Exactly 44 years after it was imposed, Emergency remained the dominant theme inside and outside Parliament on Tuesday with leaders across party lines speaking about the need to be vigilant so that the “dark days” do not come back.
In his reply in the Lok Sabha to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminded the House of the date — June 25. “Congress leaders were asking questions — answer this one, who declared Emergency when the spirit of India was trampled upon, media was strangled and India was made a prison just because somebody was scared of losing power… it is a living example of how the court is ignored,” he said.
The reference was to the genesis of the Emergency proclamation from a judgment of the Allahabad High Court on June 12, 1975, that found then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractice and ruled that she could not contest elections. Thirteen days later, Emergency was imposed.
“This June 25 we have to reiterate our commitment to democracy, nobody can forget the sin of trampling upon the Constitution, this taint can never be wiped and should be recalled time and again so that nobody else walks that path again. It is important to remember this day not to criticise anyone but to understand the importance of faith in democratic institutions,” Modi said.
In the Rajya Sabha, BJP’s Vinay Sahasrabuddhe began his speech on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address recalling the Emergency. He said June 25 is considered a black day in the history of India’s democracy. “Describing those days, Atalji (A B Vajpayee) used to say that the entire country had become kind of a jail. The rulers then used to smell a conspiracy behind every tree,” he said.
Concluding his speech during the debate, TMC’s Derek O’Brien said he was speaking on a very important day — “25th of June 44 years ago was the darkest day of India. Democracy was strangled, misused and two years later the people of India gave a fitting reply to those who strangled and mutilated democracy. Today, 25th of June as we begin in 2019… we did not tolerate the Emergency, we will be alert and we will fight under Mamata-di (Banerjee) never to allow a super emergency.”
Outside Parliament, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar accused the West Bengal Chief Minister of having ushered in an Emergency-like situation. “The way Mamata is governing in West Bengal is no less than the Emergency and she is heading a terrible government. The continuing violence in the state is against democracy. BJP and this government is committed towards democracy and we will defend democracy through Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Vishwas. We defended the democracy during the second struggle for Independence during 1975, 1976 and 1977. And like Bengal, wherever there is any problem regarding democracy, we will fight it,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Banerjee had tweeted: “Today is the anniversary of the #Emergency declared in 1975. For the last five years, the country went through a ‘Super Emergency’. We must learn our lessons from history and fight to safeguard the democratic institutions in the country.”
Speaking to journalists outside Parliament, Javadekar said: “The Emergency was imposed by destroying the Constitution. It finished the freedom of the press, freedom of thought, made the entire country a jailhouse. Lok Sabha elections, which are never delayed, were pushed forward from 1976 when they were due… Thousands and lakhs of workers fought against it under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai and Atal Bihari Vajpayee…”
He congratulated all those who had made sacrifices then and suffered. “But this fight was of the people. I am surprised that some leaders are claiming there is Emergency today. There is a free press, there is a free social media. There has been a TV revolution through cable TV. Everybody’s voice can reach the people, whether it’s right or wrong. There is freedom to speak, both inside the House and outside. That is what the Congress had finished. And the leaders who are speaking today were all in the Congress at that time…”
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted, “India is a Secular Democracy. One fundamental pillar, ie of Democracy was hit on this day, 44 years ago as the Emergency. We must remember our fight then to resist it, push it back and then restore democracy. Today, a stronger resolve than in 1975 is required, to fight back attacks on Secular Democracy. This attack is by those who don’t think India belongs to all its citizens. But it does, to all Indians irrespective of which god they pray to (or don’t).”
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted: “On 25th June 1975 Indira Gandhi had imposed #Emergency to save her government. Lakhs of people including opposition leaders, journalists and social activists were jailed. Today I wish to remember every citizen of India who fought against Emergency to restore democracy.”
LJP president and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan tweeted: “This is saddening that a political party that had imposed Emergency in the country, is today making baseless allegations on Modi government of imposing emergency.”