Today, June 26, marks the 38th anniversary of the darkest chapter in India’s post-1947 history: The imposition of Emergency by Mrs Indira Gandhi. Rather than step down from office after being held guilty by Allahabad High Court for electoral malpractices, she declared herself Empress of India. Fundamental rights and civil liberties were suspended, all Opposition leaders and tens of thousands of activists were put behind bars, and a virtual dictatorship of the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty was established by trampling upon all notions of democracy and liberty.
Press censorship was imposed to prevent the publication of news and views critical of Mrs Gandhi and the Congress. A death notice surfaced in the ‘Obituaries’ section of The Times of India: “D’Ocracy DEM, beloved husband of T Ruth, loving father of LI Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on June 26.” That just about summed up what was to follow over the next couple of years till Mrs Gandhi and the Congress were booted out of power by the people of India in 1977.
The horrors of the Emergency are too well known to merit elaboration. But I would like to make three points that held true then and hold true even today.
First, the Congress was intolerant of the Opposition in 1975 and would not countenance its First Family, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, being held accountable for its many sins of omission and commission. Today too the Congress believes its First Family, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, is above the law of the land and beyond accountability.
Second, the media, which comprised newspapers in 1975-77, barring the honourable exception of The Statesman and the Indian Express, chose to crawl when asked to bend, reducing the noble concept of a free Press to a grotesque, loathsome caricature. Thirty-eight years later, media has expanded to include numerous television channels, but it still continues to pander to the Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Actually, it’s worse now: Asked to crawl, our media grovels.
Third, the sycophancy that defined the Congress in 1975 remains undiminished, as does the arrogance of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. If the Congress and its supreme leader were scornful of democracy then, they are more so today. Devakanta Baruah, Congress’s notional president, had famously declared: “Indira is India and India is Indira”. Today the courtiers of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty would merrily chant: “Sonia is India and India is Sonia”. The mainstream media, which grandiosely describes itself as ‘national media’, would lend its voice to that obscene chant.