Modi’s Emergency

Moving towards Dictatorship?

Santosh Rana

It is a rare sight in Indian Politics. On 23rd November, 2016, the Members of Parliament from almost all the opposition parties united in New Delhi to register protest against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetization policy. To some, the atmosphere in the capital on that day brought back memories of the Emergency and the Bofors era.

This unique event took place under unique circumstances. When all the democratic institutions of the country are being destroyed in order to establish one man's undisputed control over Power, the event signified the first step towards a united resistance against these inauspicious developments.

The trend was first discernable already in 2014. No specific policies or even a political party, but Narendra Modi the Man himself, was projected during the national elections. Ever since coming to Power, he has been running the country through issuing Ordinances, bypassing the Parliament and ignoring all the constitutional processes and Laws. He has twice issued Ordinances to revoke modifications to the Land Acquisition Bill. The Planning Commission has been dissolved and in its place he has established NITI Ayog, which runs strictly under his control. He has curtailed the independence that the Reserve Bank of India used to enjoy. He has appointed Sangh Parivar members who are obedient to him to top positions in various educational and cultural institutions. World-renowned educationists have been expelled from the Board of Directors of the Nalanda University solely on ground that they didn't toe the State's line. Destroying the institutions essential for the survival of Indian democracy on one hand, and accumulating increasing amounts of power in the hands of the Central Government on the other—this is Modi Government in a nutshell. Under this scheme they are overhauling the tax system in such a way that the States will have little independence going forward. Similarly, the funds allotted to various developmental projects are being slashed drastically, and the States' opinions on these policies are being made increasingly irrelevant.

On the other hand, the promise of building a secular, rational and democratic country through equality between people of different religion, caste and class—a promise that has been alive since the days of the struggle for independence and despite many failings has at least achieved limited success—is being systematically destroyed. In its place an India is being constructed where the minorities like the Muslims and Christians will be relegated to the status of second class citizens, vulnerable to willful murder and evictions. In the name of "gharwapsi" (homecoming) casteist oppression will grow even more intense. The currents of rationalist and scientific thought will be obstructed, assassins will be ready for outspoken rationalists like Dabholkar, Kalburgi, Panesar. Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis will be assaulted in the name of "Go-Raksha" (protecting cows). If people from Dalit and other oppressed classes aspire to higher education, like Rohith Vemula, they will pay for their audacity with their lives. To stifle dissent, Maoist or SIMI labels will be deliberately stamped on activists like Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, and their arrest and persecution will go on in complete disregard of the Law.

The Judicial system is being destroyed to create a situation where Mr Modi's dictum will be the last word. The Central Government is refusing to appoint Judges from a list drawn by the Supreme Court because the list doesn't include names sufficiently servile to Mr Modi's ideology. Through intimidation and temptation, they have already acquired the obedience of a large section of the Media, while those who refuse to fall in line are being regularly assaulted.

All these developments constitute a sequence of steps leading towards the ultimate goal of bringing the entire country under one man's rule. The Demonetization policy that makes redundant the promise of the RBI governor made to the bearers of the notes, for which the currency is called a promissory note, took the country one step further along that path.

It is common knowledge that close to 90% of all Black Money is sitting in offshore bank accounts, illegal land properties and jewelries. Demonetization won't even touch the tip of this iceberg. On the contrary, this decision has brought upon the Indian people an unprecedented calamity. There is fear that both the Kharif and Rabi crop production will suffer serious losses. As a consequence, loss of work and ensuing hunger are staring millions of agricultural laborers in the face. The signs from the industrial sector are no less horrifying. There are about 175,000 factories in the country, about 125,000 of them employing less than fifty workers each. In a large fraction of these small and medium scale industries the owner him/her-self is engaged in physical labor along with the employed workers. Many economists have already shown how lack of liquid cash and consequent short supply of raw materials and uncertainty on workers' salaries are pushing this economy towards a crisis.

As a result of demonetization, about 6.5 lakh crore (6.5 trillion) rupees have already been deposited in the Banks. This money will go towards the welfare of the corporate sector, which has failed to pay back about 5 lakh crore (5 trillion) rupees worth of loans to the nationalized banks. It is clear as daylight that the demonetization policy is a boon for the corporations on one hand and an outright declaration of war against the Indian people on the other. Mr Modi's latest surgical strike is aimed at the entire Indian population, except for the tiniest privileged class.

Curiously, this surgical strike is completely "secular" in nature. In the last two and a half years the divisions along religious and caste lines that have grown ever more accentuated have now suddenly been relegated to the backburner. Almost 90% of the Indian workforce is employed in the informal sector, and that includes Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, upper castes alike. They are all victims of this assault. Thus, the multi-party unity and alliance announced in New Delhi has come to reflect the popular rage against corporate dictatorship over the working class and democratic India as a whole.

The various political parties assembled in protest are no paragons of virtue either. Within their own respective domains of power, they too unleash atrocities against the people. Corruption, nepotism, partisanship—these are their trademarks too. But they have no option now but to band together against a complete declaration of authoritarian war against the people. This is the demand of the people, as well as the demand of the present Time. Given the framework of the Indian democracy, people too cannot go very far by completely ignoring these political parties.

In summary, when the country stands a few steps away from dictatorship, the relationship between the people and these power-hungry parties engaged in electoral politics becomes symbiotic. There will always be conflicts between the people and the parties, but on the eve of complete disaster those conflicts must be put on hold. A similar moment had presented itself during the Emergency. India overcame that danger through a grand unification among the people. According to some analysts, the situation today is far more dangerous than the Emergency. And due to that reason, today, a grand unification of the people via the alliances of political parties is not only inevitable, but essential as well.

Vol. 49, No.25, Dec 25 - 31, 2016