Date: 25 Jun 2010


EDITS | Friday, June 25, 2010 | ///////////////// Thirty-five years on/////////////// The Pioneer Edit Desk /////////////// Emergency mindset still rules Congress/////////////// This day, 35 years ago, Emergency was imposed upon India. As is well-known, an Emergency dating back to the 1971 war against Pakistan was already in place, not having been removed despite the external hostilities having long ended. On June 25, 1975, this situation was complemented by an Emergency due to ‘internal disturbances’. Political opponents of the then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, and of the ruling Congress were imprisoned. They ranged from young college students to senior MPs and former Ministers, including stalwarts of the pre-1947 national movement. A cabal took charge of India, with the Prime Minister’s younger son as an extra-constitutional authority. The Press was muzzled. The life of the Lok Sabha was extended by a largely captive House, with leading members of the Opposition behind bars. An in-house committee of the Congress announced amendments to the Constitution of India, without any public or parliamentary debate. Most egregiously, a programme of sterilisation was announced and hospitals and district magistrates given targets to meet. This resulted in young men, some of whom were not even married, being sterilised in a forced population control project. At one point, Sanjay Gandhi’s zero-civilisation ‘modernists’ set about demolishing the structures on Varanasi’s Vishwanath ki Gali in an attempt to build a new boulevard, unencumbered by the ‘debris’ of history. If these very different examples are being cited here, it is only to point out how damaging the Emergency was to not just the politics but to the very ethos of India. It all ended in March 1977. Mrs Gandhi called an election to validate her tyrannical rule and was convinced she was going to win. The people of India, with their sense of justice and good and evil, had other ideas. Democracy triumphed over despotism and the forbidding ghost of the Emergency was finally laid to rest. ////////////// Three-and-a-half decades have passed since then. Two generations have been born. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, India voted in many MPs who were not even born when the Emergency occurred. Why then is the moment so important? Why should India never forget the Emergency? The answer lies, as it always has, with the Congress. Now, as then, the Congress rules India. Now, as then, the Congress thinks it is infallible, can do no wrong and will go to ridiculous lengths to defend its dynasty-based leadership. The attempt to sequester Rajiv Gandhi from the Bhopal debate and the escape of the Union Carbide chairman in 1984 is only the latest example. The Emergency is dead but the Emergency mindset — which sees the Nehru-Gandhi family as above party and the Congress as above nation — not only predated June 1975 but has long outlived it. It is still amongst us. As the Congress perceives itself as being more strongly placed in national politics than at any time since the 1980s, that mindset will only want to exhibit itself that much more. ////////////// Rajiv Gandhi once said he would rather make history than study it. Such irreverent and flippant one-liners mask the Congress’s disregard for the lessons of 1977 and its absence of genuine regret for the Emergency. Time and again, the party has insisted that the suspension of democracy was needed in 1975 and was a responsible act, rather than a move to throttle liberty. This belief survives well into the 21st century. It makes the Emergency anniversary such a timely wake up call. ////////// 000000000