"Emergency Then and State Repressions Today"
Public-cum-Press Meet by the Citizens Initiative for Peace on June 25 on the Occasion of 35th Year of Declaration of Emergency
At the dead of night on June 25/26 1975, when the nation was deep asleep, the Emergency had been declared by the then Congress-led Union Government under the premiership of Mrs. Indira Gandhi on the ground of internal disturbances through a Presidential proclamation.
The next morning, the country woke up to this shocking event accompanied by arrests of a large of number of people, including top oppositional political leaders including J.P. Narayan, Raj Narain, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Jivatram Kripalani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Satyendra Narayan Sinha et al without any advance notice or charge for indefinite periods and confined mostly in undisclosed locations; clamping of press pre-censorship; banning of a number of organisations etc.
The whole nation was stunned and found itself gagged. The press by and large submitted to this reign of terror. The Doordarshan, the government run TV channel, the only channel at that time would be ceaselessly blaring out blatant government propaganda. Those few who did not had to either shut shop or would come up with blank spaces from time to time. Nikhil Chakravartty of the Mainstream, Ramnath Goenka of The Indian Express and C R Irani of The Statesman and Sadhana, a Marathi periodical, were among those very few who showed exceptional courage.
All fundamental rights stood suspended. No court cases against the government. No elections to public bodies. The life of the Parliament and State Assemblies stood extended.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi was projected as the supreme national leader. The then Congress President, Dev Kant Baruah who'd incidentally soon fall out of favour of his mistress, loftily pronounced, without any trace shame of irony or shame: Indira is India and India is Indira!
All political opposition was driven underground. The Baroda Dynamite case, involving George Fernandes and his associates, being its most high profile manifestation.
Soon we'd see the emergence of Sanjay Gandhi as the uncrowned Prince of India and the horror stories of brutal repressions at the Turkman Gate and Jama Masjid areas in Delhi in the name city beautification and mass (forced) vasectomy drive in the name of population control would start seeping out.
It may be recalled that the proclamation of the Emergency had been triggered by the indictment of Mrs Gandhi on the ground of electoral corruption and malpractice by Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court in case filed by her mail electoral opponent Raj Narain in the 1971 Lok Sabha election from the Rae Bareilly constituency. Hoever, the Smapoorna Kranti, or Total Revolution, campaign led by the redoubtable veteran Jayaprakash Narayan, or JP, had formed the broader backdrop with the 1974 railway strike as one of its most distinctive moments. His clarion call the police and military to according to their conscience in the context of their use for carrying out state repression was later used to justify the much reviled proclamation.
Only after long 21 months of brutal repressions, on March 21 1977, the Emergency was withdrawn to pave way for the next Lok Sabha election which Mrs Gandhi was, by all indications, too confident to win hands down with all visible political opposition mercilessly crushed. Things would, however, turn out very differently. And the following election created a history by unseating the Congress from the seat of Union power from the first time in Independent India by delivering a crushing defeat.
While the horrific memory of the Emergency worked as a strong antidote to the prospects of its recurrence, today, after long 35 years, with the juggernaut of neo-liberal economic "development" mightily rolling intoxicated with the overpowering objective of achieving a double digit GDP growth rate regardless of social and ecological consequences. While the Great Indian Middle Class has no doubt prospered and proliferated, as per the latest official statistics, 37.2% of the Indian population live below the Poverty Line - an euphemism for bare subsistence level. The "development" paradigm being pursued has caused intensification of oppressions of the poor, the marginalised, the minorities. The repressions in the adivasi areas, in the mad hunt for mineral resources, have peaked in the recent years. A million mutinies are now on. So are state repressions. A veritable war is going on in large areas of central and eastern India in the name counter-insurgency. Draconian laws like the UAPA Act 2008, and its various state-level variants, are now again in force forcing us to recall the Emergency days.
It is against this backdrop, the Citizens Initiative for Peace (CIP), Mumbai has organised a pubic-cum-press meet to recount the experiences of horror and their grim relevance today. Also to build up stronger mass resistance by raising the levels of public awareness.
Sri Kuldip Nair, veteran journalist and a prominent fighter against the Emergency Raj
Com. Ashok Dhawale, State Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Prof. Pushpa Bhave, a prominent social and peace activist, also a figher against the Emergency Raj
Venue: The Press Club, Mumbai
Date & Time: June 25, 4-6 pm.
All are invited to join.
Asad Bin Saif, Avinash Kadam, Bhagwan Keshbhat, Dolphy D'souza Dr. Arif, Jatin Desai, K V Thomas, Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Madhav Menon, Manmeet, Meena Menon, Nandita Shah R K Salil, Ramesh Pimple, Soheb Lokhandwala, Sukla Sen