New Delhi, Jan 12: The winter of Emergency was just over. Hundreds and thousands who had mounted a resistance against the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency were slowly coming out of their hideouts to mount a final fight against her for stifling democracy of India. Sitaram Yechury was one such student leader, at that point. As the spring of resistance 2.0 started, the once underground Yechury was elected the JNUSU President, a post now being held by Aishe Ghosh. Then came the famous long march of 1977 that solidified Yechury’s role as a student leader.
With anti-establishment in its blood, many remember that Yechury was at the vanguard as Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union (JNUSU) President who forced Gandhi to step down as JNU Chancellor, which she had continued to remain even after her defeat in the 1977 elections.
JNU students had already forced Dr. B.D. Nagchaudhary to resign as Vice Chancellor and the demonstrating group led by Yechury had walked from JNU campus to Gandhi’s residence in the afternoon.
After 10-15 minutes of strong slogan shouting against the “Criminals of the Emergency”, Gandhi, accompanied by her Emergency-time Home Minister Om Mehta and two others walked to the gate. She was smiling and listened to the slogan for a while. Then, Yechury started reading the JNUSU’s demands and the very first paragraph listed her government’s crimes against the people during the Emergency, described in most graphic detail.
Furious, she walked back to the house, but the very next day quit as JNU Chancellor.
As demand for removal of the present Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadish Kumar is raised with JNU students having tried to march to President’s House, though in vain, Yechury seems to be reliving history.
Just a few weeks ago, Yechury, now the CPI-M chief, took to the streets against the amended Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The Left parties had given a call for a protest against the CAA.
When Yechury was detained by police, the CPI-M Boss labelled the present situation “worse than the Emergency”.
“Today’s protests showed the determination of youngsters to not let democracy be butchered. This was not a one-off protest, such protests will continue,” he said, as if rekindling his memories of 1977.
Professor Chaman Lal, who was present at the very sight where Yechury had read out the strongly worded memorandum against Gandhi, described the situation which was later published at Student’s Federation of India (SFI)’s Facebook page.
“After 10-15 minutes of strong slogan shouting against the ‘Criminals of the Emergency’, Indira Gandhi, accompanied by her notorious Emergency-time Home Minister Om Mehta and two more walked up to the gate briskly,” Lal recounted.
“Within moments her smile disappeared giving way to annoyance, she could not listen to the memorandum completely and walked back to her residence.”
The 10.6 km-long march from JNU to Akbar Road is once again being talked about, with the varsity students taking to the streets and anti-government sloganeering around.
“These government is worse than that of Indira,” alleges CPI-M polit bureau member Md Selim. He claims that the “students will teach this government a lesson”.
Whether that will happen is a matter of wild speculation. But what is for certain, after more than 40 years, Yechury’s 10 km march from JNU along with 500 students have suddenly entered the JNU discourse.