the press. She may not have been adverse to having people who she thought knew too much from being bumped off.… She was able to get away with what she did because India’s poor millions loved her as Amma—Mother. (K. Singh 2009: 79)

Khushwant Singh did, however, take issue with media censorship during the Emergency. In his memoir, Singh writes, ‘The Indian Express was


Brewing Resistance

a favourite target of the Emergency censors, while the Times of India and Hindustan Times were given more leeway by censors because their editors were known supporters of Indira Gandhi’ (K. Singh 2009: 4). Singh also opposed the arrest of the editor of the Statesman, Kuldip Nayar, and stated that there was ‘no reason whatsoever’ that his 82-year-old father-in-law should have been arrested as well (K. Singh 2009: 4). Singh also points out that censorship was singularly directed at any media that opposed Indira Gandhi, providing by way of example that that the ‘girlie magazine’, Debonair, rarely, if ever, was censored during the Emergency, but political coverage in serious newspapers was censored on a daily basis. As Singh puts it, ‘Porn? Theek hai [trans.: okay]! Politics, no’ (K. Singh 2009: 4). But censorship was not the only issue facing the press during the Emergency. Far more serious was the harassment of individual journalists who openly opposed the Emergency. According to the Shah Commission, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting provided a list of all accredited journalists in the country to the Intelligence Bureau so that they could investigate their political views (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 44). Thirty-three journalists were denied re-accreditation due to their ‘anti-establishment stances’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 44). Foreign journalists were threatened that if they did not abide by the censorship rules, their visas would be revoked (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 44). But by some reports, all foreign journalists were asked to leave the country (Rao and Rao 1977: xix). The Washington Post (US) was asked to leave four days after the Emergency was declared, and Newsweek (US), the Daily Telegraph (UK), the Times (UK), the Guardian (UK) and the Baltimore Sun (US) soon followed rather than capitulate to the restrictions on the press ( Jayakar 1995: 298; Rao and Rao 1977: xx). The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times (US) remained, having signed an agreement to abide by the censors (Rao and Rao 1977: xx). The BBC (UK) left India in July 1976 (Rao and Rao 1977: xx). And these threats against foreign journalists were not empty. R. Ramanujam of Newsweek had his telephone line cut and was asked to leave his accommodations after reporting unfavourably on the Emergency (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 44). Many journalists including R. Ramanujam of Newsweek, S. P. Sinha of Der Spiegel (Germany), Prakash Michandani of the BBC, Pran Sabharwal of the Baltimore Sun, Saeed Naqvi of the Times (London) and others had their journalistic accreditation revoked by the Government of India (Government of India 1977: 36, 61–2). Seven

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foreign journalists were deported, including Lewis Simons (Washington Post), Peter Gill (Daily Telegraph), Peter Hazelhurst (Times London), Loren Jenkins (Newsweek), Edward Cody (Associated Press), Jaques Leslie (Los Angeles Times) and Lawrence Lifschiltz (Guardian) (Government of India 1977: Appendix 15). Stated the Enquiry Committee on the Misuse of Mass Media, ‘The only reason for these decisions was that these news organisations were critical of the Emergency’ (Government of India 1977: 37). Loren Jenkins, a reporter for Newsweek, wrote, ‘In 10 years of covering the world, from Franco’s Spain to Mao’s China, I have never encountered such stringent and all encompassing censorship’ (quoted in C. Kapoor 2015: 59). The owner of the Indian Express, Ram Nath Goenka, was threatened that if he did not submit to the censors, he, his son and his daughter-in-law would be detained under MISA and that the paper would be auctioned off (Henderson 1977: 103; Nayar 1977: 127). Goenka refused to submit to the censors and refused to sell the paper that ‘he had built from scratch’, but all government advertisements were withdrawn from the Indian Express, and a government circular was sent to all of the Indian Express’ corporate advertisers directing them to stop advertising in the newspaper (Chum 2014: 77; Nayar 1977: 162). Soon, the Indian Express was running at a loss of 1.5 million rupees each month (Nayar 1977: 162). Goenka then began to submit material to the censors, and in retribution, they would deliberately delay material, preventing the paper from being printed on time (Henderson 1977: 104; Sorabjee 1977: 18). Electric supplies were cut to Indian Express press offices in Delhi for alleged arrears when there were none (Chum 2014: 77; Henderson 1977: 106; Sorabjee 1977: 18). The New Delhi office of the Indian Express was appropriated by the city for municipal tax arrears when there were none, and the paper was denied its normal banking credit facilities from the recently nationalised banks (Chum 2014: 77; Henderson 1977: 107; Sorabjee 1977: 19). The Shah Commission found that ‘no reasons were adduced’ that might justify the actions taken against the Indian Express (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 36). The former Indian Express journalist Coomi Kapoor suggests that the conflict between Indira Gandhi and the newspaper pre-dated the Emergency as Gandhi’s husband, Feroze Gandhi, was hired by Goenka as a journalist for the Indian Express, at Jawaharlal Nehru’s request, while Indira and Feroze Gandhi were separated (C. Kapoor 2015: 155). Goenka was a friend to both Indira Gandhi’s husband, Feroze, and to her father, Jawaharlal Nehru (C. Kapoor 2015: 155).


Brewing Resistance

Torture of Political Prisoners Once arrested under MISA laws, many journalists and other political prisoners were tortured. Kuldip Nayar, editor of the Statesman, imprisoned under MISA (Sorabjee 1977: 15), describes the torture inflicted on MISA detainees in prison: Torture of various types were carried out—stamping on the bare body with heeled ‘ammunition’ boots; severe beating on the soles of the feet; rolling of heavy police lathis over shin bones, with a constable sitting on the lathi; making the victim crouch for hours in a fixed position; beating on the spine; slapping both ears till the victim lost consciousness; beating with the butt of a rifle; inserting live electric wires in the crevices of the body; stripping and making Satyagrahis lie on slabs of ice; burning the skin with cigarettes or wax candles; denying food, water and sleep, and making the victim drink his own urine; suspending him in the air with his wrists tied at the back and putting him up as an ‘aeroplane’ (the victim’s hands were tied behind his back with a rope which was taken over a pulley attached to the ceiling, and the victim was pulled up a few feet above ground. He thus dangled in midair, hanging from his hands, tied at the back). All of this was done systematically—a team of 10 to 12 constables would encircle a detainee and try one type of torture or the other. If it left visible marks on the body or affected a prisoner’s physical condition, the police did not produce him before a magistrate for fear of reprimand. If a search warrant was issued, the police would shift the victim from station to station. MISA came to the authorities’ rescue since no judicial relief was available to those arrested under it. (Nayar 1977: 182)

Scholars and RSS activists, P. G. Sahastrabuddhe and Manik Chandra Vajpayee, detail the techniques of torture used by the police across north India during the Emergency, an account confirmed by Coomi Kapoor (2015: 46). In Bihar, MISA detainees were beaten unconscious with lathis, deprived of food, water and sleep, and police rubbed red chilli powder into their genitals (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 247–8). In Punjab, detainees were handcuffed, hooded and then beaten, deprived of food and water, stripped naked, forced to stand all day in the summer sun, or forced to strip naked and crawl on the ground in the sun (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 250). Detainees in a notorious Emergency-era detention centre in Amritsar were stripped naked, and a heavy steel roller was rolled across the body, breaking the bones of many detainees (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 251). In Uttar Pradesh, rags soaked in gasoline or red chilli power were forced into detainees’ rectums (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 253), police administered

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electric shocks to detainees, they hung detainees from trees and beat them with sticks (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 19901: 254), they would pull out the fingernails of detainees using pliers and would give them urine to drink (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 255), and the wives of detainees were brought to the jail and raped by police officers while their husbands were forced to watch (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 256). In Delhi, detainees were waterboarded, sometimes with red chilli powder in the water, beaten and burned with candles, red chilli powder was rubbed on their faces and inserted into their rectums (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 275), detainees were denied food, water and sleep, were made to stand for days, were hung from ceiling fans and beaten with canes, and police urinated into detainees’ mouths (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 276). In Haryana, where torture was most severe (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 280), detainees were tied to the back of rickshaws and dragged through the streets, police would hammer nails into their boots and then step on detainees, police dragged detainees by their hair, deprived detainees of food and water, and would make them stand naked on the roadside for up to four days during which time buckets of water were thrown on the detainees (Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 281). An underground communique of the Lok Sangharsh Samiti described one student who had been arrested during the Emergency as having been denied sleep, food and water for two days on stretch was mercilessly beaten specially on the neck. Was twice hung upside down, chilli solution poured into his nose with a rod tied around his neck. While in this position his testicles were poked into with a rod…. Later he was made to stand for two days at a stretch. (D. Sharma 1977: 58)

During the Emergency, a total of 100,806 political prisoners were illegally detained (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 134). According to Coomi Kapoor, 25,000 of these detainees were RSS workers (C. Kapoor 2015: 130). In the city of Delhi alone, 1,012 political prisoners were detained under MISA, 146 of those were members of banned parties such as the RSS, Jamaat-e-Islami, CPI(ML) or Liberation (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 32). One hundred and eighty of the political prisoners in Delhi were leaders in parties that remained legal but actively opposed the Emergency such as the Indian Socialist Party or the CPI(M) (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 32). The Superintendent of the Crime Investigation Department of the Delhi Police told the Shah Commission that on the night the Emergency was declared, he was given a list of 159 political activists for which he was to issue detention orders (Shah Commission of


Brewing Resistance

Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 32). He was not given any reason or evidence for the detention of these activists, and, therefore, the Shah Commission ruled, these orders for detention were illegal (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 32). The Lt. Governor of Delhi, Kishan Chand,1 told the Shah Commission that the arrest order for each of the political prisoners arrested and detained on the night of 25 June 1975 was issued by Indira Gandhi herself, that she had helped to create the list in an afternoon meeting earlier that day, and furthermore had approved the finalised list of detentions to be carried out that night (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 32). Chand stated to the Shah Commission that ‘these persons were the topmost political leaders’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 32). Many of these arrests were made by the Special Branch, according to the Deputy Inspector General of the Delhi Police, where Special Branch officers were ordered to ‘pick up’ or ‘lift’ certain individuals without any grounds for arrest (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 35). These abductions by the Special Branch were carried out so that ‘it may be kindly assured that he may not be released on bail’ as there was no record of the person’s arrest in the first place (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 35). For those who were able to obtain bail, it was of little use, as ‘persons released on bail were arrested at the jail gates and this was being done under the directions of the Lt. Governor’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 36). When the Inspector General of Police was asked by the Shah Commission whether the Delhi Police had acted legally during the Emergency, he replied, ‘It was illegal and I would not try to defend the indefensible’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 35). According to the Shah Commission Reports, members of opposition parties (except for the CPI) and members of banned parties (RSS, Jamaate-Islami and the CPI[ML]) comprised the majority of MISA detainees (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 42). Most of the MISA detainees in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra were members of the Jan Sangh (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 42). In West Bengal and Orissa, where the number of MISA detainees was much fewer than in the west, most of the detainees were members of theCPI(M) (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 42). Detaining a person without accusing him or her of any specific activity but only for belonging to a particular party happened most frequently in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 42). While some of these MISA detainees had a previous criminal record for their political work before the Emergency, the law, even during the Emergency, stipulated that members of banned organisations could

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not be detained simply because they were a member of a banned organisation. In order to be legally detained under MISA police had to have some evidence that the detainee was involved in some anti-state activity (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: 42, Vol. 3). In practice, however, many were detained simply by virtue of being a member of a banned organisation such as the RSS, CPI(ML), Jamaat-e-Islami, or for being a member of an opposition party such as the CPI(M). CPI members, although an opposition party, were rarely if ever detained under MISA. MISA was also routinely used to imprison individuals who resisted compulsory sterilisation, which was also ‘totally beyond the purview of the Act’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 43–4). But resistance was futile as many of these MISA detainees who refused sterilisation were then forcibly sterilised once in jail ( Jai 1996: 130). Furthermore, MISA was used as a threat to squash the student movement and trade union movement. Students who were members of the student wings of banned organisations, along with those who were involved in political activities on campuses, were detained under MISA (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 44). Workers who were leaders in trade unions were detained under MISA as a preventative measure to ensure that there was no labour unrest during the Emergency. The Shah Commission found that workers who had participated in previous agitations against management were detained even without any evidence that they were currently participating in trade union activity (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 44). In Delhi, a total of 3,911 arrests and detentions were made during the Emergency (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 126). In Delhi’s nearby states, many more were arrested. In Haryana, 1,281 people were detained during the Emergency (Shah Commission, Vol. 3, 65); in Punjab, 2,936 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 100); and in Uttar Pradesh, 31,863 people were detained during the Emergency, more than in any other Indian state or territory (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 114). The Shah Commission found that in Haryana, ‘the grounds for detention were inadequate and vague’ and that most likely ‘MISA was blatantly misused in a number of cases to settle old scores’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 66). In Punjab, most of the detainees were members of the CPI(ML), and second most were members of the Jan Sangh (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 101). In Uttar Pradesh, many of the detainees were political prisoners. The most common professions of those detained in Uttar Pradesh included journalists, lawyers, university faculty, school teachers, doctors, trade


Brewing Resistance

unionists, students and public servants (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 116). Many of these detainees were arrested for their involvement in either a banned political party or an opposition party, or for their vocal opposition to the family planning programme (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 116). School teachers and public servants in Uttar Pradesh were under pressure to bring people to family planning clinics to get sterilised, and if they failed to meet their quotas, they were arrested under MISA (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 116). India-wide, 220,146 people were incarcerated in 1975, and the Indian prison system’s official capacity that year was 183,369 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 139). There were no separate jails to house juvenile prisoners, and there were no facilities in jail hospitals for specialised treatment of prisoners (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 135). Most Indian jails, as of 1979, were on average 75 to 100 years old, lacking in ventilation or sanitation, and few had water supply arrangements (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 135). All offenders were housed together without regard to their age, the charges against them, whether they are under-trial or already convicted, or their health or mental health status (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 135). When the Emergency was declared on 25 July 1975, Delhi jails were similarly overcrowded, with a capacity for 1,273 prisoners but housing 2,669 prisoners (C. Kapoor 2015: 39; Jai 1996: 98; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). Even though the capacity of the prison system was 1,273, the water and sewage system could only accommodate 750 inmates (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). By June 1975, 500 political prisoners were added to the already overcrowded Delhi prisons (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). To accommodate the additional prisoners, the workshop sheds were converted into barracks as were the classrooms used for the education of adolescent prisoners (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). Once the classrooms were converted into barracks, the education programme in the prisons was suspended (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). By March 1976, the total number of inmates in the Delhi prison system had nearly doubled to 4,250 prisoners (C. Kapoor 2015: 39; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). In March, the sewage system of the Delhi prisons could not handle the excess capacity and water lines had corroded and were leaking into the prisons, toilets had either become completely broken or had backed up into the prisons, and there was no longer piped water available to the inmates (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39).

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The ‘dismal living conditions’ in Tihar Jail were thus described to the Shah Commission by one detainee: … the jail was choked with people; sanitary arrangements were practically non-existent; there was a general shortage of water; standard of cleanliness was pitiably low; quality of food was poor; medical arrangements were inadequate and their cumulative effect was that the whole atmosphere in jail was oppressive…. [I] could not understand why a simple item like a pillow could not be provided to the detenues under the rules. Dal was the staple food and vegetables were provided rarely; and milk was just sufficient for morning and evening tea. One could however, get what one wanted by greasing the palms of some of the members of the staff who were always waiting to exploit such opportunities. One could understand the decision of the authorities to detain a person, but one could not follow why the conditions in jail are deliberately kept so bad. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 40)

Concluded the Shah Commission, ‘The effect of such living conditions was to wreck the detenues physically and mentally’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 40). When faced with these conditions, many RSS members wrote letters to Indira Gandhi apologising for their political views and pleading for pardon (C. Kapoor 2015: 130). While conditions in the jail were abysmal for all the political prisoners, some MISA detainees were intentionally given worse treatment, especially Muslims who had participated in the Turkman Gate Uprising (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). They were given cells that were lined with asbestos so that the cells would be unbearably hot in the Delhi summer. Delhi jail’s Superintendent, S. K. Batra, told the Shah Commission that these asbestos lined cells were constructed with the intent ‘to bake certain persons’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). He added that ‘certain troublesome detenues should be kept with the lunatics’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 39). Many political prisoners died in jail as a result of failure to provide medical care for ailing detainees (C. Kapoor 2015: 41; Jai 1996: 54, 100). Another way of punishing detainees was to transfer them out of Delhi because of ‘the additional inconvenience and expense it involved to their relatives’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 40). Overcrowding as a reason for transfer was not a concern of the Delhi prisons (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 40). Wrote Coomi Kapoor, ‘The terror of being picked up by the police without any reason summed up the Emergency for us’ (C. Kapoor 2015: 82).


Brewing Resistance

Many MISA detainees arrested in Delhi were sent to jails in Haryana or Uttar Pradesh (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 139). Every jail in the state of Haryana, except for Mahendragarh which has a capacity of 50 and detained exactly 50 prisoners during the Emergency, was filled well beyond capacity (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 139). In Haryana jails, many of the MISA detainees were kept in solitary confinement, particularly those who were suspected Naxalites (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 139). Many detainees in Haryana were denied certain books, or had books seized from them while in jail (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 141). In Uttar Pradesh, prominent political leaders who were detained under MISA were given special treatment, such as access to better quality food, and being housed away from violent convicts, but the average MISA detainee found conditions in Uttar Pradesh prisons deplorable (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 149). Because Uttar Pradesh imprisoned more people than any other state during the Emergency and accepted prisoners from Delhi, this is in addition to those already in jail and those charged for crimes unrelated to the Emergency, Uttar Pradesh’s prison system was severely stressed during the Emergency. MISA detainees often slept on the floor, did not have access to toilets or running water, were placed in solitary confinement for months at a time, and were denied food and medical care (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 149). Members of Parliament concerned with the treatment of political prisoners during the Emergency wrote a letter to the President outraged about political prisoners kept in solitary confinement, denied meetings with relatives and lawyers, and not being allowed to send or receive mail (D. Sharma 1977: 40–1). Thirty political prisoners died while in the custody of the Uttar Pradesh prison system (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 149). There was a magisterial inquiry into 11 of these 30 deaths (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 149). Additionally, the Uttar Pradesh prison system forcibly sterilised many inmates during the Emergency in order to increase the official statistics of the number of sterilisations performed in the state (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 149).

Revoking Academic Freedom and Repressing the Student Movement Many of those detained in jails were university students and faculty (B.  Chandra 2003: 160; Sahastrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 281). Intelligence agents were

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deployed to university campuses to report students and faculty who opposed the Emergency (B. Chandra 2003: 160). Codes of conduct were imposed on faculty in an effort to tamper with academic freedom (B. Chandra 2003: 160). Dissident faculty members’ phones were tapped, they were restricted from traveling abroad, and were harassed by income-tax and foreign-exchange control authorities (B. Chandra 2003: 160). Wrote George Fernandes in a letter to JP, ‘In the universities, in the bar associations and among writers and thinkers there is now total realisation that Mrs. Gandhi is a total dictator whose commitment is only to her dynasty’ (D. Sharma 1977: 193). Prabir Purkayastha, who was a PhD student at Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU) at that time, described to me the landscape of the Left student movement at JNU in 1975 as follows: If I take the left in JNU I would identify four broad streams of left. One of course was the Student’s Federation of India which was aligned to the CPI(M).That had a clear position, that [the Emergency] is authoritarianism … and it needs to be resisted, however resistance is not something we will do openly under our flag, … we will do it in an underground way.… So quickly we worked out that we will do underground calls, overground resistance. You had the All India Students Federation which went into endorsing the Emergency in the belief that the 20-point program … was what Communists should do. So the CPI thought that this is in some sense national democratic revolution2.… Then you had what is today, and even then, called the Maoists. The Maoist position was that India was never a democracy and there was no liberty to start, and they said that nothing has happened [narrator laughs]. Okay, so, they refused to see that this was in any sense a watershed moment … but the kind of violence they faced was qualitatively different than what had happened earlier, and the sheer fact that we don’t have a free press of certain kind, you don’t have the right to protest, all that was also going to impinge on them soon. And the fourth were the Troksyists and they would say that this is authoritarianism. We had a strong Trotskyist group on the campus which was part of the 5th, 6th, 7th International, one of those Internationals, I forget which one. Jairus Banaji was the leader of that and Jairus was with a group whose theoretician was Laclau. Laclau’s theory was something on the colonial mode of production and we never understood what the colonial mode of production was, but Jairus, being the great intellectual, which he is, propounding it all over and people thought he was this Trotsky-like figure with his glasses and was a very very charismatic figure and a very good writer as well. So Jairus, shall we say, was the other pole, and generally quite important.


Brewing Resistance

JNU students went on strike in August 1975, but after one day, 500 students were arrested under MISA and protests came to a halt (Nayar 1977: 142). These protests were led by the Students Federation of India JNU Unit (SFI JNU), the student wing of the CPI(M). Devi Prasad Tripathi, president of the JNU Students’ Union at the time, told me, ‘SFI, the Students Federation of India, was at the forefront and I was the president of SFI before the Emergency, then continued during the Emergency and even after the Emergency. I am JNU Student’s Union longest serving president, from January 1975 until April 25, 1977.’ On 22 August 1975, SFI JNU released a pamphlet welcoming students to campus for the 1975–6 school year and explaining how the vice-chancellor of the university had instated a new ‘Code of Conduct’ that suspended student union elections, thereby revoking the ‘democratic interests’ of JNU students.3 When SFI JNU then pushed the students’ union to organise a universitywide strike in response to the revocation of democracy on campus, the vicechancellor also pre-emptively denied admission to the M.Phil. programme to SFI JNU leader and JNU Students’ Union president, Devi Prasad Tripathi, even before Tripathi had taken the entrance exam and interview (Batabyal 2014: 349).4 Including Tripathi, 11 students had been denied admission because of their anti-Emergency views.5 SFI JNU then called for a university-wide boycott of classes and academic work on 22 August 1975.6 In this call, several students denied admission because of their politics, despite having passed their qualifying exams to continue on from the M.A. to the M.Phil./PhD, were named: Devi Prasad Tripathi (Political Science), Rajaram (International Studies), P. K. Mishra (International Studies), Sujata Madhok (History), Rabindra Ray (Sociology), Ramesh Dixit (Languages) and Mohan Ram (International Studies).7 In a subsequent JNU SFI report about the boycott, it was declared a resounding success. In the departments of Economics, History, Political Science, Social Policy, Education, Sociology, French, Persian, Arabic, Linguistics, Indonesian and Chinese, not a single student attended class.8 In the Regional Development department seven of 30 students attended class, and in German and Spanish departments, only 1 student showed for classes.9 Many faculty members also participated in the boycott. According to the report, ‘most of them did not go to the classes despite a circular from the Registrar asking heads of Centres to report names of professors who did not teach classes’.10 After the students’ strike, SFI JNU leader Ashoka Lata Jain was expelled from the university.11 The reasons for her expulsion as outlined in a letter from the University Court of Honour Chairman, R. P. Anand, included ‘attempting … to promote unhealthy politicisation’ and

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‘using language unbecoming to a member of the University community which essentially smacked of a political approach’ (D. Sharma 1977: 217). Prabir Purkayastha explained the rationale for the strike in his own words, I had just joined the hostel, I was in Ganga, … I think, I can’t remember now, I was there for such a short period [narrator laughs]…. So anyways, we had called a strike. The history of the strike was, that several students were not admitted who were selected by what was called the Academic Body. At that time each centre selected the students and then the consolidated list went to the administration for issuing the letters of admissions. At that point I think about 11 to 13 students who were admitted were struck off the admissions list by the administration. But of course, inputs from the Intelligence Branch must have been there. One of them was D. P. Tripathi, he was not admitted even though he was forwarded by the school. So the Students’ Union met. the Students’ Union president was DPT. It was chaired by Ashoka, Ashoka Lata Jain. DPT was one of the names that had been struck off; so she chaired the meeting, and then she was a student of the Centre of Regional Development, what is now called CSI, and then they passed a resolution condemning the vice chancellor for doing this. So after that, the university decided to expel her from the university, they had expelled her for having chaired the Students’ Union meeting. So we had called this three day strike in the campus for that. As a side bar, Ashoka and I had given notice for marriage [narrator laughs] to the magistrate.

Later, Purkayastha would tell me that the judge who presided over his arrest was the same judge who presided over his marriage to Jain. D. P. Tripathi explained to me how the Emergency affected the organising strategies of JNU student leaders, You had to find out and work out different modes of protest. So it would work out. Sometimes we had poetry recitations in the hostels, recite revolutionary poems against dictatorship, against oppression … and this will be read in all hostels, simultaneously. Now how do you organise the picketing or strike? You cannot organise them in a traditional way like shouting slogans and this and that, all that would expose people and make the police to enter. So you work out silent ways so there would be students on the lawns, reading books, and if someone is walking into a building, going to class, you quietly stop them and explain to them why they should not attend the class and why there is a protest. So they’re just reading a book on the lawns. There is no shouting. These were the new modes of protest organising that is why they could continue throughout the Emergency. New modes. Then, you cannot have processions, so what do you do? Groups of four–five people, girls and boys, they go from room


Brewing Resistance

to room and propagate the purpose of protest, why tomorrow there will be a strike, why tomorrow there will be a boycott, why day after there will be a kind of signature campaign, why these pamphlets will be distributed, so various ways of protest were worked out throughout the Emergency. These are, as I said, the new modes of protest [we innovated].

Purkaystha recalled organising for the student strike and told me, I remember the day we declared a three day strike in the campus and I was distributing leaflets in the hostels so one of the Troksyist activists at the time, Bhagwan Singh Josh who is a historian, a quite well known historian, but Bhagwan Singh Josh and I had a big argument. And he said, ‘You are inviting the state terror inside the campus. All these activities, this is actually left adventurism!’ I was just distributing a leaflet [narrator laughs].

In retaliation for the expulsion of D. P. Tripathi, Ashoka Lata Jain, and others, SFI JNU planned another strike to take place on 24, 25, and 26 September 1975 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 56; Prakash 2019: 22).12 On the morning of 24 September, when the strike was due to occur, police trucks surrounded the campus and threatened to arrest students who participated in the strike.13 At 10:30 a.m. on 25 September, plain-clothes police officers began to abduct SFI student leaders from campus, hauling them to jail in black, unmarked Ambassador cars.14 One of the students arrested was Purkayashta, who had just joined the university that semester (Batabyal 2014: 349; Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 56). ‘I had come from Allahabad,’ Purkayastha told me, In fact, D. P. Tripathi who was the Students’ Union President at the time, he was my recruit into SFI in Allahabad. Okay, this is a history I haven’t told anybody. You ask Tripathi, he might deny it. He had a group of friends and some of us used to talk to them and he had some influence over there [in Allahabad]. And when he joined JNU he already had been in SFI, so he became the Students’ Union President. He was at that point in time quite a close friend. I still keep in touch, or should I say he keeps in touch with me.… So Tripathi and I knew each other before he came to JNU or before I came to JNU.

The Shah Commission reports detail that a black Ambassador car pulled up beside Purkayastha as he was walking on campus near the School of Languages (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 56). A man in plain clothes in the car asked him if he was Devi Prasad Tripathi and before he could respond, four men dragged him into the car (Shah Commission of

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Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 56; see also Dayal and Bose 2018 [1977]: 170). He was then taken to the R. K. Puram police station, as the men in the car were all plain-clothes police officers (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: 56, Vol. 2). This car was later found to have belonged to the Superintendent of Police (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 57). One of the officers involved told the Shah Commission that the reason for Purkayashta’s detention was that he had asked Maneka Gandhi, wife of Sanjay Gandhi and a student at JNU, to join the protests against the Emergency and that the car that had abducted Purkayashta was the same car that Maneka Gandhi had taken to campus that day (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 57). Two JNU students, Shakti Kak and Indrani Majumdar, reported to the Shah Commission that they saw Purkayashta speaking to Maneka Gandhi about the action against the Emergency (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 57). The arresting officer told the Shah Commission that Maneka Gandhi had left campus early that day, gone home to the prime minister’s house, and told her husband and mother-in-law that anti-government activities were taking place on campus. The arresting officer told the Shah Commission that he had instructions directly from the prime minister’s residence to execute the arrest (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 57). However, the Shah Commission doubted the credibility of this account (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 58), as two of the constables in that Ambassador car told the Commission that they witnessed Purkayastha and 15 other male students shouting slogans, and arrested Purkayastha along with 9 other men, stating that Purkayastha appeared to be the ringleader (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 58). D. P. Tripathi recounted to me his recollections of Purkayastha’s arrest, Sanjay Gandhi’s wife, Maneka Gandhi, was a student in Jawaharlal Nehru University at the School of Languages, Centre of German languages. We were on a strike in September 1975. A three days strike against the Emergency. Now the teachers told us, ‘What can we do, we will cooperate, but if she comes to attend the class, what can we do?’ So then we met and then we decided what shall be done, because she would come to attend the class. So at that point, I’m already proclaimed an offender, I have issues that are warrants against me, warrants of arrest. So I will try and stop it because I’m already wanted so why should others risk themselves. So that day she came, in a black Ambassador car, driven by policemen. She came and tried to enter the school building and we told her that we were on strike so she should go back. Don’t enter the class. Then she said, ‘Well, you know the result!’ And I said, ‘Whatever.


Brewing Resistance

Please, just be calm.’ She is very angry, and she says, ‘Your heads will roll on the ground!’ Then she went back. Then comes the police. The policemen then surround the university, then they would enter and arrest people asking, are you D. P. Tripathi? And they would say no, but they would arrest them anyways. That’s how the whole thing went down. But even after that arrest, the protests continued, the strike continued. It would not stop.

Prabir Purkayastha told me, ‘I think I never spoke about what happened during the Emergency to me personally … because I always thought the Emergency was not about what happened to me but what happened to the country.’ But Purkayastha told me the following story of his arrest, The second day, Maneka Gandhi wanted to come to class. She was a student of the school of languages. She was also, you might be aware, she is a current minister, but she was Mrs. Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, and Sanjay Gandhi, the evil shadow over Delhi’s wife. So, as I said, there was a strike so three of us were standing there, D. P. Tripathi, I, and Indrani. And we said, ‘Hey, go back.’ And she went back.… Apparently there’s this Emergency, but Sanjay Gandhi was upset that his wife was not able to attend class. What kind of Emergency is this? [Sanjay Gandhi] came to the police station, took one of the officer’s cars, took five or six people in plain clothes, came to JNU. And D. P. Tripathi had left but Indrani and I were still standing there, And they asked me, ‘Are you D. P. Tripathi?’ And I said no, but he didn’t believe me. I guess I looked violent so they tried to get me in the car and there was a five-minute scuffle. I had never done time in jail and was not sufficiently equipped to handle it.

Though Purkayashta was in fact abducted based upon a mistaken identity, no charges were ever filed against him, he was denied bail, and was transferred to Agra, where he was placed in solitary confinement for about one month (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 58). Neither SFI JNU nor the university administration was informed of the charges brought against the detained SFI JNU student activists.15 He told me, By the time they had put me in jail, they knew who I was. This other part of the story, I didn’t tell you, the University decided they would make a complaint to the police station, so this came under the police station which is the Hauz Khas police station. So they went to the Hauz Khas Police Station and lo and behold the person who they went to complain to at the police station found out that one of the persons that they had nabbed inside the campus was actually an undercover police officer in that

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police station, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, not a low rank. So the guy who went to report my kidnapping, he quickly left the police station. But others had went in and registered the case, so they knew what had happened. They knew who I was, meaning they knew my name, but they didn’t know much about me since I had joined JNU only four or six weeks back. So they really didn’t have much against me, if they would have called Allahabad it would have been different, but this was really not part of the record. So there was officially nothing against me.

On the topic of Prabir Purkayastha’s arrest, Subhashini Ali said, ‘It shows you the weak parts of the dictatorship that they’re so bloody inefficient. But they can also kill the wrong person, which is a horrible thing. The whole thing became legend.’ When asked why secondary sources, SFI JNU records, and the Shah Commission reports differed from the accounts told to me by D. P. Tripathi and Prabir Purkayastha in that documents maintained Purkayastha was not involved in SFI JNU prior to his arrest, but D. P. Tripathi and Purkayastha both told me otherwise, Purkayastha explained, Let’s put it this way, that was a good narrative for us. Because as far as the police records were concerned there was nothing against me. Okay, so, it’s much better to say that I was an innocent student picked up for mistaken identity. And yes, I was picked up because they were thinking I was D. P. Tripathi. Okay, and it created a huge furore. Because a broad daylight kidnapping of a student from campus is an act which appears so, shall we say, out of the ordinary. That version of the story was useful in many ways. It’s useful first because you also file a court case saying there’s nothing against me therefore I should be released. Therefore saying he’s an SFI person with a long history wasn’t good politics at that point, okay. Okay, so to make out how naked the Emergency was in terms of violation of civil liberties the point was to get the best cases you could get. As for the records, there was nothing against me. I was arrested under mistaken identity. They thought I was D. P. Tripathi, and they used the Abatement of Internal Security Act to hide the fact that they had got somebody by mistake, and they wouldn’t own up to the mistake. There was a pettiness to the Emergency…. I was not put in jail because they thought I was an activist of the type that needed to be put in jail or was on a list of people who they thought should be arrested. So I would say the story that was circulated was not a wrong story. It was the story as seen by them [the state and the police]. They thought they were putting someone who was completely innocent behind bars, and that’s what the Shah Commission Reports show. There was no evidence against me.


Brewing Resistance

CPI(M) Member of Parliament, A. K. Gopalan, then intervened on the behalf of SFI JNU, writing a letter16 to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi about the harassment and illegal detention of students at JNU: 4 Ashok Road, New Delhi-1. 15 Nov. 1975 A.K. Gopalan Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) Dear Shrimati Gandhi, I am writing to you regarding the repression against the Students’ Union office-bearers, activists of the Students’ Federation of India and other democratic student organisations in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Since the proclamation of the Emergency, there has been a determined attempt on the part of the police and the University authorities to eliminate student leaders from the University, without any provocation whatsoever. On the evening of 11 November, Devi Prasad Tripathi, an M.A. student and President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union was arrested by the police from within the campus and has been detained under MISA. Before this he was expelled from the University for six months on 7th Nov. after the Students Union was derecognised by the University. He was also not allowed to attend a meeting of the Academic Council on the 7th and his expulsion followed from the fact that he wanted to record his protest at the meeting. This is only the latest act of victimisation jointly by the University authorities and the police. On 7th July police raided the hostels and arrested 9 students under DIR (including the General Secretary of the Students Union) on totally false charges that a meeting was held against the Emergency the previous night. Also the former General Secretary of the Karamchari Sangathan was arrested. After this the Vice-Chancellor cancelled the admission of 11 students who had qualified for admission in the written test and viva voce and whose names were finalised for admissions by the respective departments. On 21st August, Miss Ashoka Lata Jain, member of the Student Council of the Union was suspended and later expelled from the University as she had signed a Union Council statement protesting the Vice-Chancellor’s action regarding admissions. On 25th September a shocking incident took place within the campus in broad daylight in front of many witnesses, when a student Prabir Purkayastha was dragged away to a black ambassador car by four plain clothes policemen belonging to the Hauz Khas police station. They had thought he was the President of the Students Union and had asked him

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if he was Tripathi before they dragged him away. Then to cover up their mistake he has been put under MISA in Tihar Jail. It must be mentioned that this student had only recently joined the University in July. After that one of the student councillors Sitaram was arrested from his residence under Sec. 108 of the Cr.P.C. and later released on jail. Also warrants under Secs. 147 & 148 have been issued against two prominent members of the SFI, Prakash Karat and Suneet Chopra who are research scholars in the University. So as it stands today, in an institution of around 2000 postgraduate and research students, 9 students have been arrested under DIR and are out on bail; two Union office-bearers have been expelled from the University and two students are detained under MISA. It is pertinent to note here that many of them are prominent members of the Students’ Federation of India in the University who also hold elected posts in the Students Union. The whole policy is designed to eliminate the left and democratic student organisations on the campus and the Students Union which they dominate by virtue of democratic elections. Such a state of affairs is shocking in a Central Government University which is named after your father. I request you to investigate this matter and see to it that this sort of repression both academic and police-wise is immediately halted and all these students, who have first class academic records are allowed to continue their studies without interruption. Yours sincerely, Sd/A. K. Gopalan

In this letter, A. K. Gopalan describes how, under MISA, the police raided hostels and imprisoned students who were involved in the student movement against the Emergency. Gopalan describes plain-clothes police dragging students away from campus in unmarked cars. Gopalan further claims that these actions were intentionally orchestrated in order to eliminate oppositional and left leaning student politics from the university. Though the CPI and CPI(M) never officially supported the opposition movement against the Emergency, CPI(M) MP A. K. Gopalan was characterised by some observers as the most vocal opponent among MPs of the Emergency and the Lok Sabha resolution to support it (C. Kapoor 2015: 93; Malavankar 1979: 16; Times of India 1975m). Gopalan took issue that before the resolution to approve the Emergency had been brought before the Lok Sabha, 34 MPs were detained under MISA and were, therefore, unable to participate in the vote (Malavankar 1979: 16). Gopalan said that for this reason, ‘Parliament itself has been reduced to a farce’ (Malavankar 1979: 16).


Brewing Resistance

Gopalan spoke of his recent release from detention under MISA as a convenient coincidence to show the world that opposition party members were being treated fairly under the Emergency (Times of India 1975m). Gopalan said, I am sorry to say that as a Congressman who once fought for the freedom of this country and who courted arrest and suffered so much, I had been treated in this way [arrested under MISA]. I was released only two days back. I know the reason. What about the 2,000 or 3,000 of my comrades who are inside jail today? Why were only Namboodiripad and I released? It is to show the world that no Marxist or leftist parties or opposition party members are arrested, but it is only the reactionaries who are arrested and who are responsible for all these things.… This sudden declaration [of Emergency] is not because of a real threat to internal security but because of the judgement of the Allahabad High Court, the verdict against the Congress in the Gujarat election, and the refusal by Gandhi to step down from the office of Prime Minister till the final verdict of the Supreme Court, in the context of rising disillusionment and discontent of the people with the ruling party under Gandhi’s leadership for turning the economy into a shambles, making the rich richer and the poor poorer in pursuit of the bankrupt path of capitalist development.… How is this butchery of democracy being sought to be justified? Indira Gandhi has claimed that it is to defeat the right reaction and also the so-called left extremists. All this manoeuvring is meant only to deceive the public opinion in the country and also abroad.… It is too naive to expect the people to believe that these organisations with no mass base have suddenly become threats to internal security that can be met only by the imposition of the Emergency. The politics and ideology of these parties have to be fought and defeated politically and ideologically. If they are involved in criminal activities, they should be proceeded against under normal laws. The measures taken by the government in the wake of the declaration of the Emergency unmistakably show that the thrust is against the people. Whatever democratic rights were available to the people have been completely obliterated. Chapter III of the Constitution enshrining the fundamental rights has become a dead letter. Articles 14 and 22 have been suspended. No criticism of the government or the Congress, however mild, is allowed to be published. No news of exploitation of the people by vested interests, of workers by the capitalists, of peasants and agricultural workers, etc, which may contain even a remote criticism of the government, is allowed. No movements of the workers, peasants, agricultural labourers, etc can take place under the plea of obstruction to production. What the Emergency amounts to is suppression of the democratic forces. Who will believe that by suppressing the popular forces who are fighting against the monopolists and landlords, by suppressing their agitations and by denying them all democratic rights,

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Gandhi is fighting right reaction? It is unfortunate that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and some other communist parties have allowed themselves to be misled by the facade of attack against right reaction and do not see that the real thrust of these measures is against the people fighting for a better existence. (Times of India 1975m)

In this statement during the Lok Sabha meeting, A. K. Gopalan deviated from the mainstream CPI(M) rhetoric and policy. At a moment when the world was still trying to make sense of what the Emergency meant for India and why it occurred, Gopalan contends, while Indira Gandhi did go after the right, she also went after the left, and the Soviet Union, who supported the Emergency, and the Communist parties both within India and abroad who also supported the Emergency should have looked beyond the rhetoric to see the effects of Gandhi’s policies and programmes.

The Turkman Gate Uprising and Massacre While Gopalan was one of few Emergency opponents to remain out of jail, there were others who shared his oppositional views and were willing to act on them. One of the few acts of open resistance to the Emergency occurred on 19 April 1976 at Turkman Gate, a Muslim neighbourhood near the Jama Masjid, built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in the seventeenth century (Tarlo 2003: 38). Rukhsana Sultana, a member of a volunteer committee set up by Delhi’s Lt. Governor to aid the family planning campaign, concentrated her efforts in recruiting Muslims in the Jama Masjid neighbourhood for sterilisation (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 136–7; Jai 1996: 129). She eventually opened the Dujana House Family Planning Camp in the Jama Masjid neighbourhood, inaugurated by Sanjay Gandhi. Sultana railed against the traditions of Delhi’s Muslim community, advocated for the eradication of purdah, and enlisted local women to convince their husbands to get vasectomies (Dayal and Bose 2018 [1977]: 37; Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 137; Henderson 1977: 60; Tarlo 2003: 38). Concern grew among neighbourhood residents as rumours began circulating of beggars entering the clinic and never returning (Tarlo 2003: 38–9). Sulatana arranged police escorts for men going to and from the clinic for vasectomy operations and enlisted police officers to recruit men for vasectomy. Many of these men when later interviewed by The Fact Finding Committee on Slum Clearance Demolitions, Etc., and Firing in Turkman Gate said that because the police visibly supported the Family Planning Camp, they felt they had


Brewing Resistance

no choice but to undergo vasectomy. The inquiry commission found that three police officers—Jugrah Chand, Om Vir Singh and Mohammad Naqi— were responsible for most of the coerced sterilisation in the neighbourhood and received 10 rupees for each neighbourhood resident they ‘motivated’ to undergo sterilisation (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 139). Thirty-five men came forward to the inquiry commission naming one of these three officers as having coerced him into getting a vasectomy, and there are perhaps many more who failed to come forward (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 139). In less than a week after the family planning camp opened, demolition squads, led by Sanjay Gandhi and the Delhi Municipal Corporation, came to bulldoze the neighbourhood for redevelopment and to relocate residents to the eastern border of Delhi, on the other side of the Yamuna River (Tarlo 2003: 39). Women, along with their children, stood in front of the bulldozers in order to prevent the destruction of their homes (Henderson 1977: 61; Tarlo 2003: 39). Neighbourhood men later joined the women and children. The Central Reserve Police Force was then called in to disperse the crowd, and when protesters conducted their midday prayers, the police began to charge with lathis and tear gas (Dayal and Bose 2018 [1977]: 54; Henderson 1977: 61; Tarlo 2003: 39). Protesters fought back, throwing stones at the police (Tarlo 2003: 40). When the crowd failed to disperse, police retaliated with bullets, killing protestors without repercussion (Henderson 1977: 62). Some of the men residing in the neighbourhood gave their account of what had happened that day to the Shah Commission. Neighbourhood resident Zahir-ud-din stated that on April 19, 1976, a crowd of women and children assembled: till 1 p.m. no one heard their grievances. The Police then cordoned off the area and told the crowd to disperse, and started arresting the women. When the crowd resisted arrests, the police fired tear gas shells and resorted to lathi charge. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 121)

Said Bashir Ahmed, ‘A crowd had assembled to protest to the DDA against the demolitions. When they raised objections to the demolition of more areas, at about 1:30 p.m. the police hit a woman with a lathi, which started the riot’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 121). Neighbourhood resident Jamaluddin recounted, The crowd waited until the time of afternoon prayers, i.e. 1 p.m.… A number of persons started going to the Fazal-e-Ilahi Mosque for prayers

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and some of the women and children, who had assembled on the spot, were moving about. Seeing the movement in the crowd, the police suspected some disturbance and resorted to lathi charge. The crowd thereupon, ran towards the houses which had been demolished. Some persons came from the Kali Masjid side and started throwing stones at the police. The police then fired tear gas shells towards the crowd. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 121)

According to neighbourhood resident Jaha-ud-din, ‘A peaceful procession taken out by the people at about 11 a.m. to demonstrate against the demolitions by the DDA and till 1 p.m. the situation was peaceful’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 121). The police and officials at the scene also gave their eyewitness accounts. According to police officers R. Tiwari and Avinash Chander, They found a crowd of about 300 persons including some women sitting on the debris of the demolished houses in front of the Fazal-e-Ilahi Mosque. The two officers requested the crowd to disperse as an order under Section 144 was in force, but they said that they would not move unless the DDA stopped the demolitions. At about the time of the afternoon prayers, the crowd near the Mosque swelled to about 2,000. At about 1:30 p.m. two processions came towards the Mosque; one from the side of the Delite Cinema and the other from a by-lane. The crowd coming from the Delite Cinema side, without provocation, started throwing stones at the police; and it was chased away. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 121)

According to A. K. Paitandy, the divisional magistrate of Punjabi Bagh, At about 1:30 p.m. a crowd of about 100 to 150 persons, mostly youngsters, came from the side of the Delite Cinema and started showering stones on the police.… In the meantime, the main crowd in front of the Fazale-Ilahi Mosque became rowdy and started throwing stones at the police. The police gave warning to the crowd and resorted to the use of tear gas, but because of the adverse direction of the wind, the tear gas proved ineffective. Thereupon they ordered a cane charge. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 121)

Govind Ram Bhatia, another police official, recounted, Turkman Gate, in the morning of April 19th, 1976, a crowd of 500 to 700 including women and children assembled near the demolition site and asked DDA officers to suspend the demolition operations, while they contacted the senior officers of the DDA and some political leaders in an effort to stop further demolitions. The crowd was swelling but it was


Brewing Resistance

peaceful. Some leaders like Kayamuddin delivered speeches protesting against the demolitions, and after each speech, slogans were shouted. At about 1:30 p.m. which the crowd had increased to about 5,000, Paitandy declared that the assembly was unlawful and asked them to disperse. After that he asked the police to make a lathi charge upon the crowd. ‘There was excitement and the crowd started throwing stones. The police, therefore, had to explode tear gas shells.’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 121)

At 1:50 pm, the police began discharging their weapons into the crowd (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 123). One police constable remembers police discharging six rounds of ammunition into the crowd at intervals of 20–25 minutes but could not recall for how long the police fired shots into the crowd (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 123). Other police officers confirm this account (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 123). At around 4 pm, two police constables tried to enter the mosque and were stabbed by a group of protestors (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 124). The police constables were wounded but survived. It was Sanjay Gandhi himself who had initiated the order to fire on the crowds (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977, 66). While the Shah Commission reports found discrepancies among witness statements as to exactly when curfew was imposed (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 124), according to both Emma Tarlo’s account and the account given by John Dayal and Ajoy Bose, at 5:30 p.m. that evening, the police instated a curfew, and after cutting power supplies to the neighbourhood broke into homes, raping women and arresting men (Dayal and Bose 2018 [1977]: 63; Tarlo 2003: 39). The Shah Commission also found sufficient evidence that police forcibly entered homes, beat and arrested men, and raped women, often stealing their jewellery after assaulting them (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 130; Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 206–10). Police resumed firing on the crowd at 5:45 p.m. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 124). Three areas were targeted by police to fire into the crowd: behind the Hamdard Dawakhana, from a by-lane where ‘fierce stone throwing was going on’, and in front of the Turkman Gate police post (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 125). Later on, a group of police officers went to the Jama Masjid and began firing at a group of about 150 boys who were throwing stones at the police (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 126; see Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 176–9). While Delhi Police reports show that 14 rounds of ammunition were fired

Emergency at Midnight


that day, the Shah Commission concluded that up to 45 rounds were fired (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 129). While many protestors were killed (for details of the autopsies of those killed by police see Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 186–96), 453 people were arrested (Henderson 1977: 62). Bulldozers then worked through the night, reducing the neighbourhood to rubble by morning (Tarlo 2003: 39). Some 800–900 houses were demolished overnight, and some people were crushed to death in the rubble (Henderson 1977: 62). The estimated death toll of this short-lived uprising ranges from 12 to 1,200 people (Tarlo 2003: 38). Journalist Javaid Laiq told me, We actually saw some funeral processions coming to the graveyard which was directly behind the Indian Express building. It was a Muslim graveyard and most of them were shot and killed. So you would notice things like that but it was very frustrating that you saw things but you couldn’t actually report on it.

In addition to the many neighbourhood residents massacred, 58 police officers were injured (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 131). The Shah Commission found evidence that the Delhi Police tampered with the official records of the event, along with witness statements (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 132). Sanjay Gandhi was informed of the uprising and the massacre, and on the following day, made an appearance in the Turkman Gate neighbourhood (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 134). He then went to Irwin Hospital where he visited wounded police officers, and ‘rewarded’ them (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 135; Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 73). The Shah Commission reports state, ‘Gandhi did not visit any members of the public who were injured during the riots and had been admitted to Irwin Hospital’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 135; Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977, 73). British journalist Michael Henderson, who was living and working in New Delhi during the Emergency, likens Turkman Gate to the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 in that it was a great atrocity which caused a collective anguish and came to symbolise a people brutally and violently oppressed by their rulers (Henderson 1977: 59). Many of those involved in carrying out the demolition operations at Turkman Gate told ‘The Fact Finding Committee on Slum Clearance Demolitions, Etc., and Firing in Turkman Gate’ that ‘there was a strong feeling that the demolition operations in the Muslim areas of the walled city had been taken up with political motives and “with a view to teach the Muslims”’ (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs


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1977: 98). Survivors of the massacre were relocated to four different areas on the outskirts of the city and given small plots of land with no electricity, no access to drinking water, no drainage or sewage, complete exposure to the elements, no transportation by which to commute to their jobs in the city, and no compensation for the homes and property they lost (Henderson 1977: 63). The demolitions were resumed immediately, and the curfew in the neighbourhood was not lifted until mid-May 1976 (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 135).

Jayaprakash Narayan Reflects on Emergency While many political leaders were vocal against the Emergency, JP, the leader of the Bihar Movement, was the first person to be arrested at the Gandhi Peace Foundation on 26 June 1975 under the Emergency’s newly revised MISA rules (Bhushan 2017 [1978]: 132). His prison diaries begin with an open letter to Indira Gandhi in which he voices his criticisms (Narayan 1977: 101). JP writes, I am appalled at press reports of your speeches and interviews. (The very fact that you have to say something everyday to justify your action implies a guilty conscience.) Having muzzled the press and every kind of public dissent, you continue with your distortions and untruths without fear of criticism or contradiction.… As I am the villain of the piece let me put the record straight. About the plan to paralyse the government, there was no such plan and you know it. Let me state the facts.… It [the Bihar Movement] was the same kind of attempt as was made during the freedom struggle through non-cooperation and satyagraha to paralyse the British government. But that was a government established by force, whereas the Bihar government and the legislature are both constitutionally established bodies. What right has anyone to ask an elected government and elected legislature to go? This is one of your favourite questions. But it has been answered umpteen times by competent persons, including well known constitutional lawyers. The answer is that in a democracy the people do have the right to ask for the resignation of an elected government if it has gone corrupt and has been misruling. And if there is a legislature that persists in such a government it too must go, so that the people can choose better representatives.… In the case of Bihar, the mammoth rallies and processions held in Patna, the thousands of constituency meetings held all over the state, the three-day Bihar bandh, the memorable happenings of the 4th November and the ‘largest ever’ meeting held at the Gandhi maidan on November 18th were a convincing measure of the people’s

Emergency at Midnight

will. And what had the Bihar government and the Congress to show on their side? The miserable counter-offensive of November 16th which had been masterminded by Mr. Borooah and on which according to reliable reports, the fantastic sum of 60 lakhs of rupees was spent.… You were afraid to face the people.… None of the demands of the students was unreasonable or non-negotiable. But the Bihar government preferred the method of struggle, i.e., unparalleled repression.… Except for Bihar, there was no movement of its kind in any other State of India.… Thus, the plan of which you speak, the plan to paralyse the government, is a figment of your imagination thought up to justify your totalitarian measures.… If there was any plan, it was a simple, innocent and short-time plan to continue until the Supreme Court decided your appeal.… I do not see what is subversive or dangerous about it. In a democracy the citizen has an inalienable right to civil disobedience when he finds that other channels of redress or reform have dried up. It goes without saying that the Satyagrahi willingly invites and accepts his lawful punishment. This is a new dimension added to democracy by Gandhi. What an irony that it should be obliterated in Gandhi’s own India!… And why has the freedom of the press been suppressed? Not because the Indian press was irresponsible, dishonest or anti-government.… The truth is that your anger against it was aroused because on the question of your resignation, some of the papers took a line that was highly unpalatable to you.… You are reported to have said that democracy is not more important than the nation. Are you not presuming too much Madam Prime Minister? You are not the only one who cares for the nation. Among those who you have detained or imprisoned there are many who have done much more for the nation than you. And everyone of them is as good a patriot as yourself. So, please do not apply salt to our wounds by lecturing to us about the nation.… There is no choice between democracy and the nation.… A party of self-seekers and spineless opportunists and ji-huzurs [yes men] such as the Congress, alas, has become, can never do anything worthwhile.... The condition of the poor—and they are the great majority over the greater part of the country—has been worsening over the past years. It would be enough if the downward trend were arrested. But, for that your whole approach to politics and economics will have to change.… Having performed this unpleasant duty, may I conclude with a few parting words of advice? You know I am an old man. My life’s work is done. And after Prabha’s [ JP’s wife] going I have nothing and no one to live for. My brother and nephew have their family and my younger sister—the elder one died years ago—had her sons and daughters. I have given all my life, after finishing education, to the country and asked for nothing in return. So I shall be content to die a prisoner under your regime. Would you listen to the advice of such a man? Please do not destroy the foundations that the Fathers of



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the Nation, including your noble father, had laid down. There is nothing but strife and suffering along the path that you have taken. You inherited a great tradition, noble values and a working democracy. Do not leave behind a miserable wreck of all that. For it would be put together again, I have no doubt. A people who fought British Imperialism and humbled it cannot accept indefinitely the indignity and shame of totalitarianism. The spirit of man can never be vanquished, no matter how deeply suppressed. In establishing your personal dictatorship you have buried it deep. But it will rise from the grave. (Narayan 1977: 101–8)

While in jail under MISA, JP, who had no medical issues before his arrest, suffered kidney failure for which he was released from prison on 12 November 1975 (C. Kapoor 2015: 197). According to L. K. Advani, JP was not released for ‘humanitarian considerations’ but because ‘his death in jail would not be in the best interests of the Government’ (Advani 2003: 194; see also C. Kapoor 2015: 197). When JP sought medical treatment upon his release, he learned that if he had received medical treatment only 15 days earlier, doctors would have been able to partially restore function in his kidneys. He believed, ‘I had been released only when the Indian Government was convinced that I would not be able to survive for more than a few days’ (Narayan quoted in C. Kapoor 2015: 198; see also Devasahayam 2006: 244). ‘From the underground somewhere in India’, George Fernandes wrote, ‘We can only tell this devil of a dictator that she will never get away with JP’s murder. Never’ (D. Sharma 1977: 173). *** What this narrative reveals is that the Emergency was precipitated by the Allahabad Ruling, not the Bihar Movement as Gandhi often claimed in speeches and interviews. Indira Gandhi suspended the Constitution and eliminated civil rights rather than be evicted from office on corruption charges. Once declared, the Emergency established a legal civil war that allowed for the physical elimination of not only of political adversaries but entire categories of citizens, particularly Muslims and Dalits, who from the perspective of the state could not be integrated into the political system (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 2). Through media censorship and propaganda, Gandhi was able to blur the distinction between fact and fiction, creating ideal subjects for authoritarian rule (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 29; Arendt 1994 [1948]: 472). While the SFI JNU Students’ Strike and Turkman Gate Uprising were attempts by targeted

Emergency at Midnight


groups to resist the terror of the Emergency, these brave acts of resistance were quickly and brutally suppressed by the state (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 11, 88). Even though the possibilities for resisting the Emergency appeared bleak (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 245), many participants of the social movements that flourished in the early 1970s led underground resistance movements against the Emergency. In the following chapter, I analyse one particular node of resistance against the Emergency, the Coffee House Movement (1975–6) in New Delhi, showing how even in difficult circumstances, a movement could be organised to resist authoritarian rule in India.

Notes   1. Because of the ‘enormity of his crimes’ committed during the Emergency, Kishan Chand committed suicide soon after the Emergency was lifted (Rajeshwar 2015: 79).   2. In an All India Students’ Federation (AISF) JNU pamphlet, the CPI-affiliated student group decries the SFI JNU resistance as ‘professional hoodwinkers’ who fail to realise that in banning the RSS Indira Gandhi is not a Fascist; instead, she is eradicating Fascism from India by diktat (D. Sharma 1977: 245–6).   3. ‘Welcome to JNU’, August 1975, SFI JNU.   4. ‘Untitled Pamphlet’, 19 August 1975, SFI JNU.   5. ‘Untitled Pamphlet’, 19 August 1975, SFI JNU.   6. ‘Boycott Classes in Protest: 22 August’, August 1975, SFI JNU.   7. ‘Boycott Classes in Protest: 22 August’, August 1975, SFI JNU.   8. ‘Report of the 22 August Strike’, August 1975, SFI JNU.   9. ‘Report of the 22 August Strike’, August 1975, SFI JNU. 10. ‘Report of the 22 August Strike’, August 1975, SFI JNU. 11. ‘Report of the 22 August Strike’, August 1975, SFI JNU. 12. ‘Boycott Classes in Solidarity with Ashoka Lata Jain on 24, 25, 26 September’, August 1975, SFI JNU. 13. ‘Fight this Police Terror Tactics Unitedly: Continue the Boycott on the 26th’, September 1975, SFI JNU. 14. ‘Fight this Police Terror Tactics Unitedly: Continue the Boycott on the 26th’, September 1975, SFI JNU. 15. ‘Fight this Police Terror Tactics Unitedly: Continue the Boycott on the 26th’, September 1975, SFI JNU. 16. ‘Repression in Jawaharlal Nehru University’, 15 November 1975, SFI JNU.

6 The Coffee House Movement

The burden of the night still weighs us down The eye and heart are still not free Press on, for the destination is yet to be reached —Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Subah-e-Azadi (trans. from Urdu)

The major theoretical and political problem of totalitarian rule is that it is difficult to create a mass movement against a totalitarian regime given severe repression of dissent. When totalitarian rule supplants democratic governance, resistance becomes most severely constrained, but also most necessary. In this context, non-violent forms of resistance, epitomised by the tactics of figures such as Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr, are quickly repressed, so opposition movements need to adopt other strategies. In other totalitarian contexts, such as Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, the café became an important resource for movements against the state. First of all, the café was a place to escape the loneliness of life under totalitarian rule (Bronner and Kellner 1982: 97) and allowed people to come together in a public space that was not subject to state surveillance and control (Kohn 2003: 16). In Italy, cooperative cafés were even more suited to the task of fomenting resistance against totalitarian rule in that they are both an economic tactic and sociopolitical space (Kohn 2003: 71). These types of cafés, like the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place, for example, became autonomous zones that fostered resistance against the totalitarian state. An autonomous zone is ‘a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself before the state can crush it’ (Bey 1985: 95). In other words, an autonomous zone creates an area which is separate from state and capital in which revolution and resistance is not only possible but also encouraged. Or as Saul Newman writes, Rather than seeking to take over state power, or to participate in state institutions at the level of parliamentary politics, many contemporary actors

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and movements endeavour to create autonomous spaces, social practices and relations, whether through the permanent or temporary occupation of physical spaces—squats, community centres and cooperatives, workplace occupations, mass demonstrations and convergences—or through the experimentation with practices such decentralised decision-making, direct action or even alternative forms of economic exchange which are not striated, conditioned or ‘captured’ by statist and capitalist modes of organisation. (Newman 2011: 345)

In other words, an autonomous zone is a physical place where people gather to challenge dominant cultural and social norms and envision utopian futures. The radical politics of the autonomous zone are not just a disruption of the existing order of space. Instead, an autonomous zone can ‘invent its own alternative spatial imaginaries’ (Newman 2011: 345; see also Ince 2012: 1653). The autonomous zone, in other words, is not just a social movement resource, nor is it simply a space in which to develop subversive discursive practices, but a space outside of state and capital in which artists and intellectuals can envision (and on a small scale, enact) alternate social practices and relations. In this chapter, I will show how the autonomous zone created by the worker-owners and regular customers of the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place fostered resistance against the Emergency state by first setting the scene by recounting how the coffee house at Connaught Place in the 1970s was described to me by a range of narrators. I will then detail how the ambience and atmosphere of both the coffee house and Delhi changed when the Emergency was declared. Next, I will recount the range and types of activities linked to the coffee house and undertaken to oppose the Emergency. These types of oppositional activities were illegal, which compelled those who were not arrested to go underground. I will show how Indian Coffee House locations in Allahabad, Lucknow and Patna were important to the underground movement. I will also describe what conditions were like in jail for those who were imprisoned and how jail became a coffee house of sorts in which different political groups forced together in jail deliberated, strategised and organised despite their differences. To quell this resistance, not only were narrators arrested but the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place was bulldozed. I will show how the bulldozing of the coffee house led to different consequences for different political groups, consequences that continue to echo in Indian politics today, especially for the Jan Sangh and the Naxalite Movement.


Brewing Resistance

Public Support for the Emergency? Before I detail the role of the Indian Coffee House in fostering resistance against the Emergency, I want to begin by describing how the Indira Gandhi administration perceived public support, or lack thereof, for the Emergency. Part of the reason why the Indian Coffee House movement could gain such traction is that it was unanticipated by the state. While Sanjay Gandhi, in an interview with the Sunday Times, claimed, ‘The Emergency has brought about a new enthusiasm in both the government and the people’,1 while also denying any censorship of the press,2 Indira Gandhi’s advisors were not as optimistic about public opinion regarding the Emergency. In 1977, Indira Gandhi’s advisor, P. N. Haksar, wrote several memos assessing the support for the Emergency in India. In these writings, Haksar appears to play the courtier. He dispassionately reports any negative impact of Gandhi’s policies so that they can be addressed by the administration, but also makes an effort to either implicitly or explicitly place the blame for these negative policy outcomes on forces external to the Gandhi administration. In assessing public support for the Emergency, he writes that while urban residents opposed the Emergency at first, they eventually saw its benefits. However, as those benefits eroded, he argued, so did urban support for the Emergency. Haksar writes, During the first two months after promulgation, there was a murmur of opposition in the urban areas because of the suddenness with which it came. In the next eight months, the people saw the benefits it brought, like stable prices, discipline, law and order, etc., and have turned in favour of it. Now since March/April these benefits are getting eroded and the people have begun to feel dissatisfied again.3

Haksar’s assessment of public support for the Emergency balances praise for the Emergency with the reality of waning support. He dismisses initial opposition to the Emergency by claiming the public was resistant to sudden change, and then by claiming that once the benefit was apparent, the public support for the Emergency grew. But Haksar’s ultimate goal in writing this memo is that because public support had eroded—or perhaps was never there to begin with—the Gandhi administration, in his view, had to take measures to prevent social protest against the Emergency state. Haksar then assesses relative support for the Emergency by social class. Haksar hypothesises that the lower middle class has supported and will continue to support the Emergency but concludes that the upper middle class is ‘mentally opposed’ to the Emergency and will remain so. He writes,

The Coffee House Movement


The lower middle class had supported emergency. Because of emergency it had obtained economic benefits. If the benefits will continue, it will keep on supporting emergency. The upper middle class which had also obtained these economic benefits has remained mentally opposed to the emergency. Its opposition is not growing with the erosion of the benefits. It says ‘we know these benefits will not last long’.4

The working class, however, Haksar deems as more unpredictable. While they oppose the Emergency, their leaders have been jailed, and, therefore, Haksar concludes, the working classes while ‘agitated’ are impotent to offer any resistance without labour leaders. Haksar writes, Industrial workers begun showing some agitation over their situation. They felt that under emergency their dearness allowance had been impounded, bonus cut down, wages frozen, strikes declared illegal, and because of increase in production and not sufficient off-take, layoffs and retrenchments effected. To calm their agitation, even trade unions controlled by the congress have started placing the workers’ difficulties before the employers and the government. If this situation continues, it is likely the industrial workers might take a different course of action. They do not however have those leaders among them who would take advantage of the situation and lead them to a violent struggle. Such leaders have been detained.5

In this assessment of different social classes’ relative support for the Emergency, Haksar spends most of his efforts analysing the working class. This in-depth analysis, along with the detention of working class leaders, indicates that the working class is seen by the state as the main threat to Gandhi’s rule. However, Haksar believes that without trade union and working class leaders, the disaffection among the working class will not escalate into action against the state. What Haksar did not anticipate, however, is that the upper middle class who remained ‘mentally opposed’ to the Emergency, particularly the younger members of this class who were actively involved in the student wings of opposition parties, would quickly assume leadership roles and eventually become an important force of opposition against the Emergency state. In July 1975, the newspaper Cumhuriyet (Turkey) wrote, ‘As long as Mrs. Gandhi is in power, it is not very likely for India to be a democratic state again’ (in Rao and Rao 1977: 29). However, even the foreign press in exile discerned rumours and whispers of resistance against the Emergency. The Times, London (UK), reported, The kernel of an underground resistance movement was formed in India this week…. In what is believed to be the first organised call for


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resistance against authoritarian rule in independent India, a well produced underground journal being circulated secretly in Delhi has called on leaders of all political persuasions to bury their differences and unite in a struggle to restore democracy to India. (In Rao and Rao 1977: 42)

Several articles in the Economist (UK) make reference to ‘an underground movement’, but they offer just a few vague and inaccurate details about the activities of this underground movement (Rao and Rao 1977: 332, 336). Because Delhi was where the Emergency was most effectively implemented, it is not surprising that Delhi was where resistance to the Emergency was the strongest. The New Delhi location of Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place became a centre for a mostly Socialist Party-led resistance to the Emergency. C. G. K. Reddy, one of the accused in the Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy Case, wrote in his memoirs that one of the more disorienting aspects of the anti-Emergency resistance movement, for him, was that because the more established, older leaders of the Socialist movement were in jail from the night the Emergency was declared, the younger student members of the opposition parties led the resistance against the Emergency (Reddy 1977: 217). While it makes sense that the resistance to the Emergency was launched from New Delhi and led by student leaders who were not arrested, why did the Connaught Place location of the former colonial firm the Indian Coffee House become a site of Socialist-led resistance to the Emergency? Even though the Indian Coffee House Workers’ Union was affiliated with the CPI(M) and the workers’ cooperative had Communist ties since before India’s Independence, by the 1970s their most loyal regular clientele consisted of Socialist Party leaders. These were the same Socialists who were staunch proponents of Sarvodaya and who most enthusiastically embraced the postindependence cooperative movement. The Communists initially supported Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, mistaking her authoritarianism for Soviet-style Communism, until Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay Gandhi, a staunch antiCommunist, began to indefinitely arrest suspected Communists without charge or trial. But by the time the Communist parties had realised their mistake in supporting the Emergency, there were few Communist leaders active and out of jail, and, therefore, no one left to stand up for the Communists.

Indian Socialism and the Coffee House The Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place attracted a range of people from all political persuasions. However, the Socialist regulars, many of whom

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were students in various colleges and universities during the Emergency, led this node of resistance against the Emergency. In this section, I describe how and why Socialist students began to congregate at the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House. For most of the Socialists I spoke with, it was Rammanohar Lohia who drew them into the Socialist movement. In the 1950s and 1960s, Lohia published a weekly column in local papers, and the narrators, as teenagers or college students, felt that Lohia’s message was new and fresh. It resonated with them. For the Biharis, Jayaprakash Narayan ( JP) was the most important Socialist leader, but narrators from Uttar Pradesh and Delhi cited Lohia as a greater influence and felt that he was the most serious intellectual and the most committed activist within the Socialist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. For Ravi Nair, it was George Fernandes who recruited him into the movement during the Railway Workers’s strike of 1974 when Fernandes was looking for student volunteers to support striking railway workers. After becoming leaders in student politics, some of the narrators met Rammanohar Lohia in person, which drew them further into the Socialist movement. Narrators would tell me that they began to spend time at the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place in emulation of Lohia, because Lohia, upon his return to Delhi after completing his PhD in Germany in the 1930s, wanted to create a space that mimicked the European coffee houses—a coffee house that not only fostered political discussion and deliberation but also adhered to broadly Socialist principles. Lohia was known to spend his days in the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place, wearing his khadi kurta and dhoti, smoking Charminar brand cigarettes, engaging in discussions about art and politics, and writing his many books (I. Kelkar 2010: 11). Rajkumar Jain explained, The great Socialist leader Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, who was the greatest Socialist leader in India, a freedom fighter … used to sit in that coffee house. There was a practice, after their political activity, in the evening, [he and his comrades] used to go and take coffee and chat there.

Madan Lal Hind told me, Rammanohar Lohia … was there at the coffee house everyday without fail and added credibility and respectability to the place. He was influenced by the French coffee houses and wanted to create a place in India where they decide government policy and discuss everything just like in France. He died in 1967, and in 1968 when I saw the student movements in France,


Brewing Resistance

I thought of his words about the coffee house as being an important part of French politics.

Kamlesh Shukla, a Socialist poet, told me, What has happened was that from the very beginning the Socialist leaders were fond of coffee. For example, Dr Rammanohar Lohia was educated in Berlin. There, he became addicted to coffee. You must have read about Viennese coffee houses. … So, Viennese coffee houses played a large role in the evolution of painting, literature. So the, most of the Socialist leaders who founded Socialist Party were coffee addicts you could say [narrator laughs], and they were mostly, a number of them, were bohemians. They will engage in hard discussions till late at night, they will go to coffee houses, drink cups of coffee there.

The Socialist narrators would tell me that Lohia started the Coffee House as a cooperative, to fill the need for a Socialist intellectual space in Delhi. Rajkumar Jain explained to me that upon Lohia’s suggestion, the Indian Coffee House workers set up their cooperative coffee house in a tent in the middle of Connaught Place. Jain said, When the workers became unemployed, one day Dr. Lohia went there and s[aw] that there is no coffee house … he asked the workers, why don’t you do that only, start it yourself.… There was no constructed building, no building at all. Only tamboos (tents). It was running under tamboos. And downstairs, kya bolte hain, bajri ko kya bolte hain (what do you call it, boulders, what do you call it)?

He continued, ‘Just imagine, the national capital of Delhi.… It started by the 60s, early 60s. My memory goes to the coffee house, around 1963 or 64. Kitne saal ho gayaa? (How many years ago was that?) Almost roundabout 50 years.’ In a group interview with Bhagwan Singh and K. P. Singh, who had become close friends over numerous cross-table conversations at the Indian Coffee House, even though one was a Socialist and the other a Communist (both were originally from Uttar Pradesh), the two narrators had conflicting stories about how the Indian Coffee House became so important during the Emergency. Bhagwan Singh proceeded to relate the familiar Socialist trope about Lohia setting out to recreate the coffee house culture of 1930s Berlin in 1960s New Delhi, and K. P. Singh respectfully disagreed, that it was in fact A. K. Gopalan who transformed the coffee house into a cooperative, but that, admittedly, he did not know much about the history of the Indian Coffee House before

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A. K. Gopalan led the workers’ movement in the 1950s. Consistently, Socialist narrators expressed disdain, even vitriol, for all things Communist, but some would make a caveat for A. K. Gopalan, saying that he was an independent thinker, and for that, he deserved some respect despite his ties to the Communist Party. As Parasnath Chowdhary told me, Communism was the last weapon of Europe against the colonised. See, it’s a European idea, and Indians stealing this idea, it doesn’t make sense. We don’t understand what they are talking about when they talk of Marxism. Marx was a—all right—was a good scholar, but his ideas cannot be utilised for constructing a society. It was highly untenable as a life philosophy.

While both the Marxists and Socialists that I spoke with recalled fondly the alliances that were forged in the heat of the Emergency, before the Emergency, and after as well, each was critical of the other.

The Coffee House as a Political Space The atmosphere in the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House was exciting in the 1960s and 1970s. It was described to me as ‘Democracy in action’, that the place itself had ‘positive reverberations’, it was ‘glamorous’ and filled with the sounds of loud, heated, passionate, discussions, it was an intellectual hub— and not simply for the left. It was also described to me as ‘what JNU claims to be today’. The coffee house, I was told, was a regular hangout for poets, filmmakers, music composers and creative people of all types. Each political group had their regular table—the Communists, the Socialists, Naxalites, Congress, and the right wing Hindu nationalist party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).6 There would also be a table for poets, writers, filmmakers, musicians. In the 1980s, when ‘identity politics’ became an important focus for left movements, I was told, there was a regular table for queer activists, where people of all sexual orientations and identities met regularly to share personal stories, seek support, and discuss sexuality and politics. If there was a protest in Delhi, many of the men I interviewed told me, the protesters would end up at the Indian Coffee House afterward. The men I interviewed had many reasons for gathering at the Indian Coffee House: for political meetings, to hear the latest news, to see friends, to discuss politics, to talk about art, to interact with foreigners, and to look at pretty girls. The Indian Coffee House was a cool place to be; many of the men I talked to described it as the most interesting and most ‘happening’ place in Delhi. Madan Lal Hind told me,


Brewing Resistance

Sanjay Gandhi thought the coffee house was the centre of most problems during the Emergency. From Punjabi Bagh, Tilak Nagar, this Nagar, that Nagar, all people went to Connaught Place and when they did they went to Indian Coffee House. It was great people watching. An office at Connaught Place was very expensive, so those who couldn’t afford office space would discuss politics and business at the Indian Coffee House.

Narrators told me that many people used the coffee house as their address since they were there all day and everyday, and that hippies and leftists from Europe would go there when they were travelling through India. It was cheap, it was centrally located, and it had some of the most ‘unconventional crowd’ of any place in the world. Because it was a cooperative, nobody was told to get up and leave after finishing a cup of coffee. Some people would arrive at 9 a.m. and leave at 9 p.m. or later. The workers knew most of the regulars, and would serve you even if you did not have enough money to pay your check that day. Most of the men who stayed at the coffee house for dinner were unmarried or separated and had nowhere else to go for meals. (I was told that most of these types of regulars were usually Naxalites or ‘JNU leftists’.) Rajkumar Jain explained how a conversation in the coffee house might transpire. He gave, by way of example, No class difference was there. All sorts of people who are poorest, rich, they used to come. And because it was a centre of interaction, having an ideological debate. Not only that thing, even other groups, journalists used to discuss what is going on in India. On every event, every type of political event, there used to be a hot discussion. People used to say, ‘no it’s wrong’, somebody else used to say, ‘no it’s right’. So it was a symbol of, in a way, two reasons people used to like coffee house, one that it is a meeting place, free meeting place, no restrictions, no need of having money.… Suppose I don’t have money, I know that if I go to coffee house, there my friend will be sitting there and he’ll offer me a cup of coffee for sure. You understand that? Because it was not so costly there.

He explained how a friend might say, ‘Oh bring seven coffees’, that used so show, ‘oh the story is on’, and he was enjoying the company of the people and people are enjoying coffee with him. That was also one of the reasons. So coffee house was the only centre where you could smell the trend of the people, where people, ordinary people, vigilant people, intellectual people, how they think, what is going on in the society. So everything, day-to-day affairs, they used to discuss. And generally they used to discuss the political ones.

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Parasnath Chowdhary described the Indian Coffee House to me by saying, First of all, it was a cooperative coffee house, it was neither government nor private, it was started by some workers and it was very cheap, it was very centrally located, and attracted the most unconventional crowds of the city and also of the world. So it was a very interesting place, we always felt drawn to it, and especially weekends, we always came here and spent most of our time.

Madan Lal Hind said the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place could seat 500 people, ‘was the centre of everything as it was at the centre of Connaught Place, which is the centre of Delhi, and it was at the centre of India as Delhi is the capital of India’. Parasnath Chowdhary also stressed the coffee house’s importance as a central meeting place. He said that it was a crowd where you can find somebody dear to yourself, known to yourself because it was the meeting point for the whole city. And it was also really convenient, centrally located in Connaught Place and that was the centre of the town, so whenever anybody wanted to meet somebody, he would use this as the meeting point.

And it was cheap too. Madan Lal Hind told me that a coffee at the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House would set one back 35 paisa (less than one US cent) during the time of the Emergency. Rajkumar Jain offered a similarly rich description of the space, So, it was a daily practice I used to go there. Coffee House was the only centre where all sorts of people, all shades, ideologically committed people, artists, painters, politicians, dancers, journalists, all type of people, they used to gather there. Everyday. Right from morning, say roundabout 8 o’clock, until 10 o’clock, 10:30–11 o’clock, it was full of people.… As a Socialist, we had also one of our corner tables, people know this thing. One of our persons sit there, and that way all sources will be there. Same way, communists, other ideological people, they used to sit in their own group. If our one person is sitting there, everyone will automatically go that table and they will sit there. So it was, in a way, colourful that people used to say Socialists, socialiston ka table hai (this is the Socialists’ table), Socialists are sitting there, and the Communists are there.... There journalists are sitting in one group. And there used to be three to four stalls. Book stalls. All current magazines, that was the only centre where you could get all type of magazines there. All daily newspapers are there. So it was a centre of all intellectual class people, all political workers, journalists, all sort of, all shade of people. They used to gather there. And it was cheap also


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from monetary point of view. So there, you know, from the morning to the evening, there you find a lot of people are coming and going, always you find that the coffee house is full, not empty. Because that was not only a meeting palace [sic] you see, a meeting platform, and outside coffee house, there was a wall, a small wall, boundary rather you call it. More than hundred people, they used to sit on that wall. And seeing that people are coming and going in the Connaught Place, it became some sort of an enjoyment. So there you know, that was the news making centre. All political events, whatever is happening, whether in Delhi or in national politics, so you found that out sitting on a table. People are shouting, you know, there was no decorum [or] decency like, suppose you go in a five-star hotel or somewhere, so you have to be very under decorum, or courtesy, or say, discipline or something. There was free for all. You understand? No restriction, shout as much as you can, laugh, whatever. And the second beauty was in coffee house, there as no restriction of without taking a cup of coffee or anything, nobody will ask you why you are sitting here. But time-passing place also. Suppose I don’t have money, or I want only one cup coffee, still from morning to evening I can sit on the chair. Because in other restaurants, the bairaa (waiter) will come and say, ‘Sir, what should I bring?’ It means ki take something or get lost.

Parasnath Chowdhary impressed upon me just how special and unique a place the coffee house was. ‘It was such a thriving, beautiful place. It offered you all kinds of experiences. You cannot even hold these experiences, you cannot describe, they are incapable—I learned so much.’ He offered by way of comparison, I was at Monparnasse in Paris and I went to some coffee houses and I could not find the same atmosphere. It was much more lively [in Delhi]. The coffee houses in Paris were much less lively, less happening, than the coffee house I experienced in Connaught Place. I tell you, it was one of the most powerful coffee houses in the world. I wish you would have seen it and partaken of it.

Rajkumar Jain had similar praise for the space. He told me, There was some sort of glamour in going to coffee house. If you are going to coffee house, it means you are a sensitive person, you are a literate person, you are interested in day-to-day political development or something. And to get the knowledge, latest knowledge of that thing what is going on. And the beauty of that thing is that even the top hierarchy of various political parties, they used to come and enjoy at the coffee house. So kophi bahane ko kya bolte hain? (How do you say ‘coffee was just an excuse’?)

The Coffee House Movement


He continued by summing up his feelings of attachment to the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place, So, that time if I didn’t go to Connaught Place, I used to feel empty, lost, don’t know what has happened, as I have not been to coffee house. It was such a need of a mind. Without going to the coffee house, I am not connected to the current affairs, I am lost, I must go. So one easy link within reach, very cheap also, no restrictions, whether you take coffee or not, spend money or not, whole day, it was a place where you can sit idly the whole day, nobody will disturb you. That was also also a reason, because you have got at least one place. Fourth, it was a meeting centre, people would say we would meet at the coffee house. And it was an only centre where all sorts of magazines and newspapers and periodicals and all intellectual things, you will find there. So people used to come and watch there. And there used to be a paan-walla (betel-nut seller) shop. They used to take paan also there. That way, coffee house was a place of political gossip, intellectual discussion, enjoying, meeting friends. But the tone of that coffee house was anti-government. I have just narrated you the general things to set the scene. You know that was a place full of democracy. People are shouting, their one table, sitting there, shouting like anything, big talking, another table you will find that a different discussion is going on. Nobody is bothered, everybody is enjoying his own.

Parasnath Chowdhary explained to me that while he and his closest friends who used to meet in the Indian Coffee House were Socialists, it wasn’t only Socialists. People of all political views came to [Indian Coffee House]. It was a mass meeting kind of a thing. Everyday, a mass meeting would take place. But a mass meeting not of one opinion, but of many opinions. There was not one political party that was not represented there. That was the character of this coffee house. It was a highly, as I said, happening place, representing all sections of society. And, you see, the minute you go there, you feel that the place is promoting discussion. You start to enter into discussions. You cannot help discussing things the minute you are there. That was the vibe. The vibrations were so positive that immediately you enter into a discussion. And it was a loud and animated discussion. It was never a low decibel discussion. I call it a furtherance of democracy.

Said Dillip Simeon, who had just emerged from the Maoist underground in 1974, That was where our politics of the whole age took place—Maoism, Naxalism, etc. That was the coffee house in Delhi and that was the


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centre of all these radical discussions. Innumerable cups of coffee were consumed over there by radicals deciding the fate of humanity; [discussing the] Vietnam War, Naxalism, Maoist Revolution.… It was a fantastic atmosphere.

Kamlesh Shukla also recounted how a wide range of political viewpoints were represented in the conversations that took place in the Indian Coffee House. He said, Many leaders would come and sit there, Members of Parliament would sit there, they belonged to political parties. Journalists would be meeting there with these Members of Parliament and with the Ministers for news, basically. And they would exchange notes in the coffee house, so people came to know what is happening in the government, what are the new trends happening, etc. etc. Socialist Party was there, Congress was there, the Right wing, what is known today as BJP, was known then as Jan Sangh, were there, though they hardly were there. Haan (Yes), yes, Communists used to be there. So generally, you could say left wing politicians would be there.

K. P. Singh told me, ‘Coffee house culture was very important. It still is also.’ He continued, ‘The coffee house was where opinions were formed. For democracy, the coffee house is essential.’ He explained, ‘People of all types went there to discuss all the political aspects of everything that was taking place.’ He recalled fondly his conversations with Socialist politician Chandra Shekar. Even though Singh was a Communist, he still interacted with those affiliated with other parties. He said, Even Chandra Shekar, used to come to the coffee house, and I used to sit with Chandra Shekar. Chandra Shekar was an anti-government fixture in the Connaught Place coffee house. He used to come regularly, every two or three weeks. He was always criticising other leaders, he would even criticise Lohia.

He added, ‘Nobody remembers that people like Chandra Shekar, they used to come there. Nowadays, politicians, they don’t want to come there.’ Lalit Mohan Gautam told me that the Indian Coffee House was the place where student politics happened in the late 1960s and in the 1970s. He said, You see, the entire student politics and youth politics in those days revolved around [Indian] Coffee House, especially in Delhi. But also in the small towns, whichever I visited, there were coffee houses, like Allahabad had a very popular [Indian] Coffee House. If you go to Allahabad near

The Coffee House Movement


Civil Lines area, you will find a very popular coffee house near the University [of Allahabad].

Ravindra Manchanda, a member of the Samajwadi Yuvjan Sabha (SYS), the youth wing of the Samyukta Socialist Party, and his fellow student activists would meet in the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House and strategise for their group and talk politics. Their professors and other professors from around Delhi who would also gather in the Indian Coffee House served as encouragement. Subhendu Ghosh similarly recalled that the Indian Coffee House was a key meeting place for those involved in student politics. He recounted, The Congress government didn’t allow us, their students’ wing used to do a lot of physical torture on us, and we used to face a lot of, [narrator takes audible sip of tea]. So sometimes it was good to go to coffee house and then decide the strategy. What should we do? It may not be that meaningful but, essentially, it’s student politics—plan demonstrations, protests, plan posters, this things, or sometimes plan meetings to recruit cadres, juniors, you know [narrator laughs], to politicise them [narrator laughs].

He also confessed, ‘To tell you very frankly, I was hardly doing academics. I was spending most of my time in the coffee house.’ While Ravindra Manchanda cited the professors who gathered in the coffee house as an important source of encouragement for his student politics, Ramchandra Pradhan, who was teaching at Delhi University during the Emergency, told me that the older patrons of the coffee house who had participated in India’s Independence Movement were a similarly important source of inspiration for him and his friends. He told me that it [the Indian Coffee House] had all kinds of people, all intellectuals, and policy makers used to come to consult. Very good place. A lot of freedom, even for those days. It was a very free time, interactions— what JNU claims to be today. We had this kind of atmosphere in the mid-60s and a lot of free discussions, even Naxalites could come, you know. So there was an environment of some kind of freedom. It had become a basic kind of space for people like us. Then I started teaching also, in Delhi University. Why am I saying all this? Because it is a background. It’s a background. And for us, it was freedom, liberty, that was very important. Some kind of activists with SSP, Samyukta Socialist Party, [were there]. You see, at that time, Samyukta Socialist Party, SSP, it was led by Dr. Lohia, of course other people, some leaders were there [in the Indian Coffee House], some of the important leaders were Raj Narainji, George Fernandes, they were there.


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So the entire atmosphere was one of freedom. Now, all of them had their strengths. We were born after the Independence, so had not participated in the Freedom Struggle, but we closely interacted with the people who were in the thick of the fight. So of all this, contributed to our mental makeup in which the Freedom Struggle loomed large.

The coffee house workers were another source of support and encouragement for political activists. Ravindra Manchanda told me that in the Indian Coffee House, the workers belonged mostly to Communist or Socialist ideas. The Communists had the workforce, they were very popular with the trade unions. So workers were by and large encouraging. There were some restrictions on them because they were working, they could not come and openly participate in our activities, but visible support was there from them, you know, on every issue. Like, sath sankar socialist logon slogan tha (seven revolutions was the slogan of the Socialists).7

He went on to explain that there was, during the Emergency, however, caution in the interaction between the workers and patrons because of a mutual fear of arrest. The workers ‘encouraged us and they—because everybody had their own limitation, you know? The fear of getting others arrested’. K. P. Singh also told me a bit about the relationship between workers and Indian Coffee House regulars. He said, ‘The customers were politically aware people, and the workers were Party workers. CPI and CPI(M) people would come and they were discussing. They were discussing in the coffee house.’ He explained, During the split [in the Communist Party in 1964], most of the workers sided with the CPI(M), but the CPI leadership was still meeting in the coffee house. After the split, there was really no change in the coffee house. Everyone was used to having different opinions, so there was one more opinion.

The Indian Coffee House also offered a space that evaded state surveillance. Subhendu Ghosh told me that this was an important consideration for student activists. He said, But the specialty of the coffee house is that they will not ask you who you are and from where you have come and why you are meeting here. They’re just concerned about what you want to drink and what you want to eat. That’s all [narrator laughs]. So, and coffee house by tradition they have maintained this culture. That’s how ’til late people dared to be there….

The Coffee House Movement


This has become a major problem in the big cities, the problem of security. Everywhere you go the camera sees you. In South Campus [of Delhi University], everywhere you go the camera sees you…. This camera culture has started in Aligarh and, from here, if they put the cameras in all hostels it will be terrible!… In the hostels if students want to have a political meeting, the camera will see you. And this camera culture has started— at a dharna (protest or rally) the police will bring a camera and later on they will ask questions. This has become a major problem in the name of insecurity and terrorism, but I think coffee house is still free from all these problems. They will not check, they will not do a security check when you enter the coffee house…. They will not do it.… That’s the beauty of the coffee house, it’s free. You know, people don’t interfere. If you want to do politics, maybe in some corner, you really do not know, maybe some pimps are discussing, maybe some bad business people. But how can you control it? You are doing your own meeting, they are doing their thing, and nobody can stop you.

The friendship between Bhagwan Singh and K. P. Singh was ignited over conversations and deliberation in the coffee house among the Socialists and Communists. Bhagwan Singh told me that while today it would be unthinkable for sitting politicians to sit amongst the ‘riff raff ’, let alone engage them in conversation, at the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House, sitting Congress Party politicians would regularly gather to entertain questions from people of all social classes and political affiliations, which often led to debates involving coffee house patrons representing a wide range of political views. But crosstable deliberation was not simply relegated to politics. Subhendu Ghosh told me that intellectuals who did not identify as politically left or right— ‘poets, filmmakers, theaterists, painters, literary figures, musicians, and music composers’—would gather at the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House to ‘exchange ideas’ and discuss a ‘vision of a new society’. While each type of artistic expression had its own table at the coffee house, I was told that these conversations were particularly generative in that they often involved crosstable deliberation, and it also linked the artistic movement in Delhi to politics. Subhendu Ghosh told me that these linkages assured that when there was protest or ‘political turmoil’ in Delhi, ‘creative people came out’ to voice their political views. Parasnath Chowdhary also linked the political conversations in the Indian Coffee House to artistic movements. He told me, Some independent Marxists they were also gathering there. And some who had Marxist pretensions but were not exactly the cardholding members, they also came … and there were some leading writers including


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uh, Communist writers, Communistically inclined writers, including Nagarjun, have you heard of him? Nagarjun was a Communistically inclined person, but he was my compatriot. He was from Bihar. He also offered opposition to the Emergency, he was highly critical of Mrs. Gandhi. So, such people were gathering here and also people at large uh, common people, they also came and found it very convenient to air their views against what was happening then in the country. So it had become a point where you can build up opposition, it was a very important point.

Subhendu Ghosh summed up the link forged between art and politics at the coffee house by stating that the Indian Coffee House ‘used to be and still is, I think, a kind of, you know, an intellectual hub for the writers, the thinkers, for the poets, theaterists and these are all non-commercial people who are thinking, those who were thinking of alternative culture, alternative society’. Kamlesh Shukla offered a similar description of the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place as one where the artistic movement in Delhi was linked to politics through the conversations in the coffee house. He told me, So a large number of coffee goers consisted of journalists, writers, poets, painters, some lawyers. So we would gather there and discuss whatever we wanted to discuss, news of the day sometimes, sometimes some new trend in literature- someone would speak against it, someone would speak for it. So these coffee houses used to be very lively places. Everybody will meet, having a say, they will make their pitch so that others are forced to [narrator’s phone rings and he answers]. In those days [the 1960s], one of the hot topics was actions and non-actions of Prime Minister Nehru and dissensions in his cabinet, especially relating to defence of the country, and there was a planning commission established about a decade back which employed a number of economists and some of them would be present in the coffee house so the activities of the planning commission would get discussed. Because the planning commission had a staff which were research scholars, economists, sociologists. So, Chinese invasion will be there, and that will become a very hot issue. Three fixtures of the coffee house, one was LC Jain who later became head of the Planning Commission, he was an economist, but at that time he was organising craftsmen for the All India Handicrafts Emporium, what is now called Cottage Industries Emporium. Cottage Industries Emporium was almost in front of the coffee house at that time.… I was, my friends consisted of a large number of poets, writers, some were journalists, theaterists, and some painters, young painters. Are you well acquainted with the history of modern Indian painting?

After a fascinating overview of the history of Indian painting, the subject of our conversation turned back to the Indian Coffee House. Kamlesh Shukla said,

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So these painters were fighting back and forth for acceptance of their new medium. So, all these things converged. In 1960, the young painters had a large exhibition, and that too was held on Janpath. And, that was inaugurated by Jawaharlal Nehru, and I was on the scene with my group. The writers were involved in painting, they were also involved in politics, they were also involved in [narrator takes long pause to sip his tea]. So, a lot of them were activists. The members of Parliament would come and sit there, they would gather people around them. People like Rammanohar Lohia would sit there. All the politically minded people would gather around them etc. So also there was some, I would say, anti-establishment politics, being propagated and people would gather around those ideas.

Subhendu Ghosh, who was involved in SFI JNU when he was a graduate student, spoke of the Indian Coffee House at College Street in his hometown of Calcutta as a similarly rich gathering place for both political activists and artists. I never officially belonged to the Party [in college], but then there were friends who were in the Party and they used to like bring a lot of political thoughts and then tried to impress upon us. Sometimes they convinced, and sometimes, hmmm. But that activity was going on, and then the coffee house used to be the place, but not even that, the coffee house used to be the place not only for left, like all kinds of intellectual activities. You know, like, I’ll tell you, poets who were there in the evening, poets who were not known as so-called leftists, but they used to have meetings. You know, a whole lot of people, hmm, Ritwik Ghatak, Vinal Sen, uh, also, it’s a big name, he’s still alive, filmmaker, political filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, used to sit there.

The narrators originally from Calcutta lamented that the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House in New Delhi was not as ‘cool’ as the College Street Indian Coffee House in Calcutta (see also Bhattacharya 2017: 129). At College Street, Subhendu Ghosh told me, men and women alike wore torn khadi kurtas, carried jholas8 full of books and smoked Charminar brand cigarettes one after another. Subhendu Ghosh described to me the College Street Calcutta location of Indian Coffee House as he remembered it in the late 1960s and early 1970s, In Calcutta you know, it was full of posters, not just posters, all writings, and in coffee house it was, and then the speciality of the coffee house used to be that they would never whitewash the building, the walls, so it always used to be that, you know, dirty and old, [narrator laughs], and a few years ago when I went there, I saw that finally, they had put some boards, so


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which actually, suppressed the old memory. So the beauty, well I won’t say the beauty—the speciality of coffee house is that if you go to Calcutta coffee house there’s a big hall with those t-shaped fans coming down from the ceiling, and then there are balconies up there, but then the big hall, the fans coming down, and then the walls used to be like, quite shitty, you know, like not very often cleaned or whitewashed [narrator laughs]. Maybe people liked that, the Calcuttans liked that [narrator laughs] … notice that I don’t—and then, too much of smoking. Every table. Even I was made to smoke and at that time I didn’t realise, and then I realised, that all this smoking is damaging my voice. By that time I had already gotten addicted. Then I struggled, and now I don’t smoke anymore for the last say, 15–20 years. From the coffee house my friends induced me and it had become almost a kind of a, you know, fashion to smoke Charminar, and the girls were also behind. Both boys and girls used to, which is little seen in JNU. The whole hall used to be full of smoke, and they used to say that it’s the political culture. Do you agree or don’t agree that that’s the political culture?

In Delhi, in contrast, female leftists would dress fashionably, sport the latest hairstyles, and wear lots of makeup. And while Calcutta leftists spoke Bangla, or at least made some effort, they said, Delhi leftists, and more specifically the ‘JNU leftists’, showed off their impeccable English and bragged about their public school education and their wealthy family backgrounds.

Political Repression of the Emergency The Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place was an autonomous zone in which a range of people met to envision a new society through both politics and the arts. When the Emergency was declared, not only did everyday life in Delhi change, but the atmosphere of the Indian Coffee House was also affected. While all of Delhi went silent out of fear, the Indian Coffee House initially remained one of the few spaces in which one could discuss politics. Initial repression pushed those who wanted to do something about the Emergency into the space of the Indian Coffee House (Ince 2012: 1653; Newman 2011: 345; Shantz and Williams 2013: 49; Tilly 2000: 137). Parasnath Chowdhary explained the Emergency to me, Emergency is a euphemism for complete violent dictatorship. Press was banned, uh, muzzled, political leaders were arrested, all discussions were banned, all kinds of arbitrary actions were being indulged in by the government, so, there was a full on dictatorship in the country. Emergency, see, it may be misunderstood by foreigners that Emergency

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means exceptional situation, but no. The Indian Constitution had been overturned. There is a provision for internal Emergency and external Emergency, but internal Emergency happens only when you are able to prove to the satisfaction of the Parliament that there is a radical, or there is a fundamental disturbance of the public tranquility. This hadn’t happened. There was a peaceful movement going on and this movement also included a bit of civil disobedience and it was all by peaceful means because the man who led the movement [ Jayaprakash Narayan] was a Gandhian. He was committed to non-violent means. So it couldn’t have been a violent thing. Mrs. Gandhi just used it as an excuse for trampling democracy in this country.

During the Emergency, the feel of everyday life changed in Delhi (Kalhan 1977: 11). I was told by Madan Lal Hind, India is a warm climate so people live their lives outside. This ‘outside culture’ of India is maybe because of the weather, the seasons—but during the Emergency, most people didn’t talk. They would just look at the ground when they walked, there was no smiling, no laughing. If you smiled during the Emergency times people would think you’ve gone mad. India became a different society then.

Ravi Nair told me that if you would walk around Connaught Place, it would be eerily silent, and in shops, tea stalls, mithaiwallas, and dhabas, you would see signs that would say, ‘Nihar raajneeti ki baat na karo. Please do not discuss politics here. You couldn’t miss it … There was a kind of atmosphere of fear.’ Parasnath Chowdhary similarly told me that ‘there was no more discussion in any of the typical meeting places, not in the pubs. Dictatorship fears loud discussion’. D. P. Tripathi explained, The atmosphere was initially full of a kind of fear, a terror. You could find very few people who were sympathetic to you. You couldn’t know who used to be your friends. You used to avoid it, because of fear. The government will take action, this or that, and that fear was enormous. Unimaginable. Because anybody could be picked up. When the Supreme Court says during its judgement during the Emergency that there is no right to life, forget even freedom of expression, when it says in the majority judgement, except one [dissenting vote], that there is no right to life, if a policeman kills anybody, shoots anybody, there is no remedy, he cannot be brought before a court of law. So that is a terror you cannot imagine. Even then, I must admire the courage of many ordinary people who could risk their lives to help us, give us shelter, give us food, give us money also. Money to move around and organise things to cyclostyle and print pamphlets.


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Subhashini Ali similarly described the fear that the Emergency evoked, saying, ‘It’s not like now [with Narendra Modi, prime minister in the BJP-led government since 2014]’, people start to say, ‘it wasn’t so bad [during the Emergency], there was an element of decency’. Decency and all that was only for people who were the top leadership of some of the parties otherwise that was certainly not there [during the Emergency]. There was a lot of fear, I must say, people were scared to speak, people were afraid to carry books when they went abroad in case customs [would stop them] things like that. It was really like that! Now it’s hard to recall that yes, we went through all of that.

Narrators told me many stories of friends who had been arrested and detained without charges. Madan Lal Hind told me, [My coworker], Sanjay [Gandhi]’s friend, at the PTI [Press Trust of India] saw someone being arrested in the street. [My coworker] intervened when he saw the man being beaten by a police officer. The man was then arrested for no reason once [my coworker] had intervened. [My coworker] then called Sanjay Gandhi to tell him about the incident and the next day, [my coworker] was arrested, we assume at the behest of Sanjay Gandhi. [My coworker] spent 19 months in jail without any case, any charges against him, or without any bail.

Madan Lal Hind recounted another similar incident to which he was witness, [A coworker of mine], a small statured guy, shorter than me, outspoken, with Communist leanings, we were on Hindustan Times night duty, and we saw the police kick a rickshawalla. He said something to the police officer and they arrested [my coworker]. There were many cases of journalists being arrested at the Hindustan Times.

Madan Lal Hind told me that these events evoked fear among the citizens of Delhi. He said, People saw their friends arrested without bail or without cause. When things like that happen, you keep quiet.… Everyone was scared because it could happen to anyone. It could happen to them also. And newspapers would never report it. People looked the other way. In hindsight, what happens when you arrest so many people for so long, leaders don’t realise that … [narrator trails off and makes a facial expression that I interpret to mean that people will resist after living in fear for too long].

In trade union meetings, I was told by Madan Lal Hind, people feared arrest for voicing anti-Emergency views. Even public transportation was eerily silent,

The Coffee House Movement


‘If you took a bus during the Emergency, nobody said a word in the busses. And every white person was a suspected CIA.’ Private homes, I was also informed, were not safe places for political meetings. Ramchandra Pradhan mentioned that police noticed that he had many male visitors coming and going from his house and therefore conducted regular searches of the house and made inquiries about his visitors. University campuses were similarly closely monitored and repressed (B. Chandra 2003: 160; Nayar 1997: 142; Sahasrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 281). Subhendu Ghosh told me, [During the Emergency] I was into politics, but it was all underground politics…. When I came here [to JNU], I had a political background, I was getting adapted and trying to observe, but then people were talking that there was a police raid, before I came, in the hostels. And some people have been abducted and they are being tortured in Tihar Jail. At that time, I didn’t know them, but after they were released, I met them and then I became good friends, but then, [all] I knew [was] that they were arrested. People were in jail, I met them later. From JNU also, police were raiding hostels and abducting people, that was what, people who were especially in the SFI they used to say that, you know, they used to say that our people have been rusticated, our people have been arrested.

He went on to say, And then obviously there was no [student] election, and all the things we used to discuss, our politics and all these things, it was all with whispering, underground, hiding, because I was scared that, you know, we may be abducted. That was very much there, and in the city itself I have seen that people um, have undergone uh, even kind of a harassment.

In my archival work on the Emergency, I was surprised to learn of the consistent, united opposition to the Emergency launched by SFI JNU, especially since it was well known that the CPI(M) officially supported the Emergency. As Parasnath Chowdhary puts it, ‘Yeah, the Emergency, they [the Communists] supported it! For a long time they supported it. And in my opinion, I think Communists were always in two minds. They had those feelings and they couldn’t decide which way they should go. As expected, they again erred against history.’ Both the CPI and CPI(M) officially supported the Emergency. The CPI was the more vocal supporter of the Emergency between the two. And, in fact, the CPI leadership was extremely critical of the CPI(M)’s statements regarding the Emergency, particularly E. M. S. Namboodiripad’s failure to support Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme (CPI 1975b: 13).


Brewing Resistance

Said CPI MP Bhupesh Gupta in a 1975 speech to the Rajya Sabha, ‘I take it that the Emergency is meant for strengthening the struggle of the secular, democratic and truly national forces in order to strengthen the position of our democratic institutions and our democracy’ (CPI 1975a: 3). And the CPI-affiliated AITUC discouraged its members from joining the Bihar Movement claiming that the Bihar Movement ‘was nothing other than the creation of chaos and anarchy in the country, destruction of parliamentary democracy and the installation of a rightist-fascist dictatorship of the monopolist and landlord classes under some form or another’ (Krishnan, Gour and Siddhanta 1975: 1–2). The AITUC claimed that the Emergency was a reasonable response to the ‘catastrophic objectives’ of the Bihar Movement. ‘If faced with such a situation the government has proclaimed a state of national emergency, the JP-led combine has only itself to thank for it’ (Krishnan, Gour and Siddhanta 1975: 3). The CPI proudly proclaimed that ‘in Bihar … the CPI has spearheaded the fight against … Jayaprakash Nararyan’.9 Wrote Mohit Sen of the CPI Central Executive Committee, ‘JP’s movement while aimed also at the toppling of Indira Gandhi’s government has as its chief targets the democratic system and gains of the people’.10 The CPI was also quick to critique George Fernandes and ‘all naxalite groups’ for advocating ‘sabotage of production’ and for their ‘confusion’ about which parties are in fact revolutionary and which are supporting the ‘Indian counterrevolution’ (CPI 1975b: 13). CPI pamphlets supporting the Emergency decry the ‘blind anticongressism and opportunism’ of the CPI(M), Socialists and Naxalites, claiming that the Congress and the CPI are the only ‘true’ ‘left, democratic and patriotic parties and mass organizations’ (CPI 1975a: 7–8). The CPI was certainly not shy about their support for Indira Gandhi, claiming ‘within the Congress the forces led by Indira Gandhi are playing an anti-imperialist role’.11 The CPI leadership further claimed that attempts to paint Gandhi as a ‘fascist’ were a ‘falsehood assiduously spread by the imperialists and their allies’ (CPI 1976: 10). Media assessments of the strong ties between Congress and the CPI analysed CPI support for Indira Gandhi as an admission by the CPI that establishing Communism in India was unlikely and, therefore, the then concern of the CPI was to prevent reactionary forces from gaining ground.12 While the CPI(M) was more amenable to alliances with other opposition parties compared to the CPI, the CPI revelled in its alliance with Congress and believed that it would make the party more powerful and influential (Lockwood 2016: 121).13

The Coffee House Movement


However, there were independent voices within the Communist parties. E. M. S. Namboodiripad, in an op-ed about the Bihar Movement, wrote that the majority of Communist leaders see JP as ‘an arch reactionary, a person who is out to destroy democracy, an agent of imperialism and the CIA, and so on’.14 But countered that he believed ‘the JP movement does, in a way, give form to the gathering discontent of the common people of India, their disillusionment and the spirit of revolt against the 27-year-long Congress rule in the country’.15 He added that ‘the issues it has taken up—administrative and political corruption, electoral and educational reform and so on—are however of interest to the left and democratic movement no less than to any other section within the opposition’.16 Namboodiripad’s critique of the movement, however, is that he enlisted the support of centrist and right wing parties in addition to leftist parties. Because of the involvement of the Jan Sangh, BLD and Congress(O), writes Namboodiripad, the CPI(M) has made it clear that while we are in full agreement with the objectives of the movement and while we are campaigning for those objectives on the independent platforms of the fighting mass organizations and of the left and democratic parties, we are unable to participate in the All Party Students’ and People’s Action Committees of which the right opposition parties are constituents.17

To these allegations, JP told left parties that he believed that in joining the Bihar Movement the right-leaning parties will move towards the left. He said, ‘The so-called rightist forces, including the Jana Sangh and the Congress(O) will be forced to accept the radicalization of the Bihar Movement and they will be left behind if they are a hindrance.’18 While the Kisan Mazdoor Party then opted to join the movement, the CPI(M) remained ambivalent, refusing to officially support the Bihar Movement, but allowing their members to participate in it.19 Given the official party line of the CPI(M) at the onset of the Emergency, I asked Subhendu Ghosh how SFI JNU came to be so vehemently opposed to the Emergency and whether SFI JNU was consistently opposed to the Emergency, since the CPI(M) never officially condemned the Emergency even though many card-carrying CPI(M) members participated in the resistance movement. He explained to me, [In coming to JNU] I was also not used to the semester system and this MSc in Physics, every week they were giving me assignments and tests, and I was terrified. So I was undergoing that adjustment. But at the same


Brewing Resistance

time, I was in touch with this thing [student politics through SFI]. I was never in close touch with the CPI(M) people in Calcutta, I used to hate the people who were in CPI(M).

Although several times in the interview he told me that he identified as a Marxist who was sympathetic to the Communist Party, he was not a cardcarrying CPI or CPI(M) member because he was an independent thinker and would not tow the party line. He continued, ‘But here [at JNU], I realised that the SFI cadres in Calcutta and the SFI cadres in JNU, they are a little different. Because SFI [ JNU] had a whole lot of spectrum of left oriented people unlike the highly polarised Calcuttan SFI.’ He went on to tell me when I asked for further elaboration, Exactly, under the stress conditions of the Emergency, it was a do or die situation. Probably there was a need to, you know, there was an effort to do a kind of united work, which JP was trying. During the JP Movement, he involved a lot of leftists, so that was the need of the hour and I was watching that. So, I was not antagonistic to to the SFI at the time, but in Calcutta I would have never um, you know, be with, or have sided with SFI because I have an image of the CPI(M) as the anti-people party. So Bengal history tells me that, you know, it’s not a real Communist Party. I’m being a little blunt, but I’m telling you very frankly. I think that they were left rulers and they did butcher and torture a lot of Naxalites when they were in power, until recent years. So, hmm, but in Delhi, they are not in power, when this person is not in power, then when they are in power, the behaviour changes.

He summed up his decision to participate in SFI as a Marxist (but not cardcarrying Communist) during the Emergency, making it clear that in this moment of repression, unconventional alliances were formed. He told me, But their [SFI’s] main image was that they were, you know, opposing Indira Gandhi, and even they were opposing one part of CPI, you know that jaan ke (knowingly) they supported.… So they had problem with CPI, at least one section of CPI, so they were confronting, rather they were, on some agenda they were with Socialists because under stress conditions, on a mass front at least, they have to work together.

After the Emergency had been lifted, Ghosh continued to participate in SFI actions. He told me how after the Emergency, SFI JNU mobilised a protest against the ‘Gang of Four’, four administrators at JNU who were integral in the university administration that had allowed police to raid hostels to arrest

The Coffee House Movement


and subsequently torture students during the Emergency. Part of the demands of this post-Emergency student movement was also to have Indira Gandhi removed as the chancellor of the university. He told me, But anyway, so this was going on, but, and then, also another move to remove Indira Gandhi as the Chancellor. And then she resigned, and after that, the Prime Minister of India is no more the Chancellor of JNU.… I remember that, you know, we went to Indira Gandhi’s house to protest.

Despite his involvement in SFI JNU during and after the Emergency, he was critical of the student group’s politics. He explained to me, I’m sorry to say that because of, during the Emergency, they [SFI] were anti-establishment so they encashed it for a long time despite the fact that, uh, quite often I found that they were making class compromise. It’s their nature, their character. As student government in Delhi University they have done it, and in JNU they have done it several times. You know, blow hot, blow cold whenever necessary, and as a result, they lost their popularity. But until 80s they were, they had the advantage of the role they had played during the Emergency. They were identified with struggling people.

But while Socialist narrators were critical of the Communist parties for supporting the Emergency, they agreed that individual Communists and Marxists played an important role in the deliberative atmosphere of the Indian Coffee House. Parasnath Chowdhary said, So uh, this coffee house went on becoming more and more oppositional to the Emergency and finally they decided, they said they’d bulldoze it. Completely abolish the coffee house. And as I said, some independent Marxists they were also gathering there. And some who had Marxist pretensions but were not exactly the cardholding members, they also came. I could meet many many of them and there were some leading writers including uh, Communist writers, Communistically inclined writers, including Nagarjun, have you heard of him? Nagarjun was a Communistically inclined person but he was my compatriot, he was from Bihar. He also offered opposition to the Emergency, he was highly critical of Mrs. Gandhi. So, such people were gathering here and also people at large, uh, common people, they also came and found it very convenient to air their views against what was happening then in the country. So it had become a point where you can build up opposition, it was a very important point.


Brewing Resistance

K. P. Singh said, I was a Communist. I used to sit there, and we would talk with the Socialists. Police would come in there during the Emergency when I was sitting there, but police didn’t bother me because I was CPI. I was working for the Hindu and a CPI magazine. The Socialists and Communists had a different line, but both have been consistently opposed to the government. While the Party leadership was very close to Mrs. Gandhi, the student groups were opposed to the Emergency.

He continued, ‘During the Emergency, everything was muzzled. Things became so bad that people were getting their news from rumours. People became so helpless and became against it. The effect of the Emergency was so bad.’ D. P. Tripathi told me that the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place was important for the SFI-led student movement in JNU and linked the student movement in JNU with student and other movements across Delhi. He told me, Yes, definitely [Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place was important for SFI JNU]. But not just to the student movement in JNU, in Delhi University also, and especially for the Socialists. Some of them who were not arrested, who evaded arrest and were underground, they had worked out certain connections and all those organisations who were against the Emergency, including the RSS and others, they formed some kind of communication network at a grassroots level and on a national level in which these coffeehouses were initially an important node. But after four to six months, all these centres I should say, were effectively stopped by the government and the police. So four to six months various kinds of protests and communication networks against the Emergency were organised from these coffeehouses. And there was a live kind of connection between the various protest movements whether it is student movement, trade union movement, some places the women’s movement, sometimes even to raise issues against price rise, all that. So various forms of protest were connected by these centres where we used to meet. People from diverse organisations which were opposed to the Emergency.

The closure of the spaces of human interaction—public parks, universities, pubs, public transportation, private homes, union offices—served to push people further into the deliberative space of the Indian Coffee House. Parasnath Chowdhary said the popularity of the coffee house ‘had nothing to do with Emergency or anything, it had been that way for the last several years. It had been one of the most popular points of meeting for the entire town.

The Coffee House Movement


But when Emergency happened, this popular point was being used by antiEmergency activists’. And he continued, With the declaration of Emergency, lots of people, a lot more people started pouring into the coffee house and discussing things and using it as a contact point for those who were working underground. This was there. Also, there were elements who came here, and in the full view of the public, defied the Emergency. For example, they took hundreds of leaflets and then threw them in the air and then got arrested. So [the coffee house] was used for both: for open activism and for covert activism. But both elements were mingling together and one was supplementing the other. It was a full blazing point of opposition to the dictatorship of Mrs. Gandhi. There was no doubt about it. And this was known to the authorities.

He added, ‘All of those opposed to the Emergency came to the coffee house.’ Kamlesh Shukla told me that people came, not just out of defiance but also because ‘the coffee house became the only source of news of government activities that were censored in the press’. He continued, You know a large number of visitors took up common cause with journalists because censorship was playing out. Yeah. Some of the daily newspapers they came with empty space on their front pages, they refused to publish or print any news on that day. It may be that the strong, the strongest man, was Vidya Charan Shukla, the Minister of Information. And he very zealously controlled All India Radio and Doordarshan, that is our video media channel. So, everything on the news was being censored. The, so, on the night, the 26th June, a large number of political leaders were arrested and put in prisons around the country, but the news was not allowed to appear in the press. So what was, only in coffee house could people come to know that Jayaprakash Narayan has been put behind bars, or that other leaders had been arrested in the night, the previous night, or some people received a sort of warning that you may be arrested, so go underground or disappear from the scene. So, coffee house became the source of news about the activities of the government which were not allowed to appear in the press. But, all the other radios, like BBC, they became another source of news. Some people in coffee house will come in coffee house after listening to the BBC or some other foreign radio, which were somehow broadcasting news about India. The Hindi service of BBC had. So, from that, matlab (meaning), the dissemination of news, coffee house had become the source and disseminator of such news.

Coomi Kapoor writes in her memoirs that her husband, Virendra Kapoor, went first thing in the morning on 26 June 1975 to the Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place to both learn and dispense the latest news about the


Brewing Resistance

Emergency (C. Kapoor 2015: 75–6). Kapoor recounts that copies of the RSS newspaper for which she worked, Motherland, were passed around among regulars in the coffee house that day as so many other papers failed to be printed because of Indira Gandhi’s strategically orchestrated power outages (C. Kapoor 2015: 78). But it remained a place primarily for political deliberation. Said Rajkumar Jain, ‘Political workers rushed to the Indian Coffee House to find out what to do after the Emergency was declared. Sanjay Gandhi was afraid because because it united the left, so he demolished the coffee house.’ Consistently, according to narrators, those in Delhi who opposed the political repression of the Emergency gathered at the Indian Coffee House to spend time together, discussing the situation and strategising about how to address it. This raises another question, of course: why was the Indian Coffee allowed to continue as a space of political deliberation for nearly a year after the Emergency was declared, while other spaces for political opposition and deliberation were more quickly eliminated or repressed? Examples include the day-long student protest at JNU in August 1975 (Nayar 1977: 142) and the Turkman Gate Uprising that similarly lasted for nearly 24 hours until it was violently subdued, leaving up to 1,200 people dead (Henderson 1977: 63; Tarlo 2003: 39). One narrator, Rajkumar Jain, offers a clue: the Indian Coffee House was an important space for Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party in addition to the other political groups that would gather there. ‘So coffee house was the centre where anti-government policy is what we used to find, generally their tone was against the government.’ He continued, Indian Coffee House was the centre where all accusations of the centre: the ruling party, used to take place. And that was even before the Emergency. It was a symbol of that. Even ruling party supporters, Congress party supporters, very few, they used to come there. But they were always [speaking] in a low pitch. The beauty of the thing was that the ruling people were not aggressive. You understand my point? They were on the receiving end. They would say ki theek hai (that’s okay), we are ruling. Now the situation has changed in Indian politics. Now even the ruling party members, they don’t like opposition. The moment you start criticising them, they would attack on you. That time this was not the practice. They used to listen with a smiling face. ‘No-no, it is not like this.’ ‘No-no, it is like that.’ So it was a centre of dissecting government programmes, everything that have been there.

The Coffee House Movement


He continued, So, coffee house was in a way centre of cultural integration, meeting place, having that change of norm, and the beauty of it was that, even the topmost politician of India, whom people used to respect, even they used to come in the evening sometimes. All our top leaders of our time, they used to come. And they used to listen patiently, very patiently what people are saying.

He explained by offering an example of how Communists and Socialists would shout anti-Congress slogans in the Indian Coffee House and Congress Party politicians would listen to those slogans. Rajkumar Jain recounted, Yes, Communists and all the others. They only used to shout and fight against the policies of the government, there was nothing in their hands. Policies used to be decided by the ruling party. So that time, the practice was, the opposition people, like the Socialist Party, we used to shout slogans against the ruling party, Congress. In Coffee House, I am talking about the coffee house. There, the Congress party people, because Congress was in power at that time, their big people used to come. They were not avoiding the coffee house, there they used to come and enjoy that [the opposition shouting slogans against them]. But with their smiling faces, with silence, they used to listen what people are saying. To understand what people are saying, what undercurrent is going on. That was the beauty of that time, now it is not there. Now that has changed.

Ramchandra Pradhan also told me that he believed that Congress’ participation in this space was key for its remaining a space of political deliberation after the Emergency had been declared. ‘The older Congress members who fought the British Empire were still alive,’ he said, ‘and they were unhappy about the Emergency because it reminded them of British rule and suffering.’ He elaborated, Let us not forget that even Congressmen, like Acharya Kriplani, they fought the British Empire, they were still there. I remember Acharya Kriplani went to Raj Ghat and asked the police to arrest him. They didn’t of course, he was maybe 90 years old or something, but what I’m trying to say is that a large number of Congressmen were also not, in their heart of the heart, supporters of Emergency because the generation was still around that fought the British Empire, and they were deeply concerned about liberty. They had suffered at the hands of the British Empire during the Freedom Struggle. I remember the letter which JP Narayan had wrote to Mrs. Gandhi, and one sentence still haunts in my ears, and that is, ‘I’m sure the people who fought the British Empire will not take


Brewing Resistance

your Emergency lying down.’ That’s what he said! So that memory of the Freedom Struggle, among the Congressmen was still there because that generation was still alive. Those who had gone to jail, those who had suffered, and so many Congressmen gave support to the people who were opposing Emergency. It’s not as if every Congress member was working as a police agent. No, that’s not true. No. Only the Communists were working as police agents, not the Congressmen. Of course there were Communists who were supporters [of the resistance to the Emergency], … but personally, I remember I talked to Congressmen, particularly of the older generation, they were not antagonistic [to the anti-Emergency Movement] because that reminded them of the British rule and the suffering they had undergone.

But as the Emergency wore on, Kamlesh Shukla told me, a large number of police agents, intelligence agents, used to sit in the coffee house. And some of the journalists were also police informers so they would inform the police if some anti-Emergency person was there. This fellow is talking about it, is speaking out against the Emergency etc. etc. So when such people got arrested, the attendance at coffee house became thinned. It still remained a meeting a place of those who were trying to do something against the Emergency, for example, some leaflet had secretly been printed, or some news items had been cyclostyled in some office and they had been circulated, so people bring these items in bags and distribute it to somebody in coffee house, it was a convenient place for all that. So such items you would get. They would exchange hands in the coffee house. Without letting it be known to others. It was done secretly.

Among the narratives of the Socialists with whom I spoke, many point to Congress’ continued involvement in and commitment to the political deliberation in the Indian Coffee House as the key reason that the space not only remained a space of political deliberation for nearly a year after the Emergency was declared, but became more lively, reminding older Congress Party members of their participation in India’s struggle for independence.

Resistance In D. P. Tripathi’s view, the two boldest movements against the Emergency were Akali Dal’s struggle in Punjab (see also Kaur 1999: 62) and the SFI-led JNU student movement of which he was the leader. He told me, As far as the struggle against the Emergency is concerned there were two places in India where the struggle continued unabated. One, of course, was

The Coffee House Movement


Punjab, where Akali Dal was sending a jatha, a group of people, protestors, every day to protest against the Emergency. Every day there were Akali Dal leaders in parts of Punjab, processions against the Emergency. They were arrested. Some of them were released, some of them were kept in jail, but they didn’t bother. They were not cowed down, so to say, by the dictatorship. The second place, of course, was Jawaharlal Nehru University where the struggle continued.

While these struggles against the Emergency raged on, a wide range of activities were also being organised in the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place to oppose the Emergency. Each of those activities were linked to and sustained by the coffee house. Socialist resistance was spurred by strong opposition to the abolition of democracy in India and to the human rights violations of the Emergency. Communists initially supported the Emergency, but as I was told by Parasnath Chowdhary, Once Sanjay Gandhi got involved, he was openly anti-Communist and started arresting Communists and labour union members. The Communists then realised it was a mistake [to support the Emergency]. But by that time, everyone else on the left was already arrested and there was nobody to speak up for the Communists.

Parasnath Chowdhary told me that what was most reprehensible about Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship is that it was bad for India’s economic development. He explained to me that ‘even a backward economy needs democracy’, and that Indira Gandhi suspended democracy and human rights in order to enact development policies that had severe social consequences disproportionately falling upon the urban poor and working class. He explained, Urban poor and working class, they were also not very happy, because it was they who were the objects of arbitrariness. They were evicted from their houses, from their colonies, from the places where they were living, they were forced to live far away from the town, and those people, the urban poor, the working class, working in households, houses of the middle class working as maidservants or servants, they were pushed to the margins of the city and it became very inconvenient for them.

He continued, ‘Workers were also unhappy because all trade union activities ceased. They couldn’t voice their anger. They couldn’t demand higher wages. See, there was a cessation of all civil liberty, so workers were the most affected.’ As a result of Indira Gandhi’s slum clearance policies, I was told, the Gandhi family, along with some high-ranking government bureaucrats, got rich by


Brewing Resistance

developing the land on which the slums once stood, while the urban poor were relocated to resettlement colonies outside of the city that lacked running water, sanitation, transportation, hospitals, schools and places to buy food, and left unable to commute to their jobs in the city. Not only did the condition of the poor deteriorate during the Emergency, but they were also without democratic recourse. Inequality greatly increased, and the land on which the slums once stood was appropriated by developers to build upscale apartments, shopping malls and office buildings. As Madan Lal Hind puts it, ‘The journalists were angry, the Muslims were angry, lots of society was angry.’ Rajkumar Jain told me that increased inequality was the major issue that led him to resist the Emergency. He told me, Major issues was, because Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of this country, and their anti-people policies, because there was a very [great] unrest among the youth there. Because there was a discrimination among the poor and rich then. Their policy used to be pro-capitalist, pro-rich persons, and there was no law and order. All Congress persons in power, they were enjoying power like anything. And our Indira Gandhi was not doing anything, so there is an unrest going on among the youth of the country. And the Parliament you know, when the opposition is united and the protests have started. Congress was only enjoying power because it was undivided. Once they got divided and there was a threat to Indira Gandhi’s power.

He believed that because Congress was unopposed by other political parties, they could support policies that widened inequality in India, benefitting the rich. The intellectual foundations of this resistance to the Emergency came out of a rejection of Modernisation Theory and its implication that a ‘backwards economy’ is not deserving of democracy. Parasnath Chowdhary explained, White economists were preaching this view … political scientist, S. M. Lipset, he always said that a modicum of prosperity is needed for democracy. If you don’t have a modicum of prosperity, you cannot have democracy. I think all these theories were fashionable for a certain time, and then lost their utility immediately when new things came up. So, but my view has been that you can jolly well tackle hard core socio-economic problems through democracy, the more democracy, the more development and progress because consulting with people gives you a much better idea of how to tackle those problems.

The Coffee House Movement


He continued, You can tackle hard core problems of economic development if you stay democratic. I give you another example, of course it is an external example, it may not be relevant to India, you see, Southern Mediterranean Europe was the least developed part of Europe and they were all dictatorships. In Spain you had Franco, in Portugal you had Salazar, in Greece there was some dictator, but this portion of Europe was undemocratic, and if, according to those theories, you would advocate a democracy deficit for quicker development, this Europe could have been much better than the Northern or Western Europe! It didn’t happen! So this theory has no legs to stand upon. It doesn’t withstand examination.

He went on to tell me that this discussion of the relationship between democratic reversal and economic development in India was taking place in the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place during the Emergency. Of course. Many people. Those who were politically conscious people were talking about it. They said that India will go to the dogs if the dictatorship continues. And already, there were serious distortions visible, like forcing people to undergo sterilisation, forcing things on people, whatever, like raising buildings to the ground, for building up fancy buildings, or I don’t know what. All kinds of distortions had begun happening and people were getting disillusioned because, if you remember, if there is democracy, at least it is an insurance against serious degeneration of the powers that be. But if you have no democracy, the powers that be, or the people who handle power, can go to any extent to spread their fanciful ideas. And then you have no insurance. You are absolutely surrounded by their whims. Nahin (No), this discussion was very much happening during that period because many politically conscious elements were engaging in fundamental debates when the Emergency happened. Because we didn’t know that this Emergency would come to an end after 14 months, we started mentally bargaining for a much longer period because it could last several years, you don’t know!

In an underground communique written in June 1975, George Fernandes outlined several ‘action units’ of Socialist resistance to the Emergency, including units charged with producing and distributing pamphlets, units charged with launching a ‘whispering campaign’ to spread news of the resistance movement, a unit charged with designing posters, a unit to organise strikes, hartals and bandhs, and a group charged with disrupting transportation and communications, which Fernades stated was ‘the most important activity of any anti-fascist group’ (D. Sharma 1977: 142–3).


Brewing Resistance

On the night the Emergency was declared, Socialists led protests in front of Indira Gandhi’s home and at the Ram Lila grounds. By the next morning, most of the people who attended the protests had been arrested and thrown in Tihar Jail, thereby quelling public demonstrations against the Emergency. Ravindra Manchanda told me, This movement started when Mrs. Gandhi was unseated by the Allahabad High Court. Then, after a few days, we had a demonstration outside of Mrs. Gandhi’s house in 12 of June 1975. So, we were anticipating that ki she will be unseated and even the petitioner Raj Narain was hoping ki the allegations against her will be upheld. So 12th June, we didn’t have in those days these TVs and all, we came to know about it from the radio station, radio news, we immediately went to Mrs. Gandhi’s house demanding her resignation. We were outnumbered by Congress people—we were 16 young SYS people, and we were beaten up also, and we were arrested.

Even though Rammanohar Lohia had been deceased for eight years when the Emergency was instated, he still provided a key source of inspiration. Said one narrator, ‘Because of the influence of Dr. Lohia, I was not scared’ to resist the Emergency. Lalit Mohan Gautam was at the Ram Lila grounds as he had helped to organise JP’s rally, and he described to me how he evaded arrest the day after. He recounted, You see on 26th June, Emergency was declared. In fact on 25th, night of 25th was a public meeting organised by the student wing of Jayaprakash Narayan’s Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti. I was the convener of that thing at that point. So we were the organisers of a public meeting for Jayaprakash Narayan at Ram Lila Ground. It’s the main ground in the middle of the city, other side of the railway line from Connaught Place, about two kilometres from Connaught Place. This meeting went on till about 9, 9:30, 10. Some money was collected, you see, we had no other method of collection except moving those boxes, and people used to contribute. Since money was collected, we had to count it and keep it. There was a railway union employees office at Babur Road, so we used to, apart from Gandhi Peace Foundation where JP was staying, the other places were, one place which was very close to the Gandhi Peace Foundation, because if you go a little further across the rail lines it was Gandhi Peace Foundation, this side of the line was railway union office, Northern Railwaymen’s Union Office. Which was controlled by our friends, Socialists. In that office there were some cots lying there, a place to sleep. Since we were young activists, if we were late for home we’d sleep there. It was open 24-hours. There was a water supply, there were toilet facilities, everything except for eating. We had to order tea

The Coffee House Movement


from outside, but you can stay. And it was more or less open, anybody who was an activist and a little known—so in that office we had dropped that money. We were counting it and it took until around 12 o’clock. I didn’t go home that day. I said, ‘Let’s sleep here.’ So we had that chai, and we stayed there, talking. I had a motorbike and in the morning when I was going towards my house, a carpenter who was working in the house was standing out front. He stopped me. ‘Now what is it?’ I said. ‘The police are sitting there for you in the house’, he said. I was a little taken aback. Now what for they arrest karna? Me nahin patai kya hai (making an arrest? I don’t know why). So I went back [to the railway union office], and I saw the news that in the middle of the night, many people had been lifted. 25th night. So, I didn’t go out, I went underground, by underground I mean we were in the same railway union office and nobody came there. Maybe not many people knew about that place. It was in the railway employees’ colony, a quiet kind of place, we never made a nuisance there. Daytime it was an office, after office hours we used to use it courtesy of our friends who were the office bearers, so there was no problem as such. So nobody knew, there were no police. But the police went to the Gandhi Peace Foundation and arrested JP.20 If we would have been sleeping at Gandhi Peace Foundation that night we would have been arrested. Some of us were not arrested on that day, so we went underground. Two days later, some others who were not arrested one of them was Sachidanand Sinha. Do you know him?

He continued, He comes from Bihar, he was a writer. He has written many books. I mean, he was a studious fellow who always used to sit in the library, very disciplined life, he used to write on the books. What happened ki Emergency lagiya suna verghera verghera (He would go on and on about the Emergency and etc. etc.). Then another fellow, Mr. Girdhar Rathi, is a poet, is a writer, was a journalist also, was in fact in that point of time editor of a paper that was brought out by the Socialists, what was the name of that? Hauz Khas, Hauz Khas, not the one that George owns now, another building was there. Kamlesh Shukla was the editor and he was the assistant editor, Girdhar Rathi. We three four guys, we got together, thought about what to do, but of course we were a little the hiding type, we didn’t go to the main crossing, etc. We said, let’s evade arrest and something, so the leaflet was drafted that day by Sachidanand Sinha. He said, look this is the leaflet I’ve drafted. Next day we met, and we finalised it, and Mr. Rathi said, all right our printer will publish it. I still remember the title of it, ‘Defeat the Tyranny’ was the name of the leaflet.

For those who stayed out of jail, leafleting in the coffee house was their main form of protest. These underground writings were circulated as an ‘attempt to


Brewing Resistance

do what the Press was afraid to do— to collect correct news of genuine interest to the people, to put it on paper, and to circulate it as widely as possible’ (Press Institute of India 1978: 1). Coomi Kapoor recounts in her memoirs how her husband would print leaflets using a printing press that they kept in their home and circulate the leaflets at the Indian Coffee House in Connaught Place (C. Kapoor 2015: 84). Ramchandra Pradhan told me about how when he was using his home in Model Town as a hub of underground activity, George Fernandes, who often stayed there, would receive pamphlets in secret. Fernandes then enlisted the help of fellow underground Socialists to circulate them. Said Ramchandra Pradhan, ‘George was sent circulars, secretly … and we were supposed to circulate the pamphlets among friends.’ But Lalit Mohan Gautam led the charge to leaflet in the coffee house. Gautam told me, But I still remember the title [of our first pamphlet], ‘Defeat the Tyranny’. It was written in English. Sinhaji writes good English. It was printed in a press where George Fernandes’ paper, Third Front, no, what was the name? Well, that name will come to me. So it was a weekly paper, they didn’t come out with a weekly issue and instead this was printed. So, how to distribute it? We were a group of a few students who were not arrested. Jasbir Singh, he was a student activist at that point in time, he’s now based in Bangalore. And a couple more, who else was there, there was some Sikh gentleman who left politics, and another fellow, who has surprisingly disappeared. Maybe he has gone abroad and settled abroad. This boy was from Karol Bagh, and there was Surendra Shilka, a Dalit boy. Four five of us were there, where to distribute it, where to start from. The question was, where to start from. The best place was Connaught Place coffee house. The people are full of fear, there’s pin-drop silence in the coffee house, break that! So we were the adventurous types, and we thought yes, that would be a good idea, so we go and shout slogans and throw these leaflets. It would be a revolutionary thing. So that’s what we did. It was on the 28th, 29th of June. Sardarji would be knowing the exact date.

I wondered how, especially since Lalit Mohan Gautam was underground at the time, he was able to distribute leaflets in the coffee house and still manage to evade arrest. He told me, So there was a guy who joined us and he was arrested and we didn’t know his name! But he was released later on, he said, I was not one of them [narrator laughs] those who were distributing…. And he started shouting slogans! He got agitated, he stood up and our motorbike had started, the three of us sat on that. This Sardar fellow, he owned a three wheeler. He went in his autorickshaw, we went to our motorbike, we went off in

The Coffee House Movement


different directions. That was the first incident. That happened on the 28th or 29th June and right in the heart of the city and just under the nose of the power that was. So that was our first challenge to the police, we were very cautious thereafter, there were frantic searches for us. There were informers everywhere and most were trying to find us.… We went to the library only. We went and sat inside of the library. I mean, who will come here? We were sure nobody would come there. Who would look for you in the library immediately after a demonstration?

Lalit Mohan Gautam continued to make pamphlets providing a list of people who were arrested, a recap of the latest news about the Emergency, and some opinion pieces about the dictatorship. One of these pamphlets, Resistance, was among the most widely circulated and popular underground news source during the Emergency (Reddy 1977: 557). He told me about these series of pamphlets he and his friends published. Resistance was in English. In fact, the first Resistance when it came, the English four page paper in which was written who was arrested, who was kept in which jail, what happened, then some articles. Our Sardarji wrote some of the articles. I still remember he wrote a satirical article on authoritarianism called ‘School for Dictators’. Where an American asked the teacher, and it was a school for dictators and the teacher was teaching a class and an American student raised his hand and said, ‘Sir, I have a question’. ‘Yes, what is it?’ ‘Well, the problem is that people hate dictatorship in America.’ ‘Oh, no problem, what is the problem about it? Just start your movement with down with dictatorship!’ [Narrator laughs.] So, first Resistance. Then, we lost track of that English printer, then we looked for from where to get it printed. Then we found another guy, he was in jail, he was arrested later on, Ram Gopal Sachodhya, do you know him? If he’s still alive, he can be of great help to you. R. G. Sachodhya. He was a member of the council with us later on in ’77 he was a detenue, a MISA detenue because he was also underground, but he used to come out with a newspaper, which is basically circulated in the rural Delhi, Dilli di Haat [it was called] or something like that. In Hindi. So he said, I have a printer, who was in my village and we can get it printed without anybody knowing about it. But there will be no print line and nobody should know that it was me in between with the printer. The question doesn’t arise, no matter what happens, he wanted his identity protected. So, he came out with four issues of Janvaani in Hindi.21 Janvaani. So many of them were posted so that people can read, whatever addresses we could find, some from Socialist Party offices, some from Railway office, so we used to post them, some we would distribute. Around 5,000 copies only. So everybody used to know that whenever they saw me, they would always say, ‘Kya hai?’


Brewing Resistance

(What’s up?) Even teachers of JNU. Everybody would ask. Eh, what is the latest? Baraa mazaa aata tha dene mein, unko bhi lene mein bhi baraa mazaa aata tha (It was a big excitement). So, they used to be delighted that oh, I have got restricted material with me. Excitement!

He continued, Four issues came out of Janvaani. Then there was an appeal by some British Parliamentarians, a hundred of them signed a charter, Phillip Baker began a campaign, a release JP campaign in London. Around 100 members of Parliament of Britain signed a memorandum to Indira Gandhi, Shrimati Indira Gandhi Prime Minister of India, that JP should be released because of his health and age. He had started developing kidney problems. And that was the last issue, and we came out with Resistance again. And I still remember there was a huge, what is it called? Block! In printing something you made a block. At that time printing was through blocks. They’ll make a block and then put it on the machine to print. It was a traditional kind of a thing. So this huge block was with JP’s photograph and the signatures of 100 Members of Parliament. We got the original, we got a copy of that, we got the block made, and then what I did was those who were associated with the exercise, I wrote their names. I said, why should we be afraid, because I wasn’t afraid because I had to go to jail in any case, so I declared that I would go out, I offered satyagraha on the birthday of Indira Gandhi. That is 19th of November. This issue had come out in the beginning of November, the first week of November. I was living in East of Kailash with a professor, Bhagwan Datta. So when this Resistance came out, at the end of that, I gave a byline, in abbreviated form, like my name is Lalit Mohan Gautam and I signed it LMG, Bram Anand, BM, Bram Anand was private secretary to Jayaprakash Narayan for a sufficient period of time, then he joined Chandra Shekar and became the editor of a magazine called the Young Indian whose office was in Connaught Place just behind the coffee house. We roped him in, he had arranged for some funds, Chandra Shekar was in Congress though he was arrested on the first day itself since he was associated with JP, he was the link, in fact, between JP and Chandra Shekar. He was very opposed to Emergency. Then there were two guys from UNI [United News of India] one is Ramesh Arora, They are some common friends, CK Arora and Ramesh Arora, two of them. So I would write CA and RA. And there was one SA Siddiqui who was working with Indian Express, they were four journalists in fact. Bram Anand is the editor of Young Indian, SA Siddiqui is now in Lucknow, probably retired, he was a journalist with Indian Express, and two senior journalists at UNI both are probably retired by now, one is CK Arora who is based in New York now, he later became a correspondent of UNI New York and then continued there for ten years. So he and his wife got a job there, settled there, then

The Coffee House Movement

there is a child born there who had become an American citizen so they have settled. Another fellow is Ramesh Arora. He is still here. He is retired from UNI. I gave a byline beginning with my name, LMG, Bram Anand, BN, SAS, SA Siddiqui, CK Arora, CKA, Ramesh Arora, RA. And it was distributed. These fellows came to know of this in the evening that our names have been printed like this. They reached at Bhagwan’s residence at 12 o’clock at night and said, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ ‘No, you have printed and our names are there.’ And I said, ‘Nobody will know, it is for your record, you can keep it as a memory.’ Oh no, they were very angry, they fought with me. I said I have given out 1,000 copies and the rest are here with me. So they said, chalo (let’s go), and I went with them, collected the remaining copies, they sat through the whole night, thinking we will burn it, but no, you can’t burn it, so why don’t you help us in cutting this, you can’t get a press to cut it, so we sat through the night cutting out that line by hand. It was in the end, the print, like, was in the end on the final page. I didn’t touch it, I even kept one, I think I still have it in my record, there still with all the names. If they found out, we’d be arrested. If someone else were arrested police would ask, who are these fellows? And that block was thrown, you know where? From East of Kailash we all came on scooters, we all had scooters except for Bram Anand. Sometimes he used to have a car but otherwise he was a bus traveler. So they all had scooters, CK had a scooter, Ramesh had a scooter, Siddiqui used to travel with them. So they said, come, where is the block, then they took the block from me. Come and accompany us, and I said all right, they took me to Nizamuddin, have you seen Nizamuddin? Cremation ground. Just before cremation ground there was a big nala (drain), a big drain. So they stopped their scooters there and threw that block in the drain. Me itna effort lagaya isko banaye! (It took me so much effort to make it.) It took me a week for that block to be made. Because the fellow who used to make it was in Paharganj and I used to go and sit there everyday without fail. And I used to carry a half bottle of whiskey for him to force him to do it. Otherwise he would whisper, ‘I’ll be arrested, making me do all this.’ So once he would be drunk, he would work. But it took him seven days. He used to work after the press was closed. We would sleep in the press, so our work would begin at 7:30 onwards. And the work came out very well. He developed this block, that in printing, it was very clean. He did a good job. So there were two Resistance, four Janvaani, a first leaflet, ‘Defeat the Tyranny’, and then there was a leaflet on my arrest.

Ravi Nair confirmed this story saying, Lalit was a very brave guy … he was one of these nice guys. Coordinated underground activity, he was very fearless. Lalit Mohan Gautam was always doing satyagraha and he could get a police station burned in 15 minutes.



Brewing Resistance

He was the greatest. He could create an audience in 15 minutes. He was doing a lot of underground work, the sheer work that was necessary like getting printing presses organized, distribution networks, pickup points, drop-off points …

Parasnath Chowdhary also impressed upon me just how significant and brave the actions taken by Mr Gautam were for the anti-Emergency movement. He explained, Lalit Mohan Gautam, I met him very often here, at the coffee house. And he once took some handbills and he—I saw that happening when he was doing it. So, he was a daring person. He was arrested and he was put behind bars. He was a stupendous personality. He’s a great man, without fail. But I saw this happening, when he was doing it, I was there; I was an eyewitness.

Ramchandra Pradhan also thought highly of the actions of Lalit Mohan Gautam during the Emergency. He told me, Some of us went to jail, some of my friends like Lalit Mohan Gautam. They were arrested. Lalit Mohan Gautam of course, Rajkumar Jain, he was arrested, but Lalit Mohan Gautam, I remember how we discussed and collected some funds. I’ll tell you how, what is it, collected some funds for the Bihar Movement. And I had sent some money, maybe a thousand [rupees] or something total, that was big money for us at the time. So Lalit Mohan Gautam, I kept saying to Lalit Mohan Gautam, keep protesting and do what you do, I don’t know if he referred to that [when you spoke with him].

He continued, ‘I supported him, and he said, “its okay if I am arrested” .… So he protested valiantly, and that was open defiance!’ Ramchandra Pradhan also had words of praise for Rajkumar Jain, stating, ‘Rajkumar Jain was also arrested, by the police. He defied. That was a very heroic act.’ Some Socialists, however, told me that they felt that leafletting, political deliberation and other peaceful forms of protest were all too subtle, and that the Socialists needed to make more of a statement, one that would send a message worldwide. According to the narrators I spoke with, there were two main strategies of Socialist resistance to the Emergency, one of peaceful protest, led by Lalit Mohan Gautam, and another group using tactics of violence against property, which was led by George Fernandes. The Fernandes faction’s actions culminated in the Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy Case, an attempt to set bombs in several strategic locations within Delhi (Rajeshwar 2015: 80). The goal of

The Coffee House Movement


this faction of the Socialist resistance to the Emergency was solely to end dictatorial rule in India (Reddy 1977: 285). This group believed that while satyagraha and other forms of non-violent resistance were preferable, because so many Socialists were in jail, because non-violent protest depends on media coverage to impact politics, and the media was censored, satyagraha would not succeed given the political repression of the Emergency (Reddy 1977: 298, 314). Fernandes, in an underground communique, wrote, ‘It is my deep conviction that Satyagraha is still the best weapon’, but ‘no-one had proposed that the vagaries of violence should not fight against the dictatorship, nor has it been hinted at that those steeped in the techniques of non-violence should not resort to violence’ (Press Institute of India 1978: 13–14). He elaborated, After all, violence does beget violence. Mrs. Gandhi’s rule is based on violence and falsehood. True, it will finally be defeated by truth and nonviolence. But as long as it lasts, it will continue to provoke in people a violent upheaval, even if there are many among us who would consider violence as not so legitimate a way of struggle. (Press Institute of India 1978: 14)

The Fernandes faction of Socialist resistance to the Emergency had three goals: (a) to inform the public that a real and widespread opposition to the Emergency exists in India, (b) to gain sympathy abroad and (c) to organise acts of defiance aimed at bringing about the end of dictatorship in India (Reddy 1977: 343–4). I interviewed one of the main accused in the Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy Case, Kamlesh Shukla, and he told me that he along with other Socialists had planned to blow up the All India Radio Station22 and to set off bombs on Safdarjung Road near the prime minister’s residence, although (he said) at night when nobody would be on the roads or in the radio station (Henderson 1977: 140; Sinha 1977: 70–1). He explained to me the rationale for violent resistance to the Emergency, I was an activist of the Socialist Party. So we decided to do something about the Emergency and since there was the authoritarian procedures that were adopted to silence people, we thought to do something. We went and obtained dynamite, and knew some places to create noise so that…. By authoritarian means the government was trying to show that people are cooperating with it and there’s no protest, and uh, if the protestors were being arrested, put behind bars, they were of no use, because how could you have a protest without them? So when such things used to take place, somehow BBC correspondents will come to know about it and BBC will


Brewing Resistance

broadcast it. So, we tried to do something, even though it was what we considered violent. Uh, and at that time, our leader, Mr. George Fernandes, he was chairman of Indian Labor Administration that is the largest Union of Railway Workers in India. So, they and our leader announced some strike of the railwaymen that was more concerned with the demands of the railwaymen, their wages and their working conditions. It was the largest trade union, and uh, railways are the largest network in India and could have affected the government in a very serious manner. So, one of the reasons for clamping down the Emergency was given was the threat of the railway strike. And the publicists of Indira Gandhi’s government tried to propagate that Socialists, especially George Fernandes and those closest to George Fernandes were trying to disrupt railways’ movement.

Kamlesh Shukla told me that dynamite was procured from a mining site in Baroda, stolen by the miners, and given to journalists who brought it to the Patna location of Indian Coffee House where it changed hands before being brought to Delhi; this account was confirmed to me by Lalit Mohan Gautam. Mr Shukla explained further, Look there was, the government was acting as if nothing was happening, no protest was happening as if Indian people were cooperating with the government. So, what could be done, because soon there was no freedom to protest. All human rights were, under Emergency, all human rights were abolished. In fact, the Supreme Court, the infamous judgment, that the government can kill anybody, legally, and there can be no legal recourse. So, that was a very terrible situation. Things like that hadn’t even happened during the British rule! So, and even with meeting in the coffee house, exchanging news, only limited things could be done. So, what happened was that some journalist friends in Baroda who were very friendly with some mining people, people involved in mining, and with the construction boom in the cities, there was a lot of mining of stone, mining, etc., going on in the cities. So, these building suppliers in Baroda were using dynamite to cut the stone. And they were friends with the journalists who were also Socialist Party workers, so they said that we can use these dynamite sticks also, to create some noise. So, George Fernandes had gone there also. Then, when the contact was established and a network was created, then they started sending these dynamite sticks to various places, like in Delhi. It was sent to Bihar, to Bengal, to somewhere or wherever. And then some material was being printed, you know Tamil Nadu had a DMK government then, which was opposed to the Congress Government and one of the DMK leaders had, was editing and publishing, a daily newspaper, he had a large press. So, large material was being printed there, and then through Railway Union sources would be brought to Delhi, or brought to Bombay

The Coffee House Movement


or brought to other places, and then these will get distributed. Coffee house used to be one of the distribution points of such material. We would take this bike there and the bike will be handed over to someone to Patna. So that is how something could be organised to let the world know that the Indian people were protesting against the Emergency, against the taking away of the human rights, against the right to live.

However, Kamlesh Shukla was a bit cagey when I pressed him for details on the Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy. The following is the transcript of the conversation I had with him about his plan to use dynamite to blow up strategic targets in Delhi: K. P.: Once you got the dynamite, what was the plan? What were you going to do with it? K. S.: Just to create noise. K. P.: Did you have a location in mind? K. S.: No, Mrs Gandhi accused us, that we were trying to blow up railway lines. This we never did. We were only trying to create some noise in say the roadside, some roads. K. P.: I n Delhi itself ? K. S.: O utside too. And taking care that nobody gets harmed. Nobody gets harmed. So many times it so happened ki that when the dynamite exploded, since we were taking so much care not to harm anybody it never became news. Only if somebody gets harmed, then it will become news [narrator laughs]. But people, you know there was some weak link in the chain that got arrested and named all the names they knew who were part of the network, and then most of the people got arrested, even George Fernandes got arrested and it became a celebrated case. At that time I didn’t know what sentence I would get, maybe life sentence. But somehow, Mrs Gandhi held election in 1977, March 1977, and she was badly defeated so a new government was formed under Morarji Desai and one of the first things Morarji Desai did was to issue orders for our release. So the day the Desai government was formed, we were out. K. P.: So, I heard from some of the other people we talked to that All India Radio station was at some point a potential target? Is that accurate? K. S.: That is true. Because that would have created more noise. That would have become world news, the BBC, the Japanese, everyone would have reported it. K. P.: W hy didn’t it happen? I agree, it would have been a great target, but why didn’t it come to fruition? K. S.: W hat to say, there was lots of security there, and this could have been carried out only with a battalion of armed men. Single people could


Brewing Resistance

not have done it. You know, the whole place is wired, and uh, armies of security men. K. P.: Did you consider any other places or was this the only such place? K. S.: We considered to blast some roads. So, tried to do it, with little success. K. P.: Which roads? K. S.: [Narrator laughs] Why do you want to know? Safdarjung Road. Not far from Mrs Gandhi’s residence.

Ravi Nair confirmed to me that Kamlesh Shukla was storing dynamite in his home and told me that Nair was supposed to have been involved in the Baroda Dynamite conspiracy, but the dynamite never reached him. Mr Nair said, We had a slogan that said, maal hani haan, praan hani nahin. We can damage public property but must not injure any life. I was given the job of bringing electric pylons to Delhi coming from Agra. Electric current. But the dynamite never reached me. George got me involved, I was one of the few people he asked for specifically. Because he was my friend at that time. He had already seen my work in the railway union, how I had organised.

The safe house where Kamlesh Shukla stayed during the Emergency was run by another one of the men I interviewed, Ramchandra Pradhan from Bihar. Lalit Mohan Gautam went to hide out there as well, and the two of them also provided some perspective on the Baroda Dynamite Case. The bed in the safe house that Lalit Mohan Gautam had been sleeping on was extremely uncomfortable, and when he went to look and see why, he realised that he had been sleeping on the sticks of dynamite. He told me that that year, the monsoon rains were heavier than usual, and as a result, most of the sticks were waterlogged. He told the story of how he came to stay with Kamlesh Shukla and how he learned of the plan to blow up the All India Radio Station: But there is an interesting incident, it was in the second month of Emergency. It was somewhere in July, a friend of mine, Kamlesh Shukla, he was editor of George Fernandes’ paper, he used to live in Safdarjung Development Area, no, Green Park, Green Park, Green Park Extension, further ahead than Green Park…. Yes, Safdarjung Development Area, he used to live there. In a good house, it’s a good colony, on the third floor. There was another fellow who was underground from UP, but he later on joined Congress. We came across each other in Bengali Market. He said, where are you staying, and what are you doing? And I told him everything about how I was passing out pamphlets and everything. By that time hundreds had come out. He said, I am staying at Kamlesh Shukla’s place.

The Coffee House Movement


And I said, ‘Maane (You mean) Kamlesh Shukla has not been arrested yet?’ He said, ‘No’. I said, ‘Is it a safe place?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Okay, show me,’ I said, and we went there in the evening. So Kamlesh said, ‘Why don’t you sleep here itself ?’ I said, ‘All right’. So we had food and we slept. There was a cot, a solid cot, takhat hai to ispe so jaaiye (this is a board, sleep on it). In the morning I got up, I said ki bhai, ye kaisa takhat hai (that, ‘brother, what sort of a board is it’)? Mene kholkar dekha to sticks vagairah theey, mene socha koi material hoga (I opened to see sticks etc. were there. I thought it must be some material). Then I asked, ‘What is this? Aapne raat ko sula diya tha mujhe (You had asked me to sleep [on this]) though it was uncomfortable.’ Then he said, ‘Dynamite hai. These are dynamite sticks.’ Mene kaha, ye kya hai? (I asked, what is this?) He said, ‘Use karni hai’ ([I/we have to] use it). Mene kaha ye kahan se use ho jayengi? (I said, how will you be able to use this?) Mene kaha (I said), it can’t be used. It can’t be used unless, unless ye jo sticks hain, phategi nahin (these sticks won’t blast), it will not explode. Dynamite sticks need to be filled in a hole and the hole must be airtight. Then only it will explode. He said, ‘No-no, dynamite is a dynamite.’ I said no-no, what are you talking! I had known these in quarries, kyunki hamara, kyunki hamara (because our, because our) mining quarries, mining stones. I had seen them in Lakadpur working everyday. they used to clear it, they used to shout, at the top of their voice, get out from the hill, get out from the hill, because they would start the explosions. In order to quarry the stone. Dynamite sticks on their own, I said, phir mene kaha (then I said) George has fooled you, they can’t explode on their own, they can’t be exploded. If you light them, they will just burn like any other material! He said, no, no, I have located a place, All India Radio. All India Radio ki dewaar me (in the wall) there is a hole. Today, we will insert these sticks there, and make an explosion. I said, ‘Are you mad? It will not explode there. Unless it is a hole which is airtight, it won’t explode!’ He said, ‘Nono, you associate with me in this.’ I said, ‘No man, I am not going to take part in this foolish exercise.’ I said, ‘No, no, I don’t want to be associated with this, man.’

Lalit Mohan Gautam had been recruited by Kamlesh Shukla to participate in blowing up the All-India Radio Station, but he declined, not because he was ideologically opposed to violent resistance, but because he thought the plan was flawed (Henderson 1977: 147). He explained, This experiment of exploding was not carried out anyway. Though it was named as the Baroda Dynamite Case, but actually no dynamite had been blasted anywhere, nowhere. The only possibility was me doing it, at All India Radio, but I declined very early on. There was no point in getting it exploded, maane (I mean) at the most, if I had attempted it, it will hurt me more than the wall. But it would not have exploded, I was very sure of it.


Brewing Resistance

I have seen umpteen number of times how dynamite is exploded! It’s not an easy exercise. First the holes are created, then the dynamite is pushed in and they even use hammers to push it in. If it can explode without anything, they wouldn’t use hammers to make it explode! And then, when it is filled into that, then they cover the hole, and take out this little fuse, which they connect to the break fuse. That’s how these series of explosions take place. So unless and until this hole is water tight, it will not explode. You close it and make it water tight, if you cement it in it can explode, but with an open wall it cannot explode at all! It would have burned like a matchstick! I never got convinced, and I think he never attempted it also. He can’t run. I could do it and I could run also, but I will not do it. Privthi Singh was another fellow during the Emergency, and I don’t think he was arrested. And there was another, George may not have disclosed his name, but there were others who were arrested who hadn’t even seen dynamite sticks! Barring two persons which I know had seen and known about the dynamite sticks is, Kamlesh, who made me sleep on them, and other fellow was Privthi Singh, an MLC from Bihar, and I’m not sure whether he was an accused in the Dynamite Case or not. But this is subject to confirmation.

According to Ramchandra Pradhan, he believed that providing a safe house for those who went underground along with support for those arrested was his main contribution to the resistance to the Emergency. He was from Bihar and single, so he told his neighbours and the police that he kept an open house for his male relatives who were coming to Delhi from Bihar for work. He told me of a close call he once had with the police when he was harbouring two airplane hijackers from Nepal. He told me, Haan (Yes), that is it. So, I used to, then another thing which I want to let you know, in Nepal there was a hijacking of the plane. I remember actually, and two boys were in contact, why I am telling you? Surendra Mohan was in jail, he sent to me a message that these two boys have no place to escape, can they stay with you? Mind you, there is Emergency here, and they were declared criminals from Nepal. I don’t know if they were criminals or not criminals, but they were involved in the abducting of the plane. Since I was staying alone in my flat, it was a small flat, I said okay, let them stay. They used to stay, they stayed with me more than 8–9 months. And something happened, I tell you, one of our friends, of course he’s dead now, Vinodanand Nath Singh, he was teaching at Saraswati College, he came to my house because he was going to Bihar and he left his flat. He left everything with me, because he was going to Bihar—he was from Jabalpur—to be involved in the protest [the Bihar Movement]. But he was arrested here in Delhi. Then the police came to my house, and these two boys were also there, remember? They came because he had left his clothes

The Coffee House Movement


with me. So, they asked, ‘What things you have?’ I said that the things are in my flat. So the police came, and said, ‘Do you have the clothes?’ And I said, ‘He’s my friend, yes, he had left his clothes at my house.’ Then they asked, ‘Who are these two boys?’ I said, ‘They are my relations and they are staying with me.’ Somehow they didn’t get suspicious, otherwise, that was a big crime. I could have been really hauled out. But somehow or another, the situation did not go out of control. Perhaps the policemen were also thinking that we are professors. That was also an extra point in our favour. We were just professors, we were not criminals.

Ramchandra Pradhan said that he had to disassociate himself from the more visible protests in which his fellow Socialists were partaking in order to maintain a certain image for neighbours and the police. Parasnath Chowdhary also participated in anti-Emergency efforts by maintaining a certain image for neighbours and police but providing shelter for those who went underground. He told me, See I was staying with this journalist friend of mine. He was also involved in underground activities, I was also assisting him, but not much. I was, we were, perhaps, under surveillance because some members were involved in the Dynamite case, you know that case.… So, they used to come to us, so we took extra care to behave more conventionally. We didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardise their activities. So, we had to be extra careful so we did not do much, but, so, for example, we hosted them for dinner, we kept them during the night, … [even] the Dynamite Case members. [They] often came to us. We were staying in a neighbourhood which was about 15 kilometres away from here [Mohan Singh Place], and we had a small house, and we used to discuss things together with him. But he never told us, he never betrayed his secrets, he never told us that, and neither did we ask him, that he was involved in this, that he was lurking around and coordinating things. So, but you’ve met him. Then there were some other people that you’ve met, for example, Lalit Mohan Gautam, he was a very important member of our party. And he was also engaged in that, and I used to, I met him a couple of times. And later he was arrested … but we did not organise anything serious or substantial on our own.

Kamlesh Shukla was eventually apprehended by police while staying in this safe house, and Ramchandra Pradhan raised money for his defence and, in the face of repeated police threats, attended the trial every day to show his support. He was the only witness to that trial. He told me that at the beginning of the trial, there were only 2–3 people used to visit in the court. I was one of them. Sachidanand Sinha was one of them. There were few people, very few.


Brewing Resistance

I was there. I remember one incident where…. Because we had to support our friends. George Fernandes was also a friend. Kamlesh Shukla was a friend. Most of them were. There was an ABVP23 there who was, of course, not my friend. But he was one of them [the accused]. Kamlesh will tell you about him. I remember only one thing with certainty still. It haunts me to this day. George Fernandes said, ‘It is rarely given to a man to lead two revolutions’, and he said, ‘I am one of them’. Because he had protested during INA Trial24 also.

Ramchandra Pradhan continued, So we used to go [to the court], and there was one small incident. One of our friends, he was a member of Bihar Legislative Council, he had been arrested and somehow or another, because the police tortured [him], he became a kind of a witness to the cause. So, George asked me, why don’t you talk to him, he will come with you in the court. So I went to him, and he said — and we were good friends — ‘what you are doing?’ Then he said, uh, ‘I can’t do anything’. Now, he was so scared, maybe the police had told him, ‘your children will be killed,’ or whatever it might be. … So, on every occasion that Kamlesh had been brought to the court I was going [alone]. So, on one of those days, a police officer came to me, I remember. He was from Patna, in my home state. So he took me aside, and told me, ‘don’t come to the trial any longer, because we have been discussing, and you will be arrested’. And because he was from Patna maybe, from the area I come from, so he said, ‘I am giving you this information’. I told him, ‘I don’t want to be arrested’, I didn’t want to be arrested, ‘but I cannot leave my friends in the lurch. I will have to come. I will come! If I’m arrested, I’m arrested, I can’t do anything else. Because I cannot— how I can I face my whole life if I think because of my fear of arrest, you know, I have forsaken my friends?’ So, I said, ‘I will come. If you can prevent my arrest, if you are interested, do that. If you can’t,’ well, I didn’t finish that sentence. I said, ‘if you can prevent it, okay.’ Who wants to go to jail? I don’t want to, but I will definitely come [to the trial].

When I asked whether Socialist resistance during the Emergency contributed to the restoration of democracy in India, Parasnath Chowdhary replied, Maybe, because for example, this George Fernandes dynamite case. He wanted to overthrow the government by violent means and then the government was known to this very well. There were intelligence reports that the movement had gathered momentum. This violent movement. And it was being led by a Socialist leader. Socialist leaders had a very important contribution to whatever was happening. You cannot dismiss their contributions. They played a very important role. Firstly, in taking the JP Movement to newer heights, and secondly in opposing Mrs. Gandhi’s

The Coffee House Movement


dictatorship. They were in the forefront. A major portion was operating underground and trying to do things by peaceful means, and the other, George Fernandes, was leading a violent part of the movement. So there was combined effort on the Socialist side, they were very much there and they were also the most vocal. They always came overground, many of them, like Lalit Mohan Gautam. And this was a great defiance. Everybody was so scared, nobody would ever—if a policeman came on the scene, everybody would start pissing in his pants. And now this man, Lalit Mohan Gautam, comes and takes handbills and goes and throws them and defies the dictatorship. This was major. And there were many Socialists who were ready for any action. If Mrs. Gandhi had continued with her Emergency, she would have met with a very bad fate. She couldn’t have done it for long, that much I know. The whole scene, Socialists were a very important element. We cannot dismiss that. They were very active in raising awareness.

The Ramchandra Pradhan said something similar, that whether it was George Fernandes and his group through armed rebellion—the Baroda Dynamite Case—or through protests, like Lalit Mohan Gautam, it was, it was, there was no doubt about it, that as a group, from all the political groups, the Indian Socialists, they stood out as the defender of human liberty.

For other Socialists, protest took the forms recognisable as weapons of the weak (Scott 1985). And while this bundle of social protest tactics are so-called weapons of the weak, during the Emergency, these actions required just as much bravery as did violence against property. Ramchandra Pradhan puts it in perspective, So, basically, that was the time when even saying no to Emergency was an action. Looking back, it looks like nothing, but in that atmosphere, saying no, being associated with the people, meant facing arrest. Working among the people, saying the Emergency is no good, circulating propaganda and underground literature, it was a big thing! It was a big thing.

One of the journalists I interviewed, for example, was a member of the National Union of Journalists; he informed me that in one of their meetings, it was proposed that the National Union of Journalists pass a resolution in support of Indira Gandhi’s 20-point plan. The journalist stood up at the meeting and gave a lengthy speech explaining that the 20-point plan should not be supported by the union, but it should not be condemned either. Everyone in the room gasped, because this comment would surely lead to his arrest (Devasahayam 2012: 33–4; Nayar 1977: 134). Ramchandra Pradhan also voiced concerns


Brewing Resistance

about the Emergency through the college teachers’ organisation. He recounted that ‘in Ramdas College in the meetings, one of, some of, apart from Rajkumar Jain, some friends from RSS were also arrested and we tried to organise that they should be supported by the teachers’ organisation. So that was another area where we were active’. He had tried to pass a resolution through the teachers’ organisation to condemn the arrest and illegal detention of Delhi University professors during the Emergency. He continued, I remember when some people opposed it. Evidently there were some Congressmen, and members of the RSS who were very scared at one stage. They [the RSS] had often—they had gone to jail, I’m not denying that— but they were scared that their organisation should not be destroyed. Because they were more concerned about their organisation.… Among the teachers, there were, uh, well, there were Communists also. More than 40–45 of teachers of all hue, of all colour, were arrested.… Socialists, Communists, RSS.

Madan Lal Hind, when going to visit a friend who was faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University, was repeatedly told not to wear a kurta-pyjama on campus because it could lead to the arrest of both (B. Chandra 2003: 160; Nayar 1977: 142; Sahasrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 281). The khadi kurta-pyjama (or khadi kurta-dhoti) was the unofficial uniform of left-leaning regulars at the Indian Coffee House, in emulation of how Rammanohar Lohia would dress while spending time at the Indian Coffee House (I. Kelkar 2010: 6). Because wearing a khadi kurta had left-leaning associations and associations to the Indian Coffee House, I was told that simply wearing this attire around Delhi during the Emergency could lead to the wearer’s detention by police. While most men, I was told, would not take chances and began wearing a shirt and pants instead of a kurta-pyjama, some of the narrators continued to wear their khadi kurta-pyjama to this day in protest of the Emergency and in support for the Socialist cause. Parasnath Chowdhary told me that part of his role in the anti-Emergency movement was to carry letters. He recounted, ‘I also did something, I carried some letters, letters from one person to another, to send those letters to foreign lands. Some important people. But that was very seldom because you could easily get caught’, because the police were reading mail, ‘reading mail, only if you are suspicious. Police was very overactive during that period and they had learnt the ways of controlling things’. Word play and spreading gossip was an important part of building morale for the underground movement. Kamlesh Shukla explained,

The Coffee House Movement


But because of the presence of intelligence agents in the coffee house, not much could be discussed openly. So some sort of codes, lingo, was there. We changed the names of the leaders. If we were talking about George Fernandes we would say John. If we were talking about Jayaprakash Narayan, we will not say JP, we would say Sant. So, some oblique ways of referring to these leaders were found.

Ramchandra Pradhan also told me that word play and nicknames were used as a joking way to build morale. He recounted that if ‘Sanjay Gandhi had come up [in conversation], he was a SOD, eh? SOD, Son of Dictator … SOD, Ess, Oh, Dee, SOD, Ess Oh Dee.’ In underground Socialist communiques, Indira Gandhi was commonly referred to as MAD for Madam Dictator, and Sanjay Gandhi was referred to as SOD (D. Sharma 1977: 75–6). He continued by explaining the importance of gossip for morale building in the movement, I don’t know how much it was true, but we used to spread all this, just to gossip. But here was a man who was defiant. I remember I used to whisper that when George was arrested, George was arrested in Calcutta, and I don’t know how far it is true, but when he was being interrogated, he said, ‘I will talk only to Mrs. Gandhi. To nobody else.’ You know, that kind of thing, whether true or not. But what I’m trying to say is that we used to spread a lot of, you know, whether it was a rumour or facts, we don’t know. We don’t know. Just to show that there are people who are, people who are, willing to defy the Emergency. We are not willing to bend before this government. We would pick up different stories from different parts of the country, from different individuals, I don’t know if it was half-truth or full truth or whichever. We didn’t care. Our idea was spread the fact that people are defiant. They are not willing to surrender, that’s all. We were not concerned with whether it actually happened or not.

While this genre of gossip may seem insignificant, it was critical for maintaining morale for the underground movement. Yashwant Sinha added that the importance of coffee house gossip was not solely used to build morale for the resistance movement but also to spread news to the average citizen in the absence of other sources of information.

Going Underground Ravi Nair told me about his time underground in Delhi, saying, They were looking for me and I disappeared and I would not let anybody know where I stayed. I never stayed more than two nights in one place.


Brewing Resistance

I would never meet you face to face. I would ask you to come to a building, stand in line and send another student to see if you were being watched or if you had already been apprehended and the police had sent you to pick me up. [If it was all clear] then I would have the student go and say [to the person], ‘cross the road and come and meet me over here,’ after having watched for fifteen minutes … but the other Socialists who were underground told me I should stay out as much as possible organising. And that is how I got arrested.

To evade arrest in Delhi, some Socialists would travel east through Uttar Pradesh, often stopping in Lucknow and Allahabad, then travelling to Patna, and from there to Calcutta. Because most of the state capacity of West Bengal was spent quelling Naxalite uprisings, Socialists believed that they were less likely to be arrested in Calcutta than if they stayed in Delhi. The Indian Coffee House locations in Allahabad, Lucknow and Patna were important resources for those who went underground (for more on the Lucknow location of Indian Coffee House see also P. Kapoor 2012). Regulars in Patna, I was told, would introduce underground Socialists to a network of Muslim clerics who would allow Socialists to sleep in Patna’s mosques and madrassas until they were able to make safe travel arrangements to Calcutta. Lalit Mohan Gautam described to me in detail his time spent underground. He recounted, I was living elsewhere away from my family for some time. [In Delhi] I lived in Kamla Nagar, I lived in Prem Nagar, I lived in East of Kailash. For a day or two I lived in some villages, Mayapuri. And then there was an Ashram, where some fellow must have died. I have not been there for a long time. Pankha Rd., have you heard of this? It was a remote area at that time, that whole area was dark. There used to be a bus, a double decker, which used to go from here to Utam Nagar. Tilak Nagar se agey hai kya? (Is it ahead of Tilak Nagar or what?) That used to be its last stop. I used to walk for two kilometres in pitch dark! There was road but there was no street light. In that Ashram, Sudhir Sham Rai, there was another fellow, that other fellow helped us with some printing materials, this fellow, Sudhir Sham Rai. Sudhir Sham Rai, I don’t know if he’s still alive, maybe he’s alive, maybe not, he was also in jail for some time under Defence of India Rules. Sudhir Sham Rai used to live somewhere in Rajouri Garden. This fellow was tied to an Ashram. There was a Sadhu who had built an Ashram outside of Delhi, on the outskirts. This fellow, he never liked me, the owner of that Ashram. ‘Eh! you’re doing something fishy in my Ashram!’ he would say to me. I’d say, ‘I just come and sleep here, I have no place to live.’ I was young, fairly young, I was early 24, 23, I had just passed

The Coffee House Movement


Law, so, I had done my graduation in Law, so I was 23, 23 and a half, at the most, 24. I had no place to live, nowhere to go, I said, ‘I can be your watchman at night.’ But the best thing was, this fellow, once he would fall asleep, he would not get up until six in the morning. The good thing about him was this. So we would wait, both of us, till he goes to sleep, then we used to use his press. He used to publish some material, religious material, just photographs and things like that. He had a small press, it was just one machine. So along with this fellow Sudhir Sham Rai, I used to work. This fellow also had a weakness for daru (liquor). So I would carry a half a bottle every day from Connaught Place, and reach the Ashram, where the Sadhu will insist, ‘have food with me’, so we would have a little food with him, and then he would go to sleep and we would drink slowly and then work in his press. So that’s how some leaflets, especially the last one, came up there.

But Lalit Mohan Gautam also travelled outside of Delhi when he was underground, ‘When I was underground, I went to some places. Some places in UP. Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur. In the same belt. Mathura, Agra, Aligarh. Then I went to Patna.’ He had left Delhi in order to distribute his pamphlets in other cities. He explained, I was carrying these papers with me, the material, whatever was printed. So one bag was full of this material, one had my clothes, there were two bags. Black bags. I still have them, well, no, I may not be having them now.… [I was en route to Calcutta where] there was a meeting of writers and some fellows who were opposed to the Emergency, and they had a drinking session with me, and then they recited some revolutionary poems, and then I distributed these papers to them.

D. P. Tripathi also went east when he was underground for about four and a half months. He went to Lucknow, Allahabad, Benares and then Patna, organising for the resistance movement. He told me, ‘Lucknow, Allahabad, Benares, Patna, in all these places there used to be strong opposition to the government of the day and there also we organised different modes of protest. So like this, we organised.’ He told me how the network of coffee houses were important to this time spent organising underground, I went to Allahabad coffee house, and I went to Patna coffee house. These were the usual coffee houses where people used to meet. Social activists, writers, poets, all those, even journalists who were active used to meet in the coffeehouses. That used to be the tradition, that we meet at five in the evening ’til seven in the evening discussing various issues. And that kind of practice, helped, initially, in organising the anti-Emergency protests.


Brewing Resistance

Lalit Mohan Gautam spent about four months underground in Patna. ‘When I was in Patna, I went to coffee house even during when I was underground.’ He recounted to me his experience being underground in Patna, When I went to Bihar, that year floods had come, in Patna. 1975. June was the Emergency, and in July and August, floods came. George had sent these sticks, these dynamite sticks, to a Socialist MLC, he was a member of the legislative council. Revati Singh. When I was underground, I was sleeping in a Madrasa in Patna. This Madrasa was run by some Muslim seminaries, I mean, something like that, clerics. In the daytime, they used to have school, in the night I would go there and sleep. It was a children’s Madrasa. I said, no problem, I’ll put my bag anywhere, I was only carrying a bag anyway. In the evening this fellow came to me, in the evening, and said, Kehta hai, ‘mujhe aapse baat karni hai.’ Maine kahaa bataiye? (He said, ‘I want to talk to you’. But what do you want to say?) Why do you want to talk me?’ I said. Kehta hai, nahin-nahin (He said, ‘No, no’), I want to talk to you, and he took me away. Kehta hai (He said that) George had sent me batteries. And with those batteries, when this flood came, saaraa masala un batteriyon ka nikal gaya (all the chemicals in those batteries leaked out). But I didn’t know at the time that it was for a bomb. George had sent materials, saying we are going to establish a radio station, for that, I am sending you some batteries. In fact, George’s idea was to take them further to Calcutta, which he could not further take it. He was arrested when he was underground in Calcutta at that point in time. Later on, I came to know that when he was in Calcutta, I was also in Calcutta. So it was before that, because I had gone to Calcutta via Patna. So when I was in Patna, this Revati Singh came to me and said that George had sent some batteries for the radio station, and during floods, everything has come out and they are useless now, all the batteries have gone bad, if you come across him, please tell him that. Maane, if I come across him, I will tell him that, okay, I may meet him, there’s a chance. There’s a chance meeting with you, there’s a chance meeting with him. But this fellow didn’t know that it was for a bomb.

Jail Most of the Socialist narrators spent time in jail during the Emergency. They recounted to me their arrest and their experiences in Tihar Jail (the maximum security prison run by the National Capital Territory of Delhi). The act of getting arrested was often made into a political statement. As Ravi Nair told me, ‘The point was not to go to jail quietly, but to make a ruckus. Socialists

The Coffee House Movement


were schooled in that.’ By creating a scene, it would raise public awareness of the arrests of dissenters in a context where the press was barred from covering the arrests of those engaged in the resistance movement. Once in Tihar, political prisoners found abysmal conditions. Cells were cramped and sanitary facilities were non-existent, but Socialists, Communists and Naxalites came together despite their differences to agitate for better conditions, shout slogans, and organise reading groups to discuss Marx’s Capital. RSS members had a more difficult time in Tihar, and instead of socialising with the Socialists, Communists and Naxalites, RSS members kept to themselves and were more cooperative with the jailers. At the first opportunity, RSS members wrote public apology letters and were released from jail, while the Socialists, Communists and Naxalites refused to apologise for their participation in the anti-Emergency movement and, therefore, many remained in jail until the Emergency was lifted. Some of the Socialist leaders were transferred to jails in Haryana or Uttar Pradesh. Those transferred outside of Delhi found it much harder to do their time. They were separated from family, from friends, and were more likely to have been placed in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time. Rajkumar Jain explained that there was no legal recourse for MISA detainees during the Emergency. He said, ‘You know what happened? I was arrested under Emergency for 19 months. Seven months, I was in prison under MISA. Maintenance of Internal Security Act. That was under Emergency. No bail, no appeal, nothing, just you are under arrest, preventive measure.’ He continued, describing the conditions in jail, The sanitary condition was very bad. [It was a cell] for ten people, and we were not less than 25–30 people [in the cell]. There was no place in jail, very crowded. And those who were under detention, their number was too high. And there was no arrangement for jail so like cattle, we were put into the jail. Sanitation condition was very bad.

Lalit Mohan Gautam echoed these experiences in jail, 19th November, or 20th November rather, 21st November onwards, I was in Tihar. Two days I was kept apart. It was very haphazard and unorganised in the beginning. Later on, slowly, slowly, people became organised. Everything became smooth. Everyday tiffs with the jail staff made them concede demands. So it was a more comfortable stay thereafter. Initially, it was not very comfortable. I mean, initially it was very haphazard, disorganised, mess would not work properly, food was not made regularly, water supply was erratic, too many people in one cell, only a couple of


Brewing Resistance

toilets, and things like that. There were long lines standing in queue for the toilet, overcrowding, no facilities or things like fans, etc., we’d sleep on the floor. But later on, after say six months, five, six months, continuous fighting with the jailers, when we Socialists went in, later on, one by one, we started fighting with the jail staff. We’d say, ‘provide us this, provide us that, we must have a cot!’ So the wooden cots were brought in, everything came, slowly and slowly.

For D. P. Tripathi, During this entire period the most important thing was organising, even when I was underground for about four and a half months, and then even when I was arrested. From jail also I used to organise different movements and meet people when I was in hospital or in the courts. In jail, you could meet one person a week, one visitor was allowed. But in hospital or in court you could meet many people and we used to discuss various strategies for the protests against the Emergency.… After 3–4 months the situation eased in jail when political prisoners were allowed to meet. In certain jails there were various protest movements inside the jails. We were given the rights of political prisoners, we were not treated as ordinary convicts. There, the different groups started meeting and there things became easier to organise outside also. It worked because those people who used to come and meet us in jail, we gave various letters, resolutions, statements, we circulated outside. Then we work out, as it happens, in every protest movement against dictatorship you study, you work out your new modes of communications. How you send your messages, how you send your resolutions not necessarily you send all your messages through people who meet you when you go to court. Sometimes through policemen also. There were were some policemen who were sympathetic who would post your letters. So that was how people could communicate without being in the eye of the police. So that way, as I said, we could circulate communications.

Rajkumar Jain explained to me how different groups came together while in jail to agitate for better conditions, Communists were with us, Railway Employees, other groups were with us. The BJP fellows though, they were subdued. They were under a shock, a constant shock, and they were not relishing it, they had no habit of going to jail in fact. No previous experience of going to jail. We had been in and out of the jail earlier also. For a couple of days, seven days, five days, so we had an experience of jail life and how to manage it. These fellows were probably thinking that we did not vie for this, that we were not a candidate for this. If we knew this was going to come then we would not have done it. They would not have participated in the movement. If a choice was

The Coffee House Movement


given to them beforehand, that jail was a definite thing, they would not have done it. They may go in now, but not at that point in time. It was a shock to them. An ultimate shock, a family shock, and then there were family pressures, their families also were not used to all this. So, they were not really bargaining types or fighting types. They were quiet types, they could be subdued easily.

Rajkumar Jain continued, But inside jail, there was no restriction on communication. Haan, there used to be alag (separate) compartments so one compartment people were not allowed to talk to another compartment people. But in one compartment, people, detenues, they used to talk. Only thing I would like to bring to your attention, in jail during Emergency, there were two types of people in the jail. Rather, say, three four type of people, four type of people. One, Socialist, then the BJP, that time it was the Jan Sangh. Third, some old Congress people, Gandhian, old Congress, those who had formed their party against Indira [Congress(O)]. And fourth, one are those who are not related to any political party but they were anti-government, but they were very few. There were four groups at that time. In jail, there was lot of tussle between Socialists and Jan Sanghis. Clash was going on on the basis of ideological differences, and unfortunately, Socialists were determined to fight like anything. They were not demoralised, they said we will fight like anything. And these Jan Sanghis, now these BJP people, they somehow wanted to come out from the prison. And they used to make so many compromises.

He added, Later on, you know what they used to say, the BJP people? It was our tactic to come out of the prison. That is wrong! They were afraid, they wanted to come out, but it was not a tactic. Anyway, what they used to do in the jail, all Socialists used to shout slogans in the jail against Indira Gandhi. You know what they used to say, these BJP people? ‘Don’t shout! Because the police sipahi (constable) is spying, he is there.’ So they [RSS] will be making complaint. So that was a clash among Socialists and BJP.

D. P. Tripathi recounted his interactions with ABVP student leader Arun Jailtley while in jail. He told me that most of the other detenues whom he associated with were radicals, left wingers, Marxists, Socialists, not with the RSS and ABVP, their student organisation. But these things we discussed with very important leaders. Like all the leaders who became very important in the


Brewing Resistance

Janata Party … they were my cell mates and we used to discuss with them. Arun Jaitley, who was president of Delhi University Students’ Union, I was President of JNU Students’ Union, we were in jail together. He was arrested the first day [of the Emergency] and I went underground. I was arrested after nearly four and a half months. But then when we were in jail together we used to discuss, work out strategies, and send common messages. These are the people who should meet and we would send telephone numbers, addresses, so people could meet incognito.… So different parties, we used to meet, we used to discuss and work out details.

Arun Jaitley and D. P. Tripathi worked together to continue organising the student movement from behind bars. When asked why a SFI student leader would collaborate with an ABVP student leader, Tripathi explained, See there was a common cause, that was to oppose the Emergency. That was the basic issue. Once you had a common cause the ideological differences didn’t matter, they weren’t decisive. What mattered was, what was your target, your aim, or objective. The objective was to oppose the Emergency, therefore we all cooperated.

But Prabir Purkayastha told me that these connections forged in the heat of the moment did not endure. He said, ‘Jail is a peculiar place.… They say jail friendships only last until the gates of the jail. And that’s not a wrong statement.’ Many of the close friendships formed across party lines in jail did not endure when political prisoners were released. Rajkumar Jain told me that jailers would punish detenues for voicing opposition to the Emergency while in jail. When I asked him if he was allowed to write letters to his family while he was incarcerated, he responded, Haan, but it was under the censorship. Whatever letters we would write, they would all be read as they went through the jail and there they would censor them. There was no freedom. Secondly, you know what we used to do in jail? Sanjay Gandhi’s people were very active during that period. All goons—gundas—goons they, he was surrounded by them. You know they used to take revenge also, in the local area. Suppose I shout slogans in the prison, I protest against the jail authorities, so they used to punish. How they used to punish? They used to transfer detainees from Delhi to a very remote place. I belong to Dilli, I was in Dilli prison, but I was transferred to Hisar Jail in Haryana. And that time time, the the Chief Minister, Bansi Lal, of that state was a right hand man of Sanjay Gandhi. He was a cruel Chief Minister. He used to say, ‘Send all notorious people to my state, my prison. I will set them right’. You understand? So we three people were picked up by them and were sent to the Hisar Jail. So all alienation from

The Coffee House Movement


Dilli and family, and there were lot of restrictions. But what I find there is all depends on your training, how you have been known, no Socialist was demoralised. No, we used to enjoy! And we were very good fighters to the last.

He added, ‘Before going to jail during Emergency, more than, say, rather, sixty times, I had been arrested. So my training was also already there. Jail was a second home for me so why be afraid?’ Ravi Nair told me that Rajkumar Jain was a source of inspiration for detained Socialists, ‘Rajkumar Jain was very brave, though he was arrested almost immediately. He was a pillar of strength for our movement in jail.’ Nair added, ‘He had a heart of steel. They thought they could break him but they couldn’t. It was he who initiated the hunger strike and other agitations in the jail, and people respected him for it. Even big dacoits, big criminals.’ Nair proceeded to tell me about one inmate who had been convicted of several murders and was on death row. While most of the political prisoners were scared of this convicted murderer, the convict would often touch Rajkumar Jain’s feet out of respect for the movement he had successfully launched to improve conditions in jail. Lalit Mohan Gautam was transferred to Ambala Jail in Haryana before his release in 1977. Only upon his release did he learn the charges against him. He said, And then I was released on 25th January from Ambala Jail. Last five months I was shifted to Ambala Jail. January 1977. November 1975 to January 1977, my detention was revoked. Detention was revoked. But I had two cases against me under Defence of India Rules for publishing this material. For which I was brought into police custody in Delhi. On the 26th I went straight to the magistrate’s house, where I obtained bail. And he was good enough to grant me bail from his home. Same Magistrate, two cases under Defence of India Rules in which two specific charges were levied against me that I got this material printed. [The official charge was] printing material prejudicial to the security of the state or public order. That is how it ended, but prior to that, the years from 1967 to 1975, most of my time was spent in coffee houses. Either here [at Delhi University], or in Connaught Place, or in Sapru House.

Ravindra Manchanda described the men who shared his cell. All in all, there were 24 men held in the cell in Tihar Jail where he was held. In a Socialist underground communique, it was written that Ravindra Manchanda was, ‘denied things of even basic necessities, harassed both physically and mentally’ in Tihar Jail for his work as an SYS student leader (D. Sharma 1977: 82).


Brewing Resistance

About that cell he said, ‘We had Naxalites, we had Jamaat-e-Islamis, we had right wing people, and Socialists.’25 He said about the Naxalites and Communists, ‘They were with us [in jail], they were always with us Socialist ki people…. We used to shout slogans in the night for solidarity and to make a stand then, and we used to discuss issues and all that inside the jail also.’ He went on to tell me that Marxists would organise Capital reading groups to teach the younger detenues about Marxist theory. When I asked if the RSS members participated in political discussions, Ravindra Manchanda told me, ‘Some people definitely, but not a whole bunch.’ Prabir Purkayastha described the food politics of jail during the Emergency, I was put in what was called the ‘Common Criminal Ward’ for about 4 or 5 days, I don’t remember how many days, and then I was shifted to the Political Detenues Ward. That’s an artificial distinction, but some wards are reserved for political detenues in which Arun Jaitley was also there, we were in the same [ward]. The ex-MP of Delhi was also there. And also a lot of Jamaat people were in that ward. We also were divided on the basis of food. All the vegetarians in one ward and the non-vegetarians in another ward. Okay? Two barracks. One ward, two barracks. The Socialists, the Communists, and Jamaat was on one side, and the RSS was on the other side. A few others might have gone there. And some of the RSS who were non-veg used to come eat in our barracks but they stopped because the Jamaat people when they used to have their meetings they would eat beef and then the non-vegetarians of the RSS had problems so they had to finally turn vegetarian.

Said Ravi Nair of the environment in jail, In fact, when I went into jail, 2nd October, for three or four days I was in solitary confinement. But when I got into the political ward, the first thing that the others told me was the BJP guys are already—meaning then, Jan Sangh—already writing notes. I remember when I was there, there was one BJP councillor who was called Ashok Saxena, he was the only guy who said, you know, that we should stand up and fight. Others were writing letters to the government supporting the 20-point programme, doing the 108 bead necklace that you would pray with, and they were praying like the jail would disappear. We’d make fun of them. We were only 13 Socialists in that ward and a few Congress and a few Jamaat-e-Islami. They kept to themselves, kept reading the Quran, they wouldn’t interact much with the others, except me. They kept talking about whether I would convert to Islam. I was a young guy who didn’t play cards with the other guys, I was just reading books, so they thought I was a nice guy. But I said, I can’t convert, I’m a Socialist. But they kept to themselves, the top head

The Coffee House Movement


leadership was a well read gentleman, unlike the Jan Sangh people who were not tolerant. They were Delhi guys, businessmen who thought this was going to be a la-di-dah.… The enormity of it hit them in mid-August. It didn’t hit them when they were first arrested what the Emergency was, what the Emergency meant.

Dr Mohammad Salim told me that the Emergency ‘was a black day for Indian Democracy. We were of that idea that it was not correct’. But the mass arrest of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind members ‘was a surprise for us … but of course we were against the Emergency when it was declared because it is a denial of basic human rights. But there was no time to oppose the Emergency, it was declared and within a few hours everybody was behind bars’. He elaborated, We did not know, what was our crime…. They banned us and most of our members were behind bars for the full duration. So Jamaat was not existing during Emergency, legally. And all our members were not out. So there was no point of doing anything during Emergency. In jail of course … the Emergency united everybody in jail, they were talking, they were discussing, there was dialogue. It was an indirect blessing for us because we met people who we were not meeting otherwise. By force, inside the jail. We came across people with various ideas and had communication, dialogue, this and that.

He continued, They will know what Jamaat is doing, our ideology, our way of working, of social transformation we want and what kind of country we want to make. Everybody had their own vision of how they wanted to make the country, so everybody has certain differences, everybody has their own vision of this country and this was discussed. It was a blessing in disguise you could say. People became closer and they could see that unity when the Emergency was removed and elections were declared the whole country united.

Ravindra Manchanda told me that after about 14 months in Tihar Jail, he was transferred to Hisar Jail in Haryana. His transfer, he believed, was arranged out of retribution. He told me, Haryana was the toughest for me, you know? I think I was sent there because, you know, they couldn’t control me here in Delhi. In Delhi I was going to the courts and all and getting orders in my favour. The administration thought otherwise.… I was separated from my … you know, Rajkumar Jain was also sent to Hisar, he was separated from me. So basically, it was a punishment transfer so that, you know, we get used to talking with each other and all, and when you’re separated, you’re alone,


Brewing Resistance

you know? You’re kept with other prisoners and all that. And it’s difficult, you’re not, your comfort level is not there and secluding you and all that.

Even though he claimed that Hisar Jail was particularly difficult, Ravindra Manchanda claimed that jail was overall an enjoyable experience. He told me, But I really enjoyed that time. I only used to get disturbed when my mother used to come visit me in the jail. And she didn’t have much means, too. So I was always telling her not to come. When she would come to the jail, I was a little distraught. Otherwise, I had the best of time in jail. I enjoyed the conversations.

In this way, the jail became a second coffee house for many of those incarcerated. But Ravindra Manchanda was able to retain his connection to the coffee house from behind bars. He was jailed in Tihar before his transfer to Hisar but had a doctor’s note that allowed him to leave jail for regular checkups at a private hospital. He would use those opportunities to sneak out of hospital and go to the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place. He told me, You know when you don’t have the mission of making money, then you’re doing something for the cause. So these coffee houses definitely, they are for justice. So they were helping us. Sometimes, they used to give us coffee on credit also … and I remember during my time in detention, I used to come to visit the hospital and if I get a chance I go straight to coffee house and have a coffee there and those times they did not charge me.

He continued, I was able to slip out and have a cup of coffee, you know? We had an addiction to the coffee houses, and then, I realised that people sitting in the coffee houses, were not able to, they never—I mean they were not talking to me and all that because of the fear that they also might get arrested.

But he claimed that these visits to the coffee house helped him, in that, ‘So that way, there was no difficulty, tackling detention and all.’ Prabir Purkayastha, however, told a different story about the difficulty of doing time when it was uncertain when, or if, one would be released. He explained, At that time there was really no expectation that the Emergency would be lifted soon. For the first three months people were optimistic that it would be lifted, but after the first three months it was very clear that this was not going to go. At the time I was arrested meetings [in jail] had just started.

The Coffee House Movement


[In Delhi] we had weekly meetings, in UP it was once in two weeks. At least you would have some contact with the outside world. We had no expectation that the Emergency was going to be lifted soon. So there was this pressure on a lot of people who—uncertainty puts a certain kind of pressure, if you know, if it’s five years, ten years, you reconcile with it, but for a lot of people the uncertainty creates a lot of problems. So for a lot of people this question of when will you get out became a mental problem. They couldn’t reconcile the fact that you could be here for long. But hey, you don’t really have much to do with it, I decided very early on, look, I have no control over how long I was going to be inside, unless I wanted to apologise, which I didn’t, so there was nothing for me to think about.

He also recounted that he was put in solitary confinement for 25 days even though the standard practice was to limit solitary confinement to 5 consecutive days. On his prolonged solitary confinement, he said, So that was a bit, shall we say, slightly tough scenario. But hey, for me it wasn’t so bad. I had my books, I had a regime of exercise. Engineering textbooks in the morning, in the afternoon, Capital. I worked out my schedule perfectly. I have never had as regular a life as this one year in jail. Either before or after … at least the food was better than JNU hostel food—and that’s not a compliment to the jail food, it’s a complaint about the hostel food.

Ravi Nair recounted to me that was put in the paagal chuki, the ‘lunatic ward’, when he was first brought to Tihar Jail. When I asked him to describe that experience, he just said, ‘It was bad. It was bad for me.’ As Subhashini Ali remarked, ‘People don’t remember that there was a lot of torture during the Emergency. Now people are saying that Mrs. Gandhi was actually a democrat at heart. What nonsense!’ Kamlesh Shukla was the only one of the narrators who described to me the interrogation and torture he experienced when he was arrested. He recounted his arrest to me in detail, I had a friend in the intelligence bureau. So, he one day informed me, you know, till that time, there were no cell phones. So, one used to depend only on, and it was believed that the government telecommunications departments were all the time listening to all the talks on the phones, so one could talk only when meeting the person, so that is why also the coffee houses had become an important place of meeting. So he came personally to see me and told me that I could get arrested, so I went underground. Underground meant that I had a personal friend who was a member of Congress Party and also was a Member of Parliament, so I just went and stayed with him. Then the police started searching for me, where I am.


Brewing Resistance

Somehow they came to know that I am there, so a senior official of the police he came one day, posing as if he wanted to look at the telephone directory. Today, there’s no such thing as a telephone directory, but in those days there used to be these bulky telephone directories. So, he was looking at it and then saw me, so he had kept people, police, in plain clothes outside the house, and I went I came out of the house with a book and was going to another friend’s house to discuss something, and they came and arrested me. A black Ambassador stopped there, and some people sitting in it got a hold of me and pushed me into the Ambassador car. Then, they blindfolded me. I didn’t know where I was being taken, so the car started moving for some time we were just going from some place to another place and then another place. Then I was asked to get down, blindfolded, and was taken to a very dark room, very dark and dingy room in which there were two very old rugs infested with bugs. The room had not been dusted for years, this thick, dust was there. And there was no light in the room. So, I was just dumped in that room. Incidentally, I told you that I was coming out of the house with a book in my hands, the book was by a Russian emigre writer who had written a very comprehensive treatise on Dostoyevsky, so I had that book in my hands. So, luckily the police didn’t take away that book from me. So, when I was dumped in that room, I didn’t know where I am etc. etc., there was no light, then they brought me two thick chappatis and some dal which I couldn’t eat, so, then they went away, I was locked in, amid those thick rugs, it was the month April, or March, the month of March, March, one neither can sleep on those rugs etc. etc., and there were those mosquitos, very large mosquitos there. So without covering yourself one can’t sleep. So, in that way, they just kept me awake, and the next day at about 10:30 or 11 I was taken to a room which was air-conditioned, very clean, painted in blue with two very senior police officials sitting, I was sitting in front of them, some police constables sitting outside, then they called me my by my name and asked me, I used to smoke during those days, so they said, we know you smoke so we have cigarettes for you. So there, then they started interrogating me, from the beginning- from where you were born, where you were educated, who were your parents, etc. etc., after your education what did you do, when did you go to Hyderabad, what you did there, etc. etc., how you came into contact with George Fernandes, how did you start working for Socialist Party etc. etc., those kinds of things. In those days, I was editing a weekly paper which was closed down by the government the day the Emergency was declared, [called] Pratipaksh, The other side. So, I didn’t know where I am, I couldn’t sleep. The next day, I found, it was very different environment in that room, and they asked me what would I like for breakfast, what would you like for lunch, what would you like for etc. etc. So, a contrast was created. If you cooperate, you get this. I think they

The Coffee House Movement

also asked me for drinks, alcohol, etc. etc. I, of course, refused, but they knew that I sometimes drink so they indicated that every comfort will be available to you if you just cooperate. So, they mostly wanted to know who are my, who were all the people working with me, what were their names where can they can be found, etc. etc. So, have you heard of a novel called Darkness at Noon? [I say yes.] Accha (Very good). So, that used to be one of the favourite novels of Socialist workers. So, if you remember in this scene, the Communist Party people had gone to collect grains from the kulaks, the kulaks had been arrested, and then this commissar had gone for a moment and this old woman was waiting outside, and he had just forgotten about her. When they came out after interrogating several people, the woman broke down. She just started telling him ki she had hidden some grain in such and such place, etc. etc. She had just broke down and told everything to him. So that gave him the idea that if you keep awake somebody they will not be able to resist for a long time. Sleep is one of the human necessities. It can’t be deprived of, you know? So, after that, that commissar started this technique to keep people awake so that they break down and they reveal everything. So since I had read that book, I know that police, I came to understand the method of the police. They want to put me in such a dingy room where I can’t sleep and then bring me for interrogation. So I had started telling them all sorts of stories, which were of course not true, but were believable by the police. So, after, later on I came to know that it was in the Red Fort. You know the Red Fort? So, I was being kept in that Fort and interrogated there. But the cells were constructed in a way that no one can see that it’s the Red Fort, so only by chance could I see, when I was taken from this room for interrogation, ki it was the Red Fort. Because I was brought there blindfolded. So, after interrogating me for four days in the Red Fort, they came to the conclusion that I told everything, so then I was sent to central prison in Tihar. That was almost some sort of freedom [narrator laughs]. So, Lalit Mohan Gautam was already there. These people were not interrogated, they were just arrested and sent to prison. So, but they wanted to know from me ki who were the people active in the resistance. They didn’t get a single name from me. So. So, after some time, the police couldn’t come to the prison to interrogate, there were different prison rules, so, we started, I finished my poetry book there, and I would read some books. Then some friends were permitted to meet me once a week so I would ask them for books, and all the books which I could not read on the outside I would read there. I amassed quite a library in the jail. So my brother, from my native place, he’s a professor of Sanskrit and Buddhist Studies, he came to see me. Somehow the permission was being given by Lieutenant Governor and Lieutenant Governor thought it was better to arrest him, so he too was sent to the prison. So, they wanted to create panic among people.



Brewing Resistance

After some time George Fernandes was arrested and brought there. Then a new case was launched that was called Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy Case. So, when the case was launched then we would be brought every 10, 15 days to the court. And some friends from coffee house would come there to see us. And then there would be some sort of exchange of news. So some sort of mini-coffee house was created when we were brought to the court. And with the court’s permission we could meet friends or relations. We could have tea, or coffee, or lunch, or some refreshment. So one can apply to the court and get permission for this, so the mini coffee houses were created in the district courts. Again, news was exchanged, sometimes someone would write a letter and bring it secretly, hiding it in some inner pocket, etc. etc. and giving it to them to post it.

C. G. K. Reddy, in his memoirs, describes being in jail in Delhi with Kamlesh Shukla and writes how ‘Kamlesh and I who were in the “dog house” in the same jail, because of our refusal to kow-tow to the arrogant Superintendent Batra, were taken to the same ward where George was lodged’ (Reddy 1977: 1247). Once they knew that they had all been brought into the same jail, in Tihar, the Baroda Dynamite accused concluded that the trial was about to begin (Reddy 1977: 1247). Reddy wrote that both the BBC and the Voice of America had broadcast a very brief summary of the case, which pleased the accused, because they had successfully communicated to the world that some underground resistance against the Emergency was taking place in India (Reddy 1977: 1287). The accused were also pleased to later learn that their actions had inspired young people to act against the state (Reddy 1977: 1295). The police report on the Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy Case lists Kamlesh Shukla’s alleged involvement in the conspiracy: Investigation revealed that George Fernandes A-1 had made Delhi an important base for his illegal activities where some of the alleged overt acts constituting offences were committed by some of his co-conspirators in pursuance of the criminal conspiracy. George Fernandes was operating the conspiratorial activities of the co-accused in Delhi while staying at the house of Captain RP Huigol at Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. His meetings with Vijay Narain Singh A-10, who made arrangements to receive the consignment of explosives at Varanasi from Baroda, Kamlesh Shukla A-12, Viren J. Shah A-14, and others secretly arranged in Delhi by Dr (Miss) Girija Huilgol, daughter of Capt. RP Huigol, and CGK Reddy A-11. At these meetings possible targets for sabotage activity in Delhi were discussed. Kamlesh A-12 had in the meanwhile received one suitcase containing the explosives (37 dynamite sticks, 49 detonators, and 8 rolls of fuse wire) which was received at Delhi has since been recovered from

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the house of Kamlesh Shukla A-12 at his instance and its keys from the possession of Sushil Chander Bhatnagar A-13. (Reddy 1977: 2050–7)

In the Shah Commission reports, an entire chapter is devoted to the detention of Kamlesh Shukla’s brother, a professor of Sanskrit. Kamlesh Shukla’s mother was gravely ill, and so Kamlesh Shukla’s brother wrote a letter requesting Kamlesh Shukla’s release on parole so that he could visit their dying mother (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 49). Kamlesh Shukla’s brother describes Kamlesh Shukla in the parole request as ‘a follower of the late Dr. Rammanohar Lohia and was a progressive Hindi writer who had all along been supporting the policy of the then Government including the imposition of Emergency’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 49). Police reports conflicted, however, stating that Kamlesh Shukla, the applicant’s brother, was arrested under section 3/4 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 at Police Station Hauz Khas on April 10, 1976 after having been found in possession of a suitcase containing explosive substances. He was working as an editor of ‘Pratipaksh’ a paper brought out by Shri George Fernandes before his arrest. He was subsequently detained under MISA. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 49)

The police concluded that Kamlesh Shukla’s brother had deliberately concealed the facts of Kamlesh Shukla’s arrest and, therefore, Kamlesh Shukla’s brother was soon arrested and detained himself (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 50). The police then attempted to connect Kamlesh Shukla’s brother to the Baroda Dynamite Case but were unsuccessful. The Shah Commission concluded that the detention of Kamlesh Shukla’s brother was an abuse of power and a misuse of authority (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 51). Police similarly wrongfully confined and tortured Lawrence Fernandes, the brother of George Fernandes (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 1). Karnataka Police detained, beat and denied food and water to Lawrence Fernandes in an attempt to ascertain his brother’s whereabouts (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 1). He was beaten so badly that he was taken to the hospital for several broken bones and swelling, and later developed chest pain (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 2, 7–9).

Repressing the Coffee House Imprisonment of dissenters was not the only strategy the state pursued in order to quell resistance against the Emergency. In January 1976, Socialists


Brewing Resistance

leafleted in the Indian Coffee House every day for four days. On the fifth day, bulldozers came to demolish the Indian Coffee House (Kalhan 1977: 11). In 1977, an inquiry committee was established by the incoming Janata Party government to investigate forced bulldozing and, in particular, the Turkman Gate massacre. Seven pages of the almost 450 page report are devoted to the bulldozing of the Indian Coffee House. Stated the inquiry commission, Without any prior notice, and contrary to their assurance, the officials of the NDMC along with the demolition squad had come at about 10 a.m. on 15th May, 1976 and asked the workers of the society to vacate the premises forthwith. The building was vacated and by 12 noon it was completely demolished. (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 312)

When Sanjay Gandhi and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation razed the Indian Coffee House, I was told by the journalists I interviewed, it was not covered by the newspapers (Times of India 1977). The papers that reported this event in Connaught Place, they told me, praised Sanjay Gandhi for his urban development policies, neglecting to mention that Indian Coffee House had been bulldozed. For the anti-Emergency activists, this loss was a great tragedy. They told me that the loss of the coffee house ‘made me feel lonely’, ‘I felt I lost everything’, ‘I was unhappy but was scared to do anything’, ‘I still miss it. All those who were fixtures to this coffee house felt personally offended by this move by the government, they felt they had lost something very personal’, ‘It was so horrible and we couldn’t oppose’, after the bulldozing ‘the things that found expression in the coffee house were stopped up’, ‘I felt empty’, and it was ‘as if a person had died. It was a very sad affair and we were shocked’. Bhagwan Singh and K. P. Singh told me that they stood together and watched as the coffee house was demolished. Bhagwan Singh said, ‘In Palika Bazaar, that’s where the coffee house used to be, we watched it get destroyed. We couldn’t say anything.’ Rajkumar Jain recounted how he was being transferred from Tihar Jail to the courthouse for trial when he saw that the Indian Coffee House had been demolished. He told me how he wept in the back of the police jeep upon seeing the rubble. He told me, his voice full of emotion, Because that was the only centre where we used to like to go, to meet our people. That was such a shocking thing for me! All those who used to go to the coffee house, they found it shocking. The demolition of the coffee house was like the demolition of our own house. It is a very hurting thing for me. Not only for me, for everyone.

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All the activists with whom I spoke were personally affected by the loss of the space to which they felt so attached. Parasnath Chowdhary took a more defiant tone, passionately proclaiming that they wanted to end this point of contact. So, one fine morning they decided to bulldoze it, and yeah, it was bulldozed…. People realised that they had lost a great point of contact, a point where they forged these kinds of relationships. Now that point has gone away. And this demise of the coffee house, was clinching evidence of Indira Gandhi’s highly dictatorial administration. Even if there was more evidence available, the fact that they bulldozed this coffee house was enough to accuse them of being dictatorial. Because this couldn’t have been done by any sane person, only a dictatorial person could have done it. Franco could have done it, Salazar could have done it, or umm, but not a democratic person because it was a highly democratic place. It was the stomping ground of intellectuals, newspapermen, students, young men, all kinds of people came and mingled together. It was a beautiful situation. And nobody with even a bit of humanity can ever imagine destroying such a place.

K. P. Singh echoed this belief, saying to me, ‘Sanjay Gandhi was very aggressive, and he learned that people were coming to the coffee house and they were discussing all sorts of things.’ Rajkumar Jain had a similar theory as to why the coffee house was demolished. He said, So, Sanjay Gandhi, the Congress people knew this thing, that coffee house is the main centre of all conferences between all groups, it is the link centre where all sorts of people, ideological groups, they used to meet, and they used to discuss, chat, and that is the centre of all revolt against the government. When Emergency was proclaimed, all political dissent was strangled. So political workers rushed to that coffee house to find out what we will do. So, Sanjay Gandhi was afraid of that coffee house. He thought perhaps if this coffee house will be there, then that nucleus centre, the meeting centre, the link centre will be there. So he just demolished that coffee house, just to stop the people from meeting.

There is no direct evidence, however, as to why the Indian Coffee House was demolished. The inquiry commission interviewed the Lt. Governor of Delhi, A. N. Jha, who claimed that the NDMC had come to him saying that the building in which the Indian Coffee House was located was dilapidated beyond repair, unfit for habitation, a health and safety risk to occupants and, therefore, needed to be demolished immediately (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 313). But after examining the structure,


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he decided that there was no major threat and that if the NDMC required renovations, they could give the workers’ cooperative a year to do renovations (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 315). The inquiry commission found that the building was not hazardous or unsafe by NDMC standards as they were up to date on all inspections of the building and there had never been a previous concern, and that the eviction of the Indian Coffee House workers was illegal as no notice was given before the demolition (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 316). Furthermore, the committee found that the plans to turn the land into an underground market consisting of 310 shops 12 feet below ground level was something the NDMC had been planning, even though this plan was in violation of Master Plan land use (Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs 1977: 318). When I asked about why the Indian Coffee House was demolished, Madan Lal Hind reminded me that ‘most of the goings on in Parliament were censored at the time, even to us journalists’. However, the men I interviewed—Socialists and Communists alike—relayed to me that it was common knowledge among the left that Sanjay Gandhi bulldozed the Indian Coffee House because he and his mother were threatened by the resistance in that deliberative space. For example, D. P. Tripathi told me, ‘Of course, everybody knows, Sanjay Gandhi got really angry with all these people meeting in the coffee house so he ordered it demolished.’ But any historical record that might confirm this supposition is either long destroyed or remains inaccessible to researchers. The only secondary sources that mentions the bulldozing of the Indian Coffee House simply claim ‘conversation was sought to be banished…. For several days after the Coffee House was mowed down one saw the regulars gazing at the rubble. In normal times they would have protested wildly. But during the Emergency all voices of dissent and protest were stilled’ (Kalhan 1977: 10) and ‘Not surprisingly, the coffee house would soon be demolished on the orders of Sanjay Gandhi. He felt this den of inequity was the centre of anti-Emergency propaganda/gossip and must be pulled down’ (C. Kapoor 2015: 76). While the story I was told—many times over—that Indira Gandhi’s administration was threatened by the political deliberation in the Indian Coffee House may well be the ‘true’ reason behind the demolition of the Indian Coffee House, equally plausible is the explanation given by the censored newspapers: that Sanjay Gandhi wanted to repurpose the land on which the Indian Coffee House was constructed for urban development projects. The two accounts are not mutually exclusive: the Gandhis were able to silence oppositional voices while also profiting from land appropriation and redevelopment.

The Coffee House Movement


While a new Indian Coffee House location was erected on the terrace of Mohan Singh Place, located further up the road from Connaught Place in a shopping complex that mainly sells made-to-order designer knockoff jeans, this space was qualitatively different from the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House. K. P. Singh told me, ‘The coffee house was essential for democracy in India. Nowadays people in the new coffee houses just talk business, but before the Emergency, we only talked politics.’ Others echoed this sentiment that the coffee house just was not the same. ‘They just could not build a new coffee house. It was an institution,’ Madan Lal Hind said to me. Each one of the men I interviewed lamented that the Mohan Singh location is out of the way, and one has to climb several flights of stairs to get there, whereas the Connaught Place coffee house was more centrally located and on the ground floor. While the Connaught Place coffee house attracted a wide range of customers, because the new location is not easily accessible (Kalhan 1977: 10), only people who seek out the Indian Coffee House frequent the Mohan Singh Place location. The architecture of space as well as historical tradition matter for the functioning of this space of resistance (Kohn 2003).

Consequences for the Jan Sangh The bulldozing of the Connaught Place Indian Coffee House led to a change in location and atmosphere for the Indian Coffee House, while also fragmenting political deliberation in New Delhi. I was told consistently that during the Emergency, people interested in political action against the state gravitated to the Indian Coffee House regardless of their political affiliations or views. But after the bulldozing, I heard, alliances that were forged out of a common goal of resisting the Emergency-era state soon fell apart. The RSS and Congress Party, I was told, failed to follow the Socialists, Communists and Naxalites into the new Indian Coffee House location at Mohan Singh Place. Kamlesh Shukla forcefully summed up this predicament when he told me that after the Emergency ‘the Socialists became meaningless and the RSS were cowards’. The Socialists were ‘meaningless’ because they only deliberated amongst themselves, becoming isolated from the rest of the political spectrum, and the RSS were ‘cowards’, in Mr Shukla’s eyes, because they failed to continue with oppositional politics after the Emergency and instead sought mainstream acceptance. He elaborated, explaining to me the Socialist contribution to the antiEmergency efforts in contrast to those of the RSS. Kamlesh Shukla said,


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Socialists led whatever little protest was there. So, and for a long time, our people weren’t arrested because we did not reveal the names, addresses, whereabouts, of our people under interrogation, police interrogation. It took a long time for the police to arrest George Fernandes so the government was in panic ki these leaders aren’t being arrested, where are they, and still they are in contact with Socialist International and etc. etc. They were puzzled and they were panicked.… Well, people came to understand, for example, we had people from Jan Sangh, which is now Bharatiya Janata Party, in the prison. And to some extent we became friendly with them. But to some extent they were unable to resist the repressive measures. They were not used to that kind of political activism, but Socialists were used to going to prison, to being arrested, being repressed by police, etc., and they had no fear of those things. So many of the Jan Sangh leaders wrote letters to Mrs. Gandhi because they found that their workers were being pressurised by their families to come out and not resist. The chief of RSS wrote a letter to Mrs. Gandhi. So, it was proved that Socialists were a different breed altogether. It is—I’m not trying to boast about it. Because I have been interested in literature I want to ask you, have you read Ezra Pound? [I say, ‘Yes, he’s one of my favourites.’] Pound’s ‘Cantos’? Pisan Cantos? In that there is a line ki there is not much difference between courage and cowardice. You know it? He uses an image of a spider’s web. In this ‘Cantos’ there is a line that nothing matters in the end except the trace of love which is has survived in your mind, or some such lines. So, it is not that the Socialists were particularly courageous, or that courage matters in the end. It is not that they [the RSS] were cowards, I am not accusing them of cowardice. It is a very thin line, you know? At some point someone becomes courageous and at another point one becomes a coward. It is very much possible for the Socialists to become cowards. So, but they became exemplary, inside prison, outside prison, their attitudes to resist were much more. This people came to know and understand.

Madan Lal Hind told me that after their experiences in jail during the Emergency, the RSS became closer aligned with the Congress Party. RSS members had a difficult time in jail (Malkani 1978: 35–42; Sahasrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 247–1) because, first, they were not accustomed to being jailed for their political work, unlike the Socialists, Communists and Naxalites and, second, because of the torture inflicted upon MISA detainees during the Emergency26 (Nayar 1977: 182; Sahasrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 247–1). To avoid similar persecution in the future, narrators consistently told me, the RSS became more closely aligned with Congress. The Socialists, Communists and Naxalites continued to deliberate in the Indian Coffee House, but without the centre and the right, the conversation in the Indian Coffee House became more insular.

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Consequences for the Naxalites The Naxalite movement and its various parties had misgivings against the JP movement but came out of the Emergency rethinking the nature of bourgeois democracy. As Dillip Simeon told me, ‘The [Maoists] were living in an Emergency anyway. [The Emergency] posed a challenge in thought, theoretically speaking, particularly this issue of bourgeois democracy. This was the issue. A very important issue.’ To put this issue in perspective, Dr Simeon said, We were getting shot in our beds, only a few years ago, and now you’re [Bihar Movement adherents] bothered about democracy.… For any Maoist or Naxalite to critique the Emergency in the name of democracy would imply that a non-Emergency is better than an Emergency, the state of affairs prevailing before the Emergency was preferable to the state of affairs that was prevailing during the Emergency, therefore you cannot collapse together all forms of bourgeois democracy into one another. Although you can denounce it all as bourgeois rule, but still there are distinctions to be made. There are certain circumstances that we would prefer and certain circumstances that you would not like to see, you know? Of course this should be obvious to anybody, but we were then too radical minded. There was this attitude also.

Simeon made clear that the Maoist movement in India was fragmented from the beginning and so there was no consistent Naxalite position on the Emergency. He said, ‘There were some comrades who were sympathetic to Maoism but not completely Maoist who were more into civil liberties, they were people who had begun to talk about the need to defend civil liberties.’ But ‘the Emergency was the first moment when we began to think about this set of issues’, particularly about the need to theorise and better understand the nature of bourgeois democracy. As Dhirendra Sharma put it, ‘the strongest determination and commitment to overthrow of the dictatorship had been shown by the Socialist Party’, but ‘the heaviest toll of the struggle was suffered by the CPI(M-L)’ (D. Sharma 1977: xiii). In the immediate aftermath of the Emergency, there was a contradictory relationship between Naxalism and the remnants of the Bihar Movement. While in 1975, JP was critical, yet sympathetic to the Naxalite Movement in Bhojpur (Mukherjee and Yadav 1980: 157), after the Janata Party’s victory in 1977, the Sarvodaya Socialists were on their way out, and Naxalism had become the new voice of the young and left-leaning (Mukerjee and Yadav 1980: 158). Once elected, the Janata Party lifted the ban on the


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Naxalite Movement (M. Kumar 2012: 254). Kalyan Mukherjee and Rajendra Singh Yadav (1980) write, It took time, however. JP was old and tired. But the Total Revolution in Bihar bore fruit. In place of the crusty, khadi-kurta, rubber-chappal clad Sarvodayis, he had earned the critical support of a new band of selfless youth, who refused to exploit the anti-Emergency Struggle for political largesse and were instead interested in completing the goals of Total Revolution. Instead of the flabby support of the old Sarvodayis, JP inherited the unflinching dedication of a few scores of such youth who were christened at the feet of JP—the Sangharsh Vahini. (Mukherjee and Yadav 1980: 158)

The Emergency emboldened the Bhojpuri Naxalite Movement and during 1975–6 they faced the most severe police repression under ‘Operation Thunder’ (Banerjee 1980: 304). According to Sumanta Banerjee, despite Indira Gandhi’s efforts to restore order in Bihar in response to both the JP Movement and the Bhojpuri Naxalite uprisings, the Naxalite Movement in the Bhojpur region of Bihar was the main beneficiary of Gandhi’s ‘Operation Thunder’. As the Socialist journalist Madan Lal Hind explained to me, in his home state of Bihar the trade union movement was weakened after the Emergency, but ‘the Naxalite Movement increased’. Part of the strengthening of the Naxalite Movement in Bhojpur can be attributed to Indira Gandhi’s clampdown, especially after the police killed Bhojpuri Naxalite general secretary, Jwahar, several months after the Emergency had been declared, the new general secretary in Bhojpur, Vinod Mishra, was able to use the state repression of the movement and the assassination of the previous general secretary to better organise the movement. But the Naxalite Movement in Bihar was also strengthened because many Sarvodaya workers who were left idle after Indira Gandhi crushed the JP Movement in Bihar joined the growing, and increasingly better organised, Naxalite cause in Bhojpur (Prasad 2002: 210). The election of the Socialist government, the legalisation of the Naxalite Movement, and the release from jail of Naxalites imprisoned under MISA in 1977 ‘opened up new opportunities for the Naxalite Movement’ (P. Singh 2006: 99). Many of those opportunities were the result of the Naxals’ rethinking of democracy during the Emergency. Dillip Simeon told me that that in the heat of the Emergency, Naxals saw that there was a difference between believing in democracy and using it, and that while exactly how Naxals can levy bourgeois democracy for the ends of the movement has yet to be settled, Naxals today are still contending with this key lesson that came out of their experiences during the Emergency.

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Consequences for the Socialists and Communists Why elections were suddenly reinstated remains unclear. Madan Lal Hind told me that when Kuldip Nayar interviewed Sanjay Gandhi after Congress had lost the 1977 elections, ‘Sanjay pointed to his mother and said, “Ask that woman”, which was a really rude way of speaking to one’s mother. Sanjay said, “She ordered the elections. I didn’t want elections for another twenty years.”’ While the reasons for ending the Emergency remain unknown, David Lockwood claims that P. N. Haksar was instrumental in convincing Indira Gandhi to reinstate elections because of the human consequences of the Emergency (Lockwood 2016: 132). His assessment was that further social unrest would be staved off if elections were called and because the opposition parties were weakened by the Emergency, they would be impotent to win a national election (Lockwood 2016: 132). While the right and the centre dropped out of the deliberative space of the Indian Coffee House, a newly formed coalition party of the Socialists and the RSS, the Janata Party, took political power in India after elections were reinstated in 1977. The Janata Party received widespread support in the elections; even Jamaat-e-Islami Hind members who had a policy of not voting in Indian elections before the Emergency turned out to vote for the Janata Party. Dr Mohammad Salim told me, We [ Jamaat-e-Islami Hind] were also victims [of the Emergency] and all victims were united despite our differences. There were closed discussions with Socialist groups, Communist groups, Janata party people, even these RSS people now who are BJP there were also discussions…. Yeah, yeah, yeah. After the Emergency was over and elections were declared, Janata Party was the united voice of the people, which everybody was there, even Jan Sangh was there, Socialists, and other people. So, we also supported it. We voted against the Congress Party because it was on a dictatorial path.

The Janata Party government did not last long, mostly due to infighting, as the Socialists and RSS could not agree on which policies to implement, thereby driving the RSS Janata Party members to align with the right wing of the Congress Party ( Jaffrelot 1996: 288). Said Yashwant Sinha, It is another matter that the Janata Party fell apart, and Mrs Gandhi came back to power, but it did one great thing, and that is that it amended the Constitution to ensure that the Constitution could not be used to impose an Emergency and that is why today, as we all think, there is an undeclared Emergency. Because you can’t have a declared Emergency, but what Modi has shown is that despite the safeguards in the constitution it is possible


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to compromise those institutions because after all an institution is only as good or bad as the people who run it.

The political fragmentation in the Indian Coffee House, however, of an allied centre and right on the one hand and Communists, Socialists and Naxalites deliberating solely amongst themselves on the other, continues to the present. K. P. Singh told me that, ‘Left parties, the CPI(M), CPI, Socialists—after the Emergency they were affecting politics. Now the situation—today the left is ineffective. The CPI is weak.’ The far right in India has become empowered, in part through its post-Emergency alliance with Congress. Bhagwan Singh told me, Congress has weakened, and now the BJP is the strongest. Socialists and Communists need to unite to make a viable option for the left. Some are fighting, but the future of the left is not so bright. In Modi’s first speech as Prime Minister he said that the Socialist Movement is over.

The common theme among anti-Emergency activists while reflecting on the relationship between the bulldozing of the Indian Coffee House and the political constellations of the present is that the RSS was the big winner of the anti-Emergency movement, while the left failed to remain relevant in mainstream politics. Achin Vanaik contends that the election of the Janata Party in 1977 was one of the most important moments in the history of the RSS that catapulted it from a peripheral organisation to a party that held a majority of seats in Parliament within the Janata Party (Vanaik 1977: 311). RSS members’ participation in mass mobilisations during the Emergency, including the Railway Workers’ Strike (1974), the JP Movement (1974–5) and the 1977 elections, fundamentally shaped the strategy and outlook of RSS leadership in the decades that followed (Vanaik 1977: 313). When musing on the BJP’s election victory, Madan Lal Hind said, after the Emergency the new government came to power, the Janata Party. They changed the Constitution to prevent something like the Emergency from ever happening again. The RSS was a highly regimented party, and when Modi was elected people were saying that there could be a new Emergency, but I disagree. Something like that will never happen again.… India became mature as a democracy having had that experience. The people became brave. Democracy makes people brave. When there is freedom of the press, people are less scared.… We had to go through that to make our democracy more complete.

The Coffee House Movement


With the weakening of the Indian left since the Emergency, the Indian Coffee House as an institution also grew weaker. As K. P. Singh said to me, The Indian Coffee House was very important during the Emergency. People were working for the masses; it was very important. After the Emergency, the coffee house is still there, as are the workers. There’s more contract labor today, but it’s still a cooperative. The union is still there, but weakened. The Indian Coffee House workers helped in all aspects. Now, the Party doesn’t care so much. The Communist Party at one point, thought to close the coffee house, but the workers resisted their union and kept it alive. The workers have always been the champion of the coffee house. AK Gopalan helped, but when he died [in 1977] the Party MPs weakened it. The coffee houses should be run by the workers, not the cooperative societies. The cooperative movement is bad for the coffee house.

He continued, ‘We said we would bring revolution from the coffee house. We tried. But our politics began from the coffee house.’ *** In this chapter, I have recovered the narrative of how the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place became a centre of social protest during the Emergency to uncover what about that space made it such a crucial resource for those resisting the state. I argue that the key advantage of the Indian Coffee House as a space of resistance against the Emergency was that it became an autonomous zone. It (a) served an ideological function of educating the uninformed and uninitiated, (b) provided a physical space in which like-minded individuals can meet in order to form a group to engage in a protest action, to form a social movement, and/or to debate what is to be done in response to a particular event or existing struggle and (c) was a resource as a meeting space, hideout and support network (support that could be articulated through awareness raising, fundraising, expressions of solidarity, and so on). The Indian Coffee House, as a cooperative, was much more than an economic tactic for its workers; it was a sociopolitical space that fostered opposition to the state (Kohn 2003: 71). It was a link between different groups, an informal social centre, and a point of communication that brought dispersed individuals together, transforming them into a political force. Through this important resource, an opposition movement could be launched to challenge the totalitarian state. But how did the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place come to be an autonomous zone? The Indian Coffee House began as a colonial firm after


Brewing Resistance

being called into existence by a group of plantation owners concerned with the export commodities surplus crisis of the 1930s. Then, during the Freedom Movement, the firm was occupied by its CPI-affiliated workers. After a decade of occupation without legal status, the coffee houses were then transformed into a workers’ cooperative and, hence, into a space that could potentially foment resistance against the totalitarian state during the Emergency. But how and why did this former colonial firm, initially created to benefit British colonial plantation owners’ material interests, eventually become a site of Left resistance against the Emergency? In the following chapter, I will explain why the coffee house workers occupied and appropriated a colonial firm instead of joining the Gandhian nationalist movement. And then, once they had occupied the firm, how and why they became a cooperative in 1957 after spending a decade, from 1947 to 1957, petitioning the Coffee Board to become a state-owned firm

Notes   1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   6.   7.

PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 5, NMML. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 5, NMML. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 57, NMML. PN Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 57, NMML. P N Haksar Files, Instalment I & II, Subfile no. 57, NMML. See Appendix I, which gives a capsule description of each political party. ‘Seven revolutions’ was a call given by Rammanohar Lohia. The seven revolutions are: gender equality; end to racial inequality; end of caste inequality; end to imperialism and creation of a world government; end to economic inequality based on private property; end to use of arms; and the principle of civil disobedience and opposition to encroachments upon individual freedom.   8. Tote bags, typically made from hand-spun cotton   9. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 10. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 11. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3; see also Lockwood 2016: 122. 12. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 13. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 14. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 15. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 16. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 17. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 18. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 19. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 65, File 449-2,3. 20. This account of JP’s arrest at the Gandhi Peace Foundation on 26 June 1975 is confirmed by Coomi Kapoor (2015: 32–3). 21. Janvaani was noted for having ‘a good network for distribution’ (Press Institute of India 1978: 2).

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22. The target of All India Radio Station has significant parallels in the discussion of Radio-Alger in Fanon’s essay ‘Ici la voix de l’Algerie’ (1959). Fanon writes, ‘Le poste de TSF, en Algérie occupée est une technique de l’occupant qui, dans le cadre de la domination coloniale, ne répond à aucun besoin vital de l’indigène’ (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 56–7). ‘L’explication semble davantage se trouver dans le fait que Radio-Alger est perçue par l’Algérien, comme le monde colonial parlé. Avant le guerre, l’humour de l’Algerien lui avait fait définir Radio-Alger: «Des Français parlent aux Français’ (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 58). 23. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is the student wing of the RSS. 24. During the Indian National Army (INA) Trials (1945–6), a number of officers were tried by the British for treason, torture, murder and abetment to murder for their role in the Indian Freedom Struggle. 25. Jan Sangh historian Sanjeev Kelkar confirms this account of Jan Sanghis being jailed with members of other banned political parties during the Emergency (S. Kelkar 2011: 133). By RSS accounts, 80,000 members of Jan Sangh were jailed during the Emergency (S. Kelkar 2011: 136). 26. Secondary sources, along with some of the men I interviewed, described torture inflicted on political prisoners during the Emergency including being deprived of food, water and sleep; being beaten unconscious; waterboarding; having red chilli powder rubbed on genitals and inserted into anal cavities; electric shocks; being forced to drink their own urine or the urine of prison guards, along with other techniques (Nayar 1977: 182; Sahasrabuddhe and Vajpayee 1991: 247–1).

7 ‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement

Inquilab (revolution) does not mean the transfer of state from the hands of the British to the Indians, but to those Indians who are at one with us as to the final goal … to proceed in earnest is to organise the reconstruction of the whole society on a socialist basis. If you do not mean this Inquilab, then please have mercy. Stop shouting ‘Inquilab Zindabad ’ [Long Live Revolution]. —Bhagat Singh, To Young Political Workers (1931)

In his memoirs, Nadakkal Parameswaran Pillai, Indian Coffee House worker at the Trichur location of the firm, writes that the Indian Coffee House found its place in history through its ‘martyrdom’ at the hands of Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency (Pillai 2005: 89). Pillai writes that the Connaught Place location of Indian Coffee House was the biggest source of the Indian Coffee House workers’ ‘confidence’ in themselves and their abilities having started by selling coffee on the street and still beating local competition, to collectively owning a building in the heart of Delhi that was a central meeting place for ministers, bureaucrats, intellectuals, artists and cultural activists. That the Indian Coffee House became an autonomous zone during the Emergency is on the surface a puzzle if one considers its historical origins as a colonial firm. However, its transformation into a workers’ cooperative attracted regular customers who were politically and artistically engaged, thereby paving the way for its transformation into an autonomous zone by the Emergency. That the Indian Coffee House workers adopted the cooperative as their legal organisational form was unexpected, more so because the Communist Party of India (CPI) (undivided) organised this workers’ movement. In the decades leading up to 1957, the year the Indian Coffee House officially became a workers’ cooperative, there was a consensus among Communist Party leadership on pursuing a strategy of nationalisation of industry as the road to

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


national development and Socialism in India. There were debates among party leadership on how to achieve this goal of nationalisation, but not whether nationalised industry was the appropriate strategy. And yet the CPI organised the newly unemployed coffee board workers into a workers’ cooperative, not a state-owned enterprise. Why did the Coffee House workers occupy and appropriate a colonial institution instead of joining the Gandhian nationalist movement? And then, once occupied, why compromise with Jawaharlal Nehru and the Coffee Board and become a cooperative after a decade of petitioning to become a state-owned firm? In this chapter, I will explain how the Indian Coffee House workers transformed the coffee houses from a colonial firm into a workers’ cooperative, first by showing how they occupied the firm during India’s freedom struggle, and then detailing how A. K. Gopalan, in his role as Coffee House Workers’ Union vice-president, secured legal status for the firm as a workers’ cooperative.

Coffee House Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement The workers who played a crucial role in the freedom movement, striking, demonstrating, occupying British colonial institutions and transforming them from within, then faced a tenuous situation after independence with pressure to decrease labour standards. Many urban workers gravitated towards the cooperative movement as a solution to the decline in labour conditions. For example, grain workers in Bombay formed buyers’ cooperatives rather than face unemployment, but in the Punjab, where the labour movement before independence was arguably the strongest, the labour movement, along with the radical left, was decimated. Istiaq Ahmed contends that the demobilisation of soldiers contributed to creating a more violent partition in Punjab, as unemployed soldiers stoked by communal tension (and many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] from their participation in the World Wars) took it upon themselves to rid their towns and villages of religious minorities (Ahmed 2012). But the violence was not only communal in nature but also inflicted against the radical left. The genocide that took place in Punjab debilitated Punjab’s labour movement and the Communist Party. Because Hindu and Sikh Punjabis who survived partition fled to refugee camps in New Delhi and then eventually settled there, it makes it all the more surprising given the trauma of partition and the violence inflicted upon the left that even though before independence Lahore was one of the most vibrant political and intellectual spaces among the Coffee House locations


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(Aziz 2008: 68), the New Delhi location of Coffee House would eventually become one of, if not the, vanguard location of Indian Coffee House. The Coffee House workers’ unrest started in 1946 with the publication of the pamphlet ‘Coffee House Labourers Are Also Human Beings’ written in Malayalam by three coffee house workers and Communist Party members—M. Chathukutty, K. N. Narayanan and T. P. Raghavan—at the Coffee House in Calicut (Pillai 2005: 30). This pamphlet was circulated to Coffee House employees across British India, and it was accessible to all, since at all locations, Malayalam was the mother tongue of Coffee House workers, and education through grade 4 was required for Coffee House labourers. Soon after the circulation of this pamphlet, the coffee houses one by one were occupied. On 9 November 1947, the Coffee House workers formed a union and had their first annual meeting in Bangalore (Pillai 2005: 30). After India’s independence, the coffee house workers’ labour union became a formal trade union affiliated with the CPI in order to resist the termination of the coffee house workers, as after independence, Nehru and the Coffee Board of India sought to close the Coffee Houses. In Calcutta, the Coffee House workers went on strike in 1948 in response to the forced closures (Pillai 2005: 30). In 1952, the Indian Coffee House workers formally affiliated with the AITUC and changed their union headquarters from Bangalore to Delhi (Pillai 2005: 31). They also, at this time, allowed coffee plantation workers and the Coffee Board of India marketing section employees to join their union. By 1955, the Indian Coffee House workers’ union had 1,200 members. In 1957, the Coffee Board of India officially recognised the Indian Coffee House workers’ union and provided the workers with medical care on a par with civil service employees (Pillai 2005: 32). Additionally, a minimum salary for Coffee House workers was instated at 300 rupees. Before that, between 1947 and 1957, Coffee House workers were living on the leftover food that was not sold at the end of the day (Pillai 2005: 32). But still, the Coffee Board told the workers that the coffee houses would soon be closed and they would be left unemployed. A. K. Gopalan, Coffee House Workers’ Union vice-president and Lok Sabha MP affiliated with the CPI (undivided) (and then later the CPI[M]), created a group on 25 May 1957 to stop the closure of the coffee houses and to instate them as an official government-owned firm. The Coffee Board countered with a formalised scheme to sell off the coffee houses to private owners on 18 June 1957 (Pillai 2005: 33). On 27 June, the Coffee House workers started a hunger strike (Pillai 2005: 35), because in the words of

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


one coffee house worker, ‘All the freedom the Union achieved in 12 years was ending. We were at a stage worse than the old stage of being the slaves of the [British Coffee] Board [of India]. We were going to become coolie slaves of some hotel capitalists’ (Pillai 2005: 34). They wore black badges and held public demonstrations in every city in which there was an Indian Coffee House. The Coffee Board proceeded with continued dismissals of the workers and closing of Indian Coffee House locations. At that point, with the workers’ morale low and sinking, A. K. Gopalan intervened and told the workers in a rallying public speech, ‘You are the workers. Those who have to rule the world. This is very simple for you. Dear comrades, you can take hold of the Coffee House, rule it, and run it without the capitalists’ (Pillai 2005: 39). The union took a vote and decided that on the 10-year anniversary of Indian independence, 15 August 1957, Indian Coffee House workers would officially take ownership of the coffee houses and run them as a cooperative under the slogan ‘The Coffee Houses we work in belong to us!’ (Pillai 2005: 39). In word, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru supported the Coffee House workers’ action, but in deed, he created obstacles to official ownership of the coffee houses by the workers. As one worker described, Nehru in effect told the coffee house workers, ‘we will not run Coffee House and we will not let you run it’ (Pillai 2005: 40). Nehru stipulated that if they wanted to become an official workers’ cooperative, the Coffee House workers had to pay one half of the cost of the firm upfront, and then the worker-owned coffee houses would only have legal rights for one year, after which the Indian Coffee Board could decide whether to close the firm or sell it off to private ownership (Pillai 2005: 40). Additionally, the Coffee Board of India would be given rights to inspect each and every location and close those that were not up to code (Pillai 2005: 40). The Indian Coffee House workers and their union did not believe that Nehru and the Coffee Board would act in good faith in their assessments of the Coffee House and would use these preconditions as a pretence to close or sell the coffee houses. To oppose Nehru’s unsuitable proposal, in Indian Coffee Houses across the country, workers staged a sit-in strike on 15 August 1957 (Pillai 2005: 41), and by 30 August, just as the workers were preparing to begin a hunger strike, the union and the Coffee Board agreed that the Coffee Houses would be official cooperative societies registered under the Indian Cooperative Societies Act (Pillai 2005: 42). The history of conflict and collaboration between the Congress Party and Congress Socialists that resulted from the historical trajectory of the anticolonial Labour Movement is essential for making sense of how Indian Coffee


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House workers compromised with Prime Minister Nehru on transforming this colonial firm into a worker-owned cooperative. But to understand how Socialist ideas influenced the policies of the Congress Party in the immediate period after independence, it is crucial to first understand Jawaharlal Nehru’s perspective on economic development policy in newly independent India. Nehru believed that in order to ‘progress’ India’s economy and society, industrial production was paramount. In order to do so, Nehru contended, India needed to have a more amicable relationship between labour and management, and to that end, strikes should be eradicated. But in order to support an urban class of workers and managers, agricultural production had to increase as well. For agricultural growth, Nehru believed that cooperatives were best and wanted to improve upon the agricultural cooperative societies left by the British. This analysis of Nehru’s development strategy reveals not only why he was initially opposed to allowing Indian Coffee House workers to form a cooperative but also why he eventually capitulated.

Congress’ Foray into the Labour Movement: INTUC In 1947, after India’s independence, members of the Congress Party formed the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) to help bring organised labour into the Congress Party. The first trade union to join was the Majoor Mahajan, which became ‘the bloodstream of the INTUC’ ( Jha 1970: 195; Myers 1958: 64–6). At its founding, the INTUC had 35 member unions and 157,000 members. The INTUC was very different from the already established AITUC in that it took a Gandhian class-cooperation approach to labour relations, rather than the Marxian class-struggle approach of the AITUC (Ramanujam 1986: 68, 77). In a 1947 INTUC document explaining the need for the new labour organisation, labour minister Guzarilal Nanda claims that in contrast with the AITUC, the INTUC will settle strikes peacefully and employ only ‘democratic procedures’ in order to influence government policy.1 Nanda claims that the Congress Socialists in particular were ‘dissatisfied’ with how the AITUC was ‘composed and conducted’. The Socialists believed that the Communist leadership of the AITUC did not support the best interests of the workers, nor the best interests of independent India. By way of example, Nanda writes that while the Congress Socialists favoured arbitration as the best way to settle workplace disputes, the Communists, and therefore the AITUC, preferred to strike.2 Because the Communist leadership of the AITUC refused to adopt a policy of arbitration, the INTUC claimed that the AITUC ‘disrupted the unity of

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the working class’.3 While the Communists countered that ‘the INTUC is designed to sabotage the revolutionary strength of the working class in order to make the way smooth for the capitalist’, the INTUC claimed that its ‘methods and policies are based on unanimous decisions of democratically elected representatives of the workers’.4 In an INTUC document written to convince workers to leave the AITUC, they claim that because the Communists are so highly organised and have such a stronghold on the AITUC, the AITUC has become an undemocratic organisation, and that workers who believe in democracy should therefore shift their allegiance to the INTUC. The INTUC claims furthermore that the AITUC does not represent the true interests of the working class because its organisations are simply, ‘strike committees’ and that the statistics of ‘numerous strikes betray the weakness of the movement and are not an index of its strength or a measure of the influence of the AITUC’. A truly strong labour movement, the INTUC counters, comes from successful collective bargaining and not from strikes.5 While the leadership of the INTUC was (and is) comprised entirely of Congressmen, the INTUC at its founding claimed that it was not an appendage of the Congress Party. However, it claims that because of this overlap, it has the advantage of close collaboration with the Congress Party– led state (Ramanujam 1986: 70). INTUC leadership claims that ‘government will need the active assistance of the labour movement in the constructive work of reordering the social and economic life of the country’. While the labour movement and the government may not always ‘see eye to eye with each other’, there will be ‘no call for direct action in the political field’.6 From its founding the INTUC had as its primary goal cooperation with the Congress Party government. In 1948, Hind Mazdoor Panchayat, the leadership committee of one of the Socialist Party trade unions, wrote in a memo on profit sharing that the best way of improving industrial relations is to make the workers feel they have a stake in the economic development of the country in which they are contributing their mite and have a share in management of the same. Viewed from this angle, profit sharing is over and above the fair return to labour and not a substitute for the same. The charges on the income of the concern should be first a living wage to workers including a fair remuneration for management, then a fair return on capital to be computed in the light of use and risk elements involved.…7

The Socialist Party trade unions, unlike the Communist trade unions, were not interested in fundamentally altering the relations of production in India,


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but were more concerned with providing workers a living wage and increasing profit margins for capital to the end of economic development in India. In 1950, the Hind Mazdoor again articulated a similar view that the goal of a trade union movement is a living wage, and not a fundamental change in the relations of production. In an internal memo critiquing the Trade Union Bill, 1950, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha claims that the function of labour legislation should be the protection of labour since labour is weaker than management. To advance the cause of labour, they contend, means to provide a living wage, social security, healthy and safe working conditions, better living conditions, and an effective voice in management.8 While certainly the Communists would not oppose these ends, for the Socialists, these are ends in and of themselves, but for the Communists, the ultimate end is the abolishment of capitalist labour relations. In taking this more moderate stance, Congress and Socialists believed that strikes and lockouts should be avoided, although they also believed that they should not be illegal. In a note on how industrial disputes should be adjudicated, the leadership of Hind Mazdoor contended that arbitration is always preferable over strikes and lockouts. They claimed that, first of all, India being a democracy, ‘the government provides an adequate instrument in the hands of the working class for bringing about the most far-reaching changes in society’. They go on to claim that strikes and lockouts are not democratic, and they instead hurt the wider community. In the situation of strike and/or lockout, ‘a small minority, strongly and efficiently organised is in a position to hold up the entire community to ransom.’ Because workers are weaker than management, an arbiter can intervene to make sure that workers get justice in negotiations. In a strike, there is no third party to ensure that workers’ interests are represented fairly. In an arbitration court, the dispute is viewed from a legal rather than a sociological perspective and, therefore, if workers are able to rationally argue their case, they are not only likely to get justice, but over time build a body of fundamental ‘rights and wrongs’ pertaining to conflict between labour and management. Because labour arbitration courts are run by labour experts, they are well positioned to determine fair wage scales, living wages, and a given wage in a particular industry since they know the norms. They believed though that the composition of experts can be improved upon and that an economist, trade unionist, technician and industrialist should be on every tribunal. They also believed that there are too many disputes that go to court and that workers should instead settle disputes using collective bargaining so that cases could be solved before coming to court. Furthermore,

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


the state has to do a better job of training workers of their legal rights so that they ‘realise both the scope and limits of their rights’. But in the case that a dispute does go to court, the political party affiliated with the trade union should ensure that the workers have enough resources to afford the best legal advice. And finally, Hind Mazdoor argued that cases should be resolved more quickly in order to ‘keep the industrial peace’.9 The conflict and collaboration between the Congress Party and Congress Socialists is an important backdrop to understanding how the Indian Coffee House workers compromised on a cooperative as their organisational form. But to better understand how Socialist ideas influenced the policies of the Congress Party, it is crucial to understand Jawaharlal Nehru’s perspective on economic development policy in newly independent India.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Economic Development in Postcolonial India While India’s first prime minister and Congress Party Leader Jawaharlal Nehru is often labelled a Fabian Socialist, in a 1957 speech at the annual meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Nehru characterised his views in his own words: You referred to socialism, for which we stand, and some confusion that has been caused by it. Well, I can very well understand confusion being caused, because this word is interpreted in so many ways. The communists are socialists, there are other forms of socialism. And what exactly do we mean by that? I do not know. I am not going to define it. That is exactly the point I wish to make, that I have not tied myself to any particular definition of it. I am thinking of human values and not of text book definitions. I want the people of India, every one of them, 370 millions of them, to have equal opportunities for progress. That is the nearest definition I can give.… That means, of course, many things to be done, and ultimately to increase our resources; that means production, more equitable distribution and all that. That is, we have certain social objectives and whatever we do, we want to test them, as far as we can, by those social objectives. ( Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, 2nd series [hereafter SWJLN], Vol. 40, 101)

Nehru believed that industrial production was the only way to economic progress in newly independent India. A focus on heavy industry, he believed, was the best strategy to industrial development but that a key precursor for developing heavy industry was peace between labour and management,


Brewing Resistance

including an absence of strikes and other labour disputes. In order to support this class of urban workers and managers, agricultural production had to increase. For agricultural development, Nehru believed that cooperatives were the best model, and sought to improve upon the agricultural cooperative societies left behind by the British. In an April 1947 address to the All India Manufacturers Conference, Nehru told the manufacturing community that industrialisation is the key to alleviating poverty in India. ‘Industrialisation will alleviate poverty if it’s done right,’ Nehru said (SWJLN, Vol. 2, 585). But in order for industry to achieve this goal of poverty alleviation, industrialisation has to be implemented with the intent ‘to raise the standard of living of the masses, it can’t be thought of as a subsidiary benefit’ (SWJLN, Vol. 2, 585). Because the profit motive cannot be the primary intent of industrialisation, the state must interfere to organise the industrial economy. Nehru said that manufacturers want the government to help with tariffs and finance, but to keep away and not interfere, but he vows that his government will plan the industrial economy and that to have a situation where government does not intervene in industry ‘is not a logical position to take up. I might inform you that the Government is going to do no such thing’ (SWJLN, Vol. 2, 587). However, Nehru stated that while ‘I have no doubt in my mind that in theory complete nationalisation is desirable’, he did not believe that India had the state capacity necessary to successfully carry out such a programme (SWJLN, Vol. 2, 587). ‘In the present stage,’ he claimed, ‘there will have to be inevitably a great deal of private enterprise. I do not want to interfere with them. But if you are going to plan, even these private enterprises must function within that plan’ (SWJLN, Vol. 2, 588). While Nehru would have wanted to have complete nationalisation of industry in India, in the postindependence political context, he viewed this as unfeasible and instead sought the cooperation of private enterprise in order to make economic planning in India a success. But industrialists were not the only social group asked to make sacrifices by the prime minister. At a Dalit conference in November 1952, Nehru spoke of the economic problems facing India as a nation and disproportionately affecting Dalits among other historically marginalised groups. Nehru told the crowd that it is not possible for the government to find employment for everybody. If unqualified people are employed, the country will suffer. Let all those who are engaged in an occupation do their jobs well, for production is

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proportionate to work done. The prosperity of a nation depends on its capacity for production and on a rational distribution of wealth. (SWJLN, Vol. 20, 131)

While at the conference of manufacturers, Nehru urged them to cooperate with state planning, at the Dalit conference, Nehru urged those who labour to be more productive and to accept that full employment is not possible. In fact, increasing industrial production levels, according to Nehru, would ensure that India retains its political independence and ameliorates its status among the nations of the world. In a statement in the Lok Sabha in 1957, Nehru said, ‘A developing country, a developing economy must have capital formation for investment for future growth and one of the tests is how much you advance in that direction’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 72). In 1955, at the meeting of the AICC Nehru explained, It is necessary to lay emphasis on heavy industry because I strongly feel that no country can retain her political independence without developing basic industry. If we have to depend for our basic needs on the Big Powers, the political freedom we have achieved will be lacking in real content. (SWJLN, Vol. 30, 149)

Not only does capital formation ensure prestige on a world scale but it also protects against undue economic influence from the economic world powers. Steel is one of the industries that Nehru thought would best help to advance India’s economy. At a speech celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Tata Iron and Steel Works, Nehru said that everyone recognises that industrialisation means many things, but more specifically it means steel and power. It is on the basis of steel and power that countries are industrialised and advanced. Indeed, without knowing much about a country, if you only know how much steel it produces, how much power it possesses, you can very well tell as to what that country is, how far advanced it is. Those two yardsticks apply anywhere. (SWJLN, Vol. 41, 139)

But while Nehru believed that planning and industrial development was integral in making India more advanced, he was committed to planning because without it, it would be difficult to ‘ensure the equitable distribution of that new wealth’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 86). He even went as far as to say in a 1947 address to the All India Manufacturers Conference, ‘I do not want industrial development if 400 million people are going to remain in a bad way. Progress must bring progress to all the people and not to a few chosen’


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(SWJLN, Vol. 2, 586). And while he was committed to a high level of state involvement in the economy, he saw himself as emulating the US more so than the Socialist bloc. In a 1957 speech to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Nehru said, ‘The United States of America are supposed to be the home of the modern version of capitalism. There is more public enterprise and State-owned enterprise in the United States than in many of the so-called socialist countries’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 103). For Nehru, state planning was not about his Socialist ideals, but about ensuring both development and equality. To support his industrial ambitions, Nehru encouraged peace between labour and capital. In a December 1948 resolution, Nehru wrote that ‘the proprietors of industry should bring down their profits and help in raising production. Labour must realise that every strike at this stage is a grave ill service to the general community’ (SWJLN, Vol. 7, 27–8). Nehru proposed sacrifices from both sides in order to foster uninterrupted industrial production. While he supported workers’ unions, especially if they were affiliated with the Congressdominated INTUC, he vehemently opposed strikes and other forms of labour unrest. In a 1949 note to the Ministry of Home Affairs, he expressed his frustration with Communist Party–affiliated trade unions that these types of workers’ organisations were ‘encouraging violence, sabotage,’ and that ‘the policy aimed at was one of worsening the economic condition of the country’ (SWJLN, Vol. 12, 452). In a 1954 speech at the Labour Ministers’ Conference, Nehru reiterated his view that ‘conflicts between labour and capital only hinder production’ (SWJLN, Vol. 27, 385–6). He acknowledges that in the past, the British Industrial Revolution for example, labour had ‘difficulties’ and needed strikes and lockouts to improve their lot, but ‘times have now changed and these things have become matters of the past.… Both labour and capital have to understand that in the India of today these weapons [strikes and lockouts] are wrong and should not be used’ (SWJLN, Vol. 27, 386). He maintained this stance, and while speaking to workers at the INTUC annual convention in 1956 said, There is undoubtedly today what is called class conflict. But it is out of date.… Strikes and lockouts should no longer have any place in industrial relations. This means that the basic reasons for strikes and lockouts must disappear and that where there is conflict there should be a fair and impartial method of resolving it peacefully. (SWJLN, Vol. 33, 126)

Nehru’s tone towards labour seems particularly harsh, because it was, in his view, ultimately in labour’s best interest to keep industrial peace and continue uninterrupted production. ‘From the national point of view,’ Nehru said,

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


‘increasing production is of the greatest importance. Ultimately, the wellbeing of labour depends upon it. Progressively, labour should be associated with management till really there is no difference between these two’ (SWJLN, Vol. 33, 126). By increasing production, Nehru believed that it would be more likely that labour could consume what it produces. And while Nehru’s Congress Party led the INTUC, and Nehru believed that ‘the INTUC has done a good job of organising labour along the right lines’ (SWJLN, Vol. 33, 127), Nehru held up the Majoor Mahajan, started by Mohandas Gandhi in Ahmedabad, as the ideal Indian trade union because they always tried to resolve conflict with management, rarely engaged in strikes, and never used lightning strikes (SWJLN, Vol. 33, 133). Nehru was particularly opposed to lightning strikes, believing that they ‘hold up society or community to ransom’ (SWJLN, Vol. 33, 133). Nehru’s justification for his disdain for strikes was that two wrongs do not make a right. He believed that conditions in India were bad for labour but believed that through industrialisation, conditions would improve. In a 1956 speech in the Lok Sabha about the strike in Kharagpur Nehru said, Well, I am prepared to agree that conditions in India, in many places, are intolerable. I am not quite sure how I would behave if I were subjected to those conditions. That is a different matter. But I say: Because conditions are intolerable, it does not mean that a wrong action and a wicked action should be indulged in because it does really harm and injure the group and the individual. (SWJLN, Vol. 33, 133)

Instead, Nehru thought that if management were to give labour more of a sense of investment in the production process, strikes could be avoided. In a 1957 speech to the Merchants’ Chamber of Uttar Pradesh, Nehru said that labour ‘must be made to feel that they are working in their own interest and are partners, having stakes in the work they are engaged in, and not mere hired hands earning their livelihood’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 86). While labour had the responsibility to resolve disputes in a cooperative manner, managers and owners, Nehru urged, should ensure that workers were viewed as equal partners in India’s industrial adventure. Nehru said, The workers must be made to realise that they are truly partners in both the profit and loss of the factory. Secondly, the old relationship of master and servant, and the distinctions between first class, second class, or fourth class employees, can no longer work. That does not mean that everybody can occupy the same position because not everyone has the ability. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 87)


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While Nehru was certainly not advocating for complete equality, he believed that industry had to do better at making labour feel invested in the labour process. Eradicating strikes by making labour feel more invested in the labour process was integral to Nehru’s industrial development goals. In a December 1957 speech at the meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Nehru said that ‘if the industrial background is sound, industrial relations are good, and there is a general feeling among the workers and the management that it is to their good and also to the country’s good to produce more, well, we will produce much more to everybody’s advantage’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 100). And Nehru shared this vision not only with capital but also with labour. In a 1957 message to the INTUC Nehru wrote, ‘In the India of today, with its five year plans and dynamic approach to various problems and its growing industrialisation, few subjects are of greater importance than labour relations.’ He went on to add, This organisation, however, while building up the strength of organised labour, should not indulge in adventurist tactics which injure not only the country but the cause of labour. We are all interested in raising the standards and the living conditions of workers. But it is obvious that this can only be achieved through greater production and anything that comes in the way of that production is harmful to all. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 121)

He warned workers, at a rally in Madras in 1957 and a rally in Gauhati in 1958, that if they are to strike, the benefits of industrialisation will be lost to them. Nehru said to workers in Madras, Now, if anything comes in the way of the production of wealth—conflicts, let us say, lockouts, strikes or other conflicts—then less wealth is produced, production becomes less and that harms both the nation and the workers, because there are less things to distribute. Therefore, one must avoid all conflicts. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 123)

He reiterated that keeping the industrial peace was best for India’s economic development, stating, Our second five year plan is an effort to industrialise India. Many factories, great and small, are growing and we have to see how they grow. If they grow up in conflict, then the growth will be limited and we will not prosper. Therefore, we have to see that this industrialisation takes place peacefully and cooperatively as far as possible. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 124)

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


In Gauhati, he told workers that not only will strikes disrupt industrial development in India but also derail efforts to eradicate poverty. Nehru said, ‘India has launched a battle not against any country, but against poverty, and any strike or hartal by workers would hamper the execution of the development plans and affect the battle against poverty’ (SWJLN, Vol. 41, 129). He also claimed that strikes could potentially disrupt food production along with economic progress. He reiterated, ‘Now, if there are hartals or strikes it would retard the country’s progress. Similarly, if the kisans observed hartal, there would be no food in the country’ (SWJLN, Vol. 41, 129–30). And, in fact, Nehru saw agricultural development as integral to industrial development. Without a productive agricultural sector, labour in the cities would be without food, or else food would have to be imported from abroad at great expense. While keeping industrial peace was essential for industrial growth, even more important in Nehru’s view was ensuring adequate local food supply. In a 1952 speech in Parliament, he raised the issue of food supply, stating that industrial or economic growth does not necessarily mean human growth and, therefore, it was essential to develop village production as well. He said, The development of heavy industry by itself does not solve the problem of millions in this country. We have to develop the village and cottage industry in a big way, at the same time making sure that in trying to develop industry, big and small, we do not forget the human factor. We are not merely out to get more money and more production. We ultimately want better human beings. We want our people to have greater opportunities, not only from an economic or material point of view but at other levels also. We have seen in other countries that economic growth does not necessarily mean human growth or even national growth. (Government of India, Publications Division, Selected Speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, 5 Vols [hereafter SSJLN], Vol. 1, 94–5)

At a 1957 speech at the Merchant’s Chamber of Uttar Pradesh, Nehru spoke about how the growth of cities should not mean that rural areas are similarly neglected. He said that … there are two aspects of our development which have to progress side by side. One is rural development which is in a sense more important than urban development. That does not mean that urban development is not necessary. But as you know, out of 37–38 crores of India’s population thirty crores live in villages. So every step that we take has to be carefully weighted as to how it affects the rural population.


Brewing Resistance

He added, ‘For years, the cities have grown at the expense of the villages. Resources have been drained from the rural areas and spent on the cities. I am talking about the past. This is a great debt that we have to pay back to the villages’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 85). But Nehru’s obligation to rural India was not simply one based in an altruism. He believed that village growth, and increased food production more specifically, would support industrial development in India’s cities. In a 1956 speech to the National Cooperative Development and Warehousing Board Nehru said, As you know, we are laying stress on heavy industries under our five year plans. Huge steel plants are coming up. But the fact is that our most urgent priority is to step up food production for that is the base for all our industries. If the foundation is not strong, the heavy industries cannot take off. (SWJLN, Vol. 35, 109)

Again, in a 1957 statement in the Lok Sabha Nehru said, … in the final analysis the growth of India depends on the growth of the villages. Of course you want steel factories, but in the final analysis growth depends on the growth of rural India, that means the growth of the villager and the villager becoming self-reliant, self-dependent and cooperative—on the development of the village panchayat, on the development of the village cooperatives. Both these things are included in community development schemes. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 78)

A reliable food supply for urban residents was the link between industrial development and village development. In a 1958 speech to the Congress Party, Nehru said, ‘Now, I have said all this about the importance of industrial growth.… Industrial growth will not take place and cannot take place unless you deal satisfactorily with food’ (SWJLN, Vol. 45, 421). Without growing its own food, India would either have to import food from abroad, or else it would not be able to support urban development. Nehru details the importance of agricultural development for urban development in a 1957 speech in the Lok Sabha, We cannot lay stress enough on the importance of agriculture, on the importance on the food front of cereals for the reason that I have given and also for the other reason that if we cannot feed our people properly, apart from surplus food, everything suffers. If we talk about foreign exchange, we have to buy food from abroad at a terrific cost. It is a great strain on us. So that there is nothing more important—I make no exception—there

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


is nothing more important than improvement in agriculture in India. I would limit that to more perhaps improvement in the cereal situation. It is of the utmost vital importance. Nothing can be given greater priority than that. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 74)

He elaborates, ‘If we have not got enough, the alternative is to buy food from abroad. Either we grow things in the country, or we buy from abroad, because nobody is prepared to allow our people to starve’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 76) While some policymakers countered Nehru’s views on agricultural development, insisting instead that the problem of not enough food was a problem of over-population and not of agricultural development, Nehru stood firm in his belief that increasing the food supply, rather than controlling India’s population growth, was the way forward. At a Planned Parenthood conference in 1952, Nehru said, ‘Some people image that almost all the ills of India are due to overpopulation and, therefore, the basic remedy for those ills is to try to limit the growth of this population. This approach, to some extent, diverts attention from important social problems to the population aspect of them’ (SWJLN, Vol. 19, 174). He acknowledged that ‘India is certainly heavily populated’, but added, ‘and yet taking India as a whole it is not as densely populated as many other countries with higher standards of living. The question is of higher production per capita and proper distribution’ (SWJLN, Vol. 19, 175). He retained these views in 1957, when during a speech at the meeting of the Associated Chamber of Commerce he said, ‘I say we should increase our food supply not only to make it adequate for the growing population, but to export’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 97). In Nehru’s view, the best way to achieve agricultural development was through cooperatives. In a 1956 speech inaugurating the National Cooperative Development and Warehousing Board, Nehru explained how the precedence for agricultural cooperatives comes from British colonial development programmes and how the Congress government has revamped agricultural cooperative policy to make it more relevant to India of the mid-twentieth century. Nehru said that ‘though the methods we have learnt from the British have their good points, they are too time consuming and it takes ages to complete a job. Now, life is very short in this nuclear age. It is very frustrating to work at a slow pace’ (SWJLN, Vol. 35, 104). His critique of the British agricultural cooperative programmes is that the bureaucracy surrounding the agricultural cooperatives was excessive, which stifled the movement. Nehru said,


Brewing Resistance

Another thing we inherited from the British is the breed of officials. We are slowly getting out of it though we have not done so completely yet. During the days of British rule, everything was in the hands of officers and bureaucrats. The common man was considered to belong to another world had to go to them for everything. But there were innumerable obstacles in the way including a long hierarchy of officials and then peons. It is only after going through all these personages that an individual could meet the high official by which time he would lose heart completely. The official would talk to him pompously which would further drain all his enthusiasm.… The complexion of the cooperative movement also felt the impact of clericalism. There were great barriers between the common man and the cooperatives.… The cooperative movement in particular has nothing to do with officials except to the extent that they can guide and advise. They should have a low profile. The cooperative movement needs spontaneous vitality. It is the job of the officers to mould the programme, guide and advise, and give it a sense of direction. But they must not run the whole show. (SWJLN, Vol. 35, 105)

Nehru even shared his own experiences with navigating excessive red tape with the members of the National Cooperative Development and Warehousing Board. He said, The rules and regulations governing cooperative societies are such that when someone wants to start a cooperative very often the officers in charge try to create obstacles. It is really strange…. I do get reports and occasionally, I have been involved in starting some cooperatives. So, I was amazed when something that I felt should have been done in twenty-four hours took nine months of correspondence and was still not accomplished. Then I said—to hell with these cooperative rules and regulations. (SWJLN, Vol. 35, 104)

While Nehru felt it necessary to reform the bureaucratic edifice of the cooperative programmes inherited from the British, he also believed that agricultural cooperatives were India’s best hope for systematised rural development. In fact, he contended that it was the only option. In a 1956 speech, Nehru said, I am fully convinced that in a sense agrarian cooperatives are absolutely urgent and imperative and an all out effort must be made to form them. I am aware that many people in India are opposed to cooperatives…. It is not only a question of land but the entire structure of government and society stands to benefit by the system of cooperation…. I am convinced that there is no alternative to agrarian cooperatives. The only alternative is collectives which are even more drastic. (SWJLN, Vol. 35, 108)

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


In a 1957 statement in the Lok Sabha, he reiterated that an agricultural cooperative programme was India’s best hope for ensuring a stable domestic food supply. ‘In effect, the future progress of India on the food front depends very, very largely on the work done by community projects, community development areas. It depends on the development of cooperatives. It depends in the final analysis on the village taking this matter in hand’ (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 75). Nehru believed that because agricultural technology in India was not as advanced compared to other places in the world, and because small landholdings were the vast majority of cultivable landholdings, cooperatives were the best way to maximise output given limited technology and the lack of economies of scale. In a 1958 speech to parliament, Nehru articulated why cooperatives were the only way forward for Indian agricultural development, The fact of the matter is we have not made any real progress in the matter of ceiling on land holdings. We have come to the conclusion that it is not possible to separate the two issues—ceiling and cooperatives. Doing so creates difficulties because all our scientific training pushes us towards adopting new techniques in agriculture. In the rest of the world where these techniques are adopted, the yield is enormous. So we must adopt them—I am not merely referring to tractors here. But the difficulty is that it cannot be done by an individual with a land holding of one or two or three acres. He can have neither the capability nor the strength to do so. But to have large farms owned by individuals also goes against our principles. And moreover, how many big farms are there really in India? The small farms compromise more than ninety-five per cent of the cultivable land. So the only solution is to have cooperatives. It is not against our principles and we gain the advantages of larger units. (SWJLN, Vol. 45, 414)

Regarding how village cooperatives should be run, Nehru said that ‘there should be a cooperative in each village and it should be run by the village itself ’ (SWJLN, Vol. 45, 414). He was opposed to excessive government intervention in village affairs and believed that villagers knew best how to organise their cooperatives and that the state should play an advisory role upon request. He also believed that cooperatives work best when kept on a small scale. In a message to Bram Perkash, Nehru wrote, ‘I do not particularly fancy largescale cooperatives covering a wide area. I believe in village cooperatives, linked together for some common task. Also, I believe in the Cooperative Movement being non-official so that a spirit of initiative and self-reliance may grow in the people’ (SWJLN, Vol. 44, 390).


Brewing Resistance

Nehru proposed that the cooperative movement not only had the potential to create a stable source of domestic food supply for the cities and to engage all villagers in agricultural production regardless of how much land they personally owned but that it also instilled in rural people the value of selfsufficiency. In a 1959 speech in Maduri Nehru said, The cooperative will represent the economic side of village life. The peasantry and others will, through the cooperatives, perform together many of the economic functions which they performed separately. The peasant in India is very weak. He can make good only if he joins others through a co-operative. By forming cooperatives the peasants can pool their resources for providing credit and getting supplies of seeds, implements, fertilizers, etc. and can organise the sale of their produce. The cooperative removes the money-lender and the middle man. That is why all over the world farmers have formed themselves into service cooperatives. (SSJLN, Vol. 4, 130)

In a 1958 speech to Parliament, Nehru said that the whole idea of the cooperative movement is self-reliance. If a cooperative movement is officialised with a big official boss running it, then again it is not a cooperative movement—it may work successfully or not—because you do not succeed in getting that self-reliance, self-confidence and in India the basic thing that we have to produce today, and that we have so far not succeeded in producing, is that sense, especially in the rural areas, of self-reliance. (SWJLN, Vol. 45, 418)

In fact, Nehru believed that people’s desire for self-help was what made the cooperative movement so successful. Instead of relying on bureaucrats to lead the programme, its success or failure was based on villagers’ assessments of their needs and capabilities. In a 1957 speech at the Merchants’ Chamber of Uttar Pradesh Nehru said, Our entire community development movement is based on self-help. We want to expand the village industries. You may argue that cottage industries have no relevance in the modern world. My answer is that so long as the condition of our farmers and others in the rural areas continues to be what it is, village industries will continue to be relevant. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 89)

While in urban areas, Nehru compelled businesses to cooperate with his economic planning, in rural areas, he was more open and supportive of grassroots development efforts. In a 1957 statement in the Lok Sabha, Nehru said,

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


Take this Gramdan [same as Sarvodaya and Bhoodan] Movement. I do not pretend to understand all the philosophy, all the background of the Gramdan Movement. I do not pretend to agree to every item in it, but I do fundamentally and absolutely approve of it, and think it is worthy of commendation and every help because principally it relies on self-help and cooperation between the villagers. I approve of it, I want to help in every way. (SWJLN, Vol. 40, 77)

While Nehru’s views of India’s ideal trajectory of development involved sacrifice and cooperation among all social groups, he truly believed in progress for all and in reducing inequality. In a January 1956 speech to students at the Delhi School of Economics Nehru said, … somehow or other the progress we are making here tends to give more to those who have and less to those who have not. It is necessary to close the gap between the favoured and the disfavoured and between the privileged and the underprivileged if the trouble and conflict between nations and within nations is to be ended. (SWJLN, Vol. 31, 82)

While Nehru’s efforts were directed to creating a more just and equal India, in the decades after India’s independence, the working classes did not see a change in living and working conditions after independence; in fact, for many, conditions worsened. After the Freedom Movement had successfully driven the British from India, Indian workers were promised by the Congress government that once certain national economic goals were met, then their demands would be met. The demands of the workers included: an increase in minimum wages, living wages and humane work conditions, improved labour legislation, a reduction in the maximum hours in a work day, the abolition of child labour, a legal right to organise, more and better safety regulations, public health concerns—particularly about malaria and malnourishment— affordable health care and education, affordable and safe housing, an end to unemployment and partial unemployment, and more democratic participation in the newly formed government.10 But not many of the labour laws on the books in 1947 changed during the transition from British rule to independence. Instead, workers were asked to take even lower wages, give up the right to organise and strike, and suspend all further demands in order to help advance national development goals. All while the national capitalist class retained its ties to the former imperial centre through trade agreements and military alliances.


Brewing Resistance

Socialism, Sarvodaya and Gandhian Economics Given Nehru’s own emphasis on cooperatives in the agricultural context, it becomes less surprising that the Congress Party–controlled Indian state would agree to collectivise Coffee House. While Nehru’s vision for the cooperative movement was smaller scale and based in villages, Congress Socialists that Nehru appointed in labour and economic planning positions were strong advocates for the cooperative movement based in their commitment to Sarvodaya economics. Congress Socialists, such as Khandubai Desai, chairman of the INTUC and labour minister, along with the rural and agricultural development architect on the Planning Commission, J. C. Kumarappa, saw a full-fledged cooperative movement as essential to Sarvoyda economics, to which they wanted India’s post-1947 economy to adhere. Kumarappa, a Christian originally from Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, was working as an economics professor in Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad when he joined Mohandas Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha, and from then on wholeheartedly participated in the Gandhian independence movement, for which he served a year in prison. Kumarappa was the first Gandhian economist (and actually coined the term ‘Gandhian Economics’). He constructed a theory of economic policy and development based on Gandhian philosophy from both Gandhi’s writings and from his personal relationship with M. K. Gandhi. Kumarappa was primarily concerned with agricultural development in India over the course of his career. After India’s independence in 1947, he was appointed to serve on the Planning Commission and charged with the task of setting agricultural and rural development policy. As a result of his government appointment, he was able to put his theory of Gandhian economics (Sarvodaya) into practice. Khandubhai Desai was also involved with the Gandhian independence movement in Gujarat. After independence, he became the chairman of the INTUC, the trade union organisation of the Congress Party, and was subsequently appointed labour minister. Some of his views seem quite radical, especially in the contemporary context. In a speech to the INTUC general council in 1948, Desai described the economic legacy of colonialism, stating, … our poor people may toil every hour of their life only to make available the lion share of the wealth produced to the foreign rulers, leaving the rest of it to be spent firstly on the highly expensive bureaucracy here and the capitalists, who acted as agents of the foreigners’ commercial interests. The masses were consequently left poor, only to slave continuously for the upkeep of this exploitation economic machine. A recall to the memory of this picture is relevant, because we find that even after the attainment

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


of our political independence the old-set routine and habits have not changed.11

In his view that independent India was independent in name only because of continued exploitation of labour by both domestic and global capital, Desai was certainly not alone. The CPI would share this view that Indian labour has been exploited at the hands of local and global capital, and that for that reason, the transition to independence was marked by continuity at best and perhaps even a worsening of conditions for the working classes. However, in addition to his staunch anti-capitalism, Desai was also fervently anti-Communist. Especially in the early years of Indian independence, Desai took every opportunity in his speeches at the INTUC annual sessions and elsewhere to warn the working class and their agents of the Communist menace. In 1949, in his general secretary’s report to the INTUC, he warned of the ‘anti-national’ Communists and other ‘pseudo-leftists’ whose ‘sole aim is to undermine the Government by creating embarrassing situations’ of ‘discontent among the masses under the guise of political education’. In 1950, in his presidential address to the INTUC annual session, Desai claimed that the trade unions worked by the Communist Party are not genuine trade unions, working for the best interests of the working classes but are designed as a sort of platform to create unnecessary discontent among the working classes by frequent call to strikes resulting in disrupting the political and economic structure of the country.12

Desai was also concerned with agents of the Communist Party infiltrating what Desai termed ‘the free trade union movement’.13 He encouraged the working class to support ‘genuine trade unionism’ and to reject Communist infiltration. In 1951, in his INTUC presidential address, he lauded the working class for their continued resistance to ‘the totalitarian ideology of the Communist Party’.14 While one could certainly find many mid-twentieth century analogues to the Congress Party’s ‘Trade Unionism without Communism’ rhetoric, Desai and other progressive members of the Congress Party were trying to enact Kumarappa’s Gandhian economics, also termed Sarvodaya. In Desai’s 1949 president’s opening address to the INTUC general congress, he denied being ‘merely a tool of the Congress and a stooge of the Government’.15 He explained that his personal decision to participate in the Congress Party, and the reason that he believes the Congress Party is best suited to lead India, is that it ‘is nearest to the path preached by Gandhiji’.16 Desai believed that


Brewing Resistance

M. K. Gandhi was not merely a political leader but also a great leader of the working classes. In Desai’s general secretary’s report to the INTUC in 1949, he explained how Gandhi contributed to the labour movement, As far back as 1917 when he carried out his first struggle with the government and Zamindars in Champamya he also led the textile workers of Ahmedabad in their struggle against the employers. He even staked his very precious life to uphold the dignity and morale of labor and keep them firm on their pledge to fight to the finish against injustice and oppression. The weapons he used in the political sphere were also put to use in the economic struggle and in his conception the strike was only a form of satyagraha. In the speeches he delivered during this struggle he formulated his ideology and principles of industrial relations which were far ahead of his times and, therefore, not properly understood even by the employers or the employees. He taught workers to have their self-respect, understand the dignity of labour, consider themselves as co-partners in industry, and maintain that status by internal development, education, and freedom from all bad habits. In place of the law of the jungle and resort to brute force, he advised the employers and employees to regulate their relations and settle their differences by a procedure of negotiations and arbitration… The INTUC has come into being to spread the Gandhian message among the toiling masses of India and thereby to help them to attain their proper status as citizens in the free country, alive to the rights and privileges as well as responsibilities. In an organisation of this type it is not numerical strength alone that helps. In fact Gandhiji always emphasised on the fact that a few but true workers will keep alive the principles rather than a rabble of unthinking persons that have no vision. Let us therefore try to examine ourselves and see that we are fit to carry the sacred message throughout this country and to the international forum and that we do not lack in moral uprightness and rectitude.17

In subsequent speeches and writings as well, Khandubhai Desai affiliates himself and the INTUC as promoting Gandhian industrial relations. By 1952, Desai begins to explicitly evoke the idea of Sarvodaya, as developed by Kumarappa via Gandhi. Sarvodaya as a concept is centred around social harmony. The word itself is derived from the Sanskrit sarva, meaning ‘all’, and udaya, meaning ‘awakening’ or ‘development’. Hence, Sarvodaya means ‘the development of all’. Sarvodaya proponents believe that development should not proceed as something that benefits some or even the majority. Development entails the creation of a society that will benefit all. And this development, according to Mohandas Gandhi, is not to be realised simply as material benefit, but as moral, ethical

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


and spiritual development (Barathi 1990: 42). The Sarvodaya economy is founded on the basis of limited wants. To achieve moral, ethical and spiritual development, and increase welfare and happiness, people must deliberately and voluntarily give up their wants (Barathi 1990: 97). That is not to say that people, the poor especially, do not have material needs, but that unlimited wants, ‘the lust to acquire ... the fever to accumulate, to pile possession upon possession’, is the source of imbalance in capitalist society (Barathi 1990: 99). Mohandas Gandhi believed that the first step towards Sarvodaya is to refuse to have what the masses cannot have. People should have a balanced diet, adequate clothing, and a clean, well-ventilated house, but material possessions beyond this result in social and psychic evils. Sarvodaya contended that the rich were responsible for the ‘immorality’ of the poor because the rich make the poor ‘work like slaves’ in order to furnish them with luxuries. Sarvodaya is critical of a society in which there is economic inequality, where a few ‘roll in riches’ while others ‘do not get enough to eat’ (Barathi 1990: 101). Mohandas Gandhi believed in a classless society in which everyone had just enough for their needs. Ideally, Gandhi wanted the rich to voluntarily surrender their wealth to the greater good, but did not see that as a likely outcome. So, he thought that the working classes should employ non-violent resistance against the rich through strikes. He believed that through strikes, the poor could potentially create decentralised, mass control of the means of production of the elementary necessities of life. Gandhi was a critic of capitalism, but an equally fervent critic of Marxism. He believed that Marxian class struggle ‘belittled the authenticity of moral values’, in that in a Marxist framework, the dominant ethical values are simply the ideas of the dominant classes. Interpreting moral concepts as simply a reflection of the antagonism between classes left no space, in Gandhi’s mind, for the moral universals in which he believed (Barathi 1990: 44). Essential to the Gandhian moral universal are the bonds of interdependence and mutual cooperation. Sarvodaya’s fundamental economic unit is the village. Gandhi theorised that a small-scale village-based economy centred on the principle of social harmony and social democracy—without state involvement—would be the ideal economy (B. Pandey 1988: 26). Each village, in the ideal, should be self-sufficient, but within the village, the community would be dependent upon each other for vital needs. The village would be responsible for full employment through grassroots, democratic planning (B. Pandey 1988: 111). In one Sarvodaya centre in Tenali, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh, the centre’s objectives in 1960 were fourfold. First of all,


Brewing Resistance

they had created a list of 20 families in the village to convince to give up drinking alcohol. Second, they wanted to encourage villagers to make their own clothing using charkas. Third, they stipulated that every member must sell 15 rupees per month of Sarvodaya literature. And fourth, they planned on forming a Sarvodaya Hindi-language library run by women in the village, who would be taught, and then in turn teach the villagers, to read and speak Hindi.18 However, the movement was not without its critics. In a 1961 essay written by P. D. Patwari and sent to Socialist leader Jayprakash Narayan ( JP), Patwari levels six critiques of Sarvodaya.19 First of all, the movement’s emphasis on Hindu values alienates Muslims. Second, Gandhi’s emphasis on and reverence for the caste system, adopted by the Sarvodaya movement, excludes, oppresses and alienates lower castes, especially Dalits. Third, Gandhi’s opposition to industrialisation is impractical in the mid-twentieth century Third World. Fourth, the ‘linguistic fanaticism’ of Sarvodaya, in other words, its desire to impose Sankritised Hindi and Devanagari script upon all of India and reject English, creates regional tensions within the movement, especially alienating south India, Maharashtra and Bengal. The rejection of English isolates India from the rest of the world. Fifth, Sarvodaya’s opposition to science creates two issues for the movement. First of all, it alienates a potential Sarvodaya student movement, as most college students cited Sarvodaya’s opposition to science as their reason for rejecting the movement. Second, India needs doctors trained in Western medicine in addition to Ayurvedic doctors. And finally, Sarvodaya’s puritanism creates many problems for the movement. Its strong views against birth control could cause a population crisis. Its campaigns against racy cinema posters deny the right of self-expression. The responsibility placed on women for maintaining the purity of the Sarvodaya movement leads to the murders, suicides and the oppression of women. Women suspected by movement members of infidelity or ‘indecent’ behaviour ‘are not only disfigured by cutting their noses, including lips and sometimes ears, but even murdered’. Unmarried women who become pregnant are either murdered or given forced abortions. ‘On failure of abortion their newborn babies have to be murdered or deserted’, and ‘the unfortunate women have to take shelter of criminal gangs or prostitution because puritanical society will not accept such women and their children’. Sarvodaya also ‘restricts the liberty of women by hindering their education, free movement, selection of husbands, or profession’. The Sarvodaya movement ‘keeps them under total domination as domestic slaves unable to take care of themselves’. And Sarvodaya’s prohibition on alcohol

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


leads to the illicit distillation and distribution of alcohol, which poses health risks, corrupts police, and engenders reduced respect for the law.20 As part of this movement, associated with progressive members within the Congress Party who often called themselves Congress Socialists, proponents of Sarvodaya economics wanted Nehru’s Second Five-Year Plan to include an explicit programme for the further development of the Indian cooperative movement specifically in small industry, the service sector, and rural, village and craft production. In Khandubhai Desai’s speeches in the mid-1950s through the 1960s, he criticises the increasing inequality in India as a result of the rich getting richer while labour’s wages have increased at a lesser rate, and claims that the cooperative movement is a solution to this social ill. While in 1956, JP lamented how despite a few bright and progressive minded members of the Congress Party, affairs within Congress have so developed that in all basic matters the final world rests with Jawaharlalji. the latter has a very vague sympathy with Sarvodaya as a distant ideal when human nature has undergone a sea change; but he has no use for it in dealing with the practical problems of the day … among his economic advisors there is none who understands, much less believes in Sarvodaya.21

But by the end of his life, Nehru was celebrated as a key advocate of the cooperative movement. In his obituary written by the National Cooperative Union, New Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru was described as ‘a mentor, builder and advocate of developing a dynamic cooperative sector in the nation’s economy’. The obituary goes on to claim that to cooperators he was the symbol of all that cooperation stood for and the source of inspiration in their endeavours for the attainment of a better standard of life. With a firm conviction in the potentialities of cooperation as the best instrument for building up a democratic socialist order, he played the role of a friend, philosopher, and guide of the co-operators and fashioned the policies of the state for the unfettered and speedy development of the cooperative movement. He often remarked, ‘cooperation is dearer to me than any other movement because it is a way of life, a mental habit and a way of thinking. through cooperation we can not only solve the country’s economic problems, but also international problems.’ He was a powerful advocate of deofficialization in the cooperative movement.22

Congress Socialists JP and Khandubai Desai founded the Sarvodaya Sahyog Samity Ltd to promote cooperatives in villages—agricultural cooperatives,


Brewing Resistance

craft production cooperatives and khadi cooperatives. The objectives of the Sarvodaya Sahyog Samity Ltd were not only economic—in terms of establishing cooperative ownership and management of agricultural production—but also moralistic: in the by-laws it was stated that one of the goals of the society was ‘to take steps for the eradication of evil habits & customs amongst members, e.g., drinking, extravagance in marriages and Sradhs, litigation and to encourage temperance, thrift, enterprise and settlement of disputes by mutual agreements’.23 In JP’s words, the goal of Sarvodaya was ‘to effect a psychological change and a change of outlook in life and social relationships … a change of attitude to property, mutual relationships, etc., rather than development activities’.24 He believed that workers should feel that they are not mere hired labourers working for their own self-interest, but are participants in the social endeavour of production. As an anti-thesis of the capitalist ownership of industries, a slogan is often given to the workers that the industries belong to them. In the context of Sarvodaya this is obviously wrong. None is the owner, all are trustees. At present the workers and their unions think only of their class interest and work for it. This attitude will have to change. The workers should consider their work as a social responsibility and put their full heart into it. So far as wages or remuneration is concerned, it has already been stated above that this should bear relation to the general level of earning in society, particularly the rural sector.25

JP believed that Sarvodaya was ‘the only right path’ for the Indian economy, that investing all wealth with the village community the Sarvodaya Samaj could usher in ‘a mighty revolution’.26 JP contended that Sarvodaya was the application of Gandhian satyagraha to economic and social organisation.27 For JP, Sarvodaya was ‘an alternative to politics’, a way of organising society without the state.28 In fact, for JP, both the bourgeois state and the Socialist state concentrated power and encouraged monopoly capitalism.29 Sarvodaya, as a way of organising the economy, JP contended, would make it possible for the people to do without the state as far as practicable and to run their affairs themselves directly. Speaking as a socialist I would put it thus: the remedy is to create and develop forms of socialist living through the voluntary endeavour of the people rather than seek to establish socialism by the use of power of the state.30

Sarovodaya, claimed JP, is ‘people’s socialism’ rather than state socialism.31 The Sarvodaya model of a cooperative movement, however, is markedly different from how the Indian Coffee House workers saw the cooperative

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


workplace. The slogan of the Indian Coffee House workers was ‘The coffee houses we work in belong to us!’ but JP believed that the workplace belongs to none. JP was also critical of workers acting in their class interest and of workers fighting for material gain. The Coffee House workers, on the other hand, were committed to their own material gains along with the Communist cause since the eve of independence. The Sarvodaya cooperative model is clearly quite different from the one of the Indian Coffee House workers and their trade union. So while the proponents of Sarvodaya economics within the Congress Party wanted to strengthen the Indian cooperative movement, it is likely that this shared affinity for cooperatives that coalesced in 1957—among Congress, the CPI, the Coffee House Workers’ Trade Union and policymakers who selfidentified as Sarvodaya economists—did not simply emerge from a Gandhian ether or from A. K. Gopalan’s political genius. Before Kumarappa joined the Gandhian movement, he was an economist working on issues of rural agricultural development in India. His view on the importance of rural cooperatives for agricultural development was really no different from the British agricultural cooperatives, albeit retooled using Sarvodaya economic principles for a postcolonial India. Sarvodaya proponents explicitly evoked this legacy stating in one report from 1948, ‘England led the way in co-operation’.32 And JP himself looked to experiments with labour and management cooperation in Britain as a model for the Indian Labour Movement, corresponding with British labour advisers and receiving weekly news updates on labour in Britain, as early as 1948, almost immediately after independence was won.33 In continuity with the success of cooperative schemes for India’s development, in the Second Five-Year Plan, 1956–61, building up the cooperative movement in adherence to Sarvodaya economics was a key component of this plan. Encouraging cooperatives in particularly small-scale industries and cottage industries was expected to increase formal employment, create a more equitable distribution of income and wealth, and mobilise resources and skills, which were underutilised (All India Cooperative Union 1957: 3). Architects of the plan explicitly claimed that this Second Five-Year Plan was a continuity of the Cooperative Credit Societies Act, 1904, simply expanding the scheme to include a wider range of industries and economic activities. However, the direction taken by the architects of this plan coincides with those sectors seen by Gandhian economists as most crucial for the moral development of the economy. This Second Five-Year Plan and the British


Brewing Resistance

Cooperative Credit Societies and Sarvodaya economics that inspired it were essential to the decision to collectivise Indian Coffee House. Just months after the Second Five-Year Plan sought to create new cooperatives in India, A. K. Gopalan proposed to cooperativise the coffee houses in order to keep them from being closed or sold to private ownership.

Communism and Economic Development in India While it is not surprising that the Coffee Board and the prime minister agreed to the decision to form cooperatives given their positive disposition towards Sarvodaya economics, even if the terms under which Indian Coffee House became a cooperative was contentious, it is more surprising that A. K. Gopalan as a leader of the CPI proposed this solution in the first place. From its founding in 1920 to 1957 when the Coffee House workers formed their cooperative, the CPI advocated a singular vision for India’s development. The pillar of that vision, derived from the CPI’s affinity for Soviet-style Communism, was industrialisation and state-owned heavy industry, with protection for labour so that labour can consume what it produces. Party documents spend equal time discussing the importance of workers’ and peasants’ struggles, perhaps slightly more CPI ink being dedicated to peasant struggles. Nationalisation was consistently seen as the way to ameliorate the condition of workers and peasants as it was thought that it would provide a living wage, better working conditions, in addition to generally building up the infrastructure and general economic resources of the country. If the means of production were owned by the state, it would prevent capital flight from India to the US and the UK. Post independence, capital flight was a significant concern of the CPI. They identified the national bourgeoisie’s collaboration with capitalists in the US and UK as the major obstacle to India’s development since capital was still accumulating in pounds sterling and being held in London banks rather than contributing to basic industrial development in India. While the CPI preferred heavy industrialisation as the way to India’s economic development, the cooperative movement in Eastern Europe after the formation of the Soviet Union was something they were reading and researching. So while cooperatives were not their first preference, it was a compromise that they could accept despite the fact that the Communist Party had a different view from the Congress Socialists as to the ideal trajectory of India’s development.

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


At the First Communist Conference in Kanpur in 1925, the nascent Communist Party of India presented their future programme as bettering the condition of Indian workers and peasants.34 The party had several concrete goals in order to ameliorate conditions for workers and peasants. First, they wanted to disempower landlords and their middlemen by having peasants pay rents to the state who in turn would give the pay to the landlords. This way, the party contended, peasants would not have to pay unlawful taxes and gratuities to middlemen.35 Second, the party wanted to rid existing unions of ‘tools in the hands of the bourgeoisie and friends of capital’ by having workers themselves as union office bearers. The party additionally wanted to have a legal minimum wage set by the central government and a law forbidding work beyond 44 hours per week.36 The other goals of the party were aimed at propaganda. They proposed to set up Communist reading rooms in every major city, recruit members who could speak and write in vernacular languages (including Hindi) in order to start Communist newspapers and to translate key books into Hindi and vernacular languages, and finally to organise workshops to educate peasants in rural villages.37 In order to achieve these aims, building the organisation carefully, to prevent corruption, and raising funds were the top priorities. In the long run, the party’s aim was ‘to have complete freedom established in India resulting in the formation of the society in which justice will be predominant in the place of money’.38 They go on to add that the swaraj of the Gandhian movement is not their goal. If the Gandhian movement were to succeed, the party contends, the only difference is that Indian rulers will take the place of the Englishmen, ‘and it is not at all certain that they will prove better than their predecessors’, especially for the workers and peasants.39 The freedom that the party envisioned was not simply a freedom from British rule but also from the yoke of the landlord and capitalist. In a 1935 pamphlet targeted to the student wing, the party contends that anti-colonial movements can be a subset of anti-capitalist movements, but that often in practice, anti-colonial movements are movements of the bourgeoisie. During the Great Depression, the party claims, the aggression of the imperialist bourgeoisie increased, transferring more of the burden of capital accumulation onto workers and peasants in the colonies.40 This increased exploitation, according to the party, has sharpened the contradictions between the colonial bourgeoisie and the native bourgeoise, thereby increasing the likelihood that anti-colonial movements will occur and will succeed.41 This conflict, the party believed, provides a window of opportunity for anti-colonial


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and anti-capitalist workers and peasants movements to succeed in the Third World.42 The party was encouraged that in the global strike wave from 1929 to 1933, India and China had 5 per cent of the world’s strikes and 22 per cent of the world’s strikers.43 The party encouraged workers to continue to strike and to help in the agrarian movement by ‘carrying on the most energetic, most courageous, most stubborn and consistent struggle against imperialism’.44 In a 1939 pamphlet on the trade union movement, the party justified its focus on the Indian working class. While the working class in India comprises just a small percentage of the overall population, the party believed that it was strategically significant because of its concentration in major cities and because it is ‘the most coherent, advanced, resolute and revolutionary section of the population’.45 The party believed that the working class would be integral in the struggle for freedom.46 Through its many pamphlets (in English) detailing Indian labour history from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the present, the party hoped that it would contribute to further increasing labour’s class consciousness towards the end of a revolutionary anti-colonial labour movement. By 1947, this notion that the freedom desired by the CPI is distinct from that offered by the Gandhian nationalists is further articulated in a Communist Statement of Policy. The party contended that the world is divided into two types of powers—the imperialists and the democratic powers.47 The party believed that Nehru and the Congress Party were fighting for an India that could serve the interest of Anglo-American imperialism as partners rather than subjects. This, according to the party, would lead to ‘economic ruin’ and continued ‘colonial slavery’ for the workers and peasants.48 However, an independent India could allow the Indian bourgeoisie to subordinate countries of the Middle East and South-East Asia, thereby furthering their personal economic interests, while turning India into an imperial power itself. This type of independence, the party contended, was a victory for the bourgeoisie but not for the Indian people.49 The preferable way of organising the Indian economy, according to the CPI, is through state-owned industry. According to the CPI and AITUC leader P. C. Joshi, the state should nationalise all industry not only to ensure India’s industrial development but also to secure humane working conditions for labour.50 Improvements in living conditions need to come in tandem with state-owned industry so that all Indians can buy what is being produced.51 Joshi proposed that industrial products should be manufactured for domestic consumption, not for export, in order to create a thriving domestic economy.52

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


Finally, in Joshi’s view of a ‘developed’ India, a living wage and humane conditions would be guaranteed for all industrial workers.53 In a 1948 pamphlet on the Indian working class, the Communist Party laments how after independence, some of the AITUC’s trade unions were banned by the Congress government.54 This seemed to prove to the party and its followers that Indian democracy was democracy for the upper classes and not for the ‘sweating, toiling millions’.55 In 1949, Communist Party leadership rethought its strategy and tactics, thinking that its analysis of the international situation did not adequately theorise monopoly capitalism.56 They introduced the concept of ‘monopoly imperialism’ to understand how the Great Depression impacted the ‘colonised world’.57 From this crisis, party leaders theorised, the national bourgeoisie emerged victorious and these monopolists continued gaining influence within the colonised country until they were able to overthrow the coloniser and directly control the state.58 Therefore, the contradiction between ‘revolutionary’ anti-colonial movements and ‘rival monopolist’ anti-colonial movements is accentuated given the current politico-economic conditions. An alliance between the ‘rival monopolists’ and colonial partners, specifically the US, helps to strengthen native capital to the point of forcing collaboration between the ‘rival monopolists’ and their ‘enslaving imperialist masters’.59 This collaboration both empowers and disempowers native capital. On the one hand, these conditions help native capital to take state power from colonial capital, but on the other hand, because of their legacy of class collaboration and the fact that because of a weak banking system in the colonies, the native capitalist class’ profits are accumulated in the colonial currency and housed in banks in the colonial metropole, the empowerment of native capital does not contribute to developing basic industries in the newly independent colony.60 Therefore, even though India was now in name independent, the CPI believed that a proletarian revolution was insufficient, and any successful revolution had to combat lingering imperialism and monopoly capitalism as well.61 In 1957, CPI leader and general secretary of the AITUC, S. A. Dange wrote a 70-page pamphlet outlining the party’s views on the relationship among the trade union movement, the anti-colonial movement, and national development.62 The pamphlet begins by setting up the problem of national development in historical context; once China, India and the Arab world were the ‘seats of wealth and culture’ and with capitalism and then imperialism in Europe, ‘the imperialists subjected these millions to colonial rule and inhuman exploitation’.63 Wars among imperialists, particularly the First World War, gave


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India, China and the Middle East an opportunity to develop anti-colonial struggles.64 The working classes, created by the colonisers, revolted and their revolts sometimes succeeded in creating independent countries, while some countries remain colonised.65 The main task facing a newly independent country is ‘how to overcome their backwardness and dependent status’.66 Dange claims that there are two ways for postcolonial countries to ‘develop’: (a) to economically delink from the former coloniser by forcing foreign capital to give up control of factories, mines, plantations, and so on, ideally through nationalising these industries, and (b) to secure capital goods and technical help from the ‘developed’ countries.67 The main obstacle in enacting the policies that would help postcolonial countries to develop, according to Dange, is that in most cases, it is the national bourgeoisie who assume control over the newly independent state, and ‘they do not, therefore, readily take measures to nationalise the foreign monopoly capital in their country or to restrain severely their predatory activities’.68 And then the countries who do manage to restrict foreign capital and nationalise industry are threatened with military force by the colonial countries.69 Dange gives Iran and Egypt as examples. These two tactics keep the workers and peasants of the postcolonial world in subjugation. Dange concludes that ‘achievement of political independence from imperialism does not conclude the struggle against colonialism, but changes its form and field’.70 Economic development then becomes the key struggle in the postcolonial context. The trade union movement in the postcolonial context, therefore, must not simply work on increasing employment and incomes, but express its views on the way in which economic development should proceed.71 Dange writes, ‘The fact that in the given stage, such growth is based on capitalist exploitation does not detract from the fact that industrial advancement, even under such conditions, advances the country, makes it stronger against colonialism and creates conditions for the further struggles and success of the working class’.72 In other words, economic development can aid in forging a strong, successful working class movement. However, often, economic development programmes in the postcolonial world seem to undermine the trade union movement. Bourgeois ruling parties often employ nationalist sentiment to demand sacrifices of the newly independent working class, including more working hours, submission to ‘rationalisation’ in the workplace, increased workload, suspension of worker demands, including the right to strike, and a moratorium on wage increases.73 Under these conditions, the trade union movement should offer an

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


alternative vision for economic development, one that ‘claims for a just share of the national income, for wage increases, for better working conditions and democratic rights. While safeguarding national interests, [trade unions] must at the same time diligently defend the economic and social interests of the workers and other toiling people’.74 Finally, Dange argues that labour must think internationally, that the anti-colonial workers’ movement is inseparable from international working class solidarity.75 Most importantly, trade unions in the Third World have an obligation to other Third World workers’ movements to offer solidarity and support in their struggles, anti-colonial and otherwise.76 For Dange, this includes formulating common, working class ideas of economic development for economic development in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.77 The Communist Party and the Congress Socialists, while offering alternative views to the Nehruvian development policy, differed greatly in many respects. A notable difference among the two movements is their relationship to language. In the beginnings of the Communist Party, few of their leaders spoke languages other than English. While this indicates that the Communist Party leadership most likely hailed from elite families, who saw to it that they were educated in English from a young age, the Communist response to English being the dominant language of the party was to recruit members who could speak and write Hindi and vernacular languages and could translate party documents for the masses. In comparison, in Sarvodaya villages, the Socialists, as mainly Hindi speakers and writers, made it part of their programme to teach peasants Sankritised Hindi in non-Hindi-speaking regions, especially in Punjab and south India, so that the masses could read their Sarvodaya literature. The previous example illustrates the main cleavage between the Communists and the Socialists. While the Communists looked outward— to creating linkages with the USSR and with the rest of the ‘Third World’ or ‘Colonised World’—the Socialists looked inward and placed a priority on creating an Indian, and Hindu, movement based on a leftist reading of Gandhian philosophy. So while the Communists rejected religion and caste, and saw as their objective the empowering of the working and peasant classes, the Socialists celebrated the caste system along with their Hindu identity, and their objective was to restore and maintain an idyllic, cooperative, simple, village life within India. So while the Communists missed a lot of the nuances of how caste and communal issues impact Indian politics and society through


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their emphasis on class, the Socialists’ idealised view of Indian village life and reverence for Gandhian philosophy resulted in casteism and anti-Muslim sentiments. The compromise between the Indian Coffee House Workers’ Union, initiated by A. K. Gopalan, and the Coffee Board and Nehru’s administration was able to come to fruition because it aligned with the ideas and rhetoric of more progressive elements within the Congress Party and, in so doing, helped to restore official status to the Indian Coffee House and its workers. While this deviated from the official party line of the Communist Party, it nonetheless was a workable solution for all groups involved. For Gopalan, while industrialisation was paramount (Gopalan 1973: 230), he believed that democratisation was the most important task for the Communist Party, particularly in the context of agrarian Kerala. In empowering local grassroots development schemes, Gopalan believed that it would reeducate postcolonial officials that their job was no longer to protect capital from workers and peasants but instead to allow democratic mass movements to proceed unhindered (Gopalan 1973: 230). But perhaps Gopalan’s cooperative compromise came from his long-seated involvement in the khadi and swadeshi goods movement from 1928 onwards, and that in 1930 he quit his job as a schoolteacher to be a Congress Socialist leader until 1946, when his collaboration with a Communist Party–led revolt of the armed forces compelled him to leave the Congress Socialists and join the CPI (Gopalan 1973: 159). In his autobiography, Gopalan saw his political work as marked by continuity and that, regardless of his party affiliation, he struggled for freedom and justice and against exploitation (Gopalan 1973: 299). It seems likely that his views on the cooperative movement could have been influenced by his leadership role in the Congress Socialist Party even though he ultimately changed his party affiliation. *** The trajectory of the Indian Coffee House workers’ movement provides important insights into the nature of modernity. Indian Coffee House was created by British plantation owners and colonial officials to be a ‘modern’ institution. From the time it was occupied by its Communist Party (undivided) workers, until it became a legal cooperative in 1957, it was a self-sustaining organisation. It was left to its own devices and it was growing on its own, until bureaucrats in the Coffee Board realised that they had to do something

‘Coffee House’ Workers’ Anti-Colonial Labour Movement


about its lack of legal status. Various nodes of the Indian state made a few half-hearted attempts to intervene, but because of partition and other more pressing matters of the newly independent Indian state, most of the state apparatus forgot the coffee houses even existed. Once the ‘illegal’ status of the organisation became impossible to ignore as a result of workers’ public demonstrations and hunger strikes, it had to be addressed because ‘modern’ firms have to have a legal status. So one of the lessons from the Indian Coffee House workers’ movement is that these sorts of boundaries between legal/ illegal status are blurred at the least, and useless at most. However, the more profound insight we gain from analysing the trajectory of the Indian Coffee House workers’ movement is not about state regulation of enterprise, but that the rationale for this protracted struggle against both the colonial and post-independence Indian state is because what the Indian Coffee House workers were waging was an ideological class struggle over ideas of development (Althusser 1971). The Indian Coffee House workers, as members of the CPI, had a specific idea of how economic development should take place in independent India, and their struggle from 1948 to 1957 is about that conflict. The party explicitly encouraged workers to use labour unrest to push for alternative ways to ‘economic development’. The story of the Indian Coffee House workers’ ideological class struggle provides important insights into postcolonial political economy in that it leads us to challenge the very idea of development. The state adopts a hegemonic idea of what development is and should be (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 77), but there are alternative ideas—both within the state (Sarvodaya Socialists) and from civil society (Indian Coffee House Workers’ Union). The contestation over these ideas has important consequences for the average citizen and social outcomes as the Indian Coffee House workers showed. Economic development is not simply a matter of enacting the ‘right’ policies. Instead, ‘development’ is class politics. The very political parties, organisations and institutional structures created by India’s anti-colonial labour movement in the 1920s through the 1940s fostered the social movements that in their vehement opposition to Indira Gandhi’s administration led to the imposition of Emergency in 1975 (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 138–9; Wallerstein 1979: 260). Thereby, the labour unrest during independence, as detailed earlier in this chapter, played an important role in postcolonial state formation, even though the labour movement was not nearly as vibrant during the postcolonial period as it was in the decades leading up to independence. The surge in social movement activity in 1970s


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India is qualitatively different from the first half of the twentieth century in that it is led more by the student movement, identity politics and the Naxalite Movement, but the labour movement nonetheless continued to play an important role as can be observed through the trajectory of the Railway Workers’ Strike of 1974. The labour movement of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s set up the institutional structures, political parties, organisations, trade unions and spaces that became critical sites of oppositional politics during Indira Gandhi’s first few terms as prime minister and through the Emergency. I detailed in the previous chapters how the vibrant social movements of the 1970s demanded the social justice that should have accompanied national independence (Silver and Slater 1999: 207–8) but was not delivered in the decades after India’s flag independence. These demands challenged Indira Gandhi’s policies and programmes, but it was not until the Allahabad High Court ruled to remove her from office that Gandhi began to decry these movements as a threat to the state. Once they were deemed threatening, however, these very same social movements began to form a resistance movement against the Emergency state in order to restore democracy to India. The Indian Coffee House workers’ movement of 1948–57 created a unique and ideal space for this purpose, an autonomous zone from which the student movement and other social movements of the 1970s launched sustained resistance to Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship. However, in viewing the history of social protest in twentieth century India from the lens of the Indian Coffee House shows that decolonisation was only the first step towards national liberation, and not a linear one at that. The radical social change that could potentially liberate the Third World has not been realised. The many slowdowns, abatements and backsliding can similarly be witnessed from the Indian Coffee House along with the few breakthroughs.

Notes   1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   6.   7.   8.   9. 10.

JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 164, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 164, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 164, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 164, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 164, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 164, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 220, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 220, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile no. 220, NMML. Trade Unions, File 162, PCJ.

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11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59.

Khandubhai Desai Papers, NMML. Khandubhai Desai Papers, NMML. Khandubhai Desai Papers, NMML. Khandubhai Desai Papers, NMML. Khandubhai Desai Papers, NMML. Khandubhai Desai Papers, NMML. Khandubhai Desai Papers, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subject File Subfile No. 451, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Speeches and Writings Subfile no. 78-85, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Speeches and Writings Subfile no. 78-85, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile no. 447A, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile no. 218, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 214, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 452, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 452, NMML. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 24, File 187-1. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 24, File 187-1. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1. Zentrum Moderner Orient, Krüger Files, Box 28, File 187-1. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 214, NMML. JP Narayan Papers, Subfile No. 219, NMML. First Communist Conference Papers, Subfile no. 5, NMML. First Communist Conference Papers, Subfile no. 5, NMML. First Communist Conference Papers, Subfile no. 5, NMML. First Communist Conference Papers, Subfile no. 5, NMML. First Communist Conference Papers, Subfile no. 5, NMML. First Communist Conference Papers, Subfile no. 5, NMML. Trade Unions, File no. 232a, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 232a, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 232a, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 232a, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 232a, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 23a, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 23a, PCJ. Index 1947, File no. 20, PCJ. Index 1947, File no. 20, PCJ. Index 1947, File no. 20, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 26, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 26, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 26, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 26, PCJ. Index 1948, File no. 20, PCJ. Index 1948, File no. 20, PCJ. Index 1949, File no. 15, PCJ. Index 1949, File no. 15, PCJ. Index 1949, File no. 15, PCJ. Index 1949, File no. 15, PCJ.



60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77.

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Index 1949, File no. 15, PCJ. Index 1947, File no. 20, PCJ. Trade Unions File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ. Trade Unions, File no. 59, PCJ.

8 Conclusion

I rebel—therefore we exist.

—Albert Camus, The Rebel

In the mid-twentieth century, the Third World was charged with the optimism of decolonisation and national liberation movements that sought to radically transform postcolonial societies. But by the 1970s, authoritarian regimes had in many instances replaced national liberation politics. The very movements that had seemed so full of possibility had tipped into political repression. The many social movements in India leading up to the Emergency (1975–7) facilitated social protest during what became a political turning point. The Coffee House Movement (1975–6), which was a particularly important zone of resistance to the Emergency, provides key insights into the aftermath and legacy of social protest in the 1970s and how it contributed to the restoration of democracy in India. In the first part of the book, I examined the various social movements in India during the late 1960s and early 1970s that pushed the postcolonial state to enact the social justice that decolonisation promised but had yet failed to deliver. Indira Gandhi claimed that the threat posed by these movements warranted the revocation of civil rights, and, ultimately, the revocation of democracy itself. Indira Gandhi’s vociferous opposition to these movements, I argued, was, at one level, her strategy to maintain extra-legal power after the Allahabad High Court Ruling that barred her from holding office, but, on another register, was her way of executing a new strategy for India’s economic development in the face of widespread opposition from social movements. In this part of the book, I drew on newly available archival materials to analyse the pre-Emergency development policies of Indira Gandhi, who was first elected prime minister in 1966. Also through archival sources, I looked to the many social movements that emerged in the early 1970s, partly in reaction to Indira Gandhi’s economic and social policies, including the Dalit Panther Party, the Bihar Movement, and the Railway Workers’ Strike, to better understand


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the social implications of these new policy programmes. I then situated the events of the Emergency in the context of these conflicts over development policy and its adverse social outcomes, thereby setting the scene for the Coffee House Movement. Why did the Indian Coffee House, then a centrally located New Delhi landmark, become a key site of resistance to the Emergency? First, the Socialist Party leaders who patronised the Indian Coffee House and launched their resistance movement from thence did so because the coffee house functioned as an autonomous zone that became a key resource for the new left social movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Drawing on archival and oral history sources, this part of the book detailed the culture of resistance in the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place during India’s postcolonial democratic occlusion. Soon, however, the authoritarian moment of the Emergency brought those vibrant movements to an abrupt halt, and in January 1976 the Indian Coffee House was bulldozed by the prime minister’s son Sanjay Gandhi, and political action in that autonomous space crushed. If, as I contend, the organisational form of the firm as a workers’ cooperative and autonomous zone was consequential for its role as a space of resistance during the Emergency, how did it come to be? The second part of the book steps back before its political heyday, detailing how ‘Coffee House’ was founded, occupied by its workers, and then transformed from a colonial firm into a workers’ cooperative and autonomous zone. Rather than face organisational extinction, and as a product of their leader A. K. Gopalan’s creative compromise, the Indian Coffee House Workers’ Union registered the firm as a workers’ cooperative. While at first opposed, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Coffee Board of India eventually agreed to so register the Indian Coffee House, prompted by the influence of Gandhian ideas of economic development within Nehru’s own Congress Party. I contend that the institutional structures created by India’s anti-colonial labour movement in the late 1940s fostered the social movements of the early 1970s that led to the declaration of Emergency in 1975, but then also created possibilities of resistance. Labour unrest during independence thus played an important role in this key moment of postcolonial state formation, even though the labour movement was less vibrant in the 1970s than in the decades leading up to India’s independence. The institutional structures, political parties, organisations, trade unions, and spaces that became critical sites of oppositional politics during Indira Gandhi’s first terms as prime minister and through the Emergency were established by the anti-colonial labour movement in the previous decades.



The realities of decolonisation, as viewed through the protest against the Emergency, proved quite different from its promises. The Indian Coffee House workers, the firm they transformed, and the social protest that centred on it challenged hegemonic ideas of economic development and political participation. When state repression of dissenting views constrained possibilities for traditional contentious politics, the Indian Coffee House became more than an economic tactic. It was an autonomous zone—a sociopolitical space that served as an informal social centre, a nodal point of communication and exchange of protest materials, and a link among different groups. Thereby, the space transformed dispersed individuals into a political force. In their challenge to development as mere growth, and to traditional expressions of contentious politics, the Indian Coffee House workers and their allies, as Frantz Fanon said, envisioned ‘a new start, a new way of thinking’ and endeavoured to create ‘new’ individuals (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 305). Through the creation of an autonomous zone that facilitated envisioning new ways of thinking about India’s political economy and about social protest (Atton 2003: 57; Evans and Boyte 1986: ix; Foucault 1984: 3–4; Hirsch 1990: 211; Ince 2012: 1653; Newman 2011: 345; Polletta 1999: 2–3), Indian Coffee House workers and regulars contested hegemonic ideologies of economic development. That was, of course, a significant contestation. However, this autonomous zone was more than an economic intervention into capitalism that challenged dominant ideologies of economic development. When the cracks in US post-war hegemony began to show (Hopkins and Wallerstein 1996: 9; Wallerstein 1984: 46, 74, 1995: 26, 2003: 17–19)— from the late 1960s and through the 1970s—and consent was no longer sufficient for governing national regimes to maintain the moral authority of ideologies of economic development (Gramsci 1971: n49), authoritarianism became a prevalent response of Third World states (Huntington 1991: 21; Nkrumah 1979: 51). In this fraught ‘Third World totalitarian moment’, resistance against the postcolonial state became both more prevalent and more severely constrained (Agamben 2005 [2003]: 11; Arendt 1994 [1948]: 245). In revealing the totalitarian character of the postcolonial state, this historical moment erased much of the initial optimism about possibilities for economic development and national liberation in the Global South. The totalitarian experience also dramatised the growing gap between the realities of decolonisation and development and their mid-century promises. In this moment, the veil of development was lifted to reveal the possibility— capitalised on by local authoritarian leaders and would-be leaders—that


Brewing Resistance

patrimonial hierarchy and domination may not be the exception to capitalist modernity, as seen from the Third World, but in fact, its backbone. Not only was economic development the official rationale for Indira Gandhi’s imposition of Emergency (Gandhi 1984: 179), it also first animated the Bihar Movement (Shah 1977a). The students who led the Bihar Movement and solicited Jayaprakash Narayan’s help in agitating against the Bihar state government were concerned primarily with the human consequences of rapid inflation that resulted from Gandhi’s development policies (B. Chandra 2003: 39; Shah 1977a: 611, 1977c: 85). Indira Gandhi’s main justification for the Emergency was that by suspending the Constitution, she could better implement policies of economic development, as the Bihar Movement, she alleged, prevented her from executing her development goals. The Bihar Movement itself was a response to the human consequences of these very policies, however. Both Narayan and Gandhi wanted to make real, fundamental changes to India’s political economy. Through their political decisions in the 1970s, they made claims to further national development goals that were the publicly declared objectives of national liberation. Yet the consequence of this contention over economic development and the legacy of national liberation was the Emergency—a negation of the very sprit of national liberation. I take this contentious moment in postcolonial Indian history to show that social protest is essential to defending the spirit of national liberation, of keeping alive the hope that postcolonial political economy will eventually mark a fundamental change from (neo-)colonial dependence and exploitation. In the particular conflict over economic development that prompted the Emergency, the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place came to be seen as a physical manifestation of this spirit of national liberation. As a workeroccupied former colonial firm, its initial organisational goal was to break with the bonds of both colonial and capitalist political economy by appropriating a colonial asset and distributing it among its workers. But in the postcolonial period, ‘Coffee House’ evolved into more than an economic intervention through which Indian workers contested the expropriation of surplus value. The space they created was transformed into an autonomous zone. It was a space in which information was disseminated (Couto 1993: 70; Hardt and Negri 2004: 81; Hodkinson and Chatterton 2006: 310; Rao and Dutta 2012: 631; Springer 2013: 53) and where ideological challenges to takenfor-granted ideas were posed and elaborated in discussions and deliberations within and among a wide range of political groups (Atton 2003: 57; Evans and Boyte 1986: 9; Foucault 1984: 3–4; Hirsch 1990: 211; Ince 2012: 1653;



Newman 2011: 345; Polletta 1999: 2–3). Through these discussions among politically and artistically minded participants in the space, alliances and ties were formed (Hardt and Negri 2004: 81), crossing party lines, thereby strengthening organisational capacities (Fantasia and Hirsch 1995: 146; Glass 2010: 199; Polletta and Kretschmer 2013: 3; Tilly 2000: 137) and creating a broad base of support for resisting the Emergency state (Massey 1992: 84; Newman 2011: 345). The very features that enabled the Indian Coffee House to mobilise resistance against the Emergency were also potential disadvantages. By virtue of its physical location, it was extremely visible and concentrated resistance in a single location, thereby making confrontation with the state increasingly inevitable (Bey 1985: 95). Most of the political parties and groups that met in the Indian Coffee House weathered the attack on the movement. They survive in diminished form. In Delhi today, too, the Indian Coffee House’s consequential bulldozing goes unremembered, not even among the left, and the place on which it once stood, while now a public park, remains uncommemorated, as do most of the events of the Emergency. Yet contentious politics during India’s democratic occlusion were alive in the space of the Indian Coffee House, and their recovery, in part in this book, showed that they served as a key resource, facilitated collective action against the state in many forms, and as a touchstone for more informal forms of collective memory (Fantasia and Hirsch 1995: 146; Glass 2010: 199; Polletta and Kretschmer 2013: 3). While theorists of totalitarianism contend that the experience of state repression may evoke feelings of isolation and loneliness, thereby preparing people for totalitarian domination (Arendt 1994 [1948]: 478), the coffee house helped participants in contentious politics against the state to overcome these feelings. In The Rebel (1959), Albert Camus writes that when suffering ceases to be seen as an individual experience, but is instead viewed as a collective experience, ‘this evidence lures the individual from his solitude’ (Camus 1991 [1956]: 22). And that is a beneficent experience, in Camus’ representation and in the words of many of the narrators. In bringing people with a proclivity to oppositional politics together in one space, the Indian Coffee House helped anyone who went there to realise that the loneliness of the Emergency was a shared experience; those who visited the Indian Coffee House during the Emergency felt a palpable change in everyday life in Delhi and described these feelings of loneliness and isolation in a way that then allowed activists to overcome these feelings of loneliness, thereby making collective action possible.


Brewing Resistance

So, was the movement launched from the Indian Coffee House a ‘success’? In 1946, the Indian Coffee House workers appropriated a colonial firm and transformed it into a workers’ cooperative. This workers’ movement certainly succeeded in terms of longevity and fiscal viability. In 1957, however, Indian Coffee House workers viewed its organisational form as a failure and as a betrayal by their trade union leadership. In addition, for the most part, the narrators who resisted postcolonial totalitarianism from these same coffee houses look back on their actions as having been relatively meaningless. Collective historical memory of both events, even in India and even among the broad left, is spotty at best. Social protest led to the imposition of Emergency, but social protest also led to the restoration of democracy in India. By analysing the relationship between social protest and totalitarianism in postcolonial India, the totalitarian moment, in its wake, erased much of the initial optimism about possibilities for radical social change and national liberation. Through this erasure, Emergency is not a fleeting moment, but becomes a permanent feature of contemporary capitalism. In On the Concept of History (1940), Walter Benjamin writes, The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘emergency situation’ in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve. Not the least reason that the latter has a chance is that its opponents, in the name of progress, greet it as a historical norm. – The astonishment that the things we are experiencing in the 20th century are ‘still’ possible is by no means philosophical. It is not the beginning of knowledge, unless it would be the knowledge that the conception of history on which it rests is untenable. (Benjamin 1968 [1940]: VIII)

The struggle against Fascism in the context of a permanent state of emergency, as Benjamin describes, is unending, as is the struggle against economic and social injustice. If so, then why bother to resist? Especially if Fanon was wrong—it is not exactly that ‘not much changes’ with flag independence, but instead, as domination by consent erodes, domination by force replaces it (Gramsci 1971: n49). But the very act of rebellion affirms that the struggle against Fascism continues (Benjamin 1968 [1940]: VIII; Camus 1991 [1956]: 303–4). It affirms the triumph of the human spirit over forces of domination and subordination. As Camus writes,



Even by his greatest effort man can only propose to diminish arithmetically the sufferings of the world. But the injustice and the suffering of the world will remain and, no matter how limited they are, they will not cease to be an outrage. Dimitri Karamazov’s cry of ‘Why?’ will continue to resound; art and rebellion will die only with the last man.… Rebellion proves in this way that it is the very movement of life and that it cannot be denied without renouncing life. Its purest outburst, on each occasion, gives birth to existence. Thus it is love and fecundity or it is nothing at all. (Camus 1991 [1956]: 303–4)

Let us now revisit Fanon’s problem of decolonisation, that ‘dans certains pays sous-développés les masses vont très vite et comprennent, deux ou trois ans après l’indépendance, qu’elles ont été frustrées, que « ça ne valait pas la peine » de se battre si ça ne devait pas vraiment changer’1 (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 73). In other words, was it worth the effort to fight colonialism if not much truly changed after independence? Viewed from the Indian Coffee House, flag independence was only the first step towards national liberation, and not a linear one at that. In fact, the radical social change that could potentially liberate the Third World has not been realised, and, furthermore, there have been many slowdowns, abatements and backsliding alongside any breakthroughs. But the social protest, the rebellion, that continues to stem from this historical legacy of anti-colonial movements protects the idea and the radical social objectives of national liberation, even under moments of extreme authoritarian duress. While ‘the injustice and suffering of the world’ (Camus 1991 [1956]: 303) may remain, rebellion affirms the radical social aims of national liberation and thereby challenges hegemonic ideologies of development. Through rebellion, the Third World rejects authoritarianism and domination and continues to envision ‘peau neuve’ (a new start), ‘une pensée neuve’ (a new way of thinking), ‘un homme neuf ’ (a new man) (Fanon 2002 [1961]: 305) as an ideological challenge to hegemonic ideas. This enduring hope is reflected in Indian Coffee House worker Nadakkal Parameswaran Pillai’s plea to the public to imagine the Indian Coffee House primarily as a site of workers’ struggle. He closes his memoir by writing, When you see Indian Coffee House do remember this story. Remember the thousands of labourers characterised in it. Remember the hardships they experienced. Remember the toils and sacrifices of their families. Remember those who supported the labourers and do not forget those who exploited them.… Dear new generation employees in coffee houses, this history is meant for you all. This will guide you. Dear young Communists in Kerala, this history is for you. This will make you stronger.


Brewing Resistance

Dear labourers, this is for you. This will remind you that history never ends and poor labourers cannot be easily defeated. Lal Salaam.2 (Pillai 2005: 99)

While it is often difficult to see causal links between a given social movement and social change, one can see the synchronicity in how certain counterhegemonic ideologies of social protest are later adopted (or unfortunately, co-opted) by mainline discourse. Those who gathered in the Indian Coffee House during the Emergency delineated alternative conceptualisations of how Indian society should be structured. In so doing, they animated a movement that was able to resist Indira Gandhi’s Emergency-era state during a critical time in postcolonial Indian history. Recording histories of social struggle are important not only in preserving the collective memory of the event so that the atrocities of the Emergency will not be repeated but also in showing future generations that resistance is possible. The social protest that took place in and was facilitated by the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place during the Emergency provides a lasting example of how people fought against the occlusion of democracy in India. Examples such as this one are important narratives for people across the globe, proclaiming that resistance is possible, even against totalitarian states. But more than just simply showing that resistance is possible, the protests that took place in the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place also provides key lessons to would-be protestors for organising against a totalitarian state. The story of the protest that took place in the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place in New Delhi shows how autonomous zones are critical resources for social movements that seek to overthrow non-democratic states. The Indian Coffee House Movement showed that the autonomous zone facilitates symbolic forms of contentious politics, and much more. The Indian Coffee House was a place that facilitated face-to-face discussion of politics, debate and actions against the state. As a space, it was structurally conducive to the politics of resistance (Smelser 1962). The different political views represented in discussions and debates in the coffee house, Indian Socialism in particular, served as a generalised belief among anti-Emergency activists, inciting them to fight the state and sacrifice their lives for the cause. On the night the Emergency was declared, many political activists, both left and right, found that their friends had been illegally detained and many rushed to the coffee house. This for them was the precipitating factor, the match that set the blaze alight, and they concluded that mobilisation against the state was an urgent necessity. The coffee house, as a physical space in which discussion



and debate over politics had been occurring for decades, was a natural place to gravitate towards in order to mobilise against the Emergency state. The coffee house, then, became the primary resource in mobilising people to action against the state. Leaders of the movement used the coffee house to educate the general public and the rank and file of their parties, use the space for meetings, and as a way to distribute resources including dynamite and bomb-making materials to carry out violent resistance against the state. And finally, social control was invoked by the state in attempts to destroy the coffee house as organisational resource. These attempts at social control ranged from employing secret police and police agents to spy on activists, to conducting police raids in the coffee house, to, in its most extreme form, bulldozing the coffee house itself. And what of the Indian Coffee House today? Economic liberalisation has brought drastic changes to India’s political economy (Kohli 2006; Nagaraj 1997) which allowed new coffee house firms to enter the Indian market in the 1990s, to commoditise the nostalgia for the old Indian Coffee Houses and thereby sell a watered-down radicalism to India’s upper middle class youth. While the Indian Coffee House still attracts artists and leftist intellectuals at locations near university campuses across India, the cultural connotations of being an Indian Coffee House regular—a leftist intellectual interested in literature and art—is anathema to the cultural connotations of the new coffee culture, favouring young, progressive, status-oriented professionals who are too type-A to linger over a cup of coffee for hours on end. Given the more fragmented coffee house landscape since liberalisation, the possibility for a new autonomous zone to re-emerge in one of India’s many coffee houses seems even more unlikely now than it did after 1977. But these strategies, lessons and pitfalls are more important to learn from than ever, as Fascism is yet again on the rise across the globe. In Hungary, Brazil, Poland, Venezuela, Austria, Turkey, Greece, Tanzania, Slovakia, Nicaragua, the US, Cameroon, France, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden, Cambodia, Bangladesh, the UK, Sri Lanka, and even in India, right wing nationalist movements are gaining traction and threatening democracy in the current conjuncture. Should these right wing movements continue to gain momentum, and succeed in thwarting democracy and civil rights, the lessons of India’s Emergency are an important weapon in the struggle against those who seek to limit freedom across the globe.


Brewing Resistance

Notes 1. In certain developing countries, therefore, they are quick to catch on and realise two or three years after independence their hopes have been dashed: ‘What was the point of fighting’ if nothing was really destined to change? 2. Red Salute (a greeting used by South Asian Communists)

Appendix 1  Photographs

Ivor Bull, Chairman of Consolidated Coffee Estates, President of the United Planters Association of Southern India, and founder and Chairman of the Coffee Board of India Source: Photo taken at the UPASI General Meeting in Coonoor, 1940. Reproduced with permission from the United Planters Association of Southern India.

The Grand Opening of the first location of ‘Coffee House’ in Bombay in 1936 Source: Courtesy of India Office at the British Library.

Indira Gandhi visiting the Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place before the Emergency Source: Courtesy of the Indian Coffee House Workers’ Cooperative Society Head Office in Delhi.

The Accused in the Baroda Dynamite Conspiracy (1976) photographed in Tihar Jail Kamlesh Shukla is in the middle row on the far left and George Fernandes is in the middle row in the middle Source: Reproduced with permission of the Family Estate of the late C. G. K. Reddy.

Rajkumar Jain as a student with his mentor, Rammanohar Lohia (left), and Rajkumar Jain in his home in 2014 (right) Source: Courtesy of Rajkumar Jain (left); by author (right).

Lalit Mohan Gautam near Delhi University

Madan Lal Hind getting arrested before the

in 2014


Source: Photo by author.

Source: Photo courtesy of Madan Lal Hind.

Kamlesh Shukla at his home in Vasant Kunj

Parasnath Chaudhury at the Indian Coffee

in 2014

House at Mohan Singh Place in 2014

Source: Photo by author.

Source: Photo by author.

Ravi Nair in 2019 Source: Photo courtesy of Ravi Nair.

The author with D. P. Tripathi at his home and office in Delhi in 2018 Source: Photo by Shikhar Goel.

Prof. Jayaseelan Raj (left front) at the Indian Coffee House location at the Government Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, in 2014 A. K. Gopalan’s photo is prominently displayed above the cash counter honouring him posthumously with a garland of red flowers that signifies his affiliation to the CPI(M) Source: Photo by author.

Indian Coffee House at Mohan Singh Place

Lalit Mohan Gautam (left) and Iqbal

in New Delhi, 2013

Abhimanyu (right) in 2014 visiting the

Source: Photo by author.

now defunct Indian Coffee House location at Delhi University shown to us by the Indian Coffee House Workers’ Cooperative Society Source: Photo by author.

Indian Coffee House location in Lucknow Another important stop for underground Socialists and Communists Source: Photo by Mr Anwar Anzar.

Indian Coffee House in Allahabad, 2018 An important resource for those who went underground Source: Photos by Prof. Zaheer Baber.

Now empty space in Connaught Place where the Indian Coffee House once stood before it was bulldozed in 1976 Underground is Palika Bazaar, built by Sanjay Gandhi after the Emergency Source: Photo by author.

Appendix II  Political Parties during the Emergency Party

Years in Existence


Stronghold States

Ideological Goals

Views on Caste

Pro-/Anti- Supported Emergency Bihar Movement

Illegal During Emergency?

Kerala, West Bengal, Punjab

Industrialisation, trade unions





Align with centre against the Right to enact progressive policies, pro-Soviet


Pro, then unofficially anti



Align with the Left against the centre and Right to push for revolutionary goals


Pro, then Anti

No, but some members were actively involved




No, but some members were actively involved


Communist Party of India (Undivided)



Left Communist

Communist Party of India



Left Communist (Bolshevik)

Communist Party of India (Marxist)



New Left Communist

Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Punjab

Communist Party of India (MarxistLeninist)



Left (Maoist)

West Bengal, Peasant revolution Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab


(Contd) Party

Years in Existence


Stronghold States

Ideological Goals

Views on Caste

Pro-/Anti- Supported Emergency Bihar Movement

Illegal During Emergency?



No, but some members were actively involved





Communist Party of India (MarxistLeninist) Liberation



Left (Maoist), Pro-Lin Bao


Peasant revolution

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind



Religious Right (Muslim)

Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad, Delhi

To establish Islamic religious nationalism in India


Religious Right and Left (Sikh)

Punjab and Delhi

Return control of gurudwardas to Sikh clergy instead of British appointed Hindu priests





Akali Dal

Shiromani Akali Dal



Religious Right (Sikh)

Punjab and Delhi

Independent Khalistan (Sikh Theocracy)





Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh



Religious Right (Hindu)

Maharashtra, Gujarat

Hindu religious nationalism





Indian National Congress




Uttar Pradesh, Delhi

Industrialisation, increased agricultural production, class cooperation

Caste tokenism





(Contd) Party

Years in Existence


Stronghold States

Ideological Goals

Views on Caste

Pro-/Anti- Supported Emergency Bihar Movement

Illegal During Emergency?

Indian National Congress (Opposition)



Slightly left of centre

Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar

Opposed to Indira Gandhi




Bharatiya Kranti Dal




Uttar Pradesh

Breakaway regional party from Congress




Bharatiya Lok Dal



Left/right Coalition

Opposed to Indira Gandhi




Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam




Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry

Dravidian nationalism





Socialist Party


Congress Socialist Party 1938–51; Indian Socialist Party 1951; Praja Socialist Party 1952–71; Samyujkta Socialist Party 1964–72; Socialist Party 1972–7

Social Democrat

Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi

Support village cooperatives, handicrafts production, cooperative movement, Gandhian Socialism

Some members strongly anti-caste, and some members strongly in support of the caste system


Led the Bihar Movement


Janata Party



Left/right coalition

Pro-democracy, reversing the policies of the Emergency

Divided on caste issues




Appendix III  Methodological Appendix For this book, I constructed an original database based on archival sources and oral history interviews collected from 2012 through 2018. I spent two years in India doing archival research and oral history interviews, a little less than a year in Berlin, and three months in London doing archival research. In London, I utilised the India Office Library at the British Library to detail the colonial origins of Indian Coffee House, along with the global politico-economic context in which it was created. In Berlin, I looked to the archives at the Zentrum Moderner Orient. In India, I have worked in various archives across the country in order to research India’s anti-colonial labour movement, of which the Indian Coffee House workers were a part, along with the political economy of postcolonial India from 1947 to 1977. I spent considerable time at the larger archives including the National Archives of India and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library but have also made use of smaller and regional archives. In New Delhi, these include the V. V. Giri Archives on Indian Labour, the P. C. Joshi Archives on Contemporary History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Central Secretariat Library, and the Delhi Archives. I have also conducted archival research outside of Delhi, including in the Punjab State Archives in Chandigarh, Haryana State Archives in Panchkula, the K. N. Raj Memorial Library, and Kerala State Archives, both in Thiruvanathapuram.

Archives At the British Library in London, I used the India Office Library’s collection in order to research the colonial origins of the firm, Coffee House. I relied on the founding documents of the firm, reports detailing its growth and diffusion, and statistical series on the Coffee Houses along with statistical series on the coffee sector in colonial India. I also found key information about the larger political economy of coffee in the British Empire, including files on the commodity surplus crisis in the 1930s and 1940s, files detailing interempire competition within the coffee sector, and intelligence reports on the Communist Party of India, which organised the Coffee House workers.

Appendix III


At the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, I looked to the papers of Indologists working in the former Deutsche Demokratische Republik who had done field work in India during the Emergency. Of particular interest to this project are the Krüger Files, which contain not only various printed materials on the Emergency from Socialist and Communist viewpoints but also Dr Krüger’s personal notebooks in which he details his impressions of Emergency-era India. At the National Archives of India, in New Delhi, I collected information about Indira Gandhi’s economic policies, both domestic and foreign. I was the first researcher to examine certain reports on her family planning policies, and I also discovered documents about the relationship between India and the World Bank in the years leading up to the Emergency. While there are several files on the Emergency listed in the catalogue of the National Archives of India, they remain classified, have not yet been transferred from the Home Department to the National Archives, and are not (as of this writing) accessible to researchers. At the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi, I collected information about the Indian Coffee House Workers Union and its ties to the Communist Party, along with files about the economic policies of the Indian Communist Party. I also collected Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches and memos after 1947 regarding his views on India’s economic development and the labour movement. I obtained special access to the files of Jayaprakash Narayan, the Socialist leader. In his files, I found information about the views of the Indian Socialists, along with their collaboration with other political groups, and information about the Sarvodaya movement (a movement to promote a Gandhian economic development in India). I also accessed the files of Shri Khandubhai Desai for more information on the Socialists and Sarvodaya. I also obtained special permission to access the files of P. N. Haskar, Indira Gandhi’s principal secretary. In those files, I was able to uncover more information about Indira Gandhi’s policies, including information on slum clearances, sterilisation, and nationalisation of the banks. While the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library has Indira Gandhi’s papers and Jawaharlal Nehru’s post-1947 papers are listed in the catalogue, they are effectively classified. The Gandhi family controls access to these files, and while I wrote letters requesting special permission to access this file with the help of the director of the NMML, I was told that no researcher has of yet been granted access to these records. This fact that these records are effectively (though not technically) closed to researchers was popularised in several recent articles in


Appendix III

Indian newspapers detailing the saga of a historian who had come from the United States to write a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru and was denied access to these records. Despite my letters and repeated attempts to follow-up on them, my request is technically still pending even though it was initially filed in September of 2012. At the P. C. Joshi Archives on Contemporary History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, I collected key files on the inner workings of the Indian Communist Party, their views on economic development in India, and their relationship to the Indian trade union and labour movement. At the Central Secretariat Library at Shastri Bhavan in New Delhi, I collected statistical series on the coffee in India, including statistical series containing fiscal data on the Indian Coffee House. I also found statistical reports on the cooperatives in India, along with government reports on the relationship between cooperatives and economic development in India. At the Delhi Archives in New Delhi, I found information specific to the Indian Coffee House locations in New Delhi and records of disputes the Delhi Indian Coffee Houses have had with city government since Independence. I also found information in the Delhi Archives about the slum clearances in Delhi under Indira Gandhi. At the Punjab State Archives in Chandigarh, I found documents on the colonial and postcolonial labour movement in Punjab. At the V. V. Giri Archives on Indian Labour in NOIDA, I collected documents on the Indian labour movement and the relationship among organised labour, the Communist Party of India (undivided), the Congress Party, and Congress Socialists in the years leading up to and just after India’s independence. At the Haryana State Archives in Panchkula, I found key documents about the agricultural cooperative movement in colonial and postcolonial Punjab and its role in agricultural development. At the K. N. Raj Memorial Library in Thiruvanathapuram, I found government documents on the political economy of coffee in post-colonial India and government documents on consumer preferences and tastes for coffee over time in India. At the Kerala State Archives in Thiruvanathapuram, I found documents detailing the role of trade unions in Kerala in the fight for India’s Independence, along with documents about the Indian Coffee House from 1938 to 1968. These documents on the coffee house include information about how M. J. Simon, Coffee House founder, sourced coffee from plantations in Kerala

Appendix III


for all coffee house locations and about plans to expand the Indian Coffee House in Kerala in the 1960s after it had become a cooperative. I also sought to access records at the Coffee Board of India’s office in New Delhi, having been told by several senior social scientists in Delhi that the Board kept a small archive. After repeated attempts, I was able to set up a meeting with a special duty officer. This official asked me for sexual favours in exchange for access to the archives, at which point I cut contact. Almost a year later, I asked a male friend to try to gain access to these records on his own behalf. After several months of trying, my friend was able to get a phone meeting with a higher-up official at the Coffee Board in Bangalore. This more senior official told him that the Coffee Board’s policy is to destroy records at the end of each quarter and therefore, we discovered, the Coffee Board of India records on the Indian Coffee House no longer exist.

Problems and Opportunities This scattered picture of mid-20th century Indian political and economic history created both problems and opportunities. Problems in that there are significant gaps remaining in the historical record of the Emergency but opportunities in that one can fill those gaps using creative solutions. Archival records of the Emergency remain classified, and newspapers were censored; therefore, newspapers are not reliable, and archives are not available sources on the Emergency. I initially thought to look to newspapers for information about the events of The Emergency in order to fill these gaps. However, the press was heavily censored during this period of Indian history—both the Indian press along with foreign journalists—a fact confirmed to me by the journalists I later interviewed. The information that I was particularly interested in obtaining, about slum clearances, forced sterilisation, and resistance to the Emergency, was explicitly censored in the media. Some journalists who tried to publish information about these topics and other topics were arrested; other journalists were picked up by police and beaten in order to reinforce this censorship. Retired journalist, B. K. Chum explained that the lack of access to government and archival records on the Emergency compelled him to write a memoir of his experiences during the Emergency. In his memoir, entitled Behind Closed Doors: Politics of Punjab, Haryana and the Emergency (2014), he writes, … no records of the Emergency period are available either with the Union Home Ministry or with the National Archives of India. [IAS officer MG] Devasahayam had pleaded in his RTI query that since the information


Appendix III

sought by him did not come under the purview of the Official Secrets Act, as it was more than 30 years old, the government should not have any objection to providing it. (Chum 2014: 57)

Chum was outraged to learn that after filing a Right to Information query, key documents on the Emergency, including Indira Gandhi’s correspondence and the Shah Commission Reports, were still ‘not traceable’ or ‘missing’ from the National Archives of India. I encountered similar obstacles in the National Archives of India. Chum writes that his primary motivation for writing the book is because he believes that the Indian state is illegally withholding these documents on the Emergency. As a result, he feels that the circumstances of the illegal withholding of these documents have freed me from sticking to the confidentiality condition of my protecting sources and from the charge of breaching journalistic ethics by revealing the details of my interactions with newsmakers. I have decided to divulge what had transpired in the closed-door meetings in the Prime Minister’s house.… The deliberations held there, with potentially far reaching consequences for the nation, would have remained buried under the debris of history. (Chum 2014: 58)

Shah Commission Reports Because I had the advantage of going to archives outside of India, I was able to get a copy of the Shah Commission reports, which serves as a key historical record of what transpired during the Emergency and a counterweight to the oral history interviews I conducted. After the Emergency, in 1977, the Shah Commission of Inquiry was formed by the Janata Party government in order to investigate allegations of abuse of authority, excesses and malpractices committed and action taken or purported to be taken in the wake of the Emergency proclaimed on the 25th of June, 1975 under article 352 of the Constitution … and in particular allegations of gross misuse of power of arrest or detention, maltreatment of and atrocities on detenus, and other prisoners arrested under DISIR, compulsion and use of force in the implementation of the family planning programme and indiscriminate and high-handed demolition of houses, huts, shops, buildings, structures and destruction of property in the name of slum clearance or enforcement of town planning or land use schemes in the cities and towns resulting, inter alia, in large numbers of people becoming homeless or having to move far away from the places of their vocation. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 1)

Appendix III


The Shah Commission lacked both the time and resources necessary to investigate all of the alleged atrocities committed during the Emergency, and so the inquiry commission was divided into five sub-committees focusing on what the commission believed were the most egregious atrocities committed during the Emergency: (a) the subversion of lawful processes, (b) illegal detention, (c) the torture of political prisoners, (d) the use of compulsion in the family planning programme and (e) unauthorised slum clearances (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 16). The commission found that many of the arrests or detentions of political prisoners made during the Emergency were unlawful, even under the amendments to the law made by the Indira Gandhi administration. The commission reported, In Delhi, a large number of arrests/detentions followed under MISA in which the safeguards guaranteed against the misuse of the Act were ignored and grounds of detentions were not furnished in a large number of cases and in many cases grounds for detentions were prepared and even pre-dated and sent many days after the persons concerned had been arrested/detained in jails. In a number of cases grounds of detentions had no relevance to the factual positions and in a few cases grounds were fabricated by the police and the Magistrates did not hesitate to sign them. An era of collusion between the police and the Magistracy ensued. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 31)

Furthermore, the Shah Commission ruled that the misuses of the MISA bill, along with the silencing of the media, created an atmosphere of total fear, where Indian citizens were afraid of detention without cause or recourse, and without reliable information about detentions and other changes to the law, it heightened these fears. The commission reported, ‘The manner in which the provisions of MISA were used was nothing short of perversion and mockery of its provisions and all the safeguards and guarantees that had been promised in the Parliament when the MISA bill was enacted, were totally disregarded’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 32). The ‘press gagged’ and ‘effective resistance smothered’ contributed to a ‘fear generated by the mere threat’ of detention under MISA (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 2, 140). The Shah Commission concluded that ‘the one single item which had affected the people most over the entire country, was the manner in which the powers assumed by the Government to detain persons under the amended MISA were misused by the officials at various levels’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 228).


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The Shah Commission further found that instead of resisting these arbitrary and punitive measures carried out against citizens, government officers not only failed to oppose these violations of the rights of India’s citizens but also abetted the Gandhi administration in carrying out atrocities. The Shah Commission reported that during the period of the Emergency the public servants were expected often to orient the performance of their duties not to the rule of law but the desires and dictates of the politicians and the administrative heads. In many cases the administration and administrators ceased to be insulated from politics with disastrous consequences. (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 3, 230)

When Indira Gandhi was re-elected as prime minister in 1980, the report of the Shah Commission was subsequently banned in India (and remains banned to this day) and all copies of the report held in India were destroyed. Even during her interviews by the commission, Gandhi accused them of launching a personal vendetta against her. She said to the commission that ‘the Emergency was declared for personal reasons, namely, to stultify the judgement by extra-legal means and to maintain my position as Prime Minister by extra-constitutional methods. I have to point out, with utmost respect, that the Commission appears to have projected the theory propagated by my political opponents’ (Shah Commission of Inquiry 1979: Vol. 1, 29). Despite Indira Gandhi’s objections, however, a handful of copies of the report survive, held in libraries and archives outside of India. In addition to its broad findings that certain policies and programmes of the Emergency were unlawful and morally reprehensible, the commission also found many individual people guilty of committing atrocities or illegal acts during the Emergency. However, these individuals were never charged or brought to trial to account for their crimes, because as the commission concluded its findings in 1979, Indira Gandhi was re-elected as prime minister in 1980. She immediately put a stop to the Shah Commission and destroyed all copies of its reports that were held in India.

Oral History My decision to conduct oral history interviews with anti-Emergency activists who frequented the Indian Coffee House was informed by the above challenges. But the paucity of archival sources available to researchers working on postcolonial Indian history is not a challenge unique to India.

Appendix III


As the state archives across the Global South continue to ‘reflect the old regimes’ (Richie 1973: xii) and to fail to preserve documents on anti-state protest, oral histories have become an increasingly popular approach in circumventing closed or unavailable archives. As Cameroonian filmmaker Jean Marie-Teno (2015) contends, these official narratives of postcolonial state building created through restricting access to archives and other historical objects are how ‘the state ends up using violence to create a form of “memory of fear”, to inscribe fear into the mentality of the people, so that forms of resistance cannot exist’ (Teno 2015: 214). For decades, oral history methods have been used by historians and historical social scientists to recover narratives—mainly of leftists and feminists—whose voices have been disproportionately silenced in historical documents (Abrams 2010: 153; Yow 2005: 3). As Alessandro Portelli puts it, ‘Ever since the Federal Writers’ Project interviews with former slaves in the 1930s, oral history has been about the fact that there’s more to history than presidents and generals’ (Portelli 1991: viii). However, oral history in the Global South often necessitates a set of different research and interview techniques in order to make the dialogue between interviewer and narrator more compatible with indigenous norms of communication (Thompson 1998: 582–3). In addition, as with archival sources and survey research responses, it is well to remember that oral histories can and do contain gaps, embellishments, lies, and otherwise exhibit patterned deviations from what is already an elusive historical truth (Portelli 1991: viii–ix). To learn more about the Emergency and the resistance to it, I conducted oral history interviews with those who led the movement for democratisation in India. I interviewed twenty-six activists: three women and twenty-three men, mostly high caste, mostly Hindu but including one Jain, two Christians, and one Muslim. They ranged in age from 60 to in their 80s. The political affiliations of the narrators are as follows: nine Socialists, one CPI member, three CPM members, one Congress (O) leader, one former Maoist, one Trotskyite, one Trade Unionist, three RSS leaders, one Jamaat-e-Islami member, and two journalists who were interviewed, not for their involvement in contentious politics during the Emergency, but in their capacity as journalists. In order to represent all of the parties involved in the unofficial coalition against the Emergency (Maoists, CPM, CPI, Socialists, Congress[O], Akali Dal, Jamaat-e-Islami, RSS), I had tried to recruit at least one narrator who was involved with Akali Dal during the Emergency but was ultimately unsuccessful. To contact prospective narrators, I enlisted the help of my friends and contacts in student politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where I was


Appendix III

a research fellow from 2012 to 2013 and tangentially involved in student politics through the New Materialists group. I enlisted the help of contacts in both Communist and Socialist student groups, and while my Communist contacts told me that CPI(M) headquarters at A. K. Gopalan Bhavan believed that I was a CIA agent and therefore refused to facilitate any interviews, my Socialist contacts on the other hand helped to arrange interviews. (I myself was not active in Socialist or Communist groups during my time as a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University.) Later, in 2014 and 2018, I was able to interview CPM-affiliated narrators as I had established more of a reputation in academic circles in Delhi. The interviews were conducted in the homes and workplaces of the activists in question or at the Indian Coffee House at Mohan Singh Place in New Delhi. I logged a total of 53 hours and 15 minutes of interview time: the shortest interview lasted 45 minutes and the longest 8 hours. In 2014 I employed a research assistant who is a well-known Indian Socialist with an activist legacy while primarily targeting Socialist narrators, whereas in 2018 I employed a research assistant as a participant in Ambedkar University’s Law, Politics, and Society summer internship programme. At this point in the project, we primarily targeted Jan Sangh, Communist, and Maoist narrators. Both research assistants helped to put the narrators at ease by their presence at the interview and support of the project and this conviction that their views would be done justice in the finished project. While research assistants attended each interview, I led the interview and asked questions of narrators. In order to complement and triangulate my oral sources wherever possible, I have sought verification in the few secondary sources available on the Emergency, a common practice for evaluating oral history interviews in academic research (Abrams 2010: 7; Richie 2015: 103). In so doing, I am able to adjudicate among contradictory materials and evaluate various sources in order to draw my own conclusions about the events of the Emergency. In some instances, however, neither historical documents nor secondary sources are available in order to evaluate the interview data. In instances where written historical sources are unavailable, I have asked narrators to comment on what other narrators have said, thereby providing a widely accepted check on the interviews I conducted. In cases where narrators gave answers that differed from evidence I found in archives or secondary sources, I first allowed the narrator to tell his story, allowing him to challenge my preconceptions about the historical events in question; then, later in the interview, I would challenge his version of the facts in order to foreground and wrestle with inconsistencies

Appendix III


among interviews or between interviews and written sources (see Richie 2015: 114–16). While oral historians strive to provide an environment of mutuality and equality in the interview setting in order to foster open communication (Portelli 1991: 31), race and gender hierarchies along with cultural norms of gendered interaction (a particularly salient concern in the South Asian context) have been shown to influence the reliability of oral history interviews (Yow 2005: 170–2). Given that I am a white woman, my race and gender potentially hindered my non-white, male narrators from feeling comfortable sharing details of their lives with me, and my gender could (and in my view, very likely did in some instances) cause narrators to ‘talk down’ to me, simplifying their answers based on the assumption that as a woman, I lacked knowledge of the topics of discussion. Nevertheless, the latter dynamic may actually have been an advantage, encouraging more in-depth answers to my questions. In addition, I attempted to compensate for racial and gender differences not only through the presence of my research assistant at the interviews (Thompson 1998: 583) but also by showing through my professional credentials and through conversations with the narrators that I was capable of having informed discussions about politics (Yow 2005: 172). As a non-white man whose family is known to the narrators, my research assistant also afforded narrators the opportunity (which several took up) to make asides or give responses to him in Hindi, which many narrators assumed I did not understand very well. Nevertheless, my research assistant made clear to the narrators at the beginning of the interview that Hindi responses or comments would be translated and included in the records of the project. Although I strove for neutrality in my interviews, many times narrators would ask me about my personal views on politics and about whether I was sympathetic to their political views—a common question many oral historians face (Richie 2015: 118). I responded honestly to narrators who asked about my political views, expressing to them that while I am a leftist (as were the majority of social, labour, and feminist historians who first developed oral history methodologies in the early 20th century [Abrams 2010: 5]), I would not characterise my political views as Socialist or Communist. While I was friendly, empathetic and tactful, I also voiced scholarly scepticism where appropriate. Researchers are taught that they are not supposed to intrude their own beliefs and identity into the interview, but narrators pick up on the class, manner, speech and other characteristics of the oral historian and may self-censor or tell a sanitised version of events contingent upon the narrator’s


Appendix III

assumption of the oral historian’s political views based on this assessment (Portelli 1991: 30–1). By having this conversation with the narrator about politics, especially when conducting interviews about leftist politics, the oral historian is more likely to obtain useful and accurate material. My hope is that the recorded contributions of the narrators will serve as an important counterweight to the censored newspaper records and to government reports (should they ever be de-classified). As visual art curator Marco Scotini writes, state archives ‘transform a state of memory into State memory and a historical removal is enacted’ (Scotini 2015: 17). Recovering histories of resistance against the postcolonial state, therefore, ‘is an attempt to defy permanent or temporary amnesia and an opening up to the possible, to the future’ (Scotini 2015: 17). For now, these interviews are the only primary source record of the contributions of Indian Socialists and their allies to the restoration of democracy in postcolonial India and of the importance of Indian Coffee House during the Emergency.


Archival Sources Nehru Memorial Museum and Library New Delhi, India (NMML) PC Joshi Archives on Contemporary Indian History Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India (PCJ) National Archives of India New Delhi, India (NAI) Delhi Archives New Delhi, India (DA) Students Federation of India Jawaharlal Nehru University Unit Archive Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India (SFI JNU) Central Secretariat Library New Delhi, India (CSL) Punjab State Archives Chandigarh, India (PSA) Haryana State Archives Panchkula, India (HSA) Kerala State Archives Thiruvanathapuram, India (KSA) KN Raj Library, Centre For Development Studies Thiruvanathapuram, India (KNRL)


India Office Library, British Library London, United Kingdom (IOL) Zentrum Moderner Orient Bibliothek Berlin, Germany (ZMO)

Bloomberg Terminal JP Morgan (2013), Starbucks Assessment, Bloomberg LP Starbucks Coffee, Q4 Earnings Call (2012), Bloomberg LP Starbucks Coffee, Annual Report (2013), Bloomberg LP Starbucks Coffee, Q4 Earnings Call (2013), Bloomberg LP Tata Coffee, Annual Report (2013), Bloomberg LP

Newspaper Articles Dharmarajan, S. (1974) . ‘Labour Unrest Spreads to Key Sectors of the Economy’. Times of India. 2 January. Jain, Girilal (1974). ‘Democracy Under Siege: Need to Win Respite’. Times of India, 15 May. Khanna, K.C. (1974). ‘Impending Railway Strike: Both Sides Overplay Their Hands’. Times of India, 3 May. Mukerjee, Dilip (1974). ‘After the Rail Strike: A Welter of Uncertainties’. 18 May. Times of India (1974a). ‘4 Labour Leaders Held’. 27 May. ——— (1974b). ‘60 Employees of N. Rly. Sacked’. 9 May. ——— (1974c). ‘90 p.c. of Technical Staff Still Away’. 22 May. ——— (1974d). ‘AITUC Blamed’. 29 May. ——— (1974e). ‘AITUC Deplores Slander’. 11 June. ——— (1974f ). ‘Amnesty International Intervenes’. 22 May. ——— (1974g). ‘Angry Panther Mob Gassed Again’. 12 January. ——— (1974h). ‘Appeal to Giri’. 18 May. ——— (1974i). ‘Arrests Continue’. 11 May. ——— (1974j). ‘Arrests in City’. 21 May. ——— (1974k). ‘Attempted Sabotage Detected’. 27 May. ——— (1974l). ‘Ball in Opposition Court: Mishra’. 11 May. ——— (1974m). ‘Bandh Paralyses Life in City’. 5 May. ——— (1974n). ‘Bandh Total, Peaceful’. 15 May. ——— (1974o). ‘Banerjee Hits Out at Dange’s Move’. 27 May.



——— (1974p). ‘Banking Business Hit Hard’. 22 May. ——— (1974q). ‘Bharat Bandh on 15th: Unions’ Call’. 10 May. ——— (1974r). ‘Bid to End Rail Deadlock: Opposition Working on New Formula’. 21 May. ——— (1974s). ‘Bombay Set for Total Bandh’. 15 May. ——— (1974t). ‘Charge Sheets against 1,132 Workers’. 21 May. ——— (1974u). ‘Coach Factory Working in Full Strength’. 21 May. ——— (1974v). ‘Cops Beat Panthers “Mercilessly”’. 11 January. ——— (1974w). ‘CPI MP Arrested’. 10 May. ——— (1974x). ‘Dange’s Surprise Offer: Serious Differences among Railmen’s Leaders’. 25 May. ——— (1974y). ‘Defeat for Workers, Say SSP Leaders’. 28 May. ——— (1974z). ‘Dent in City Staff Resolve: Most Motormen to Resume Duty’. 20 May. ——— (1974aa). ‘“Do or Die” Call to Railwaymen: Last-minute Bid for Talks Fails’. 8 May. ——— (1974ab). ‘Don’t Go on Strike, Mishra Tells Railwaymen’. 23 March. ——— (1974ac). ‘Fernandes, 22 Others Released: Govt. Will Not Yield on Bonus, Pay Issues’. 29 May. ——— (1974ad). ‘Fernandes Denies Ministry’s Charge’. 12 December. ——— (1974ae). ‘Fernandes Disputes Govt. Claims’. 11 June. ——— (1974af ). ‘Fernandes Urges PM to Intervene’. 5 May. ——— (1974ag). ‘Fire at Howrah Station’. 25 May. ——— (1974ah). ‘Fresh Notice to City Railmen’. 18 May. ——— (1974ai). ‘“Generous Gesture” by Staff ’. 28 May. ——— (1974aj). ‘Giri Wants Talks to Be Resumed’. 17 May. ——— (1974ak). ‘Giri’s Advice to Govt. Hailed: Opposition Leaders to Meet Indira Gandhi Today’. 17 May. ——— (1974al). ‘Gopalan’s Move Foiled’. 27 May. ——— (1974am). ‘Govt. Going Back on Word: NCCRS’. 27 June. ——— (1974an). ‘Govt. Won’t Yield to Pressure: PM Refuses to Meet Opposition Leaders’. 18 May. ——— (1974ao). ‘Hectic Bid to End Rail Deadlock: Opposition Falls Back on PM’s Offer’. 22 May. ——— (1974ap). ‘Hunger-strike Threat’. 10 January. ——— (1974aq). ‘Indira’s “No” to Railmen: “Wage Hikes Harmful to Nation Now”’. 10 May. ——— (1974ar). ‘INTUC Call to Ignore Bandh’. 14 May. ——— (1974as). ‘Jailed Leaders Go on Fast’. 8 May. ——— (1974at). ‘Kanpur Bandh Plan’. 13 May.


——— (1974au). ‘Labour Leader Held’. 11 May. ——— (1974av). ‘Leaders Blame Govt. for Crisis’. 3 May. ——— (1974aw). ‘Leftist Front to Back Up Stir’. 19 May. ——— (1974ax). ‘Local Stirs Planned by Unions’. 28 August. ——— (1974ay). ‘Lok Sabha Walk-out on Strike Issue’. 9 May. ——— (1974az). ‘Loss to Economy—1,500 Cr’. 22 May. ——— (1974aaa). ‘Loyal Employee Declines Award’. 10 May. ——— (1974aab). ‘Loyal Rail Workers Attacked’. 29 May. ——— (1974aac). ‘Madras Rail Services Hit’. 13 March. ——— (1974aad). ‘Majority on Strike in Jaipur Division’. 15 May. ——— (1974aae). ‘Many Drivers Back on Duty in S. Rly’. 10 May. ——— (1974aaf ). ‘Mishra Dubs Stir Anti-national’. 7 May. ——— (1974aag). ‘Mishra’s Plea to Railwaymen’. 26 April. ——— (1974aah). ‘Mishra Rejects Railmen’s Demand for Parity’. 3 May. ——— (1974aai). ‘More Rail Union Leaders Held’. 6 May. ——— (1974aaj). ‘More Than 1,000 Held’. 5 May. ——— (1974aak). ‘MPs Demand Release of Union Leaders’. 8 May. ——— (1974aal). ‘MPs Sore over Mishra’s Attitude’. 20 November. ——— (1974aam). ‘MPs to Meet PM’. 10 May. ——— (1974aan). ‘New Federation of Railwaymen Formed’. 17 March. ——— (1974aao). ‘No General Pardon to Strikers: Mishra’. 21 June. ——— (1974aap). ‘No Improvement on N. Rly.’. 11 May. ——— (1974aaq). ‘No Withdrawal of Strike: Railmen Ready to Resume Talks’. 12 May. ——— (1974aar). ‘Normalcy on Rlys. Soon: Mishra’. 24 September. ——— (1974aas). ‘Noisy Walk-out as Govt. Stands Firm’. 15 May. ——— (1974aat). ‘Only 3 p.c. of Staff Absent’. 5 May. ——— (1974aau). ‘Only Partial Response to “Bharat Bandh”’. 17 May. ——— (1974aav). ‘Opposition Seeks Aid of Giri to End Stir’. 14 May. ——— (1974aaw). ‘Over 100 Unions Serve Notice: Railway Strike Will Be Illegal, Says Govt’. 24 April. ——— (1974aax). ‘PAC Happy over Situation: No Govt. Initiative to End Rail Strike’. 26 May. ——— (1974aay). ‘Panels Set Up to Explain Govt. Stand’. 14 May. ——— (1974aaz). ‘Plea to Resume Talks: Fernandes Refutes Mishra’s Charges’. 6 May. ——— (1974aaaa). ‘Police Chief Takes Over Rail Force’. 8 May. ——— (1974aaab). ‘Probe into Worker’s Death Demanded’. 23 May. ——— (1974aaac). ‘P&T Staff Urged to Back Railwaymen’. 8 May. ——— (1974aaad). ‘Rail Economy Hit by Strikes’. 26 March.



——— (1974aaae). ‘Rail Leaders Refuse to Budge: Call Off Stir First, Talks Later: Government Firm’. 24 May. ——— (1974aaaf ). ‘Rail Services Hit Throughout: Fernandes Ready for Talks Even in Jail’. 9 May. ——— (1974aaag). ‘“Rail Stir Will Continue”: Government Silent on Opposition Proposals’. 23 May. ——— (1974aaah). ‘Rail Strike Almost Certain: Talks End in a Deadlock’. 1 May. ——— (1974aaai). ‘Rail Union Leader Dies in Police Custody’. 25 May. ——— (1974aaaj). ‘Rail Union Leader Quits’. 6 May. ——— (1974aaak). ‘Rail Workers Are Freed’. 30 May. ——— (1974aaal). ‘Rail Workers’ Threat to Go on Strike’. 17 March. ——— (1974aaam). ‘Railmen Assured of Fair Deal’. 15 June. ——— (1974aaan). ‘Railmen Call Off Strike’. 28 May. ——— (1974aaao). ‘Railmen Demonstrate’. 24 April. ——— (1974aaap). ‘Railmen Seek Public Help as Stir Weakens’. 13 May. ——— (1974aaaq). ‘Railmen Will Intensify Stir, Says Bosu’. 20 May. ——— (1974aaar). ‘Railway Unions Not Sincere, Says PM’. 12 May. ——— (1974aaas). ‘Railwaymen Too May Join: Maharashtra Bandh May Be Total’. 1 January. ——— (1974aaat). ‘Railwaymen Want Accord: Limaye’. 29 April. ——— (1974aaau). ‘Railwaymen Win an Award, but Strike Looms Large’. 30 April. ——— (1974aaav). ‘Rs. 500-cr. Loss for Economy’. 28 May. ——— (1974aaaw). ‘Rs. 80-crore Extra Benefit: Steps Initiated on Six Concessions to Railmen’. 5 June. ——— (1974aaax). ‘Sack Threat Has No Effect in Rajasthan’. 18 May. ——— (1974aaay). ‘Service Break Threat’. 6 May. ——— (1974aaaz). ‘Services Better as More Men Rejoin’. 20 May. ——— (1974aaaaa). ‘Shunting Workers Back, Says NR’. 18 May. ——— (1974aaaab). ‘Sop for Railmen Soon’. 19 May. ——— (1974aaaac). ‘South-Central Rly. Keeps to “Schedule”’. 9 May. ——— (1974aaaad). ‘SP Worker, Gateman Held: “Sabotage”’. 25 May. ——— (1974aaaae). ‘Sporadic Walk-outs’. 7 May. ——— (1974aaaaf ). ‘ST Workers Also to Strike’. 7 May. ——— (1974aaaag). ‘Strike Will Continue: Fernandes Rejects Govt’s 3-point Formula’. 11 May. ——— (1974aaaah). ‘Strikers May Lose Their Jobs’. 5 May. ——— (1974aaaai). ‘Talk of Another Rail Strike a Hurdle: Mishra’. 7 August. ——— (1974aaaaj). ‘Talk with Leaders, Advani Urges PM’. 6 May.


——— (1974aaaak). ‘Talks if Strike Notice Goes’. 3 May. ——— (1974aaaal). ‘Threat by Fernandes: “No Normalcy if Govt. Is Unhelpful”’. 30 May. ——— (1974aaaam). ‘Timely, Says AITUC’. 28 May. ——— (1974aaaan). ‘Tracks Being Patrolled’. 7 May. ——— (1974aaaao). ‘Trains Will Run Says LN Mishra’. 5 May. ——— (1974aaaap). ‘Two More Top Leaders Held: Stances Harden on Bharat Bandh Eve’. 15 May. ——— (1974aaaaq). ‘Union Leader, Malgi, Dies While in Custody’. 3 May. ——— (1974aaaar). ‘Union Leaders See “Back to Work” Trend’. 26 May. ——— (1974aaaas). ‘Union Staff Strike’. 10 May. ——— (1974aaaat). ‘Unions Could Not Utilise Strike Funds’. 29 May. ——— (1974aaaau). ‘Unions Set for Bharat Bandh’. 13 May. ——— (1974aaaav). ‘Walk-out Staged’. 14 May. ——— (1974aaaaw). ‘Wild-cat Strike by Railway Workers’. 3 May. ——— (1974aaaax). ‘Worker Held for Arson Bid’. 22 May. ——— (1974aaaay). ‘Workshops Worst Hit on S. Rly.’ 9 May. ——— (1974aaaaz). ‘Writ Plea Filed by Railway Union’. 21 May. ——— (1975a). ‘16 Cong. MPs Urge JP to Withdraw Stir’. 7 January. ——— (1975b). ‘90 Extremists Arrested in Bihar’. 15 January. ——— (1975c). ‘Advani Calls for Probe’. 4 January. ——— (1975d). ‘Ahmad Sees Threat to Democracy’. 4 January. ——— (1975e). ‘Attack Politically Motivated: CPI’. 4 January. ——— (1974f ). ‘Big Rise in CPI Membership’. 14 January. ——— (1975g). ‘Bihar Government Unfit to Handle Probe: JP’. 4 January. ——— (1975h). ‘Cult of the Bomb’. 4 January. ——— (1975i). ‘Dead Clerk’s Note Gives Clue’. 8 January. ——— (1975j). ‘EMS Doubts Congress Intentions’. 5 January. ——— (1975k). ‘Enter CBI Men and Police’. 4 January. ——— (1975l). ‘Five Rail Officials Are Held: Blast’. 6 January. ——— (1975m). ‘For the Record: On Behalf of the CPM, I Totally Oppose the New Declaration of Emergency’. 27 July. ——— (1975n). ‘Hurried Demolition of Samastipur Dais Denied’. 12 June. ——— (1975o). ‘Indira Spreading Hysteria: JP’. 10 January. ——— (1975p). ‘JP Movement Will Bring Chaos: Ray’. 20 January. ——— (1975q). ‘JP’s Movement Only Hope: Fernandes’. 5 February. ——— (1975r). ‘Karpoori’s Arrest: Questions before Matthew Commission’. 7 June. ——— (1975s). ‘Kishore’s Close Friend Disappears’. 13 January. ——— (1975t). ‘LN Mishra among 23 Hurt in Bomb Blast’. 3 January.



——— (1975u). ‘LN Mishra Dies after Surgery: PM, Borooah to Attend Funeral’. 4 January. ——— (1975v). ‘Murder of PM by Proxy: Dange’. 7 January. ——— (1975w). ‘Mystery of the Moving Engine’. 17 January. ——— (1975x). ‘No Faith in CBI Inquiry: JP’. 7 January. ——— (1975y). ‘Opposition Leaders Assail PM’s Stand’. 17 January. ——— (1975z). ‘“Part of a Dangerous Plan”: Mishra’s Murder Only a Rehearsal: PM’. 8 January. ——— (1975aa). ‘PM Hails Mishra’s Dedication to Country, Cong.’ 4 January. ——— (1975ab). ‘PM’s Statement Is Irresponsible: Goray’. 9 January. ——— (1975ac). ‘Power Failure Hits Dailies’. 27 June. ——— (1975ad). ‘Result of Misrule: Morarji’. 5 January. ——— (1975ae). ‘Samastipur Blast: 14 Held So Far’. 18 February. ——— (1975af ). ‘Samastipur Blast: Suspects Confess’. 28 February. ——— (1975ag). ‘Scotland Yard Man for Blast Probe’. 20 January. ——— (1975ah). ‘Six Theories about Samastipur Blast’. 19 January. ——— (1975ai). ‘Some Clues Claimed’. 19 February. ——— (1975aj). ‘Stir Alive and Spreading: JP’. 9 January. ——— (1975ak). ‘Suspects’ Allegiance Unknown’. 24 February. ——— (1975al). ‘Toll Rises to Four: Reddy Assures Full Probe into Blast’. 5 January. ——— (1976). ‘CBI Misled by Samastipur Superintendent: Counsel’. 8 May. ——— (1977). ‘Underground Shops to Be Given to Stallholders’. 1 September.

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Advani, L. K., 103, 115, 124, 168 agrarian, 60, 66–7, 74, 77, 81–2, 84, 266, 280, 284 Akali Dal, 80, 87–90, 120, 122, 134, 200–1, 309, 318 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), 218, 227–8, 249n23 All India Radio, 139–40, 197, 211, 213–15, 249n22 All India Students’ Federation (AISF), 151, 169n2 All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), 98, 104, 107, 112–113, 115, 118, 192, 252, 254–5, 280–1 Allahabad, 17, 91, 96, 101, 105, 108, 114, 154, 157, 160, 171, 222–3, 306 Ambala Jail, Haryana, 229 Ambedkar, B. R., 85–6, 319 authoritarianism, 3, 6–7, 46–8, 132, 151, 207 and Emergency by Indira Gandhi, 174 political economy in Global South, 26–31 and Third World states prevalent in, 291 rejection by, 295 autonomous zones, 6–7, 18, 20–1, 36, 40–8, 50, 247, 286, 290–1, 297 Global South, 21

Indian Coffee House (Connaught Place), 3, 170, 188, 250, 296 meaning of, 3, 170–1 self-managed workplace, 3 Babbar Akali Jatha, 83 banks/banking system, 60, 74–6, 112, 116, 121, 143, 160, 278, 281, 312 Baroda Dynamite conspiracy case, 174, 210–11, 213–15, 219, 236–7, 300 BBC Radio, 139, 142, 197, 211–13, 236 Bhoodan Movement, 92, 95, 269 Bihar, 53, 69, 71–4, 81, 90 Movement, 2, 17, 52–3, 77–8, 80, 92–7, 99, 120–9, 131–2, 141, 166, 168, 192–3, 210, 216, 243, 289–90, 292, 308–10 Naxalbari, 82–4 Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (BCSS), 93–4 Bomb, explosive, 123–4, 126–8, 210–12, 224 British colonial/Empire/Raj, 1–2, 5–13, 30, 48–9, 54, 91, 138, 166, 168, 199–200, 208, 212, 248, 249n24, 250–4, 258, 265–6, 269, 279, 282, 284–5, 290, 292, 311, 313


bourgeoisie, 279 bureaucracy, 55 Coffee House, 18, 36, 174 currency, 281 metropole, 281 partners, 281 peasant resistance, 22 slavery, 280 social hierarchies, 132 surplus crisis in 1939, 14–15 working class, 28 Calcutta, 15, 81, 91, 105, 107, 112, 114, 187–8, 194, 221–4, 252 Capital, 51, 225, 230, 233 capitalism, 21, 24, 26–8, 36, 39–40, 43, 89, 92, 260, 273, 276, 281, 291, 294 caste/casteism , 20, 47, 55–6, 66, 73, 82–7, 91–3, 95, 128, 248n7, 274, 283–4, 308–10, 318 censorship, 197, 228, 314 media, 41, 137–43, 168 press, 172 Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), 107, 114–15, 118–19 civil liberties, 36, 49, 77, 103, 157, 183, 201, 243 College St., Calcutta, 187 communism, 23, 174, 177, 192, 271, 278–84 Communist Party (undivided), 250, 252, 284 Communist Party of India (CPI), 103, 105, 108, 110, 113–15, 118–19, 121–8, 146–7, 159, 169n2, 184, 191–2, 194, 246, 251–2, 271, 277–8, 280–1, 284–5, 308, 318 Communist Party of India (CPI[M]), 80–6, 93–5, 97, 103–4, 109–10,

112–15, 117, 145–7, 151–2, 158–9, 161, 174, 184, 191–4, 196, 246, 252, 304, 308, 319 Communist Party of India (MarxistLeninist) (CPI[ML]), 80–5, 94–6, 145–7, 243, 308 Communist, 23, 31, 41, 84–5, 94, 103, 161, 174, 176–7, 182, 184, 186, 190, 193–6, 235, 245, 247, 250–1, 254–6, 271, 277–81, 284, 312, 319–20 Congress (O), 95, 107, 109–10, 122–3, 126, 134, 193, 227, 310, 318 Congress Party, 54, 60, 73, 81, 88, 91, 97–9, 103, 106–7, 109, 113, 121–5, 133–4, 136–7, 140, 160, 167, 173, 177, 182–3, 185, 192–3, 198–200, 202, 204, 208, 212, 214, 227, 230, 233, 239, 241–2, 245–6 253–7, 260–1, 264–5, 269–71, 275, 277–8, 280–1, 284, 290, 309–10, 313 Congressmen, 199–200, 220, 255 Connaught Place, 2, 17–18, 20, 36, 91, 170–1, 174–83, 185–9, 196–7, 201, 203–4, 206, 208, 223, 229, 232, 238, 241, 247, 250, 290, 292, 296, 300, 307 cooperative, 7, 39, 46, 58, 60, 171, 176, 178–9, 225, 247, 257–8, 261–2, 266–70, 278, 283–4, 290, 300, 305, 310, 313–14 agricultural, 13–14, 265, 275, 277 cafés in Italy, 170 banks, 76 khadi, 276 societies, 253 types of, 13


village, 275 workers’, 18, 35, 174, 240, 248, 250–1, 254, 294 Dalit Panthers Party, 2, 17, 80, 85–7, 107, 120, 129, 132, 289 Dalit, 5, 17, 51, 54, 69, 72–3, 77, 81, 84, 95, 129, 132, 168, 206, 258–9, 274, decolonisation, 16, 22, 27, 29, 37, 40, 286, 289, 291, 295 Defence of India Rules, 97, 99–100, 104, 111, 114, 118, 137, 222, 229 Delhi Development Authority (DDA), 64–5, 101, 118, 120, 162–3 Delhi University, 130n7, 183, 185, 195–6, 220, 228–9, 301, 305 Delhi/New Delhi/Old Delhi, 1–2, 10, 15, 17, 36, 43, 51, 54, 60–1, 63–5, 69, 77, 88, 91, 96, 98–101, 105, 107–8, 116, 119–23, 125, 131, 133–5, 140, 143, 145–50, 156, 158, 161–2, 165, 169, 171, 174–7, 179–83, 185–90, 194–6, 198, 207, 210, 212–14, 216, 220–5, 228–31, 233, 236, 241, 250–2, 269, 275, 290, 293, 296, 300, 303, 305, 309–14, 316, 319 democracy, 21, 30, 33, 35, 44, 48, 52, 77, 89–90, 95, 121, 123, 125–6, 129, 131–2, 141, 151–2, 160, 166–8, 174, 181–2, 189, 192–3, 201–3, 218–19, 231, 241, 246, 255–6, 281, 286, 289, 294, 296–7, 321 bourgeois, 243–4 economic, 7, 40 social, 273 workers, 28 demolition, 64–5, 77, 162–6, 238, 240, 315


detainees/detenues, 32, 137, 139, 144–50, 225, 227–8, 230, 242 dictatorship, 4, 25, 42, 121, 137, 153, 157, 168, 188–9, 192, 197, 201, 203, 207, 211, 219, 226, 243, 286 Doordarshan, 140, 197 Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), 107, 109, 120, 126, 212, 310 economic development, 16–18, 26–7, 48–9, 51–60, 75–8, 80, 131–2, 201, 203, 254–69, 278–85, 289–92, 312–13 Empire. See British colonial/Empire/ Raj family planning, 54, 60, 67–73, 77, 137, 148, 161–2, 312, 315–16 Fascism, 3–4, 30, 34, 41–2, 294, 297 Fernandes, George, 97–101, 103–7, 109–10, 114, 116–19, 121–2, 126, 139, 151, 168, 175, 183, 192, 203, 206, 210–14, 218–19, 221, 234, 236–7, 242, 300 film/filmmaker, 43, 139–40, 177, 185, 187, 318 freedom struggle/Independence Movement, 20–3, 166, 183–4, 199–200, 249n24, 251, 270 Gandhi, Indira, 1, 17, 36, 76–8, 80, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94, 97–9, 103, 106, 109, 112–13, 118, 120–5, 129, 131–6, 138–43, 146, 149, 158, 160–1, 166, 168, 169n2, 172, 174, 191–2, 194–5, 198, 201–2, 204, 208, 212, 219, 221, 227, 239–40, 244–5, 285–6, 289–90, 292, 296, 300, 310, 312–13, 315–17 banking system policy, 74–6


Nashbandi ka Vakt (The Time of Sterilisation), 66–73 political economy of development, 54–60 slum clearances, 60–5 Gandhi Maidan, Patna, 96, 166 Gandhi, Mohandas (Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhian), 34, 52, 77, 91–2, 125, 130n12, 138, 170, 189, 227, 248, 251, 254, 261, 270–80, 283–4, 290, 310, 312 Gandhi Peace Foundation, 166, 204–5, 248n20 Gandhi, Sanjay, 64–5, 69, 136, 139–40, 155–6, 161–2, 164–5, 172, 174, 178, 190, 198, 201, 221, 228, 238–40, 245, 250, 290, 307 Germany, 11, 13, 30, 40–1, 142, 170, 175 Ghadar Party, 83 Ghadarities, 83 Global South, 6, 20–31, 35–6, 48, 57–8, 66, 132, 137, 291, 318. See also Third World Gopalan, A. K., 103, 114, 158–61, 176–7, 247, 251–3, 277–8, 284, 290, 304, 319 gossip, 220, 240 Coffee House Gossip Intelligence Ring, 6 importance of, 221 political, 181 Gramdan Movement, 269 Green Revolution, 66, 83 Haksar, P. N., 54–6, 58–60, 66, 72–6, 172–3, 245 Hind Mazdoor Panchayat (HMP), 107, 116, 255 Hindustan Samachar, 139

Hindu, 140, 196 Hindustan Times, 138, 140–2, 190 Hisar Jail, 228, 231–2 independence, 6, 16–18, 20–8, 36, 48–9, 51, 55, 58–60, 66, 77, 80, 83, 86–9, 91, 109, 129, 132, 174, 183–4, 200, 251–4, 258–9, 269–71, 277–8, 280–2, 285–6, 290, 294–5, 298n1, 313 Indian Express, 140–3, 165, 208 Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), 100, 107, 254–7, 260–2, 270–2 industrialisation, 61, 90, 258–9, 261–2, 274, 278, 284, 308–9 inflation, 52–3, 90, 93, 97–8, 135–6, 139, 292 intellectuals, 3–5, 27, 34, 46–7, 55–6, 84, 91–2, 151, 171, 175–9, 181, 183, 185–7, 202, 239, 250–2, 297 Italy, 4, 11, 30, 34, 37–9, 41, 170 jail/prison, 86, 101, 103–5, 110, 112–13, 116–17, 135, 139, 145–50, 154, 156–7, 159–61, 168, 171, 173–4, 190–1, 197, 200–1, 204–5, 207–8, 210–11, 216, 218, 220, 222–38, 242, 244, 270, 300, 316 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919, 165 Jama Masjid, 64, 161, 164 Jamaat-e-Islami, 47, 80, 87–90, 146–7, 230–1, 245, 309, 318 Jan Sangh, Sanghi, 65, 87–90, 103–4, 109–10, 114–15, 124, 126–7, 129, 146–7, 171, 182, 193, 227, 230–1, 241–2, 245, 249n25, 319


Janata Party, 1, 88, 228, 238, 242–3, 245–6, 310, 315 Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU), 2, 151–8, 168, 177–8, 183, 188, 193–6, 198, 200–1, 208, 220, 228, 233, 311, 313, 318–19 journalists/newspapermen, 53, 142–4, 147, 165, 178–9, 182, 186, 190, 197, 200, 202, 205, 208, 212, 217, 219, 223, 238–9, 240, 244, 314–15, 318 JP. See Narayan, Jayprakash Kerala, 14, 67, 105, 119, 284, 295, 304, 308, 313–14 khadi, 91, 95, 175, 187, 220, 244, 276, 284 labour, 3, 16, 37–8, 60, 99, 108, 114, 116, 118, 120, 147, 173, 201, 254–60, 262–3, 269–72, 277–8, 280, 283, 285–6, 290, 311–13, 320 agrarian, 81 anti-colonial movements, 20–8, 36, 49, 251–4 child, 81 Dalit, 85 movements in Calcutta, 91 Lal, Bansi, 133, 135–6 leaflet/pamphlet/circulars/handbills, 45, 91, 100, 128, 143, 152, 154, 169, 189, 192, 197, 200, 203, 205–7, 209–10, 214, 219, 223, 238, 252, 279–81 liberalisation, 90, 297 Lohia, Rammanohar, 90–2, 175–6, 182–3, 187, 204, 220, 237, 248n7, 301 Lucknow, 15, 101, 108, 133, 171, 208, 222–3, 306


lunatics/lunatic ward (paagal chuki), 149, 233 Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), 89, 104, 111, 113, 116, 119, 137–9, 143–50, 152, 158–60, 166, 168, 207, 225, 237, 242, 244, 316 Maoist/Naxal/Naxalite, 66, 80–5, 93, 102, 120, 122, 124, 129, 132, 150–1, 171, 177–8, 181–3, 192, 194, 222, 225, 230, 241–6, 286, 308–9, 318–19 Marxism, 81, 85, 92, 177 Marxist, 39, 47, 52, 80, 82, 88, 90–2, 102, 108, 111, 113, 160, 177, 185–6, 194–5, 227, 230, 273, 308–9 Mazumdar, Charu, 81–2 modernity, 284 capitalist, 36, 292 Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), 64–5 Muslim, 5–6, 17, 51, 54, 64–5, 70, 72–3, 77, 81, 88–9, 149, 161, 165, 168, 202, 222, 224, 274, 309, 318 Muzaffarnagar, 69 Namboodiripad, E. M. S., 95, 123, 160, 191, 193 Narayan, Jayprakash ( JP), 2, 52–3, 83, 88, 90–2, 95–6, 109–10, 121–6, 130n7, n12, 131, 134, 141, 151, 166–8, 175, 189, 192–4, 197, 199, 204–5, 208, 218, 221, 243–4, 246, 274–7, 292, 312 nationalisation, 60–1, 74–6, 143, 250–1, 258, 278, 312 Nazi, 31, 170 anarchist groups formation during regime of, 41


-dominated and looted Europe, 13 repression, 4, 34 Nehru, Jawaharlal, 2, 18, 54, 59–60, 91–2, 130n12, 138, 143, 151, 155, 158, 186–7, 201, 220, 251–4, 257–70, 275, 280, 283–4, 290, 312–13 New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), 64, 238–40 newspapers/press/media, 29, 39, 41, 91, 94, 98, 100, 103, 107, 113, 117, 124–6, 135, 137–43, 151, 166–8, 170, 172–3, 179, 181, 188, 190, 192, 197–8, 206–7, 209, 211–12, 223, 225, 238–40, 246, 279, 313–14, 316, 321 Non-Alignment Conference (1970), 57 non-alignment, 54 painters/art/artists, 4, 46–7, 42, 91, 135, 171, 175, 177, 179, 185–7, 250, 295, 297, 321 Pakistan, 64–5, 70, 137 Palika Bazaar, 2, 238, 307 partition, 1, 64–5, 251, 285 Patna University, 83, 93–4 Patna, 69, 83, 90, 93–6, 101, 104–5, 116, 122–3, 166, 171, 212–13, 218, 222–4 poetry/poems, 34, 131, 134, 153, 223, 235 police, 30, 41–3, 69, 70, 73, 81–2, 84, 86, 93–6, 101–2, 105, 108–9, 112–14, 116–17, 119, 122–4, 126–8, 133, 139, 144–7, 149, 153–9, 161–5, 185, 189–91, 194, 196, 199–200, 205, 207, 209–10, 216–20, 222, 226–7, 229, 233–8, 242, 244, 275, 297, 314, 316

political prisoners, 135, 144–50, 225–6, 228–9, 249n26, 316 Praja Socialist Party, 91, 310 professors, faculty, 83, 91, 152, 183, 208, 217, 220, 235, 237, 270 protest, 2–4, 7, 16–17, 34, 52, 84, 86–7, 91, 93–5, 101, 104–5, 107, 112, 117–19, 131, 138, 140–1, 151–6, 158, 162, 183, 185, 194–6, 198, 201–2, 204–5, 210–13, 216–20, 223, 226, 228, 240, 242 anti-state, 318 political mass, 42 social, 41, 44, 53, 69, 96, 130n12, 132, 135, 172, 247, 286, 289, 291–2, 294–6 symbolic, 43 Punjab, 14, 22, 66, 81–4, 87–8, 102, 108, 116, 120, 122, 144, 147, 163, 178, 200–1, 251, 283, 308–9, 311, 313–14 Railway Workers Strike/railway workers, 2, 17, 80, 97–129, 131–2, 175, 212, 246, 286, 289 Ramlila grounds, 134, 204 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), 52, 80, 90, 95, 122, 134, 144–7, 149, 169n2, 177, 196, 198, 220, 225, 227, 230, 241–2, 245–6, 249n23, n25, 309, 318 Ruling (12 June 1975), 53, 131–7, 139, 168, 183, 286, 289 resistance, 2–3, 6, 16–18, 21–2, 27, 31–6, 40–4, 46, 48, 72–3, 80, 82, 86, 90–1, 140, 147, 151, 161, 170–4, 193, 215–16, 221, 223, 225, 235, 240–1, 248, 271, 286, 291, 293, 297, 314, 316, 318, 321


heroic, 115 movement against Emergency, 169, 200, 237–8, 247, 289–90 non-violent, 273 socialist, 201, 203, 210–11, 218 underground, 236 Samachar Bharati, 139 Samajwadi Yuvjan Sabha (SYS), 183 Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP), 183 Sarvodaya, 92, 95, 174, 243–4, 269–78, 283, 285, 312 satyagraha, 85, 90, 166, 208–9, 211, 270, 272, 276 Simon, M. J., 10–11, 15, 38, 313 Singh, Bhagat, 22, 64, 126, 138, 250 slum(s), 202 clearances, 54, 60–5, 76–7, 161, 165, 201, 312–16 dwellers, 60, 76 Socialist, 18, 22–4, 30, 38, 41, 81–2, 90–2, 95, 100, 103, 110, 113–14, 120, 122, 124–5, 134, 174–7, 179, 181–5, 192, 194–6, 199–201, 203–7, 210–12, 217–22, 224–7, 229–30, 234–5, 237, 240–7, 250, 253–7, 260, 270, 275–6, 278, 283–5, 290, 306, 312–13, 318–21 Statesman, 140–2, 144 sterilisation/tubectomy/vasectomy, 54, 66–73, 77, 147, 150, 161–2, 203, 312, 314 strike, 2–3, 17, 23, 37, 58, 84, 86, 123, 126–7, 139, 141, 152–6, 173, 203, 212, 229, 252–6, 258, 260–3, 269, 271–3, 280, 282, 285 Students Federation of India JNU Unit (SFI JNU), 152, 154, 156–8, 168, 169n2–16, 187, 191, 193–6 students, 17, 42–3, 51, 53–4, 83–4, 90–1, 93–5, 121, 129, 130n7, 131,


135, 145, 147–8, 150–61, 167–9, 173–5, 182–5, 187, 191, 193–6, 198, 200, 204, 206–7, 222, 227–9, 239, 249n23, 269, 274, 279, 286, 292, 301, 318–19 surveillance, 35, 41, 134, 170, 184, 217 Third World, 16, 92, 274, 286, 292. See also Global South anti-capitalist workers and peasants movements to succeed, 280 charged with optimism of decolonisation and national liberation movements, 289 project, 26 rejects authoritarianism and domination, 295 totalitarian movement, 291 trade unions in, 283 Tihar Jail, 101, 103, 112, 116, 135, 149, 159, 191, 204, 224, 229, 231, 233, 238, 300 Times of India, 97–8, 100, 103, 116, 125, 135, 140–2 torture/tortured, 42, 69, 191, 194–5, 218, 233, 237, 242, 249n24 physical, 183 of political prisoners, 144–50, 316 totalitarianism, 30–5, 41, 168, 293–4 Travancore, 8, 10–11, 14–15 trade union, 90, 93, 95, 97–104, 107–10, 113–14, 117, 119–22, 126, 147, 173, 184, 190–1, 196, 201, 212, 244, 252, 255–7, 260–1, 270–1, 277, 280–3, 286, 290, 294, 308, 313, 318 anarcho-syndicalist, 41 anti-colonial, 23


colonial, 23 pushed independence movements, 22 Trotskyists, 151 Turkman Gate uprising (1976), 2, 64–5, 139, 149, 161–6, 168–9, 198, 238 underground, 2, 84, 145, 151, 168, 171, 173–4, 181, 196–7, 203, 207, 209–11, 214, 216–17, 219–21, 226, 228–9, 233, 236, 240, 306–7 armed action against police, 82 going, 221–4 materials, 42 politics, 191 resistance movements against Emergency, 169 unions, 42 writings, 205–6 Urban Planning Commissions, 63 urban/urbanisation, 5, 17, 28, 35, 42, 46, 51, 54, 59–62, 64–6, 74–7, 81, 83, 94, 172, 201–2, 238, 240, 251, 254, 258, 263–4, 268 Uttar Pradesh, 69, 71–3, 90, 111, 144, 146–8, 150, 175–6, 214, 222–3, 225, 233, 261, 263, 268, 309–10 violence, 48, 52, 81, 91, 94, 97, 104–5, 115–16, 123–4, 137, 151, 210–11, 219, 251, 260, 318 against political adversaries, 33 non-, 91, 125, 130n12 political, 129

revolutionary, 32 state, 3, 43, 101, 111, 129, 131 symbolic, 3 trade-union related, 97 US use of imperial power to combat nationalist movements, 24 workers, 17, 24–5, 27, 47, 51, 54, 85, 90, 95, 97–128, 132, 134, 145, 147, 160, 171, 173, 176–9, 184, 190, 198, 201, 212, 235, 238–40, 242, 244, 247–8, 250–1, 255–7, 260–3, 269, 272, 276–86, 290–2, 294–5, 300, 305, 311–12 agricultural, 83 anti-colonial movements, 21–2 Bihari cities, 93 coffee house workers anticolonial movement, 251–4 cooperative, 18, 35 democracy, 28 -occupied and self-managed firm/workplaces, 7, 20, 36–40, 43, 48, 292 self-management, 3 working class(es), 17, 20–2, 24, 27–8, 30, 33, 37, 48–9, 60, 64–5, 76–7, 87, 95, 107, 115, 119, 126, 173, 201, 255–6, 269, 271–3, 280–3, 292 World Bank, 54, 58–9, 312 Worli riots, 86 Youth Congress, 139