The initial euphoria and optimism surrounding the formation of Gujarat on May 1st 1960 had subsided by the end of the decade. The dreams of quick reform and progress had given way to disillusionment amongst the common man in Gujarat. The struggles and sacrifices of political stalwarts such as Indulal Yagnik, Jivraj Mehta and Balwant Rai Mehta had been undone by the greed for money and power in politics. By the end of 1960s and early 1970s, corruption and misgovernance of the Congress government in Gujarat had reached new heights. In 1971, India had defeated Pakistan in war and the Congress government got reelected on the promise of uplifting the poor. This promise turned out to be an empty one as ‘Garibi Hatao’ gradually changed into ‘Garib Hatao’. The life of the poor worsened, and in Gujarat this misery got coupled with a severe famine and steep price rise. Endless queues for basic commodities had become a common sight in the state. There was no respite for the common man.

Instead of taking remedial action, the Congress leadership in Gujarat was immersed in deep factional quarrels and displayed a complete apathy towards the situation. As a result, Ghanshyam Oza’s government soon toppled and was replaced by Chimanbhai Patel at the helm of affairs. However, this government too proved to be equally inefficient and there was a rising discontent against the state amongst the people of Gujarat.  The discontent turned into public anger when in December 1973, a few students of the Morbi Engineering College protested against the exorbitant rise in their food bills. These protests soon gained widespread support and ignited a state wide mass movement against the government. The state and central governments failed to quell this discontent despite all their efforts. Matters became worse when then Education Minister of Gujarat accused the Jan Sangh for the movement even though it was a broad based movement against corruption and rising prices. By 1973, Narendra Modi had displayed a keen interest in social activism and had already participated in several movements against price rise, inflation and other issues affecting the common man. As a young Pracharak and associate of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Narendra joined the Navnirman movement and dutifully performed the tasks assigned to him. The Navnirman movement was a mass movement in every sense as ordinary citizens from all sections of the society stood up in one voice. The movement was further strengthened when it gained the support of Jayaprakash Narayan, a well-respected public figure and a known crusader against corruption. With Jayaprakash Narayan in Ahmedabad, Narendra had the unique opportunity to closely interact with the charismatic leader. The several talks held with the veteran left a strong impression on a young Narendra. The Navnirman Movement was a major success and Chimanbhai Patel had to resign after a mere six months in office. Fresh elections were called and the Congress government was duly dislodged. Ironically, the results of the Gujarat elections came on 12th June 1975, the very day when the Allahabad High Court had found Prime Minister Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral corruption and put a question mark on her future as Prime Minister. A week later a new government under the leadership of Babubhai Jashbhai Patel was instated in Gujarat. The Navnirman Movement was Narendra’s first encounter with mass protest and led to a significant broadening of his worldview on social issues. It also propelled Narendra to the first post of his political career, General Secretary of the Lok Sangharsh Samiti in Gujarat in 1975. During the movement, he particularly got the opportunity to understand student issues from close quarters, which proved to be a major asset once he became Chief Minister.  Since 2001, he has focused significantly on educational reforms and made world-class education accessible to the youth of Gujarat. The optimism post the Navnirman Movement in Gujarat was short-lived. On the midnight of June 25th 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi clamped a state of Emergency in India suspending civil liberties and curbing freedom of expression. One of the most important phases of Narendra Modi’s life had begun.

 

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It is part of an endeavour to collect stories which narrate or recount people’s anecdotes/opinion/analysis on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi & his impact on lives of people.

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Narendra Modi: The Underground Warrior Against the Emergency
June 25, 2024

During the infamous Emergency period in India (1975-1977), when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a dictatorial regime, Shri Narendra Modi emerged as a critical figure in the resistance movement. Shri Modi's activism during this period, marked by his innovative and fearless approach, significantly contributed to the underground communications network and sustained the fight against the oppressive regime.

The Beginnings of Resistance

Shri Narendra Modi's journey into the heart of the resistance began before the official declaration of the Emergency on June 25, 1975. The student-led agitations against the corruption of the Congress Party were already sweeping the nation, and Gujarat was a significant epicentre of this movement. During the Navnirman Andolan in 1974, Shri Modi, then a Yuva Pracharak of the RSS, was deeply influenced by the power of student voices in driving change. He actively participated in these agitations, leveraging his Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad role to deliver fiery speeches that galvanized the youth.

Role in the Underground Movement

Once the Emergency was imposed, censorship and repression became the norm. Shri Modi and other volunteers organized secret meetings and took on the dangerous task of disseminating underground literature. Collaborating closely with senior RSS leaders like Nath Zagda and Vasant Gajendragadkar, he developed ingenious methods to bypass tight security measures.
One of Shri Modi's remarkable strategies involved using the railway network to spread information. He would load materials related to the Constitution, laws, and the Congress government's excesses onto trains departing from Gujarat, ensuring the messages reached remote areas with minimal risk of detection. This innovative approach was pivotal in maintaining the flow of information across the country.

Leadership and International Outreach

With the RSS forced to go underground, the Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti was established, and Shri Modi, at the young age of 25, quickly rose to the position of General Secretary. His leadership was instrumental in sustaining the revolt against the Congress government, especially during the challenging periods when key movement leaders were imprisoned under the MISA Act.

Shri Narendra Modi also extended his efforts internationally, reaching out to individuals abroad and urging them to publish underground publications to amplify global resistance. He coordinated the collection of articles from the Gujarat Newsletter and Sadhana Patrika, which were then disseminated through platforms like the BBC. Shri Modi ensured that international publications critical of the Emergency, such as 'Satyavani,' were circulated back to India, including inside jails.

Covert Operations and Disguises

Shri Modi frequently adopted various disguises to evade detection. His ability to blend in was so effective that even his acquaintances often failed to recognize him. He dressed as a Swamiji in saffron attire and even as a Sikh with a turban. On one occasion, he successfully deceived jail authorities to deliver an important document, highlighting his resourcefulness and bravery.

Post-Emergency Recognition

After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, Shri Modi's activism and leadership during this tumultuous period began to gain recognition. He was invited to Mumbai to discuss the youth's resistance efforts, and his contributions were acknowledged with a modest monetary reward. His relentless efforts during the Emergency led to his appointment as the 'Sambhag Pracharak' of South and Central Gujarat, and he was tasked with preparing official RSS articles documenting the period.

Authoring 'Sangharsh Ma Gujarat'

In 1978, Shri Modi authored his first book, 'Sangharsh Ma Gujarat,' a memoir of his experiences during the Emergency. Remarkably, he completed the book in just 23 days, subsisting solely on lemon water and no solid food. The book, launched by then Chief Minister of Gujarat Babubhai Jasbhai Patel, received widespread acclaim for its objective coverage of the Emergency and was reviewed on national public radio and in prominent newspapers.

The memoir not only chronicled the events of the Emergency but also served as a testament to the collective resistance. It was praised for its wealth of information and objective approach, earning personal accolades from numerous leaders.

Legacy, Continued Vigilance and Solemn Vow

Fifty years later, as Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi continues to remind the nation of the dark days of the Emergency. He emphasizes the importance of preserving democracy and vows never to let the recurrence of such authoritarianism again. His legacy as a fearless warrior against the dictatorial regime of Indira Gandhi during the Emergency remains a significant chapter in India's history, inspiring current and future generations to uphold the values of democracy and freedom.