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In 2018, the shadow of Emergency is reincarnating itself, limits are being imposed on freedom of expression

By Gautam Thaker*
In the last week of June, BJP lashed out at the Congress on the Emergency clamped in 1975. From Mumbai the Prime Minister and from Ahmedabad the party president uttered strong words of criticism. They showed aggressive gestures as if it were the last attempt to launch an attack on the Congress before the forthcoming elections of 2019.
Actually, they should have also revealed the outcome of four years administration and tasks completed, but it did not happen.
Indeed, we all need to understand or realize as to why the Emergency was clamped by Indira Gandhi. At that point of time, there was unbearable inflation and unimaginable corruption. In the year 1974, on both these counts, violent agitations were spearheaded by students. Known as Nav Nirman agitations, these were also called roti riots. These spread throughout the country under the leadership of Jay Prakash Narayan.
Indira felt that, in order to stick to power, new, stringent laws would have to be enacted. As if this was not enough, the Allahabad High Court issued a directive banning her to contest elections for next six years. She felt that by attacking fundamental rights aimed at preventing liberty of thought, speech and expression, and distancing people by misleading them, she could stick to the reins of power. Hence, she announced for press censorship and banned freedom of thought, speech and expression.
People of the country could not tolerate this and all the parties joined together and gave the leadership to Jay Prakash Narayan in 1977. As a result of Parliamentary elections, people secured second independence. People of the country did an excellent task, worthy of inscribing in golden letters in the country's history.
Against this backdrop, comparisons are bound to be made. In 2018, as if, the shadow of the Emergency has reincarnated itself. Limits are being sought to be imposed on the freedom of expression. Especially, dangers are mounting against mass media, media personnel and journalists. Some of them have even been murdered.
Lack or absence of truthful news because of Goebbelsian propaganda, and what has come to be identified as godi media (sitting in the laps of authorities), are a matter of concern. In the name of patriotism and cultural nationalism, freedom of writing, and especially freedom of speech, are sought to be curbed. Corruption has reached at its peak.
On the economic front, people have not yet resuscitated themselves from the assault and shock of demonetization and imposition of the Goods and Services Tax. Systematic efforts are being made to suppress and cow down activists struggling without allegiance to any one party for preservation and protection peoples liberties. Anybody expressing voice of dissent is being labeled or branded as insurgent.
On evaluating of the entire situation prevailing in 1975, this year, 2018, it appears as if we are being pushed backwards by 43 years. In view of arbitrary, anti-people, dictatorial approach of todays rulers, concerned citizens and those in favour of constitutional democracy are in a state of distress. Even ruling party leaders are reported to have begun stating that more serious and unimaginable situation, worse than the Emergency, has arisen.
When democratic values are being violated and rulers are attempting to stick to power by disregarding constitutional provisions, it does pose a big question as to how to struggle against the five Ms -- namely Money, Muscles, Madira (liquor), Media and Machines (EVM). There is also the need to face a situation where the structure of democracy is sought to be intangibly sucked or squeezed from within.
While issues of education and health have degenerated to an extreme, people would have to unite for safeguarding our democratic values. A situation has arisen where, in order to preserve our rights and liberties, we would need to remain constantly awake, ready to face consequences. Indeed, people would need be united irrespective of their caste, creed or racial affiliation. The ruling party would have to be made to take quick and effective steps to solve the problems faced by the poor to control the deteriorating situation.
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*General secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat. Contact: gthaker1946@gmail.com

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