MANY OF them are frail and old but once they had ‘fought to save democracy in this country’. Today was the day for the MISA detainees to reinvent themselves as Loktantra Senanis.
Though honour and recognition for the Emergency heroes came 30 years too late, the State Government’s decision has worked as a balm to soothe the sufferings they faced during those days.
Meet Mahesh Prasad Yadav. He came all the way from Chaumuhani Prahladghat in Varanasi. “It’s a nice feeling to be termed Loktantra Senani. I was arrested in September 1975. In jail, I was subjected to both mental and physical torture,” said Yadav.
He added: “My land was attached by the government. Power connection to my atta chakki was snapped. The cops had beaten me to get the names of my co-fighters. I didn’t give in. Then came the moment of victory”.
But Yadav lamented that nothing much had changed for him. “My power connection is yet to be restored and my land still remains attached with the administration. I have been reduced to penury,” he said. The 75-year-old works in a temple to make both ends meet.
Another MISA detainee Ashok Kumar from Varanasi said, “We fought to save democracy not to get anything in return. But I feel happy that our work has been recognized”.
Kumar, who was in jail between August 17, 1975 to September 1976, said, “I used to publish and paste a pamphlet called ‘Ranbheri’ on walls all over the town. The police picked me up for my pro-democracy pamphlets.”
“The arrest affected my family. My brother died, my parents fell ill and the government choked all our sources of income. After my release, I became a pujari in a temple and dedicated myself to the service of god,” he said.
He lamented that the present generation of leaders used wrong means to enter politics. “They are not ready for sacrifice but can kill others to fulfil their political objectives,” he quipped.
Mohammed Yasin Ansari of Doshipura was only 17 when the police had arrested him under MISA. “ At that time I never knew what MISA was. I used to raise slogans and participate in protest meetings. I was perhaps the first Muslim to be arrested in Varanasi district,” Ansari said.
“I didn’t join the movement to get government benefits. I had fought for a society free from discrimination of caste, community, creed and sex. Sadly, that’s not the state of the nation,” he said.
He had some harsh words for politician. “ Just by honouring us the government cannot abdicate its responsibility. The real tribute to us will be to built a nation without the divisions of caste and community,” Ansari added.
Sarla Rani of RDSO Lucknow was arrested with her son and daughter who were 9 and 8 years old respectively. “We were at a meeting when the police took us into custody.” Rani hoped that more girls joined politics to push away the bad holding the space.
Criminalisation of politics in UP worried most Loktantra Senanis. Indu Dhar Dwivedi of Unnao said, “Once we fought the administration but now I cannot take on the criminal-turned-politicians. This was not what we had fought for.”
Shri Ram of Ram Baksh Khera village was arrested from Kaiserbagh Collectorate.
He was participating in a demonstration. Ram requested the people to “defeat criminals”. He blamed the common man for promoting criminalisation of politics.