“Remembering the atrocities of the Emergency” Anniversary Seminar in Allahabad point to an eerie similarity with Present Times.
26 June 2018
Remembering the atrocities of the Emergency, this darkest chapter of Indian history, The PUCL assembles each year hundreds of courageous activists, human rights victims and students from across the country. This year event is organised under the Allahabad Chapter of the PUCL in which attendees spoke about the Emergency in today’s context. In this serious discussion that lasted for three hours, people have said that the current Fascism is benefiting from the same failures of the past Emergency period: late recognition, underestimation, political indifference and rule above the law. 1970’s India imposed a series of escalating steps of oppression, including demonization, discrimination and isolation of vulnerable communities that evoke what we are seeing today.
It has been 43 years today since the 1975 Emergency declaration by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Indian Emergency of 25th June 1975 to 21st March 1977 was a 21 month period, when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, upon advice by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, declared a state of emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India, effectively bestowing on her the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties. The democracy was brought to a grinding halt and all the fundamental rights and legal remedies protected by the Constitution of The Republic of India were suspended. Nevertheless, her emergency rule faced immense criticism and is undoubtedly one of the most controversial periods of the political history of Independent India.
Several commentators have claimed that the current situation in India in several ways mirrors those dark days of Emergency. They have drawn parallels between Indira Gandhi and Modi, as well as alleging that our country is turning into a republic of fear and violence, where mob-lynching is a common occurrence. The neutral and critical pieces of reports are rare and major media houses show the tone of appeasement and impaired by paid and fake news. The judiciary is being denigrated, both internally and by external agencies, including political parties. The Opposition parties are seeking an impeachment of the Chief Justice itself. All institutions of democracy, including the Judiciary, the RBI, the Election Commission and the Free Press stressfully defending the reluctant clutches of state power. The agrarian distress and economic discontent is growing. Making matters worse is the surge of violence against minorities and the Dalit lower castes. The assault on civil liberties and freedoms has intensified.
OD Singh, former Secretary-General of PUCL Upra, who presided over the seminar, said that there have been emergencies like situation in different places before and after the Emergency announcement in our country, such as Tebhaga, the movement of Telangana, The current situation in Kashmir etc. He said that PUCL was born in the Emergency and today it is more dangerous than before and in these turbulent times, PUCL like organizations are more important than ever and need to be more robust and active.
Keeping the seminar alive, Advocate KK Roy narrated about the extraordinarily dangerous times we are living with where all columns of democracy filling with fascist elements. Despite constitutional and legislative prohibitions of any kind of discrimination, Marginalised communities continue to suffer violence. Today’s Dalit and Minorities are on the target of the state itself, Recent examples are numerous atrocities against minority communities and other vulnerable groups especially Dalits. Constant suppression is the new norm like the Bhima-Koregaon arrests in which activists and lawyers have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The draconian UAPA was imposed to keep citizens incarcerated for long periods of time, on vague charges, and without affording them an opportunity to answer their accusers in a swift and fair trial. On the other hand people like Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan have been booked with National Security Act (NSA). But the real perpetrators of violence roam freely. Impunity, or the fact that perpetrators of crimes granted immunity or be exempted from punishment, has been one of the serious impediments to justice and is the new social order we are facing.
Human Rights Activist, Ansar Indori of NCHRO, highlighted the ‘Politics of Ban’. The practice of ban continues to expand in India’s political firmament, with the increasing aggression of the Hindutva brigade and a political regime driven by its ideology. Banning was an important tool in Government’s suppression. Efforts to limit critical voices through the cancellation or suspension of registration of thousands of NGOs, including groups advocating for human rights and even public health groups are on the rise. Recently two mass organizations Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti (MSS) and Popular Front of India (PFI) were banned in the state of Jharkhand. MSS and PFI have been working for the downtrodden for years, fight in the public sphere for equality. The ‘politics of ban’ aims to divert the public discourse away from the government’s failure and to silence opposition to the government’s anti-people policies. He also narrated the extrajudicial executions and targeted killings of vulnerable communities in Uttar Pradesh where the police playing the role of secret judge, jury and executioner. Fake encounters are essentially the execution of disarmed or unarmed men, under the Yogi Sarkar is in large scale which raises many important questions for the rule of law and criminal justice system in our country.
Comrade Harishchand Dwivedi associated with Trade Union and Working class ,said Only in the election time rulers remember poor, For Indira Gandhi it was “Garibi Hatao” (eliminate poverty). At this time, Modi is also presenting himself as Messiah of Poor. But in reality Our rank of 100 in the ‘Hunger list’ is a matter of shame. The people should never let any government forget that nearly 22 per cent of India’s population is still poor and they also have the right to a life of dignity. Now Modi government is trying hard to remove its tag of anti-poor, anti-farmer and pro-corporate before election as usual.
PUCL’s Allahabad unit president, Suneet Singh also addressed the Seminar.
Ashish Mittal of CPI ML New Democracy added that the fascism of this time is not fascism of the time of Hitler Mussolini, where elections and civil rights were abrogated. Today’s fascism has molded the elections and the media in its favor. It can be resisted only by peaceful mass people struggles.
Ram Kailash of AIKMS, while mentioning the incident of forced disappearance of the Dalits from the pond land in Kondhiaara Block of Allahabad, said that dissenters being branded as anti-national and Maoists. The feeling of insecurity and fear enforced disappearance generates is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects communities and society as a whole. The slogan “Jai Shri Ram” is used for communal mobilisation and the amalgamation of religion and politics proved to be extremely beneficial for BJP.
Anand Malviya and Prakrash from CFD raised concern over the trees being cut in the name of development. Anand Malviya added that the protector of trees and environment is being described as “anti-development” as a whole. Vishwajej, the convener of the anti-fascist movement, said that tribals are fighting the real battle to save the environment, who are being driven out of the forest branding Maoists. There has been no development for the tribal. The land, the forests, the rivers have been exploited for resources. At the behest of the mining corporations, the government takes away the land and the forests of the tribal people and thereby their livelihoods away from them. We must have the courage to speak out against human rights violations, and the courage to act. With this courage, with energy and with good will, we can overcome this crisis.
Rithesh from Inklabi Student Front said that the roots of today’s fascism are present in the emergency which cannot be defeated by only elections. To counter the growing force of Sangh Parivar Fascism it will require a broad coalition of people of all backgrounds, unite and form a sustainable and nuanced coalition. Bahadur Ram and RP Kaithal of LIC Trade Union attending the seminar said, indeed there is a provision for emergency in our Constitution, but Indira Gandhi misused it for evil than good.
According to Seema Azad, Vice President, PUCL Allahabad Unit, we should keep doing this kind of open forum, because we are showing the whole country that we haven’t forgotten the day of Emergency; the day that so many people sacrificed themselves for freedom and democracy and for a better life for the next generations in our country. When there is no authority to question abuse of power, no mechanism to control it and no institution to make it accountable then that is the easy road to tyranny.
The seminar began with a song by Inklabi Student Front. The seminar adjourns with a conclusion note by PUCL’s Subedar Singh. A large number of people participated in the seminar, which lasted for 3 hours, concluded with a strong message to uphold the values of democracy, justice, peace and harmony.