Is there an undeclared Emergency today?

The decision to put a one-day ban on Hindi NDTV, since withheld, came as a big jolt to the country. A major channel was asked to stop broadcast. The charge was that its broadcast on Pathankot revealed sensitive information regarding national security. On the same Pathankot issue this government had allowed the Pakistan authorities to come to the same airport. The channel pleaded that its programme was balanced and nothing related to national security was relayed which was not in the public domain and seen through other media. It is clear that NDTV Hindi in particular has been debating issues which are uncomfortable to this government. Apparently, the pressure of all-round protests forced the government to hold its decision for the time being. The issue of Bharat mata ki jai nationalism, the issues related to JNU and Hyderabad Central University (HCU), Una in particular, were debated in ways critical of the ruling party.

Since Modi Sarkar has come to power there is a qualitative change in the political scenario. Right at the beginning we witnessed many attacks on churches. We saw the interference in the institutions of national importance like FTII, IITs, JNU and HCU, among others. Incompetent persons with right-wing leanings were installed in at most of these institutions. The places of learning are a special target. JNU was targeted labeling it as den of anti-nationals. A cooked up video was used to defame the student leaders of JNU. In HCU Rohith Vemula was forced to commit suicide. The growing intolerance led to returning of awards by luminaries. The non-issue of beef was blown up and a hysterical mob lynched Mohammad Akhlaq. Several others were killed by gauraksha gangs. Later dastardly attack on Dalits in Una, Gujarat caused nationwide Dalit anger. Sections of media have been brow beating the liberals and secular elements while giving a free run to Hindu nationalists.

 It is in this backdrop that the Bhopal encounter has taken place where eight Muslim youth, alleged to be terrorists, were killed in an extra-judicial manner. The incident as it has been presented clearly shows that the version of the police has lots of holes in it. In JNU, one student, Najeeb has been missing for last three weeks. His mother was manhandled by the police. Is it undeclared Emergency, where such blatant violations of human and democratic rights are taking place? Emergency was a condemnable authoritarian regime where from the top a dictatorship was imposed. Press censorship was brought in. Surely, the present times are different in some ways.  

 To begin with the dominance of the corporate sector and doing away of the rights of workers and farmers along with undermining schemes like MNREGA, right to food, right to health and right to education show that the orientation of this government is to ally with big capital. The complimentary part of this phenomenon is the promotion of Hindu nationalism. Right from the word go the sentence, “I am nationalist and I am born in a Hindu family” by Modi marked the shape of things to come. With this the targeting of minorities on the issue of Uniform Civil Code and beef is there. Ultra-nationalism is manifest in the handling of Kashmir and relations with Pakistan, in particular. The use of Uri and consequent “surgical strike” to bloat the chest of this political dispensation is very much in the air. Permission to thousands of NGOs working in the social sector has been stopped on frivolous grounds. The attack on Pakistani artists is another instance where sectarian nationalism is on an unrepentant march. It is to be remembered that we have a bilateral trade to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees with Pakistan. With China similar sentiments have been expressed with demands for boycott of Chinese goods, despite the fact that the contract of the proposed Saradar Patel statue running into thousands of crores of rupees has been given to China. Popular sentiments are being guided into negativity and hate towards neighboring countries, religious minorities and human rights activists.  

The stifling of democratic freedoms, welfare of the poor, the intimidation of minorities and human rights defenders is running parallel to the creation of mass hysteria and mobilisation of masses to uphold the agenda of the ruling party. Those questioning the state are being put in the dock. In a democracy the state is answerable to the people. Now this formula is being reversed. In democracy questioning the authorities is the bedrock of the Constitution. So something is seriously amiss, something which is more sinister than Emergency. Something which has deeper portents for democracy is being legitimised and glorified by the ruling party and its parent organisation.

So, how does one characterise it is not a matter of mere academic concern. Recently, CPM leader Prakash Karat stated that the present dispensation is mere authoritarian and not fascist. The distinction between two has been a matter of historical debate. The main features of fascism have been centrality of state over people, overarching Leader, dominance of Corporate, doing away with rights of poor, targeting of minorities, ultra nationalism and aggressive policies towards the neighbors. The crucial point for those wanting to preserve the democracy and Indian Constitution is to build up social and political alliances, irrespective of some differences, to fight this raging politics of Hate, politics of sectarian nationalism.

During 1990s, BJP did project itself as a ‘Party with a Difference’, and that is so much true. It is the only party whose agenda is guided by the Hindu nationalist RSS, which rejects democracy and secularism as Western imports and wants to stick to the laws of Hindu Holy Scriptures. These scriptures are the same, one of which was burnt by Ambedkar as a mark of protest against its values of caste and gender hierarchy, values of Brahminism. Debates can continue but politics to defend Indian Constitution cannot wait!    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2016 on page no. 6

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