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A View From Below

Sudipto Mundle

By John Dayal and Ajoy Bose
ESS Publications, Delhi, 1977, 239, 35.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 4 July-August 1977

‘Are you Woodward or Bernstein?’ ‘Neither, they are both in America’, replied John, thus killing, once and for all, an altogether inappropriate compa­rison between the Watergate reporters and the authors of Delhi Under Emer­gency. It was perhaps inevitable that this superb piece of investigative journalism, a rare specimen in India, by two young and relatively unknown journalists, would be compared to the Watergate story. But there the comparison should end. For all their courage, tenacity and commitment to unveiling the truth, the Woodward and Bernstein report remain­ed essentially a story of intrigues in high places. Much that has been written about the emergency in India also belongs to this genre. But Delhi Under Emergency is different. It is a view from the bottom of the dung heap. A view from the people, the destitutes and near destitutes of Delhi, who paid the real price as the emergency bulldozed on, bullying, bashing and sterilizing people in its wake. And it is more. It is an attempt to move beyond pure reportage and orga­nize the facts within an underlying frame of political analysis. Invaluable source material for what is perhaps the most traumatic episode of contemporary Indian history. An introductory collage of orders and news items effectively cap­tures the fascist milieu. This is followed by the Turkman Gate Story (massacre), The Bulldozers (demolition), out in the Wilderness (resettlement) and Days of the Long Knives (sterilization). Four chapt­ers which portray the major aspects of suppression unleashed upon the citizens of Delhi—a city which undoubtedly bore the brunt of the emergency. But the major instrument of suppression which made everything else possible was, of course, force—the police. Two comple­mentary chapters—The Dinosaurs ..., and The Primeval Slush describe the reign of police terror and the sadistic muck which is the police organization. A final chapter, The Denouement, may well have been called—A Kick in the Pants for Hitler. Two trends which stand out as parti­cularly frightening from these chapters are, first, the increasing brutalization of the police and second the distinctly com­munal streak within this force. The Turkman Gate Story describes in revolting detail the rising waves of animal violence unleashed upon a brave but help­less people. The teargassing, the spora­dic firing, the sack of the Masjid, the systematic massacre and finally the loot and rape around the bylanes of Turkman ...

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