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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Indian emergency and ignorance

It would seem that Indians have a penchant for hanging on to the past; they find it very hard to let past events take anointed places in the history and let the country move on to face the present day challenges. It is in the same vein that the issue of internal emergency is being raked up déjà vu. According to the news reports Congress party is blaming Sanjay Gandhi for it and clowns of the nationalist BJP, spearheaded by foot-in-mouth Lal Advani, are defending him. Up to a point they have every reason to do that; his widow and his son are both members of parliament and belong to the party. And it would certainly not be a travesty to state that his (Sanjay Gandhi’s) doings and his philosophy (if there was any) was in more consonant with bankrupt and ideologically humbug-saffron groups than any progressive and liberal party. One of his confidantes, who carried out his orders in the name of beautification of Delhi, was none other than Jag Mohan. Jag Mohan became a prominent figure in BJP after his dismissal as a governor of Jammu and Kashmir State. The Augean sized mess created by Jag Mohan during his tenure in the state still remains to be cleaned. But let us stay with that emergency of 1975 and the conditions that led to its promulgation. Congress party with Indira Gandhi as its leader had an unprecedented mandate in the parliament and was ruling almost all the states barring Tamil Nadu and Jammu & Kashmir. In the latter Sheikh Abdullah of National Conference had just taken over the reign of the government under Beg-Parthasarthy agreement and was supported by Congress legislature party. The combination of factors; cost of Bangladesh war and destabilization of the world oil prices coupled with many internal factors resulted in an overall disenchantment among masses. Complacency and arrogance on the part of the central and state leadership of the Congress party, in part due to assured incumbency and owing to fragmented opposition, contributed to an overall deterioration. And this was the time when Sanjay Gandhi had just come of age and had started dabbling in his brand of politics. The suave and intellectual group of Indira Gandhi’s advisors that included P. N. Haksar and others equally accomplished and eminent individuals were replaced by a brash coterie handpicked by Sanjay Gandhi. Again in every state, leadership unabashedly acquiesced to the crown-prince, and those who did not comply were summarily banished. The actual emergency was declared on June 25, 1975 and the entire machinery fell in line. There were good things also. All of a sudden trains started running on time and ‘babus’ stopped asking for bribes. But then those very bureaucrats went into an over zeal sometimes at the behest of Sanjay Gandhi and his mafia and most of the time overpowered by their lust of power, which exceeded their agenda. Jag Mohan was one of the coteries who came from a petty bureaucratic level to become a bastion of power in Delhi, a fiefdom bestowed upon by Sanjay Gandhi. Indira Gandhi after declaration of emergency issued a five-point program for the country and Sanjay Gandhi not to be out done issued an intellectually bankrupt ten-point pogrom (the word is intentionally used). Quotas were fixed; adult males were dragged from buses and trains for compulsory sterilizations; promotions were withheld and salary increments deferred until officials complied. Having arrested the opposition leaders and dissidents Indira Gandhi went on to bend constitution through a spate of amendments. Portents of emergency were already on the horizon before the actual proclamation. Some of it was due to thwarting of her socio-economic program by the reactionary judiciary; both her nationalization of banks and abolition of privy purses to the erstwhile rulers of princely states were struck down by the Supreme Court. In the current era of privatization and immoral market economy, it might be a trifle hard to understand that those definitely were progressive measures and those did make a difference in the society. Nevertheless, nothing justified the emergency and excesses committed in its name. It was a total subversion and due to that very fact it became unwieldy. According to Katherine Frank in her biography of Indira Gandhi, she realized the ultimate value of democracy or circumstances forced her and she, despite vehement opposition by Sanjay Gandhi, declared an election which she lost badly. Not many people know that RSS, the militant saffron organization of which BJP is a political front, tacitly supported emergency. To dabble into past in simplistic terms does nothing more than patronization and spreading of ignorance. The manner in which commercial media channels churn out ignorance makes one wonder, that perhaps a dose of emergency like treatment might do them some good or at least to the masses who suffer them.
-Rajiv Kumar

1 comment:

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