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Save Nehru Dynasty, and Save Democracy! Indeed

Author: Kanchan Gupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 8, 2016
URL:   http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/coffee-break/save-nehru-dynasty-and-save-democracy-indeed.html?utm_source=vuukle&utm_campaign=vuukle_referral#vuukle_div

The excesses of the Emergency era may appear too distant in the past to be worthy of recall. But to believe that would be incorrect. There has been no change in the attitude of the Congress and of the Dynasty since then

News would travel fast in Jamshedpur, a small sleepy town in the 1970s where there were few distractions from the daily routine. This was some four decades before the advent of the Internet and cell phones. Computers were unheard of and television notionally existed, courtesy Doordarshan, in the big metropolitan cities. Few homes had telephones and still fewer had telephones that were not perpetually ‘out of order’.

In Jamshedpur, life was played out, frame by frame, in monotonous black and white, with occasional stretches of technicolour excitement. Jump cuts were considered too startling, but they couldn’t be avoided entirely: These usually came by way of unsettling news from the world beyond Jamshedpur, either borne by the Calcutta papers that came by the morning train and were distributed late in the afternoon, or riding the radio waves of Akashvani. People tuned into All India Radio to listen to Surajit Sanyal, Lotika Ratnam and Nilima Sanyal, not so much for what they had to say but to hear their voice so that they could imitate their accent. But that was okay, because, as I said, news travelled fast in Jamshedpur.

And so it was that although the Calcutta papers did not arrive on June 26, 1975, everybody knew by mid-morning of the events with cataclysmic consequences of the previous evening in faraway New Delhi. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had ‘recommended’ to President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed the declaration of Internal Emergency as she had information that there was “an imminent danger to the security of India being threatened by internal disturbances”. The President had complied without a murmur of protest.

At the stroke of the midnight hour, civil liberties and fundamental rights had been suspended; censorship imposed; Opposition leaders arrested; and, dictatorship of the dynasty had replaced democracy of the people. India was in chains all over again, this time enslaved by its own. “Don’t talk to strangers”, parents instructed their teenaged children.

Over the next few days a strange fear descended upon the people of this country — the fear of being punished and persecuted by the Emergency regime through its many agents and agencies. The dreaded midnight knock became the metaphor of those dark, terrible days when friends stopped trusting friends, relatives shunned relatives, teachers squealed on students and vice versa, and censors eager to please Congress bosses decided what was fit to print.

Not everybody, though, was appalled by Indira Gandhi’stanashahi — I learned that word from our physics teacher who was a tyrant in the classroom but would incessantly rage against the tyranny of what he would bitingly describe as an “illegitimate Government”. There were middle-class collaborators who, convinced that imitation was the best form of flattery, mimicked Sanjay Gandhi’s mannerisms and style of speech, and wore white kurta-pajamas similar to his. Hoodlums wore white kurtas over drainpipe pants and ran extortion rackets. Many people thought the Emergency was a good idea because trains ran on time and Vinoba Bhave endorsed Indira Gandhi’s evil decision, calling the Emergency “Anushasan Parv”. Newspapers, barring honourable exceptions, caved in without a fight: Journalists, asked to bend, chose to crawl.

Meanwhile, dissent and its expression through protest was met with swift retribution. The RSS, which mobilised its vast network ofswayamsevaks to launch an underground movement against the dictatorship, was banned. But that did not deter swayamsevaks from persisting with their movement that was described by The Economist as “the only non-left revolutionary force in the world … its platform at the moment has only one plank: To bring democracy back to India”. The only other organisation which led from the front in the fight-back was the Akali Dal. Indira Gandhi tried to coopt the Akalis, but they rebuffed her gesture; for them, freedom was far more important than power.

The Intelligence Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation were used for intimidating and harassing both rich and poor on mere suspicion of anti-Emergency activism. The Income Tax Department was instructed to let loose a reign of terror on trade union leaders. People were arrested and packed off to jail; many of them were brutally tortured to extract a confession that would serve the Emergency regime’s political interests — for instance, that he/she was a CIA agent.

The Constitution was slyly amended to declare India a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic, an absurdity whose burden we are still forced to carry. To inspire confidence in the Supreme Leader, a massive Soviet-style propaganda offensive was launched. Billboards were put up with slogans like “The Leader is right, the nation’s future is bright!” In offices, including those in the private sector, Congress goons put up posters, urging people to “Work more, Talk less”. It was all very darkly reminiscent of the Third Reich.

Indira Gandhi had the Supreme Court packed with handpicked ‘committed’ judges whose job it was to overturn the Allahabad High Court’s judgement of June 15, declaring her 1971 election as void and disqualifying her from contesting elections for the next six years. To demonstrate their ‘commitment’ to her, the judges also suspended the provision for habeas corpus without which India is no different from a police state ruled by a tin pot dictator.

By the time Indira Gandhi called a general election in the spring of 1977, the people had made up their minds. On voting day they voted out the Congress. Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay were trounced in constituencies they considered to be their family heirloom and, therefore, theirs by right. A chastened Indira Gandhi lifted the Emergency on March 21, 1977.

Cut to May 2016. As I wearily watch the Congress’s ‘Save Democracy’ march, I am reminded of this party’s systematic assault on the very foundation of our democracy, the Constitution of India. The politics of deceit, of Dynasty over Democracy, of the Divine Right to rule, plays out once again as allegations fly thick and fast about a certain ‘Signora Gandhi’ being the ‘driving force’ behind the AgustaWestland helicopter deal in which huge bribes were paid by the Italian company.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to demonstrate his loyalty, describes the Congress as the “soul of India”. He’s the same person who was “embarrassed” by the Bofors bribery inquiry, the same person on whose watch the London accounts in which Ottavio Quattrocchi had parked his ill-gotten money and were frozen by the Vajpayee Government, were unfrozen, the same person under whose very nose scam after scam happened, from 2G to Coalgate. He marches, along with other darbaris, to save the Dynasty while foot soldiers wave placards with photos of Sonia Gandhi, Robert Vadra and Rahul Gandhi, and the slogan, ‘Save Democracy’.

Forty-one summers later, the excesses of the Emergency era may appear too distant in the past to be worthy of recall. But to believe that would be incorrect. There has been no change in the attitude of the Congress, and the party’s first family makes no effort to hide its unshakeable belief that it has the divine right to rule India, either directly or indirectly, and not be held accountable for the many sins of omission and commission of which the Nehru Dynasty is guilty.

With such knowledge, what forgiveness?

- The writer is a current affairs analyst based in NCR)
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