Since 1983 clouds of turbulence hovered over Punjab following the extremist activities. News reports were full of defensive as well as offensive actions that took place during those times. Uncertainty was the order of the day. But the pressure of dealing with the problem was not compromised with. Disruption of law and order was ubiquitous in some districts along the border with Pakistan.
In those unsettled times, Governor of Punjab A P Sharma got a call from PM’s office for attending a meeting in Delhi. I was summoned by him to arrange for a departure, and that’s how I had my finger on the pulse. It was an early morning departure and Chief Minister Sardar Darbara Singh accompanied us, as he too had been called.
Punjab and emergency
By 8 pm we reached Indira Gandhi’s residence. Sharma and Singh were ushered into RK Dhawan’s office while other officials and I sat in the ante room. Singh appeared tense during the journey and asked the Governor, repeatedly, about the agenda of this meeting. But Sharma couldn’t help much. Gandhi reached her residential office at 9.30 pm and the soon the Governor met her. Singh apprehended the announcement of President’ rule. But till that time nothing was announced. She only inquired about the prevailing law and order problem.
Next, when the CM went to meet her she asked them to be more vigilant towards security, law and order of the state. Dhawan stayed longer in the PM’s office and emerged only after a while. He sat on his chair, opened the top drawer of his table, pulled out a letter and placed it before Singh for signatures.
That’s when CM’s jaw dropped and he told Dhawan: “I want to meet the Prime Minister for five minutes, please check with her.” Dhawan replied, “She has retired and it won’t be possible to meet her now. This letter has her approval.” Singh grudgingly signed the letter and passed it towards the Governor to read.
It was the recommendation for imposition of President’s rule in the state of Punjab with immediate effect. Not many could fathom what Gandhi was thinking. President’s Rule continued in Punjab for almost two years, the longest in any state at one go. The rule is embossed vividly in the memories of soldiers and civilians alike.