Remembering Indira Gandhi’s Emergency

Jaspal SinghEmail from friend Jaspal Singh on June 25, 2017 that I meant to post earlier about a situation that feels all too familiar to Pakistanis. The long-running democratic political process in India – interrupted only by Indira Gandhi’s three-year long Emergency in 1975 is one of the reasons the country has done so much better than neighbouring Pakistan. Until the current scenario where, fuelled by signals from the top, mob lynchings and vigilante violence in the name of religion are rising. Some argue that the Emergency sowed those seeds. Read on. 

Reflections. June 25,2017

Forty two years ago today, a state of emergency was declared in India by Indira Gandhi  I remember that day very clearly. I had summer job in Vermont and lived in this idyllic village west of Burlington. The rolling hills were full of flowers. There was a small mountain stream in my backyard. I would wake up and go for a bath in the stream. Every where greenery and flowers. It was like being in paradise. I had no TV, no radio. So I was cut off from the world. A friend  who lived close by came and told me that she had heard on the radio that the prime minister of India had declared emergency and thousands of people had been arrested.

I immediately called my friends in New Haven, who were my classmates. Most of them were sons and daughters of high officials back home. They told me that their parents were giving them news, as there was complete censorship on the newspapers. My friends were saying that their parents were urging them not to come home for summer vacations. My friends were very shocked like most of the country as they were getting blow by blow news from their parents. I also called some friends in Boston area who were studying at Harvard, MIT, BU, Northeastern and other universities. They told me that they were planning to hold a public meeting to discuss the developments in India in few days and asked me to join. So all day was spent calling friends across US and Canada.

Friends in Canada told me that they were planning big rallies to denounce emergency in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and other cities. All across US students and Indian community immediately became active. We also had a friend, whose father was a high official in the Indian embassy, so we were getting information from them as well. The government had asked its embassy and consulates to keep an eye on Indian students and other community members who opposed emergency. Few days later, a public meeting was held in Kresge auditorium at MIT by students from various universities. The auditorium was full. The young organizers were distributing cyclostyled leaflets describing the draconian activities of the police, paramilitary forces in arresting thousands of people. Speaker after speaker described in detail these activities and called upon the people to unite and condemn these attacks on the rights of people and support the movement in India.

As usual, the so called leaders of the community, who were at the head of various organizations , such as India Association of Greater Boston, supported the emergency and Indira Gandhi. They would tell the students not to criticize the government as it brings bad name to the country. They did not represent the sentiments of the community. More than 1000 people had gathered at Kresge auditorium and donated close to 20,000 dollars without the organizers asking for any money. Indira Gandhi and her government withdrew passports of many people. But that did not stop us from denouncing the government. In two cases , the officials at the consulate were friendly so they renewed the passports in spite of instructions from the government.  Vast demonstrations, rallies and manifestations were taking place all across US, Canada,Europe and Australia. The summer went so fast.
U.S. President Trump shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Modi in the Oval Office the White House in Washington
Today, 42 years later, worst conditions than emergency exist in places like Kashmir, Bastar, Northeast and many other places. The ruling elite has learnt from emergency. They are carrying out worst repression but without declaring emergency. State sanctioned lynch mobs are terrorizing people and telling them what to eat, what to say, what to wear and what to think. Charges of sedition and anti national are being thrown at people for criticizing the government. For example the government slapped charges of sedition on 60 students of Punjab University, Chandigarh, who were fighting against fee hike of 800-1300 percent.

Early this morning I saw a clip that said, ” Two Liars in Chief” and showed Modi and Trump hugging each other. I guess birds of same feather stick together. No wonder Trump has called him “true friend”.

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