KR Malkani: When the journalist who ‘predicted’ Emergency became its first victim

    19-Nov-2020   
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Malkani was woken up before 1 a.m. on 26 June by a group of policemen who banged on the gate of his Rajendra Nagar bungalow and told him he was wanted at the police station. His house was surrounded on all sides, his small garden swarming with policemen. His alarmed wife, Sundari, asked what it was all about, but the response was simply, ‘Malkani sahib knows.’
 
Coomi Kapoor
 
Within four days of the declaration of the Emergency, an amendment came into effect in the MISA rules, doing away with the obligation to communicate the grounds for detention to all those detained on 25 June and the following days.
 
The first person to be arrested in Delhi was my former boss K.R. Malkani, editor of the Jana Sangh–RSS–controlled Motherland newspaper, whose bold, sometimes sensational reports and stridently anti-Gandhi line had personally infuriated the PM. The newspaper’s controversial articles included the charge that there was a political conspiracy in the murder of the railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra in a bomb explosion in Samastipur.
 
It dug deeper than other publications into the infamous Rustom Nagarwala case in which Nagarwala, a retired army man, was accused of swindling the State Bank of India of Rs 60 lakh by mimicking Mrs Gandhi’s voice and ordering the head cashier to deliver the money to Nagarwala. The article claimed that Nagarwala was an agent of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), with insider knowledge of RAW’s secret bank accounts, which were at the disposal of the country’s first family. The Motherland also raised many embarrassing questions about Sanjay Gandhi’s Maruti factory, which were taken up in Parliament.
 
As far back as 30 January 1975, the Motherland had carried a report claiming that there was a plan afoot to arrest JP, ban the RSS and seal the Motherland. The tip-off was reportedly given to the newspaper by Indian Express owner Ramnath Goenka, whose own newspaper did not carry the news since it could not be verified. The Motherland report about the impending arrests, which was dismissed as far-fetched and unsubstantiated by most in the media at that time, in retrospect appears to have been based on solid evidence.
 
Malkani was woken up before 1 a.m. on 26 June by a group of policemen who banged on the gate of his Rajendra Nagar bungalow and told him he was wanted at the police station. His house was surrounded on all sides, his small garden swarming with policemen. His alarmed wife, Sundari, asked what it was all about, but the response was simply, ‘Malkani sahib knows.’
 
Fearing for his life, Malkani finally reached an agreement with the police: he would be accompanied to the police station by a friendly neighbour who could act as witness to make sure he was not being kidnapped. Malkani also made a call to the Motherland office to pass on the news and told them to inform the RSS, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Press Trust of India (PTI) and United News of India (UNI) immediately.
 
His message served as a timely warning for several people, who thereby managed to escape the police dragnet. News of his arrest was also carried in a small box on the front page of the Hindustan Times. This was the only Emergency news that made it to the next day’s newspapers.
 
When Malkani reached the New Rajendra Nagar police station, it was empty except for one police officer. Around 2.30 am Dr Bhai Mahavir, vice president of the Jana Sangh, was brought in and Malkani felt reassured that he was not being singled out. Both men were driven to the Defence Colony police station where they found other detainees. Most of them were from the Jana Sangh and Anand Marg. There was also one Marxist, Major Jaipal Singh. Around 4.30 am they were finally served with arrest warrants under MISA.
 
At the Civil Lines police headquarters in Old Delhi, many new detainees arrived, including Biju Patnaik, Piloo Mody, Raj Narain, Chandra Shekhar, Samar Guha and Ram Dhan. The prisoners were taken in police vans without being informed of their destination. Raj Narain, a veteran who had been jailed dozens of time both during British rule and later by the Congress government, was the coolest of them all. He stretched himself out on three long planks in the police van and, using his holdall as a pillow, went to sleep.
 
The final destination was Rohtak jail where the prisoners were escorted into the main community hall. The prisoners started speculating about Indira Gandhi’s intentions. Somebody suggested they would be in jail for a week, someone else felt a month was more likely. Patnaik talked gloomily of spending the rest of their lives in jail. When several expressed shock at the prospect, he amended it to suggest, ‘You can make it ten years.’ He explained, ‘I know how ruthless she can be.’ Soon they were joined by Congress(O) leaders Asoka Mehta and Sikander Bakht. Shortly afterwards, there was a radio announcement that a national Emergency had been declared.
 
Source: The Emergency: A Personal History by Coomi Kapoor
 
 
When Malkani 'predicted' the proclamation of Emergency, Arun Jaitley writes
 
Journalist Coomi Kapoor’s book on Emergency published in 2015 contains handwritten document in the writing of Siddhartha Shankar Ray where he requests Mrs. Gandhi to have lists of persons proposed to be arrested and outlines various other steps which were required to be taken. The document is dated as 8th January, 1975.
 
Curiously, around the same time in January, 1975 “Motherland”, a daily newspaper edited by K.R. Malkani (the editor, Organiser), had published a front-page article based on the astrological prediction by Dr. Vasanth Kumar Pandit, a Jan Sangh MP and astrologer, predicting proclamation of Emergency, arrest of the entire opposition members, censorship on media and India becoming an autocratic State. When published, I found it difficult to believe this astrological prediction.
 
During the Emergency, one of my co-detenues in prison was K.R. Malkani himself. Malkani told me that when arrested on the midnight of 26th June, while others were straightway taken to Rohtak Jail, he was, for three days, kept in a guest house in Haryana and taken to the jail after three days. During those three days, he was grilled by the intelligence agencies as to his source of information on the basis of which that article predicting the Emergency had been enforced. The agencies thought this was a major leak in the Government and were investigating the matter.
 
Malkani, however, consistently maintained that this was only an astrological prediction. Cumulatively, it was these facts that persuaded me to believe that the script for the Emergency was prepared sometime in January, 1975. The immediate trigger would have been the Allahabad High Court judgement and the insecurity caused by it to Mrs. Gandhi’s position.
 
(source: https://www.organiser.org//Encyc/2018/6/25/The-Emergency-Revisited-Part-II.html)