That emergency, and this.
Just as we prepare to remember the 25th anniversary of the draconian event in free India’s history, a series of events and the government’s responses guided by 10 Janpath indicate what everyone always feared but never dared to suggest – the Emergency is back, it’s just in different colours.
How do we commemorate what we hate? India must grapple with that existential question as it prepares to meet, in one week from now, twenty five years of that defining event in India history that left an indelible smudge on the history of democracy – the emergency.
And yet, in all the attendant hyperbole of the occasion it may be possible to miss the clear and present danger in the ruling party’s growing virulence to opposition and the protestations sweeping the country. The argument is this – for while I agree the impression that the conditions of the country mimic the emergency of June 1975 is not totally unfounded, the only error with that analogy is to the other end – that we are already in the throes of another emergency, only we don’t recognize it as yet.
India has changed, as has the world since Mrs. Gandhi’s nervous capitulation to the baser instincts of what we now recognize to be family trait. The rise of media, the internet and general awareness makes it perhaps not possible for any regime which answers to any sort of democracy to rewind to those shameful years in exactly the same fashion. It stands to reason that since the context is different, the form of this new emergency would be too. What has not changed however is the desire for consummate power and the intolerance to the other point of view and an insane abhorrence of anything that doesn’t look like us, or me, or my family.
The tendency to see ghosts is frequently indicative of a chemical imbalance in the mind that leads to visions, or hallucinations. In political parlance, the use of ghosts is more strategic and is used frequently to herd public opinion towards one or the other extreme. The ploy is designed to heighten suspicions, create an environment of perceived danger and thereby cauterize people’s ability to judge or think clearly. This is standard practice in dictatorships, or where despots rule. Germany used this to exciting effect when it wanted the country to rally together against the world and the bogey of the Jews came in handy.
Typically, juntas which have cause to divert attention or create a sense of imbalance within the polity will use this stratagem to meet their ends. The vicious, almost allergic vilification of the RSS by the Congress as almost an extra-national movement, is a classic replication of the theory propounded above. The last two years of the UPA’s campaign in discovering the RSS ‘hand’ in everything, specially bombings and protests and the destabilization of the government, is quaintly reminiscent of Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s ‘foreign hand’ theory that then became the bedrock of her consequent moves to stifle the press, snuff out the opposition and terrorize the populace through the emergency.
The repeated references to the Muslims of India by coterie members of the Gandhi citadel through innuendos and suggestions to the ‘taint’ of activists for being close to the RSS is part of the same stratagem to sow fear and doubt among minorities, leftists and pseudo-liberals where logic and purpose would have served better. The attempt at mobilization of public opinion against the BJP through all instruments of the party machinery is all too apparent as it tries to splice the people’s anger at corruption into communal quarters.
Since all paranoia must be preceded by preparation, parts of our celebrated independent press has shown itself willing to once again tango with the government and fall for the party gambit, reminding us of the those famous lines reminiscent of the last emergency; when asked to bend, they were willing to crawl.
Much of the brouhaha in media has been centered around the Lokpal Bill protests and the distill of which seems to be an agreement that as long as the protests are untainted by the BJP or the RSS, they are kosher and not other wise. Senior journalists and corny Congressmen and women have argued publicly the daft position that social movements have no political validity and yet contradicted themselves by insisting that that the Anna Hazare and Ramdev protests were politicized because of their association with the RSS and the BJP. Quo vadis? Look at the debasement of the discourse – for even if for a moment it were to be accepted that the BJP or the RSS were associated with such protests, is it antithetical to democracy that this should be so? What else is the opposition’s work? The notion that the ruling party makes rules about the nature, form, shape and size of protests and protest movements against itself is another sure sign of debauched democracy.
It is a recorded fact of history that during the emergency imposed by Mrs Gandhi in 1975, it was the RSS which offered the beacon of resistance through its large social network across the country. Observers have noted that the anti-emergency movement was dominated by tens of thousands of RSS cadres, and recorded that the organization shifted to a single point agenda during those years – to bring democracy back to the country – and had prevailed. No wonder the Congress sees the RSS as the only impediment to its grandiose plans of a unilateral power centre in the country. And yet this was not always the case. Conversely, it was Nehru who recognised the seminal role played by the RSS during the critical time of the Chinese aggression and consequently invited the RSS to participate in the 1963 Republic Day celebrations. For a party that thinks nothing of cohabiting with leftists whose derivative philosophy has thrown our nation’s integrity its biggest challenge through Maoist insurgency, to find the nationalistic genre of the RSS anathema, is a mystery to all.
But the madness does not stop here and the Congress’ stilted view is not even a subtle oeuvre anymore. The shame is absent, the sensibility almost gone. And there is mounting evidence of symptoms that prove my point : The CVC appointment in the face of logical opposition by BJP; the serial of scams under the nose of the PM and the refusal to allow a JPC; the trashing of the PAC; the denigration of civil society members through personal attacks; the thrashing of Ramdev’s followers; the clean chit to Congress CM Dixit in Delhi even as she is indicted by the Shunglu Committee; the reversal of the Lokayukta’s decision on a prima facie case regarding a Delhi Minister by the President on the cabinet’s recommendation; the open threats issued by a minister in the government to civil society followed by a reminder that the police action was a lesson for others; the sidelining of opposition parties; the concoction of cases against prominent RSS leaders; the preoccupation with the Gandhi family; the replay of the mother-son syndrome; the propaganda machinery unleashed to defame and abuse – these are all indicators of a functional emergency under a demagogic regime, all signs of bankruptcy, rupture with public trust and a demeaning self obsession that almost always ends in self delusion.
The emergency of 1975, as anyone who saw it at close quarters will tell you, was a result of just that. That we are in another such time today is all about realizing that since the symptoms are the same, the malaise can be no different. Therefore while the fashion is different, the fascism is not.
Picture credit: profiles.google.com
This post has appeared as an op-ed piece in The Pioneer, Delhi on June 18, 2011 under a different headline.