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A Sense of Deja Vu

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Neeraja Kannan Kutty
thegeminian // 27 // Bangalore
While watching the Malayalam movie Piravi, I got curious and I started reading articles about the Rajan Case. One thing led to another, and somehow I ended up reading about the Emergency of 75. As I kept reading about it, the plot seemed unmistakably familiar. I realised that the recent ‘unrest’ happening in India, the JNU row, was following the exact script of the Emergency.
In 1975, Indra Gandhi was found guilty in an election-fraud case, filed by Raj Narain, by the High Court of Allahabad. The court declared her election to be invalid and she was unseated from the Lok Sabha. Gandhi challenged this decision in the Supreme Court, but it upheld the decision of the High Court. The Supreme Court ‘s verdict meant that she would lose all privileges she received as an MP and she was barred from voting or contesting in elections for the next six years. However, she continued to be the Prime Minister.
The day after the Supreme Courts ‘s ruling, Jayprakash Narayan organised a huge rally against Gandhi in Delhi. The protest called for the state police to abide by the rules and to respect the constitution- which in effect meant that if unethical and/or immoral demands were made by the government (and its officials), the state police must not follow through. This rally was seen as inciting political unrest in the country, which ultimately led to the declaration of the emergency of 1975. In a matter of hours, after the then President of India, Fakhrudin Ali Ahmed, declared the emergency, most political opposition leaders were arrested and power supply to major newspapers was cut.
Why? With the ghosts of the India-Pakistan war looming over the nation,  Indira Gandhi and her government felt that any internal disturbances which challenged the government was an imminent threat to national security and in such an event, democratic freedom could be suspended – using the very Constitution that warranted such a freedom to its citizens. As soon as the emergency was declared, anybody who openly challenged the government or who were perceived threats were put behind bars. The government detained many activists and protesters. Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani were among those arrested. Organisations like the RSS and Jamaat-e-Islaami were banned. The President’s rule was imposed in states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, which were ruled by anti-Indira parties.
The 42nd Amendment, considered to be “one of the lasting legacies” of the Emergency, clearly states that the citizens of India are custodians of the values provided within the Constitution of India. It goes on to say that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, it’s only keepers are the people.”
During the emergency, the power of the state police was abused all over the country, as to which the Rajan case stands testimony to. When Kishore Kumar refused to sing for the promotional rally for the Congress party in Mumbai, all his songs were unofficially banned from playing on the All India Radio and Doordarshan – which continued until the end of the Emergency in 1977. As a part of Sanjay Gandhi’s compulsory sterilisation program, many men were forced to undergo vasectomy. These are just some of the atrocities that were committed as a part of the forced nationalism campaign.
In spite of being completely aware that I might get labelled as a Sanghi by the liberal thinkers, let me also add this: during this time, the Economist apparently described RSS as being the only non-left revolutionary force in the world, which had only one thing in its mind while resisting the Emergency: to bring democracy back to India. The participation of the Sikhs in the resistance and the “Campaign to Save Democracy” from the “fascist tendencies of the Congress” cannot be ignored.
Now, where does this bring us? How does this history affect us today? Doesn’t this narrative seem awfully familiar? It is the exact script that is being used, funnily enough, by the Congress to continually propagate a false sense of political and communal unrest in the country today. It is all there: use of national media for political propaganda, use of buzzwords like Fascism, Saving the Democracy, Entitlement of Free Speech, Liberty etc. The Communist Left, at the time of the Emergency, had some principles and ideologies that it believed in. What is left of that Left, is a diluted, completely watered down version of power-hungry and corrupt leaders and a perpetually disillusioned handful of students. These communist liberals are so brainwashed that they seem to suffer from a constant victimhood syndrome.
Had the Congress party stayed out of this mess, the JNU row might have taken a different direction. The common man who have been conveniently given labels like Sanghis and Nationalists by the evangelists of free speech and freedom of expression would not have had the sudden political awareness and (might I say) the unity this event has caused. That is where the plot fell through. Lot of the diplomatic intellectuals claim that the event was taken out of context and exaggerated by the BJP and media that support the party. What does that really mean? Is the debate really about what is and is not ‘anti-national’? Or is it just a round of whodunnit? Irrespective of who organised the event, such an event, commemorating a man who was a terrorist is anti-national. Even if you’re going to argue that there was not enough proof to convict Afzal Guru as a terrorist, slogans threatening to destroy India, to shatter the nation into pieces, is anti-national and a threat to national security. Especially in this age and time, when terrorist attacks are so common. I honestly do not get how that is so difficult to understand.
Coming from the kin of Indira Gandhi, the freedom of speech and expression debate loses its tangent. Needless to say, the Communist party, which is hoping to tie the knot with the Congress party in the upcoming elections, so that it can save its own face, has lost any credibility it had. The Communist party and its many liberals are reduced to being nothing but pawns that the Congress is using to distract and misinform the people of this country.
Even before the current government was elected, such a narrative was being propagated. Right before the election, I remember seeing most social media platforms being flooded with posts like “If BJP comes to power, women can’t walk outside freely. Women can’t dress the way they want. Muslims and Christians would have to flee the country if a “Hindutva” propagating government is elected.” Someone I know even went to the extent to saying that they are secretly glad they don’t have a Muslim sounding name, despite of being a Muslim, because else, they won’t feel safe to stay in a country governed by a “Hindutva” government.
Why is the opposition doing this? No matter how hard they dig, the only dirt they can actually pull on the current Prime Minister is the Gujarat riots and his alleged participation in it. And ever since he’s been a candidate, the opposition has made sure to remind the people of what he has “done”- trying to terrorize the common man with such a narrative. Riddled with scandals, the Congress really had nothing else to offer. It was pretty clear that they were going to lose that election. So they chose to play really low and extremely dirty politics. And they still stick with that narrative, trying to continuously demerit the PM using the constant terror of communal violence. As recent as this week, a freelance, sting-operative journalist, Pushp Sharma whose credibility is very questionable has been arrested – accused of forging RTI query to prove that the Modi government is Anti-Muslim. And this is just one of the many attempts to propagate this hate politics. And to be honest, if the JNU incident didn’t take place, it might have even worked. But, the congress got ahead of itself and maybe got too excited. And it couldn’t stay away from the limelight, leading to the numerous blunders it has been committing.
But that’s not what worries me. These leaders might be well versed in the lowly games of politics. What worries me is the state of today’s student communities and universities.
The student community has always been the most feared source of resistance in any part of the world. Debates and discussions that happen in universities help students to critically analyse and continuously challenge the status quo, as and when required. And no government, no matter what they do, can dismiss this power of the student community. But sadly, today, “students” are not just students. They are political leaders in the making. They come with an agenda and that renders itself to corruption. Any resistance or revolution is a call for change. It is for a collective good. The essence of any revolution is ideology. Not personal ambition. Not a political agenda. But today, there is no such ideology which has not been polluted with personal ambition. There are no role models either. And political ideology has been, inevitably, reduced to dirty corrupt personal agendas. That is where the system has failed. Any student community that blindly follows one narrative for the sake of opposing another are not revolutionaries. They are troublemakers. Anyone who cannot critically evaluate their own stance are not leaders, but pawns. Disillusioned pawns who are tricked into thinking that they are leaders. They are victims – but of their own minds and fallacies. They can’t save anyone because they are in deep trouble themselves.
The sooner they realize this, the better.

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Neeraja Kannan Kutty
thegeminian // 27 // Bangalore

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