1975, Musheerabad Central Jail, Hyderabad, India. A 24 year-old political prisoner sits in his jail cell, clouds of despair engulf him but a fire keeps raging in his heart. He just learned he is going to be a father. He writes a Telugu poem called ‘Song of the Morning Star’, giving a revolutionary welcome to his baby:
“Mobs of monsters
rule the country today
Armies of police
fill the barracks
Like a war cry
to fight the monstrous
leeches with fangs of currency
you, like a prelude
for an ideological poem
that’d win Tomorrow’s battle
Come baby come”
My father was arrested on June 28,1975 – three days after the emergency was declared, 18 days after marrying my mother. He was organizing students and farm laborers. He was booked under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), a law that was repealed in 1977 but is the predecessor of today’s unconstitutional laws.
He remained in that jail until the day the emergency was lifted on March 21st, 1977 – it was my first birthday. He had held me for a few minutes during a short visit (prison interview) when my mother was able to gather money to travel from our village in Kurnool to see him, but at last he was able to hold me without any worry about time on the day of my first birthday.
And at home, my grandfather tells me at a later time, that in the night he would put his cot between my mother’s cot and an open well right next to the house. He was afraid that my mother would feel so depressed and desperate that she would jump into the well to kill herself. He didn’t know his daughter too well, my mother tells me. She spent the nights staring into darkness, thinking about the future, about how to take up the work that my father had left behind.
After his release, they left me in the care of my grandparents and went to Hyderabad to join CPI (ML). They edited the party’s fortnight magazine ‘Vimochana’ (Liberation) and worked as full timers until the party splintered into tiny fragments.
Growing up, I used to listen to their story with admiration and feel that those dark days are over. There were times, when a train of people or a dalith vaada outside a village went up in flames, that made the blood boil in anger and despair. But, even while resistance was fragmented, there was a semblance of democracy.
Now, 45 years after the emergency, the country is under the clutches of an undeclared super emergency. The monsters have consolidated their power into one authoritarian rule. Its tentacles reach far and wide, choking every aspect of life in India. Student activist Safoora Zargar was arrested for organizing peaceful protests against the CAA. She was imprisoned in the overcrowded Tihar Jail without any regard for the fact that she was in the second trimester of her pregnancy. She was released on bail – ironically, not by recognizing her constitutional right to voice dissent but under ‘humanitarian grounds’. The monster is trying to put out a benevolent face, even as vulnerable political prisoners are languishing in jails while the real perpetrators of violence are roaming free. Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis are beaten, lynched and murdered in broad daylight, and journalists, writers, lawyers, activists and other citizens are being booked under UAPA and other draconian laws for raising even the mildest voices of dissent.
The Janata party came into being after the emergency but withered away soon. While that emergency is the predecessor of this super emergency, the fragmented resistance must come together to fight this monster.
In the same poem, my father writes:
“Colors on the wings of a butterfly
Do not fade even when it falls in a mud puddle”
Come baby come”
He wrote the poem in anticipation of a revolutionary future for his baby. To me, that baby is also a fragment of resistance. We have our differences and our identities. They are our colors! Bearing our bright colors, we must come together to fight this fascist regime that has become a mud puddle in Indian democracy.
By Mamatha, ICWI.
- The fight to free pregnant student activist Safoora Zargar is a battle for India’s very soul https://scroll.in/article/964348/the-fight-to-free-pregnant-student-activist-safoora-zargar-is-a-battle-for-indias-very-soul
- Covid-19 Pandemic: Crackdown On Dissent Putting Lives At Immediate Risk In India https://amnesty.org.in/news-update/covid-19-pandemic-crackdown-on-dissent-putting-lives-at-immediate-risk-in-india/
- Resist the Super Emergency! Indian Democracy Matters! https://countercurrents.org/2020/06/resist-the-super-emergency-indian-democracy-matters/