The Turning Point

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It was the warm summer afternoon of June 30, 1975 I was sitting idle at home perspiring when I saw Ratnesh coming with some common friends of ours. Ours was a rented house just at one of the large gates of Sarvodaygram in Muzaffarpur.

Sarvodaygram was the head office of one of the oldest Khadi organizations in India and though apolitical in principles yet the centre of attraction for famous politicians in Bihar. Khadi-clad being the symbol of not only the Congress but of freedom struggle commanded real high respects among the political activists then and it was believed that a politician was about to be born whenever one was noticed putting on khadi generally in the public appearance. However, the khadi organization has long before shunned the teaching of Gandhi - ???? ?????? ??? ????? ??.

"???? ????" I asked him in a most casual way. "??? ??, ??????…," Ratnesh said in the same casual way as if imitating me. He had lifted his lungi from the other end all the way up to his waist making his leg below the knee bare. We are accustomed of doing this during hot summer.

"???, ???? ???? ??, ???..." It was the daily routine for all of us idlers. Hoping to find a solace in their company from the chagrin of my very existence I sprang up to join them. You forget, may be temporarily, your problems of life if you join the people in similar fray.

I was one of the thousand youngsters who had no future, no hope and no vision for life in Bihar. Semi-educated and lost in the melee of political unrest around, we were being jostled by the invisible tide of time here and there. Nevertheless, living in Sarvodaygram with khadi-clad all-around has brought one advantage. We were politically enlightened more than many of our counterparts in the contemporary society then. Our language and general conduct would resemble the policed politicians of our time who happened to carry a lot of honey on their tongue to please the public sans commitments.

In the disappointment and depression we would be ready to take up any subversive activities against the then prevailing political system without having any philosophical attachment to one or the other political party.

It was in this political uncertainty that we got attracted to the call of Total Revolution of Loknayak Jai Prakash Narayan. It is not that we had any idea of what JP actually wanted but he was our last hope in the seemingly sinking boat.

"???? ?? emergency ??? ?? ?? ??," breaking the abominable lull between us, I said.

"???,???? ?? ?? ??? . ???? ????? ?? ?? ??? ??."

Ratnesh didn’t seem much worried about it and so were we as we had no knowledge of what is 'emergency' all about. We took it the ordinary suppressive activities of the government. Though I was never a part of the arrests made earlier but knew quite a lot about it as how they were arrested and set free the other day with the gift of some khadi clothes given in the prison and how it was a fun to be in prison with all your friends under one roof for a couple of days. It was something like an outing for them. On the whole there was nothing to worry about. In any event as we were good for nothing lads, whether we were at home or out of home was hardly a matter of concern for our family members.

We almost forgot that we had come out of the campus and were walking along the carpeted road when someone passed us whispering, 'police…police....'

We were alarmed and Ratnesh suggested that we ought to flee to escape arrest. I disagreed and said that it would rather arouse their suspicious more. Continue in the usual way was my wise advice. Ratnesh, though my classmate, holds me in high regards and therefore, decided not to scurry. We were heading towards Baban Bigha which was our summer evening sojourn. The place had a wide stretch of Lichi orchard spreading around the cool and soothing effect.

When JP movement in 1974 had begun, I was away from Muzaffarpur for almost two years. The most that I had gathered about this movement was based on newspaper reports that I casually read while in Calcutta. This knowledge was supplemented by the speech that JP delivered in Esplanade in Calcutta. I chanced to be there that day.

During his speech, JP was visibly annoyed when the audience once thunderously clapped. In his solemn manner he rebuked them like a teacher and said that he, if he so chooses can make them clap all through his speech but it is not he has come there for. He asked them to listen to him attentively and analyze what he has come to say. I was a bit impressed though I had understood only little of what JP had said. I realized that I was too ordinary a person to reach even the threshold of his political philosophical views.

"????? ?? ???? ???? ? ??? ??." Came another voice behind and before we could realize the graveness of the situation, the police van screeched to halt beside us and out sprang some half a dozen of CRPF men from the police van and pounced on us.

Ratnesh hysterically took to his hills chased by two of the CRPF jawans. He had not gone very far when he was overpowered by them. In a fit of anger they hit Ratnesh with rifle butts many times and threw him upon us into the van. In return, Ratnesh started shouting "Inqalab Zindabad" and we joined him in the chorus. It continued nearly half the way up to the police station.

It was then I got the first feel of internal emergency in the country after four days of the same having been clamped.

The van sped to the Sadar Police station. Out of the van, we were hurled to Hazat instantly. We were five of us in one group. After an hour or half, one of our mates whose uncle happened to be in Indian Army came there in full uniform and requested Daroga Shankar Singh for his release. He ultimately was set free. We met some of our friends arrested from other parts of the city.

Around 5 pm we, seven in all, were dispatched to Central Jail, Muzaffarpur charged under Section 69(1) of DIR.

S. S. Thakur, Guest Contributor, PatnaDaily.Com

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