Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it has happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to relive it several years later, on the date it had occurred.
26th December 1978, Delhi:
It was more than historical a moment when Indira Gandhi was seen, coming out of the rusty gates of Tihar Jail on that, particularly cold-Tuesday night. The moment she came out of those gates, she was greeted with hundreds of reporters and party workers besides her family members.
No wonder the pressure on authorities was so high that she had to be released within a week of her arrest.
Mrs. Gandhi was indicted along with her aide and a former police officer for intervening in an inquiry into her son’s business affairs. She was put into jail against these charges for the entire duration of the ongoing Parliamentary session.
But the nationwide unrest that followed and the formal notice of adjournment of her sentence this evening, the release became inevitable.
Her return from jail was no less dramatic than her departure. Once she stepped out of the gates, hundreds of supporters cheered, “Long live Indira Gandhi,” to the beat of drums and tambourines along with distribution of arrays of sweets.
Mrs. Gandhi even smiled and joked with the mob and said “It’s good to be home”. She also shrugged off the past week with “I had a good rest.” She thanked and expressed her gratitude to the party workers and well-wishers who stood with her.
Indira Gandhi had been in the headlines since the emergency. Now that she was not in power anymore the charges and grievances against her seemed to be on a rise.
It was the 19th of December when all these accusations culminated in her expulsion from Parliament. And she was transferred to the Tihar jail for the rest of the session.
Within a day of her arrest, the country broke into demonstrations and protests against her sentence. At least 16 people were killed, and more than 120,000 protesters were detained, although eventually, many of them were released.
In fact, two of her defenders crossed all limits and hijacked a plane to demand her release. Fortunately, the police authorities were able to reach a negotiation with the hijackers, and nobody was hurt, and all the passengers were released.
The Congress mobs once again took the law into their hands by hurling bombs into the Calcutta residence of Mr. Samar Guha, the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges of the Lok Sabha, that had indicted Mrs. Gandhi. Similar orchestrations of violence continued in the following week in various other parts of the country until her release.
Although she is out of jail now, she still faces criminal charges stemming from alleged impropriety in the 1977 election campaign that she had eventually lost. The possibility of a further clash between her political ambitions and ever-increasing detractors, thus, cannot be ruled out.
The later parliamentary discussions dismissed the hijack as a joke as the apparent arms used to terrorize the passengers were toy guns. Similar justifications were put forth by the Congress members to defend other violent acts that took place throughout the country.
Moreover, the widening differences between the factions that were earlier united to defeat Indira Gandhi weakened the opposition. Janata Dal’s failure to fulfill many of their promises and growing internal conflicts within the party led to Morarji Desai’s resignation in July 1979.
In fact, Indira Gandhi came back for a third term with a whopping majority in 1980, and her office only came to an end after her assassination in 1984.
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The post is tagged under: Indira Gandhi, arrest, jail, 1978, emergency, Sanjay Gandhi, Air India flight hijack, Tihar jail, breach of parliamentary privilege, elections, radical nationalism, violence, Morarji Desai, Janata Dal, Congress