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June 26, 2000
Emergency: 'Rajan's mother died asking for him'
George Iype in Kochi
In Kerala, where civil liberties activism peaks on special anniversaries, 25 years of Emergency was commemorated with street corner meetings, seminars, special media supplements and political arguments.
The state's most famous Emergency incident - the disappearance and death of P Rajan, an engineering college student in police custody - still prompts social activists and political leaders to say that Kerala suffered the brunt of police excesses.
During these 25 years, Eachara Warrier has been Kerala's most famous victim of Emergency. His only son, Rajan, was picked up by the police from the hostel of the Regional Engineering College at Kozhikode. Rajan was 'missing' for several days. Later, the police admitted that he died while in custody at the Kakkayam police camp, though they could not produce his body.
"The agony of my missing son will continue to haunt me till my death. When my wife Radha died three months back, her last words were: when will my son come back?" Warrier, a 78-year old retired college professor, told rediff.com.
Warrier says he suffered mental and physical agony for months while searching for his son. "We all know that K Karunakaran, then the state's home minister, knows the truth, but refuses to divulge it," he said. Karunakaran had to resign following the furore over the Rajan case.
"I lost my only son. There are hundreds and thousands of Emergency victims in the state. No one remembers or helps them," Warrier said. Presently, Warrier lives with his two daughters.
But Karunakaran says he has no regrets about the Rajan case. He claims police officials deliberately hid the truth from him. "I was not provided the true picture of the case though I was in charge of the home ministry," he said.
The People's Union of Civil Liberties held a meeting in front of Warrier's house on Sunday to protest the Emergency days.
"Karunakaran always tried to hide the truth. He will continue to do so because he is a shrewd politician. I lost hope in him after several meetings with him did not prove productive," Warrier told the protesters.
Warrier now insists that there should be no provision in the country's laws for the imposition of Emergency.
"I have no regrets because I do not think even now that I was responsible for what happened to Rajan. But as home minister, I accepted the moral responsibility for Rajan's disappearance and resigned," Karunakaran said.
He has no regrets about the Emergency either. "It was the need of the hour then," the senior Congress leader told rediff.com.
The Emergency days were the most peaceful period in Kerala's political history, he insists. "Naxalism vanished, trains ran on time, schools, colleges and factories functioned smoothly. There was discipline in public life and the bureaucracy was made accountable to the people," Karunakaran said.
He said the people of Kerala had willingly approved of the Emergency. "Proof of it is that the Congress and its allies won all the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the elections after the Emergency," the Congress leader said.
The former chief minister said that that his only difference of opinion with Indira Gandhi was on the issue of imposing censorship on the media. "I did not approve the idea. But I accepted it as a loyal, disciplined party leader," he added.
The excesses of that time led to the birth of the Emergency Victimised Patriots Forum. It has more than 4,500 members.
EVPF president Thaliyil Vanajen says many of those who opposed the Emergency are today haunted by acute poverty, loneliness and pain. "It was not any political affiliation, but their patriotism that forced them to oppose Emergency. But today they are unwanted people," Vanajen told rediff.com.
EVPF is collecting funds and donations to help its members, many of who suffer from spinal disorders, thanks to the police brutality during those dark days 25 years back.
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