'Jail a State of Mind': Arun Jaitley's Reminiscences about His Time in Tihar During the Emergency Days
In the day following the declaration of the Emergency, the police had picked Jaitley up from a protest outside the Delhi University vice chancellor's office, where he and other members of the ABVP had burned an effigy of Indira Gandhi.
Arun Jaitley (fourth from right), after being elected Delhi University Students' Union president in 1974 in New Delhi. (PTI)
New Delhi: As a young president of the Delhi University Students' Union (DUSU), former finance minister Arun Jaitley was arrested in the wake of the Emergency declared in the country in 1975 by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Jaitley, a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the BJP's student wing, was living with his family in Delhi's Naraina when he was arrested. In the day following the declaration of the Emergency, the police had picked him up from a protest outside the vice chancellor's office, where he and other members of the ABVP burned an effigy of Indira Gandhi.
Jaitley was taken to the Alipur police, where he was charged under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. Later, he was shifted to the Tihar jail.
The young DUSU president, who was then studying at the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), was put in Ward No. 2 of the Tihar jail along with other political leaders.
Leaders of the time have recalled the events of June 26 that saw more than 2,500 prisoners being sent to Tihar even though the prison could only accommodate 1,273 inmates.
in Coomi Kapoor's book 'The Emergency, A Personal History', Jaitley reminisced about the pathetic conditions in which they were kept at the jail. He said that amid the hardships, periodic protests helped to improve the conditions in jail.
“Jail is a state of mind. If you are too upset about your position, you would get depressed and demoralised and have hair loss and other traumatic experiences. If you were young and thinking of fighting the Emergency, you felt fine,” the former minister was quoted as saying in the book.
“You could create your own world inside the prison walls. Listen to the early-morning BBC news on transistors, take tea and play on the badminton court every morning. Convicts oversaw your breakfast. There were things to look forward to... like oil massages, taking books from the jail library, reading underground literature including good foreign articles," he added.
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