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ELECTION AT AMETHI

This article is about about democracy in action.

I was in Amethi on November 21 and 22, 1989, to observe how Rajiv Gandhi and Raj Mohan Gandhi practised what their grandfathers had stood for. I was not there alone. The entire country seemed to be there. The young ones, the smart ones, the pretty ones, the office-bearers of the Aligarh Muslim University, and of course the boys from the Allahabad University with their roadside dramas, the Nukkar in real life. All came for the change- a change at the Centre. At their own cost.

In Amethi we got the news that Akhilesh, the person in charge of the Jagdishpur legislative segment for Raj Mohan Gandhi, had been assaulted. This area was most susceptible for booth capturing. I, being a lawyer, thought it to be the best place to be in. A few accompanied me. We reached Jagdishpur. Upon inquiry, we found out that a few people wanted to teach the Nukkar team from Allahabad a lesson, but instead of them being attacked poor Akhilesh got it. He was there to save the team. We prepared a report and sent it to the Election Commissioner.

The next day (the polling day) we stationed ourselves at different polling stations. The ‘Bicholli’ and ‘Purab Gaon’ polling booths were in one station. The presiding officer of Purab Gaon refused to accept a polling agent. The excuse that he was late. Nothing to this effect existed in law books nor was it true. We told him to correct his mistake. He corrected it but by that time half the village had been forced to vote - course with his connivance.

We proceeded to the Tanda polling station. It had already been captured at 10 o’clock! Some of our friends were beaten up. The same was the case at Thauri. People were being forced to vote. We protested but the presiding officer refused to accept our objection. We came back.

We prepared a draft objection to be given to the presiding officer by polling agents. We tried to have it photocopied. But two persons threatened the machine owner that if he obliged us, he would lose his skull along with his machine. We came back to Jagdishpur. It was two o’clock. Booth capturing was complete. Men in brand new Mahindra jeeps were moving around triumphantly. They had achieved complete success. There was no sign of any party outside the polling booth except one. The polling agents of the other party had run away. No one could blame them. They had to save their lives. The police conniving, the presiding officer silent, the entire elections process nullified. We sent a telegram, then a detailed report to the Election Commissioner.

Frustrated, we started for Allahabad via Amethi. Thank God, at least we were safe. Heads intact. Legs moving. Hands functioning. At 6 pm, at Amethi, we ran into a mob of 400-500 . We were stopped and asked to which party we belonged. We said we had nothing to do with politics and were from the university. This was true. Dr. BL Sharma of Maths Dpt. Of the Allahabad University was with us. A man asked us to go back. As we turned our car around we were attacked with stones, bricks and of course abuses. The wind-screen of our taxi was broken. I was in the front seat. My head was bleeding. I put my hand on my head and kept my head down so that I would not be hit in the face. Something hit my hands. The taxi-driver was shouting who would replace his windscreen. I thought; who would replace my head?

Oh God-how did I get into this mess?1 I thank God. I had wanted to bring my 10-year-old son to show democracy in action. What would have happened to him? I realised that if I could think I must be all right. The taxi-driver refused to go to the hospital in Amethi. He was afraid that this time no one would survive. I had my injury attended to at a chemist's shop and started for Allahabad via Sultanpur. But the bleeding would not stop. I lost about two bottles of blood. I thought I would not survive. So did the friends accompanying me.

I thought of my wife; she had never wanted me to go there, how angry would she be. I was wrong. I usually am. She wasn’t angry; she got worried. I did not die. Professor BL Sharma was a responsible man. He took charge of the situation. He found a private nursing home at Sultanpur. It belonged to some Muslim doctor. I emphasise the word Muslim for some purpose. It shows fundamental thread among all of us is the same. This is the silver lining. He saved my life.

I don't remember if it was a doctor or he assistant who stitchesd my injury- five stitches in all. We came back to Allahabad without further incidents. Next day I realised that my hands was also fractured. But I knew this would not deter me: I would be there again at the time of the re-polling.2


1I came to know subsequently that Dr. Sanjay Singh a Janata party candidate from Amethi Legislative seat had been shot at and the crowd was agitated in his support. We were recipients of their wrath.

2It was on our report that the re-polling was ordered at most of polling stations of Jagdishpur constituency. But I could not make it for the re-polling. The doctor had refused permission.

Comments

  1. I had no idea this had happened. I am, of course, reading this post several years later and ... much water has flowed via Ganga to the Bay of Bengal. Brings back memories of a prior visit to Amethi (in which I participated) when Sanay Gandhi was up for election post-emergency ... to paraphrase Frost, our democracy has "miles to go before" it matures and becomes an enlightened process ...

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