An Anniversary

Emergency was proclaimed to crush the voice of dissent and silence the political opposition in the country. But the guiltymen of Emergency were never punished. Even during the five years of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government the issue of Emergency did not come up. If today the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is raking up the issue of Emergency and highlighting the dark chapter of India's parliamentary democracy after 43 years, it is because they need diversion to hide their failures of the last four years. The BJP has launched a frontal attack on the Congress on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the National Emergency to show the world that they are the best gatekeepers of democracy.

Civil libterties, creative expressions, press freedom, values enshrined in the Constitution—all were completely disregarded and democracy was destroyed at one stroke in the mid-might of June 25, 1975. No doubt, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi emerged as the worst tyrant of Indian history. But only a few years earlier, particularly after the liberation of Bangladesh, she was hailed as the rising sun of Asia. Such a radical transformation in such a short time! But Mrs Gandhi failed to rule dictatorially for long, she failed to make India Opposition free. On the contary she worked as a catalyst to unite diverse elements in the opposition camp, only to strengthen the resolve of liberals and democrats to fight for democracy and restore the values of constitution even in the face of severe oppression and witch-hunt.

But Modi's India is no better than Indira's India. Yesterday, it was declared Emergency and today it is undeclared Emergency. India today is a big prison house, where hundreds of thousands of human rights activists, dalits, minority community people, workers, farmers, cultural activists, tribals and participants in popular movements challenging the Modi's dictatorship, are languishing in jails. Professors, lawyers and civil libertarians are hounded all the time and branded as 'Maoists'. As for fake encounters the less said the better. Everybody knows how false 'encounters' are staged and the 'unwanted' are eliminated to make Modi's rule safe. The BJP has set into motion the overhaul of the constitution, not just a few amendments to it. There is every indication that democratic institutions are being undermined by a creeping Emergency under the Modi dispensation, all in the name of 'saving democracy'. The controlling authority of BJP—the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—has commenced the rewriting of history.

RSS and its sister front organisations numbering a dozen or so, have unleashed eerie and shadowy terror at the micro level of society, killing journalists and rationalists. And yet they are observing the 43rd Anniversary of Emergency to protect, ludicrously though, democracy. Modi's undeclared Emergency means brutal suppression of any voice of dissent. Today's undeclared Emergency is not the same as 1975—it is worse.

Subramanian Swamy is now a BJP MP but back in 2000 he was a prominent Janata Party leader. It may sound surrealistic today that in 2000 he was a bitter critic of RSS and dubbed BJP and RSS leaders as betrayers of anti-Emergency struggle launched by JP. Most BJP stalwarts, rather RSS stalwarts, including no less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave written assurance—muchleka—that they won't participate in anti-government agitation and got parole. The Akali leader Surjit Singh Barnala once recounted in a book how erstwhile leaders of Jan Sangh—the earlier avatar of BJP—promised 'good behaviour' in return of being let out of the prisons.

Today they are drawing parallels between Hitler's Germany and Indira's India. But in India they are the torch-bearers of Nazi philosophy and RSS is the face of creeping fascism.

While criticising Emergency, most critics, not excluding saffronites, simply overlooked its international dimension. That the former Soviet Union had an edge in influencing India's external and domestic affairs to their advantage in those 'days of fear psychosis' was a fact of life. And super-power rivalry was aggravated during the Emergency in the sub-continent as a whole. Not for nothing Moscow-leaning intellectuals rallied behind Indira Gandhi. Also, the pressure from the newly-elected US President Jim Carter who acknowledged the threat of Emergency to India's fragile democracy was not that secret.

As per observation by one international agency—the Thompson Reuters Foundation—India is now the most dangerous country in the world for women. Modi's India is competing with Afghanistan and Syria to retain the top slot in the area of high risk sexual violence. The RSS ideologues are not for empowering women, they are in favour of introducing Manusmriti to curb women's rights and they call it democracy.

The backlash Indira Gandhi had to face for promulgating national emergency, seems to have made the saffronites wise. Their strategy is to slowly do away with liberal aspects of the Constitution. Despite the existence of so many draconian repressive laws they always feel unsafe in the wake of mass protests, not to speak of mass upheavals. So they are curtailing workers' hard-earned rights in work places, they are imprisoning protesters, be they tribals or farmers, under the slightest possibility of mass struggle, branding all their opponents anti-national. Today, people are in a much weaker position than in 1975-77 to defend democracy. RSS, being a cadre-based fascist outfit is in virtual control of the levers of powers. There is every indication that democratic institutions are being undermined by fascist forces. This undeclared Emergency is something that needs to be bluntly stated.


Vol. 51, No.1, Jul 8 - 14, 2018