Emergency Revisited

40 Years After Emergency

Barun Das Gupta

On the 25th of June this year fell the fortieth anniversary of the Emergency that was clamped on this country in 1975. The decision, taken in consultation with some top party leaders of her inner circle, was the knee-jerk reaction of a prime minister who feared imminent loss of power following the Allahabad High Court's verdict holding her election to the Lok Sabha null and void. Indira Gandhi was determined not to give up power—even temporarily. By imposing Internal Emergency (an External Emergency was already in place), by one stroke of the pen, she brought the country under her dictatorial control. All Opposition leaders starting from Jayaprakash Narayan were detained without trial and civil liberties, including even the fundamental rights, were unceremoniously suspended. A subdued judiciary acquiesced in it without a murmur of protest. People had nowhere to turn to, to protect their life and liberty.

Fortunately, without ending the Emergency, she decided to go in for general elections in 1977. She and her Congress party lost them, were ousted from power and Indira had to go to jail. But history smiled on her soon. The Janata Party, a conglomerate of ideologically and politically incompatible political formations, broke. Fresh elections were called for and Indira triumphantly returned to power again.

Today, with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of a government formed by the BJP—the political front of the RSS—people are fearing that the country may relapse again into another Emergency. Intriguingly, a warning has also been sounded by none other than the BJP veteran and former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani. In a newspaper interview he said that he feared a repeat of the Emergency as "forces that can crush democracy have become stronger" in India now. His use of the word 'stronger' is very significant as it implies that he thinks the anti-democratic forces are stronger today than they were during the Emergency of 1975.

But there would be a qualitative difference between the Emergency that some sections of people are now apprehending and the Emergency of Indira Gandhi forty years ago. Indira's Emergency was an attempt to impose her personal dictatorship on the country. Her Emergency had no ideological content or dimension. She did curtail democracy but she never challenged the ideals of democracy, socialism and secularism as enshrined in the Constitution. She did not promote pseudo-science by glorifying Puranic myths like India having invented motor cars and aeroplanes and plastic surgery thousands of years ago. She did not try to make Gita the national scripture. She never talked about changing the secular polity of India into a Hindu Rashtra. She continued to nurture India's traditional friendship with the Soviet Union and the socialist countries.

The dictatorship that India is feared now to be inching toward, will not have much of a strong personal element in it, notwithstanding the fact that Narendra Modi is a power-loving man and as prime minister he has already concentrated enormous power in his hands, virtually reducing other Cabinet ministers to mere show pieces rather than people who can exercise authority in their respective ministries. This emergency, it does come, will be the organizational dictatorship of what is commonly called the Sangh Parivar. It will be driven, not by personal love of power but by a definite ideology—the ideology of Hindutva. This ideology runs antithetical to the very spirit that the Constitution is imbued with. It seeks to turn India from a secular State into a theocratic State where only one religion shall prevail—the Hindu Dharma. Non-Hindus will lose all their rights as citizens of a modem nation State and live at the mercy of the majority community—the Hindus. Secular India will become a Hindu Rashtra. The Sangh Parivar never makes a secret of its ultimate aim.

They will not spare those Hindus either who refuse to subscribe to their communal ideology and be dictated to by it. Just as the Taliban, the Al Qaeda and the Islamic State do not tolerate even Sunnis who do not support them but kill them like the others, the Hindutva brigade also will not tolerate those Hindus who stand for secularism, for a liberal, tolerant and accommodative society, who resist teaching of pseudo science for the sake of glorifying the ancient Hindu civilization, who oppose history being distorted and rewritten in tune with the Sangh Parivar's ideals and notions of the past. And since Hindus of the second category far outnumber the Sangh Parivar bigots, it will be necessary to impose their dictatorship by force of State power. It will be a dictatorship of an elite group of Hindutva fanatics over the majority of the Indians, the bulk of whom are Hindus.

With this end in view, they are packing the managing bodies of the institutions of higher learning, of research organizations, bodies of scientists and technologists, etc. with their own men. The latest attempt to set up a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) on the precious plea that 'judges cannot be allowed to appoint judges' is a not-so-subtle attempt to pack the judiciary, especially the higher echelons of it, with those who subscribe to the Hindutva philosophy.

To gain power, fascists have to invent an 'enemy' and whip up mass frenzy against him. This is the first precondition to capturing power. It has to be 'proved' that this enemy is responsible for every conceivable malady the country and the people are suffering from. Then he has to be demonized and liquidated. For the Sangh Parivar, the enemy is Islam and the followers of Islam, the Muslims. For Hitler, it was the Jews. Sample these two paragraphs from Hitler's Mein Kampf :
"The division created between employer and employee seems not to have extended to all branches of life. How far this Judaizing process has been allowed to take effect among our people is illustrated by the fact that manual labour not only receives practically no recognition but is often considered degrading. That is not a natural German attitude. It is due to the introduction of a foreign element into our lives, and that foreign element is the Jewish spirit..."

So, class divisions and class conflicts never existed in history; it is the Jews who 'introduced' it!
Then this:
"While our bourgeois middle class paid no attention at all to this momentous problem and indifferently allowed events to take their course, the Jew seized upon the manifold possibilities which the situation offered him for the future. While on the one hand he organized capitalistic methods of exploitation to their ultimate degree of efficiency, he curried favour with the victims of his policy and his power and in a short while became the leader of their struggle against himself."

This is utter balderdash. But there is no denying the fact that this balderdash once stirred the German people who swallowed this stuff hook, line and sinker. Therein lies the danger and the need to wage a relentless battle against communal fascism. If this Government lasts its full term, and at the moment there is no reason to believe that it will not, it will have inflicted grievous damage to the polity which will take a long time to undo.

The ultimate sanction behind the State is the sanction of force. The instruments of enforcing the sanction of the State are the armed forces, the paramilitary forces and the police forces. The fascists come to power by cleverly manipulating the democratic institutions. Once in power they begin to destroy those very institutions one by one by infiltrating the armed forces. History has proved time and again that the institutional framework of constitutional democracy is no guarantee against fascism. Were it not so, the monstrous head of the Third Reich would not rise above the ruins of the Weimar Republic.

Unfortunately, as with the anti-fascist forces in Germany of the 1930s, the secular and democratic forces in this country are disunited. They hardly have a perception of the national perspective and the dimensions of the danger ahead. All of them are busy calculating the immediate electoral gains, quite forgetting that if the situation is allowed to drift there will be no elections at all in future. The Emergency that they are loosely talking about will be far worse and far longer lasting than Indira Gandhi's Emergency.

Vol. 48, No. 3, July 26 - Aug 1, 2015