The night Jaitley sowed the seed of anti-Emergency stir

The night Jaitley sowed the seed of anti-Emergency stir

Had Arun Jaitley not walked out of his home in west Delhi's Naraina into the darkness on the night of 25 June 1975, he would not have created a history of sorts the next day!

Jaitley, as the president of the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU), led the protest, considered the first demonstration to oppose the imposition of Emergency by Indira Gandhi, in the university campus just before he was taken into custody by the police.

On that eventful night, the then 23-year-old students' leader was sleeping at the back of his open courtyard when he felt that someone climbing over his wall.

He saw his father Maharaj Kishen Jaitley arguing with policemen and told them that his son did not return home that night. As his father was taken to the local police station, he quietly slipped out into the darkness and took shelter at a friend's place.

Jaitley then did not know that Emergency was declared and he believed that policemen were detaining people ahead of the planned national satyagraha four days later.

Next morning, along with ABVP supporters, he drove straight to the University where there were around 200 students. "Jaitley was unaware that an Emergency had been imposed, but he knew that several senior leaders were arrested," journalist Coomi Kapoor writes in her book 'The Emergency: A Personal History'.

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The protesters gathered outside the vice-chancellor's office where Jaitley, who was also the Convenor of Jaiprakash Narayan’s student and youth wing organisations, made a speech while an effigy of Indira Gandhi was burnt.

Jaitley later wrote: "Like every right-thinking citizen, I raised my voice against this grossly undemocratic step. I escaped arrest in the early hours of 26th June 1975 and organised the first protest against the Emergency that day and was arrested. I underwent imprisonment for 19 months in the Tihar Jail. The days in jail unraveled the different facets of life before me as I interacted with people coming from diverse backgrounds. It gave me a certain insight into the workings of the human mind, which would stand me in good stead in my later life."

The University campus saw Deputy Inspector General of Police P S Bhinder and hundreds of policemen who came to arrest the protesters. The plan was that Jaitley would court arrest but he changed his plans and asked a friend, who later became a senior editor, to wait for him at a little-known gate of the University.

Jaitley recalled that when he reached the spot, his friend was not there. This friend, later Jaitley learned, had signed the 20-point programme—a sign of declaring that one has dissociated with the Opposition. He was first taken to Alipur police station where a blank MISA warrant was filled in his name. Later he was taken to the Tihar jail.