India's former Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi has launched a nationwide "Save India" campaign, designed?
India's former Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi has launched a nationwide "Save India" campaign, designed to discredit the present government of Prime Minister Morarji Desai and the ruling Janata Party. Widespread publicity for the campaign has called on supporters of Mrs. Gandhi's Congress Party to defy a ban on processions, adopt passive resistance tactics and risk arrest by holding rallies throughout the country. In Delhi, Mrs. Gandhi was to have addressed an enormous gathering of demonstrators on Wednesday (9 August) to mark the beginning of the campaign. After a night of heavy monsoon rains, the enthusiasm of even her most ardent supporters was dampened.
SYNOPSIS: Only a few hundred demonstrators gathered on the Ram Lila grounds where the mass procession was meant to start. The march was going to lead to a rally on the Delhi Boat Club lawns beside the headquarters of the Indian government. Over a million people can normally be accommodated here, but there was only a small crowd awaiting the arrival of Mrs. Gandhi.
Whether because of the small attendance, or because the organisers felt the ground was too water-logged to hold the rally, Mrs. Gandhi announced that the procession was called off. Instead, she made a short speech to the crowd, denouncing the policies of the Janata Party and claiming that rising prices and strict law enforcement was making life difficult for the average Indian and was a contradiction of the government's professed adherence to principles of democracy. Mrs. Gandhi said the administration of Mr. Desai had brought the country to a standstill.
Although the Delhi rally was almost washed out, in Calcutta thousands joined a peaceful procession through the city. They staged a mock trial of Prime Minister Desai and of Jyoti Basu, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, to underline their dissatisfaction with the government which has been in power for 16 months.
The campaign began just two weeks before Mrs. Gandhi, her son Sanjay and members of her administration are due to appear in court on charges related to corruption during their period of government under the emergency powers act. Mr. Desai is also facing a crisis because his son Kanti is involved in another corruption case which has yet to be investigated. Other rallies in India marking the start of the campaign were less peaceful. Over 100 people were injured in the southern state of Kerala when police clashed with demonstrators and in Meerut, about 60 kilometres (about 40 miles) from Delhi, 40 people were hurt when police charged into the crowd.