41 Years Later

June 26 this year is the 41st anniversary of the infamous internal Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi after the Allahabad High Court's judgment declaring her election to the parliament illegal. That Emergency was imposed with the backing of one section of the Indian big business, and of the Soviet Union. The principal characteristic of that Emergency was the imprisonment of all important anti-Indira opposition leaders including those within the Congress, and press censorship, accompanied by arrests of many journalists. This suppression was anything but fascism—plain and simple.

In 1977, Indira Gandhi declared the Lok Sabha polls in the hope that the results would enable her to get a majority, thus strengthen her hands and provide justification to her misdeeds in the name of a 'popular mandate'. But she miscalculated the people's side of the equation and badly lost the polls. She herself was defeated by Raj Narain by a margin that was considered considerable in those days. But the social basis of that was considered considerable in those days.

The Emergency of 1975 was fascism epitomised. But the social basis of that fascism was fragile, consisting of some lumpen elements of the establishment led by Sanjay Gandhi, the distinguished younger son of his distinguished mother. Now, after more than four decades, people are witnessing the emergence of a new fascism with its root in saffron ideology. This fascism is based on the idea of an expansionist Akhand Bharat, in which Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities should have no place, and the old Hindu caste system would be championed. In order to achieve this objective, the neo-fascists have been frantically trying to promote a communal polarisation and foment communal riots. This has been demonstrated in the recent events in Uttar Pradesh (UP) as well as in many other episodes. Supine behaviour on the part of the police, intelligence and bureaucracy is all too familiar in a fascistic set-up. In view of 2017 assembly poll in UP the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is vitiating communal atmosphere by raising the bogey of exodus of Hindus from Kairana. A five-member team of saints found the allegation baseless and motivated. They even termed it as a dangerous conspiracy to disturb communal harmony.

M S Golwalkar, one of the two early premier ideologues of the RSS, was a admirer of the Nazi-type of nationhood. His acolytes of today have also been trying to create a corporatist state in the image of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. But India is a country of many diversities, and in order to cope with them, the RSS has opened thousands of schools in tribal and backward regions to propagate their false notion of the nation and nationalism. The Gujarat 'experiment' of 2002 certainly emboldened them, because there they could involve dalits in the riots. The campaign against beef-eating is also a part of this agenda, although beef provides cheap protein to many sections of the poor, not only Muslims, and cattle-rearing provides livelihood to many. That beef-eating is not alien to Indian tradition is a historical fact, but it is futile to remind the corporate-Hindutva lobby of this, because in their minds the dubious notion of nationhood reigns supreme. Their repeated attempts to saffronise the entire education system, particularly the higher education system in recent months have crated turmoil and violence in a number of universities including the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University.

When these fascists fail to convince people with their spurious logic and manufactured facts, regularly spread, with the help of corporate funds, they bring in their logic of guns. The Uncle Sam and his allies are not against it, because they prefer authoritarian regimes in the South for understandable reasons. Such regimes can pour down the throats of the population heavy doses of neo-liberal austerity, extreme inequality and the whole paraphernalia of America oriented globalisation. Many events in the gulf countries and Latin America have demonstrated this abundantly. The recent economic moves permitting inter alia even 100% foreign investment in the vital defence sector leave no doubt as to the real nature of the nationalism of the Modi variety.

In truth, people are on the threshold of another emergency, the difference from the earlier one is that while that was declared and overt, this is undeclared and somewhat covert. Another difference is that while the Emergency of 1975 was Soviet-backed, this time it is US-backed. But this undeclared emergency is more dangerous, and hence its onslaught must be beaten back by fighting on all fronts.

Civil libterties bodies across the country are marking the occasion—41st anniversary of the promulgation of internal Emergency—with their usual line of protest, demanding more democratic space and right to dissent as dissenters, of late, are being increasingly put behind bars. Intolerance in every sphere of social and political life illustrates among other things that fascism is very much in action. The prison system of India has not changed much since the days of Indira Gandhi's Emergency—in many ways it has worsened further. The issue of deplorable conditions of Indian prisons reflects the very nature of the fascistic state. A recent media story on ‘Prisons of Bihar’ is an eye opener which throws light on the denial of basic human rights of prisoners, both political and non-political, and points to the urgent need for prison reforms.

Hundreds of revolutionaries and innocent people are languishing in India’s dozens of high security prisons under oppressive and abusive conditions for years without any trial. They witness the inhumane treatment being forced on them daily—for them it is the perennial nightmare of Emergency. Many human rights organisations focus on prison reform to make prison system more humane and rehabilitative. But fascism needs a brutal prison system to degrade human beings and create a permanent state of fear psychosis among people. Voices from behind the bars demand serious attention because they have no one in the free world, they feel abandoned by the society. Ironically Prime Minister Modi and his Finance Minister Jaitley observed the 41st anniversary of 1975 Emergency by attacking the Congress white the Left found no reason to remember the notorious event any more.


Vol. 48, No. 52, Jul 3 - 9, 2016