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India: The New ‘Emergency’!


Friday 28 June 2019, by siawi3


The New ‘Emergency’!

Written by Fr Cedric Prakash SJ

Published on: June 25, 2019

First Published on: June 18, 2019

The country will never forget that infamous night of June 25/26, 1975, when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had a state of emergency declared all over the country. During that dark chapter of the country’s history which lasted for a twenty-one-month period till March 21, 1977, civil liberties were suspended, freedom of speech and expression was totally muzzled, political opponents of the Government and those who protested the emergency were imprisoned and human rights violations by those in power were the order of the day! The most obvious response for the people of India was to say “never again!†and to ensure that those dark days would never visit the country again!

Sadly, that is not the case today! Forty-plus years later we live in a new ‘emergency’ in India! In a brilliant and hard-hitting expose ‘Democracy can die in daylight too’ (The Hindu, June 13, 2019)on the role of the media in the recently concluded general elections, Krishna Prasad a former Editor-in-Chief, Outlook, and former member of the Press Council of India writes, “When the media’s darkest days — the censorship under Indira Gandhi’s 21 months of Emergency — are invoked, L.K. Advani’s quote that the press crawled when asked to bend is airily recalled. But at least the media of the time was adhering to a formal order which had a start date and an end date. In the 21st century, it didn’t take a presidential order for the ‘feral beasts’ to suspend their instincts, to look the other way, to stoke majoritarian fires, to fearlessly question not the ruling party but the Opposition, and usher in Modi 2.0†. The hard fact is that freedom of speech and expression is throttled as never before. One only has to switch on some of the so-called ‘mainstream’ channels or glance at the headlines of some dailies, to realise how biased they are and how afraid they are to focus on news which are truthful and objective.

Prasad blatantly states how media has abdicated their core responsibilities, “notwithstanding Mr. Modi’s advertised disdain for journalists, making the media forget their core tasks — to witness, to verify, to investigate, and to make sense, in the words of the British media scholar George Brock — was always a vital weapon in the manufacture of consent for the ‘Gujarat Model’. Despite early failures as Chief Minister, Mr. Modi deftly achieved this goal. Established media houses were tamed by patronising their competitors. Some pesky editors were reined in or eased out by intimidating owners. Advertisements were turned off and on to let the bottom line send signals to managers†. So today if some media personnel have the audacity to witness, to verify, to investigate, and to make sense – the writing on the wall is clear! The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has recently ( June 15) barred NDTV Ltd.’s three key promoters -Prannoy Roy, Radhika Roy and their holding firm-from the capital market for two years! No guessing why!

On June 8, Prashant Kanojia, a freelance journalist, was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police in Delhi for a tweet that had “objectionable comments” on Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Kanojia, was picked up from his home in Delhi after a complaint by a police officer in Lucknow, alleging he tried to “malign” Adityanath’s. Kanojia’s wife Jagisha Arora challenged his arrest in a petition to the Supreme Court. Ordering his immediate release on bail the Supreme court bench said that it disapproves the deprivation of right to liberty by the state “A citizen’s right to liberty is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. It is a fundamental right granted under the Constitution and can’t be infringed upon by the state†Whilst the prompt intervention and decision by the Supreme Court needs to be applauded, there has been a wave of protests on social media on the way freedom of speech and expression are being throttled in the country. ‘The Editors Guild of India’ condemned the arrest of Kanojia and the editor and head of a NOIDA-based television channel, Nation Live, Ishita Singh and Anuj Shukla, saying, “The police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to an authoritarian misuse of laws. The Guild sees it as an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression…. a brazen misuse of law….†On June 11, a journalist, who was covering a train derailment, in western Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli was beaten up on camera by a group of GRP personnel. The group was seen repeatedly slapping and thrashing the journalist while he tries to reason with them (the video has gone viral). According to ANI, the journalist associated with a news channel, said, "They were in plain clothes. One hit my camera and it fell down. When I picked it up, they hit and abused me. I was locked up, stripped and they urinated in my mouth.â€

On June 12, an eight-member team of the Pune police raided the Ranchi residence of Jesuit Father Stan Swamy. It was the second such raid on the 83-year-old’s house since August 2018. Fr. Swamy, a great upholder of the rights of Adivasis, is an ‘accused’ in the Bhima Koregaon/Elgaar Parishad case in which police have so far booked 23 people, including prominent rights activists and intellectuals. The ‘Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha’ condemned the raids on Stan Swamy and arrests of other human rights activists saying, “the central government and media houses close to the BJP claim that the human rights activists were part of a Maoist conspiracy related to the Bhima-Koregaon incident. This concocted story seems to be part of a larger propaganda, based on terms like “urban Naxals†, aimed at stifling any criticism of the government. The raids and arrests are part of the government’s growing attempts to stifle dissent and intimidate those who are fighting for justice. Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha demands an immediate end to the raids, dropping of all false charges against human rights activists across the country and release of those who are arrested. These harassments are politically motivated and wholly unjustified†.

The throttling of ‘freedom of speech and expression’ has been happening with frightening regularity in India-particularly in the last five years! Media personnel, academics, intellectuals and others who stand up for justice, transparency and truth and have had the courage to voice these non-negotiables, have had to pay a heavy price; they have been hounded and harassed, arrested and tortured and some even killed! A few months ago, when ‘Reporters Without Borders’ released its annual global press freedom index, India was ranked a measly 140 out of 180 countries. A pathetic performance from the world’s largest democracy!

The grip that throttles the essence of Indian democracy, must be released. Bertolt Brecht, the German poet and fierce critic of the Nazi regime, provides a cue

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.

It is time now for those who cherish the freedom of speech and expression, to wake from their slumber and their inability or fear to act! But do we have the courage to halt the new ‘emergency’ being foisted on the nation?



Modi’s Undeclared Emergency: Academia feels the Heat

Written by Prabhakar Sinha

Published on: May 3, 2016

Photo: Universities Under Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi, a pithy comparison

Even during the 21 months of the Emergency between 1975-1977, the bastions of learning were never shabbily treated as they are now

I was a teacher at a University in Bihar in 1974, and played a very active role in the J.P-led (Jayaprakash Narayan-led) movement. Along with a few colleagues, I was detained under the dreaded MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act, 1971) and was suspended from service under the rules. After release from the jail , we were not discriminated against. Even though it was well known that JP had asked the students to give one year to the country and discontinue their studies, the University treated us, as any other teacher and not like an enemy who might be influencing students to respond to J.P.’s call. Even the students’ organisations affiliated to the Indira Congress and the CPI did not treat us dis-repectfully or interfered with us in any way.

When the emergency was clamped, we continued our activities to oppose Indira Gandhi and the emergency and were detained under the Defence of India Act (1915). Following our release on bail, we were placed under suspension, which was withdrawn only after Indira Gandhi’s defeat and the lifting of the emergency. The suspension order was passed at the instance of the State government. However, the University did not impose any restriction on our entry into the college nor did it interfere with our movement inside college or the university .In fact, even the students ’ organisations affiliated to the Indira Congress and the CPI did not treat us disrespectfully.

Under Narendra Modi, educational institutions are under attack in a planned manner .With Modi coming to power, the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) has suddenly sprung into action. It creates a conflict and then complains to univerisity authorities, who act either on their own or at the instance of government to suppress other organisations.

This happened at the IIT, Chennai, in the Central University, Hyderabad and many other places. The most outrageous was the wholesale attack on JNU .The Union Government went out on full-scale attack, and allowed its goon brigade in black to beat up Kanhaiya Kumar in the court and other JNU students in Patiala court campus with hundreds of policemen looking the other way.

The ABVP, empowered by the administration’s silence and authorities acting in tandem has become a familiar pattern in educational institutions by now .The organisations affiliated to the ruling party and the agencies of the State collaborating in this suppression of the opposition is a well known and time-tested strategy of fascist organisations .

The latest and most naked show of the power of the State is the order regarding Professor Saibaba of Delhi University ‘not to enter the college without permission’. He is physically (90 % ) differently abled. What are the authorities afraid of? They have nothing to fear. But the order is meant to display the iron fist which Modiji had kept concealed in democratic gloves before coming to power. It is the same show of brute power that was evidenced when the CBI raided the residence of Himanchal chief minister just as he was leaving for a Mandir (temple) to perform a Puja on the day of his daughter’s wedding .

The autonomy of universities nurture an atmosphere in which a hundred flowers may bloom and a hundred thoughts may prevail[1]. This is indispensable for pushing further the frontiers of knowledge, and should be protected, at all costs, from Modi’s brutal attack .

(The author is a veteran civil rights activists associated with major movements and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties,PUCL)

[1] Though he did not live up to it, the sound and magnificent call was given by Mao.



Sanjay Kak on the Undeclared Emergency in India and his Book Witness

Published on: November 17, 2017

The filmmaker in conversation with Yogesh S

2 videos here

In this interview with the Indian Cultural Forum, Sanjay Kak discusses the threat to freedom of expression in the undeclared state of emergency India is currently in and his book Witness, which is a collection of photographs by nine photographers from Kashmir.