4 Questions For The Congress About Indira And Emergency

Published: June 29, 2018 06:44 IST

On the night of June 25, 1975, when Emergency was imposed in India by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the first casualty was the Indian Press. It was muzzled and free opinion was crushed through draconian censorship laws.

The second casualty was the foreign press. Many foreign correspondents were asked to leave the country. The first of the correspondents to be expelled was from The Washington Post; four days after the declaration of the state of emergency. The correspondents of The Times (London), Newsweek, Far Eastern Economic Review and TheDaily Telegraph left within next few days as they refused to sign an undertaking prepared by the Indira government which would commit them "to comply with the censorship guidelines and the instructions issued there under." The BBC had to close its New Delhi office in August, 1975.

Some members of the foreign press corps, however, managed to stay back in the country and wrote eye-opening accounts of the way Indira Gandhi acted as a dictator and Congress leaders and workers trampled upon democracy. These accounts are important as we don't get much information from the Indian newspapers and magazines about those days due to a severe clamp down on them.

These dispatches from some of the most reputed journalists across the world and their personal experiences revealed that Indira Gandhi was no less a dictator than Adolf Hitler. Evidence of this was provided by journalist Oriana Fallaci in an article dated October 4, 1975 in "The Australian".

"Mrs Gandhi had taken my arm and was relaxed and friendly after the tension of long hours of our interview. She asked about my job and what difficulties I encountered....but when we reached the outer door she fell silent. An aged beggar lying on a heap of rags was asleep on the pavement. Besides him a cow was evacuating its bowels soiling him with its excrement. I murmured, 'Things certainly do move a bit slowly in India.' I had barely uttered these words when five steely fingers gripped my arm and an icy voice retorted, 'What do you want me to do?' I am surrounded by a bunch of idiots. And Democracy!' I never reported the phrase because she had uttered it outside our interview. I am publishing it now because these words do much to explain the despotism with which she is ruling the country after the coup."

William Borders, like many others, drew an analogy in an article published in The New York Times on July 28, 1975. Talking about the excesses of Indira government, Borders commented, "All this recalls the abuse of emergency powers under President Hindenburg in Weimar Germany that opened the way for Hitler." He went on to make another compelling observation: "...the two great names Mrs Gandhi dishonoured that of her father, Jawahar Lal Nehru, and that of the founder of democratic India, Mohandas K. Gandhi...two men whose views would doubtless land them in jail today if they were still alive."

Eminent journalist Christopher Sweeney writes in one of his articles (The Guardian, July 24, 1976), "At least twice my hotel room was broken into and searched. In Bombay, five hours after a meeting with J.P. Narayan, I returned to my hotel room to find the bottom torn out of a suitcase, drawers still open and clothes dumped in disorder." He goes on to add, "When I complained of the continued harassment by the government agents and asked Mr Haksar (the official spokesman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to explain why it had been necessary to organise breakings into my rooms, he replied that unless I left the country, as soon as possible, there would be a 'further prospect of Physical inconvenience.' "

Le Monde (Paris) reported on October 31, 1976, "Today the leader of the government is answerable to no one and the Indian Union's federal character has become blurred. The decision making centres are the Prime Minister's Office, the police and the intelligence agencies."

The Times (London) reported on October 14, 1976 that the Indian government had issued secret circulars to the Directorate of Audio-Visual Publicity (DAVP), the main arm of government that released advertisements to the newspapers on behalf of government departments and ministries. These circulars specifically talked about banning the advertisements to publications who were not toeing the government line.

Many foreign newspapers also reported several deaths when people opposed compulsory sterilization of men around the country and riots broke out which was a favourite project of Indira's son Sanjay Gandhi, known to be one of the key figures behind the iron curtain. The issue hasn't been discussed much with most people not even aware that such deaths had happened when police resorted to firing on common people opposing compulsory sterilisation.

In view of these facts, the Congress' stand to defend Indira in recent days raises several questions. First, is the Congress defending emergency? Second, will Congress apologise for the excesses conducted during emergency? Third, what is the guarantee that Congress, if brought back to power, will not do the same thing as it continues to be quite unapologetic about this? Fourth, does Congress have the moral right to speak about freedom of press ?

The Congress' stand on the Emergency has grave implications for the Indian democracy where a party refuses to be even apologetic about the past deeds of its leaders which were condemned worldwide and are considered to be the darkest time since India's independence.

(Arun Anand is an RSS leader and CEO, Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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