NEW DELHI: Indira Gandhi’s private secretary R K Dhawan, part of the sanctum sanctorum of former PM’s office and residence, has spilled the beans on Emergency claiming that Rajiv and Sonia “didn’t have reservations about the Emergency” while “Maneka knew everything Sanjay was doing and was with him at all times and cannot claim innocence or ignorance.”
Dhawan’s revelations will surely embarrass the two daughters-in-law of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, especially Maneka who is now with the BJP that defied the Emergency and many of whose leaders went to jail. He also said that Indira Gandhi was unaware of the excesses of Emergency like forced sterilization and Turkman Gate demolitions for which, Dhawan said, Sanjay Gandhi alone was responsible. Dhawan said that Indira was also unaware of land being acquired by Sanjay for his Maruti project. Dhawan said it is he who organized it for Sanjay. He said there was nothing wrong in it. Dhawan has also denied a Washington Post story that Sanjay had slapped his mother six times at a dinner. On the contrary, he said, Sanjay was respectful to her.
In an interview to a news channel, Dhawan, now in his 70s, said West Bengal chief minister S S Ray gave Indira Gandhi the idea of imposing Emergency as early as January 1975 and can be called its “architect.” He also said that planning for Emergency was being made much earlier. Dhawan said Emergency was not called to protect Indira Gandhi’s political career after the Allahabad High Court struck down her election and the Supreme Court only gave her a conditional stay. In fact, he says, she had dictated her resignation but it could not be signed.
According to him, in the preceding three or four years events were building up that necessitated a response like the Emergency. He pointed to the railway strike, L N Mishra’s killing, attempts by the opposition to paralyze government culminating in Jayaprakash Narayan’s call to the army and police not to obey illegal orders as reasons for imposition.
Giving a blow by blow account about the events of June 25, 1976, Dhawan told the news channel that only one Cabinet minister Swaran Singh had questions about imposing Emergency while the entire Cabinet was in its favour. The meeting lasted only 15 minutes. The Cabinet led by Jagjivan Ram called on Indira after her election was struck down insisting she must not resign, Dhawan said. “As a result the resignation letter was not signed,” he said.
Dhawan said he was present when Indira Gandhi and Ray called on the President to say they wanted him to declare an Emergency and the President readily agreed. He had no hesitation. “The President asked Ray to draft the proclamation and he did so,” he said. Before midnight, Dhawan took the proclamation to Rashtrapati Bhavan for the President’s signature.
Dhawan also revealed details of how plans to arrest people had been prepared from 20th or 21st June. Chief ministers were called and informed to be ready to make arrests and to prepare lists of RSS members and opposition leaders to be arrested. He said similar preparations were made in Delhi.
Dhawan also said that Indira Gandhi called the 1977 election after being told by the IB that she would win up to 340 seats. P N Dhar her principal secretary gave her this report which she believed. Dhawan denied the theory that the elections were called because her conscience had begun to trouble her and this was her way of getting off the Emergency tiger’s back.