More on Emergency

June comes, June goes. And  political parties, civil liberties groups concerned citizens, social activists routinely observe the anniversary of Emergency. And there ends the matter. Parties, Left-parties included, that suffered during the Emergency, never really tried to expose the political and economic roots of Emergency. Nor did they see much between the lines while discussing the international context of emergency. Just in the wake of marking 40 years of Emergency, L K Advani, veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader who himself was a victim of Emergency, became an embarrassment for the Modi dispensation as he was candid enough to admit the creeping authoritarian tendencies in governance. Most media people dismissed Advani’s outburst as reflection of internal bickering of BJP. In truth a day or two later he again reiterated the same allegations, only to make his fellow partymen, particularly Mody loyalists uncomfortable.

The hard reality is that Modi government’s systematic efforts to silence voice of dissent and cripple his critics, more specifically opponents of his corporate-led growth strategy, financially and socially have echo of subtle Emergency. Emergency prevails in North East and Jammu and Kashmir though officially there is no Emergency.

Some people, apologists of Indira Gandhi’s authoritarianism, deserve special exposure still, otherwise the story of Emergency will always remain incomplete. One of them is Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who, first as the Central Minister for West Bengal and then as the Chief Minister of West Bengal, acquired enough notoriety as the champion of hooligan raj and secret killings, advised Indira Gandhi to declare the Emergency by telling her of a constitutional provision. Jag Mohan, the Chairman of the Delhi Development Authority became notorious for the infamous Turkaman Gate episode. The grief-stricken slum-dwelling mother of a young man, who had been brutally killed, requested Justice Shah to send Jag Mohan to the gallows. But this Jag Mohan got away with impunity owing to the callousness of the Janata Party and government, and later became a BJP man and was appointed a central minister and also a governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

And Ray too became a leading barrister and honourable politician in Bengal in due season. The attempt by Narendra Modi to harp on the days of the Emergency in order to discredit the Congress is only hypocritical. One should also not forget that after Indira Gandhi's assassination and the brutal killing of about three thousand innocent Sikhs in Delhi, the RSS openly supported the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, which brought Rajiv Gandhi to power. On Professor B D Nagchaudhury, one information may be given. During the Emergency, he was the vice-chancellor of the Jawharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and after the fall of the Indira Raj in 1977, was forced to leave in the face of students' demonstrations against him for his alleged misdeeds during the Emergency. In an appeal issued on the eve of the assembly polls of 1991 in West Bengal, by the Ganatantrik Lekhak, Shilpi O Kalakmhuli Sangha, a CPI(M)-led forum of writers, artists and technicians, the people were asked to keep in mind the dark days of the 1970s and vote for the Left Front. The signatories were divided into various categories. B D Nagchudhury's name figured at the top of the signatories categorised as ‘educationists’. Such turncoats found little difficulty in adjusting with the ‘left’.

Forty years later the effects of Emergency may still be felt in many ways. That Emergency may return again is no ‘wild speculation’ of Advani. But political left, not to speak of political right, looks reluctant to see anything beyond their day-to-day survial.

Vol. 48, No. 1, July 12 - 18, 2015