The ‘technically first’ satyagrahi against Emergency

New Delhi: On June 26, 1975, the morning after the Emergency was proclaimed, Arun Jaitley gathered a group of people and burnt an effigy of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, making him, in his own words, the “first satyagrahi” against the Emergency.
He was later arrested under preventive detention and was in custody for a period of 19 months from 1975 to 1977.
“When the Emergency was proclaimed at midnight on 25 June 1975, they came to arrest me. I managed to escape by going to a friend’s house nearby… The next morning … I collected as many people as I could and burnt an effigy of Mrs Gandhi (Indira) and got arrested. I courted arrest.
“I technically became the first ‘satyagrahi’ against the Emergency because on 26 June, this was the only protest in the country. For three months, I was at Ambala jail,” said Jaitley, as quoted in the book “Defining India: Through Their Eyes” by journalist-author Sonia Singh.
He was Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student leader and the president of the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) in 1970s.
A bright law student, who lost a great deal of time academically because of his detention, he tried to make the best of his time as a political prisoner. It was in jail, the lawyer-turned-politician said, that he picked up an “aptitude for reading and writing”. “Friends and family would send me books or I would borrow them from the jail library… For instance, I read the entire Constituent Assembly debates in jail. I would read a lot, write occasionally, and that’s a passion that’s continued. (PTI)