School students should be taught about the Emergency in India to make them aware about the consequences of democracy being derailed, Prasar Bharati chairperson A Surya Prakash says. In a book to be released next week, Prakash has said basic freedoms were curtailed during the Emergency in 1975-77 but its history is largely “hidden” from the younger generation.
“The story of emergency should be told to every generation. For the protection of democratic values, it is very important that they know what happens when democracy is derailed,” Prakash, who heads Prasar Bharati which oversees the functioning of Doordarshan and All India Radio, told PTI. The book looks at the arrests of political activists, media censorship, forced sterilisations, police atrocities and other such developments that took place during the 21 months when Emergency was in force.
It is based on testimonies recorded in the Shah Commission, set up after the Emergency to look into the excesses that took place then, official records and his own experiences as a journalist. Prakash said those born after the Emergency “nightmare” ended may experience “total disbelief” when they learn what transpired during that period.
“Having grown up in the age of the ‘Argumentative Indian’ the Internet, the no-holds-barred social media and cacophonous TV debates, they may find it difficult to comprehend that the Congress party – India’s oldest political party and the party that was at the vanguard of the freedom movement – could have foisted dictatorship on the country and inflicted such cruelty and hardship on the citizens,” Prakash said. He said the younger generation’s ignorance or lack of understanding of what happened during the period was also because “this very importance chapter in the country’s post-independence history is hidden from the post-Emergency generation”.
This needs to be corrected if “we cherish the core values of our Constitution and our democratic way of life”, Prakash said, adding that students in high schools across the country must be told about the Emergency and the findings of the Shah Commission. He said students must know that about “heroes” such as Jayaprakash Narayan, who mobilised the youth in the country in a widespread movement.
“It is because of them that we still breathe free air,” he said. The Prasar Bharati chairman’s book will be released in Ahmedabad on June 24. Information and Broadcasting minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and other senior leaders are expected to attend the event.