The former PM of India, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in 197S. In London the newly formed Friends of India Society was organizing protests and campaigning for the restoration of democracy. On Saturday 24 April 1976 an international conference was held at Alexandra Palace.

Shiva Naipaul the famous Trinidadian writer of Indian origin wrote the following article in the London Times newspaper. Here is a brief summary of what he wrote:

A Philosophical Threat to Mrs. Gandhi’s political power.

The event was a well organised affair. Each centre of Indian settlement in this country Coventry, Bradford, Leicester and Southall supplied a delegation. In addition there were overseas delegates from a dozen countries including solitary representative from Venezuela and Hong Kong.  On the other hand the strength and quality of its (Friends of India’s) democratic convictions remain an altogether more debatable proposition.

‘Take the delegate from Croydon. (That is me!). He was a young man dressed in traditional style white pyjama trousers and white kurta.

Surveying his fellow delegates from the rostrum, he exuded fearless conviction. Ever since the granting of independence, he observed, relentless efforts had been made to suppress the Hindu view of life. His voice rose as he warmed to his theme. ‘All the History books will tell you that Alexander the Great defeated Porus. But it was the other way round. It was Porus who defeated Alexander. Through the distortions of so called history a sense of defeatism has been instilled in the Indian people. It was a speech devoid of logical coherence. (‘!). But the applause was loud and passionate.’

Shiva Naipaul concluded the article by saying that with this type of opposition Indira Gandhi had nothing to worry in terms of power politics.

Well History has proved Shiva wrong. India has become a mature democracy, a role model to most countries in the world and a world economic and cultural power. Shiva himself has acknowledged that India has proved him wrong.

PS: On one occasion on a bitterly cold winter morning we demonstrated outside the Indian High Commission, we decided to go for a coffee and left our banners on the corner of a nearby shop. When we came back the banners were gone’ To co-ordinate a united opposition to the emergency Jayantibhai Patel held discussions with the Communist Party of India, London chapter’ They would open the discussion with a quotation from a book of Marx or Mao! Jayantibhai told me that he sometimes bumps into them at grocery shops’

Nitin Mehta

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