Emergency: Then and Now


The continuous campaign of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to remind the people of the dark days of the Emergency of 1975-77 is clearly a clever ploy to suppress the fact of the current suppression of any dissenting opinion as well as to draw sympathy from the people, particularly from those who are ignorant of or only partly familiar with those dark days. First of all, it must be mentioned that among those who were incarcerated during the Emergency, members of the Jan Sangh, the predecessor entity of the BJP, constituted only one section of the persecuted. But almost all the opposition leaders, with the exception of some CPI(M) politicians, were put behind bars. The CPI supported the Emergency, but it made a public self-criticism of this decision after the 1977 Lok Sabha polls. The well-known CPI(M) parliamentarian, Jyotirmoy Basu, was arrested and tortured, presumably for his exposure of the Maruti and Nagarwala scandals. Among the importaant politicians arrested were Geroge Fernandes, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Prakash Singh Badal, Chandrasekhar etc. All Naxalite groups were banned by declaration, and two Naxalite prisoners were hanged. The phenomenon of cold-blooded murder in the name of 'encounters' was thus replaced by open killing. So, the Sangh Parivar's effort to appropriate Emergency victimhood is ridiculous. It should also be noted that legatees of Sanjay Gandhi, Indira's second son whose tyrannical activities, e.g. the forced sterilisation campaign and the bulldozer run at Turkman Gate were notorious, are now in the BJP. They are Maneka and Varun Gandhi. Maneka Gandhi was an ardent associate of Sanjay Gandhi during that period. Jayprakash Narayan, the iconic Gandhian socialist leader around whom the opposition forces rallied, was arrested. Yet even a personality like Jayprakash Narayan could not unite the opposition against Indira's tyranny. Finally, Indira Gandhi herself united them by putting them behind bars.

Indira Gandhi wanted a 'committed' bureaucracy and judiciary. Modi wants the same, as has been amply testified by the Loya death case and the revolt of four judges of the apex court, as well as numerous other incidents. This is one imporatnt aspect in which there is no difference between Indira Gandhi and Nardendra Modi. Even during the Emergency, there was no systematic killing of rationalists and journalists, which has become a common occurrence under the Modi dispensation. The scale of repression on human rights activists by branding them as 'Urban Maoists' is also unprecedented, as is evident from the recent arrest of Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, lawyer Surendra Gadling, Professor Soma Sen and tribal rights acttivist Mahesh Raut.

Along with all these, there are phenomena that have surpassed even the black days of Indira Gandhi's Emergency. One is the beating and lynching of Muslims and dalits in the name of cow protection, and the gunning down of dalit demonstrators. Another is the propagation of absurd and laughable myths regarding Indian history. Valuable works done in this regard by P C Ray, Debi Prasad Chattopadhyay, D D Kosambi and others are going to be thrown into the dustbin. A third is the suppression of the role of the RSS during the long anti-British struggle and its admiration for the Nazi style of nation building. The number of misdeeds can be multiplied, but the peculiar and at the same time frightening spectacle is that anybody who refuses to endorse them is called anti-national.

The similarities notwithstanding, in some respects at least, the situation is much more dangerous than what Indira Gandhi and her factotums did during 1975-77.

Vol. 51, No.4, Jul 29 - Aug 4, 2018