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A ‘Fascist’ Rhetoric to Push the Memories of Emergency to the Background – A Fact File

Emergency 1975

At a time when it is impossible to whitewash the brutality of Emergency, with scores of accounts making this event a grim memory, it seems that the opposition and some opinion-makers have been trying to build-up another narrative that can push the stories about 1975 Emergency to the background. You often hear this section claiming that ‘we are living under an undeclared emergency’. This wordplay doesn’t offer any facts to back up claims.

Let’s take up this attempt of a new narrative and weigh it against facts to ask some hard questions to those who are trying to set such agendas.

They find fascism in the custody of P Chidambaram for a corruption charge that is of extremely serious nature. One may wonder why they never discuss the 19 month imprisonment of former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and BJP leader Shanta Kumar for merely being the opposition leader. Where lies the fascism that they discover every day in the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi and the government of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)?

Priyanka Vadra’s husband is a subject of much noise and sympathy from these usual suspects, especially when there is a raid concerned with his financial improprieties. But do they choose to stand up and talk more about what happened to George Fernandez’s brothers during the emergency? Yes, they were picked up and tortured during the emergency, with one of his brothers even being threatened with their mother’s rape to force them to disclose George Fernandez’s whereabouts. Is it not ‘exciting enough’? Or is there some ‘tyranny of distance’ that has crept in?

It was lovely to see them all admiring Kishore Kumar. Yes, the very same Kishore Kumar who was blacklisted by the Congress government during the emergency, as he had refused to sing for a Congress rally. Becoming an untouchable in the industry for years, he had no one to fall back on. Contrast this with a whole bunch of artists like T M Krishna making wild allegations about the NDA government related to the National Anthem[1] and still performing freely wherever he wishes to. Yet, any criticism of T M Krishna is fascism for them!

The eminent lawyer Pran Nath Lekhi, who had fought to free the Indian National Army of Subhas Bose held captive in Indian jails, was jailed during the emergency only because he had dared to be President of the Delhi High Court Bar Association. That is fascism, not when Prashant Bhushan and the entire PIL gang gets away despite filing false accusations even against Supreme Court judges and cannot take the heat of public criticism.

Fascism is in India, and India’s minorities are being deliberately pushed into camps, and not being forced to have kids, thus imposing population control, an actor had laughingly claimed. He forgot what fascism really means – mass sterilization programs instituted by the Congress during the emergency, with daily targets being set. Is anything of this sort being done by the BJP ruled government, despite being called fascist and what not by so called critics?

A step towards self-regulation of content is not murder of free speech. Recall the day when veteran filmmaker and poet Gulzar’s movie Aandhi got banned during the emergency as it supposedly portrayed the life of Indira Gandhi. Ironically, people now accuse the government of trying to regulate content.

Another question for those attempting to obscure the memory of 1975 emergency with their new set of rhetoric: Do you remember the days of the Emergency, when blank first pages and pages of newspapers were the norm? Do you recall the days when Congress actually unleashed fascist rule? Do you recall how news stories had to be cleared by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry before getting published? This is why your compatriots’ claims to call the government and its leaders fascists at the drop of a hat are hilarious to say the least and seem to be a case of selective amnesia. You see, fascism cannot be discovered by declaring it; it actually comes when you crawl in front of it, which you did.

Constitutional amendments were passed with impunity during the Emergency after throwing opponents into jail. Several controversial steps like six-year term of legislatures were introduced to essentially take steps to trample democracy. Do these people recall how Subramanian Swamy had to stealthily creep in to cast his vote on a bill despite a warrant? Contrast this with the manner in which Modi government adopted constitutional means to modify Article 370, with thorough discussions and feedback from all parties. Who is the real fascist then?

Journalists never had it easy in India. Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar was kept in harsh detention during the emergency because the Indira Gandhi government “wanted to put fear in the minds of journalists. So that they keep quiet.” Contrast this with the fake entitled outrage over a case filed by individuals against a journalist for publishing fake news today, painting it as ‘yet another sign of fascism’.