July 05, 2005
The 1975 emergency: Thees saal ke baad
Thirty years ago, millions of Indians woke up on June 26th to find that a state of internal emergency had been declared under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution. I probably did it too, except there were still six months to go before I was born. Now that is one truth which may never be out.
What happened during the emergency has been fairly well documented. On June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court ruled that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's election to the Lok Sabha was void. Ms. Gandhi chose to appeal and that appeal was heard by Justice VR Krishna Iyer. On June 24th, he conditionally stayed the order but refused to allow Ms. Gandhi to take part in Parliamentary proceedings. The Prime Minister had obviously anticipated all this and went ahead with declaring emergency.
Various politicians and journallists recount what they were doing when emergency was declared. What were you doing then?
In 2001, the Indian Express ran a feature on the 25th anniversary of the emergency. Frontline, the fortnightly magazine, also had a piece on the impact of the emergency on Indian democracy.
Regardless of what 'Cho' Ramaswamy says and the frequent manner in which agents of the Indian Constitution act against democracy, I really do doubt if something of the same nature could happen again.
For starters, we're a far more open economy than we were thirty years ago. Any such act of ours would directly impact us economically. FDI and FII inflow would trickle, or perhaps even cease. Any aid or developmental packages that we're part of would probably be suspended as well. That act of ours will almost certainly scupper any aspirations we have to the UN Security Council. Strangely enough though, you dont necessarily need to be a democracy to get fat aid packages, military packages, etc. Then again, it also seems like you don't need to be a democracy to be a permanent member of the UNSC either!
During the 18 months of emergency, from all reports, it seems like the media was really active in its opposition to censorship and other draconian measures adopted by the government. Hence it is probably safe to assume that a far more mature media, with a lot of money muscle and political connections now, would oppose any such imposition with the same, or perhaps more, zeal. Given the huge number of media houses which are listed on the stock exchanges and the likelihood of a flight of 'moolah' from the capital markets if emergency is declared, there is just too much at stake for them.
People like you and me, who believe that they are fairly educated individuals, may have their own take on the emergency. If you dont particularly care for personal freedom and hate government officials, especially those of the Regional Transport Office and similar ilk, you'll love an emergency. If it means those corrupt, idle bastards can be sacked or forced to productively work 16 hours a day, why not?! While I would terribly love to see the latter happen, I intensely value my personal freedom, which is why I hate it when governments impose rules on wearing helmets.
Given the total lack of personal freedom in an emergency situation, I would never welcome it. Would you? Is the potential efficient functioning of bureaucracy in a country a price good enough to pay for the absence of personal freedom?
Labels: lok sabha