When the emergency was lifted in 1977 and the Congress Government was thrown out in the ensuing elections there was a lot of euphoria about the earthy political wisdom of the masses and their innate consciousness about civil liberties. However, given that the voting percentage was only 60.5% and of them about 52% voted against the Congress, the actual vote for civil liberties was just about 31%!!
I was a student activist of some fringe, over ground, Naxal groups during my college days from 1978 to 1983, at a time when the Naxal movement was in disarray before it gained in power once again through the under ground armed mobilisation of the People's War Group in Andhra Pradesh and the Party Unity group in Bihar in the mid 1980s. I saw then that the level of consciousness among the masses was very low and we used to have a hard time mobilising them to protest against the blatantly anti-people policies of the Central and the State Governments.
However, this was nothing compared to the shock I received when I first came to work in Alirajpur in 1985 among the Bhils. I found that for them there had been a continuous emergency right from the time of the Marathas and then the British and their rights were being wantonly violated by the independent Indian Government and the administration. From 1985 to 2001 we fought many battles and the State always had an upper hand jailing us and even killing some of our colleagues at will. On one occasion in 2001, the State came down hard on the Bhils in Dewas district, destroying their houses and killing four of them in police firing alleging that they had defied its might by implementing the provisions of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, which makes the tribal Gram Sabha the supreme authority in its domain and this could not be tolerated. When the late Dilip Singh Bhuria, who has just expired yesterday, as the then Chairperson of the Commission for Scheduled Tribes, visited the area after this mayhem, Motia Patel asked him whether in this country the Bhils were worse than rats that they could not even have the right to live in their own houses as he sat among the ruins of his destroyed house below.