The 40th or the 40 years of Emergency?
(This article was first published in June 2015 in the previous version of People’s Review. Due to an incident of hacking the old website was pulled down and we could only restore the old articles in this section)
While commemorating the 40th anniversary of the national emergency declared by Indira Gandhi led Congress regime and the gross violations of human rights and political freedom of the people during the two-year long emergency some questions popped up.
What had been the condition of national democracy, political and human rights in the country we are living in since the British colonial rulers passed over the baton of power to the Indian National Congress in 1947? How well we performed in the political and democratic spheres since the so-called independence?
If we review the history of India since the British rulers passed the baton of power to Nehru & Co. in 1947, we can clearly see that the country never had anything close to the term “democracy” in practice, except for an election festival held every fifth year. The people of the country never had any rights that they could actually exercise in the real scope of life, rather the laws and rights that empowers people remained in the scriptures of the ruling bloc, while the people were subjected to harsh repressions.
When the government of India didn’t require formal emergency to kill people
For a long period that started from 1947 the country and almost each and every province was ruled by the Congress party, and there was no scope for the growth of opposition in the political space. The people demanding food, clothing, and shelter were brutally repressed by the so-called democratic regime led by the Congress party. The government of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy in West Bengal brutally massacred more than eighty peasants demanding food in the streets of Calcutta in the late 50’s, the Tamil Congress regime brutally suppressed the people of Tamil Nadu opposing the unilateral imposition of Hindi as a national language on them, the government of Kerala formed under the leadership of the Communist Party through peaceful parliamentary way was dissolved by Nehru government, the large number of Communist and left activists were imprisoned without trial during the Indian war on China, police baton charge on cricket spectators, police brutality on monks protesting against cow slaughter in New Delhi, police firing on the protestors in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar etc, to the killing and confinement of large numbers of youth across the nation during the turbulent Naxalbari uprising in the late sixties and early seventies of the last century clearly proves that the country reeled under the juggernaut of utmost reactionary repression for years even before the emergency. There was no need to declare an emergency as the crisis was caused due to an intensification in the contradiction between the people and the ruling bloc of feudal landlords, comprador capitalists, Soviet Russian and American capital. Formally the government had to declare emergency only when the contradiction between different factions of the ruling bloc intensified and there was a dire need to imprison leaders like Vajpayee, Advani, Jayaprakash, etc.
The period of emergency was crucial as at that period the very politicians who were opposing the Congress very cosmetically found themselves hounded and thrown behind the bars, though critiques say these politicians of the mainstream along with their supporters enjoyed lavish life in their cells (or bungalows converted into jails) and were never subjected to the immense torture, which was only reserved for the left wing opposition of Indira regime.
During the emergency period, Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, strengthened with the external covert support of the Soviet Union and their secret service KGB, ran the government as their personal fief, especially the role of Gandhi scion Sanjay, who was called the heir apparent of Indira, proved beyond doubt that how an individual without holding an office of power can rule the country as a defacto ruler along with his coterie of youth Congress supporters, part of whom are still visibly active in the power lobbies of New Delhi.
Forced sterilisation of the people, the massive repression against the striking workers of the railways, the demolition of the slums in New Delhi killing numerous residents in the course, along with other such heinous crimes raised Sanjay as the champion of Indian fascism of the Congress brand, as opposed to the Indian fascism of the Bhartiya Jan Sangh brand which later crystallised into the communal fascism of BJP-RSS of the present day.
The press censorship imposed during the emergency even curtailed the limited scope of free journalism that existed in the nation, many newspapers were whitened by the censor board and many were left with no option but to close their shops.
In a broad international sense the emergency in India was a cause of the international contradiction between the two superpowers of that time, the USA and the Soviet Union, that were engaged in a covert war for global hegemony, and India was a crucial battleground for these factional feuds. The Congress party sponsored by the Soviet Union and armed with KGB assistance was opposed by the CIA funded opposition which was more tilted towards the USA led bloc. The contradiction between the two turned the lives of the Indian people miserable and they were used as pawns by the Congress and the Janta party to win a crucial game of power to serve the interests of the global superpowers and their capital investment in the country.
The end of the emergency, as declared by the government did not literally ended the rule of the reaction on the Indian people. Following the return of Indira Gandhi to power the notorious ‘Operation Blue Star’ was conducted by the Indian Army with active assistance from the SIS of the UK, and it killed thousands of Sikh devotees who were held hostage by the Sikh extremist leader Bhindranwale in the action that followed. The countrywide anger of the Sikhs against such a large scale massacre of the innocent people culminated in the assassination of Indira herself.
The Congress regime led a vicious anti-Sikh riot all over the country, killing, injuring and displacing thousands of Sikhs, and turned Punjab into a killing field till the mid-1990’s. In the name of countering Sikh terrorism thousands of youth of Punjab were killed by the police force, their bodies were mostly vanished by the state and they were termed ‘missing’ in the records. In Kashmir, a similar exercise started and is still undergoing in which numerous people were killed, buried in mass graves or imprisoned without trial for the longest period possible. The north eastern provinces experienced another instance of state brutality as the people of the seven provinces of that region were indiscriminately killed, tortured, imprisoned or were made ‘missing’ in state records.
The change of governments since the 1990’s in New Delhi did not end the attacks on the people of the country by the repressive state machinery, rather the assaults continued and increased on many instances. A new dimension of communal polarisation was added to these assaults by the regime, especially with the rise of the RSS-BJP since the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. The ultra-reactionary Brahminist outlook got prominence in the administration and the people of minority community, especially the Muslims were incriminated institutionally, branded and labelled as ‘terrorists’ all over the nation following the international trend of Islamophobia that was then developed by the US administration, following the collapse of the Soviet bloc of competitors for global hegemony.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, the oppression of the people of the country increased manifold, and the people were left vulnerable to the attacks of the state machinery. Instead of a censored press, the government got in its favour a corporate controlled media house, which helped to mould the public opinion across the nation as per the requirement of the ruling bloc. The campaigns of lies, whitewashing of heinous crimes, etc are still continuing, more people are jailed these days due to political dissent, and the press works as a lackey of the ruling classes to divert the mass attention towards less important topics whenever the government asks it to do so. Thus, we can see a monotonous and stereotyped storytelling is the general style followed by the national mainstream media, most of which are owned directly or indirectly by big foreign monopoly capital.
The coming of the BJP on the national political arena
Since the first NDA government led by Vajpayee-Advani-Murli Joshi clique, the people of the country, especially the workers, peasants and the toiled masses, experienced a new upsurge of attacks against the democratic values and the rights of the people. The omnipotence of monopoly capital involvement in openly governing the country grew with the process of liberalisation of the Indian economy by Vajpayee, and a neo colonisation drive of India started at the beginning of the new millennium. The nexus between New Delhi-Washington – Tel Aviv, turned the nation slowly into a police state, where people voicing dissent against any form of political or economic repression were branded anti-national and were imprisoned using the draconian laws like POTA (now scrapped).
The Congress government that followed the footsteps of the Vajpayee regime too enacted more draconian laws by scrapping the POTA. The UAPA brought by the Manmohan-Sonia regime even makes the laws like MISA appear dwarf in terms of anti-democratic fabrics. The oppressions continued on the people of the country, especially the poor tribals, who were evicted en masse by the respective provincial governments to sell off the mineral rich regions of India and its natural resources at a throw away price to the foreign monopoly capitalists and their Indian agencies.
The BJP government, led by Modi and guided by the fascist doctrine of the RSS, is one of the most unapologetic fascist regimes, that the country has ever experienced. The process of acute centralisation of power under one individual, extreme cult worship centring Prime Minister Modi, an accused in the Gujarat Muslim genocide incident, and the hype of xenophobic ultra chauvinistic nationalism of the Sangh brand marred the first year of the government. The forces of neo liberalisation promoted by the foreign monopoly-finance capital, which also controls the majority of Indian national mainstream media – electronic and print, combined with communal Hindutva agenda and extreme polarisation on communal lines have endangered the left over components of the so-called democratic structure.
The forty years of emergency has only increased the burden of oppression and exploitation on the Indian people, slowly snatched the democratic rights of the people, and barred them from even the minimal rights that even the British colonial rulers never mingled with. The emergency was though lifted officially by the Indira government in March 1977, but the process of imprisoning the nation still continues, though the ruling classes and their mouthpieces leaves no stone unturn to hoodwink the people, especially the educated middle class, with sardonic phraseology through their media playing raconteur anchor to inform the people that they still live in democracy and the “black days” of emergency were long gone.
It is only the people of India who can protect their democratic rights by building up and strengthening anti-fascist and pro-democratic struggle by uniting all patriotic and progressive forces, otherwise, it will never be too late for the ruling blocs to snatch away the leftover rights that the people enjoy. That will be the last nail to the coffin of the Indian nation, towards which the forces of reaction are marching on this day.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker