June 29, 2014

Emergency and Today’s West Bengal

Biman Basu

THIRTY nine years back in the midnight of June 25 in 1975, internal emergency was imposed on our country. This declaration of internal emergency was totally uncalled for because there was no invasion of foreign enemies, nor there was such situation which could not be solved through constitutionally approved democratic system. The look back through pages of history will reveal that the livelihood of the common people became tough from the early seventies. The economic development became stagnant and the government could not find it possible to create employment for the lakhs of aspirant youth. The gap between rich and poor was on the rise. ‘Garibi hatao’ (elimination of poverty) was the slogan of Indira Gandhi during the fifth Lok Sabha elections in 1971 and she promised development, increase in employment and price control of the essential commodities. The Congress party won 352 seats out of a total 518 in that election to get a clear majority. Indira Gandhi travelled the entire country in the election campaign to win the confidence of the people and to create record for her party. But people became disillusioned within only three to four years. This loss of people’s confidence brought out the autocratic nature of Mrs Gandhi. Like other dictatorial rulers she imposed emergency without considering democratic practices, just to establish absolute control of power. The arrest of the opposition political leaders started from the midnight of June 25 in 1975 but no minister of the central cabinet uttered a single word on that. Gradually, more than one lakh opposition political leaders and activists were sent behind the bars. In a democratic country like India, it was not at all necessary to arrest the opposition political leaders to teach them a lesson. Recalling the speech of veteran CPI(M) leader AK Gopalan which he delivered in the Lok Sabha on July 21, 1975 will reflect the situation very well. He said, “I am speaking in an unnatural and severe situation when 34 members of parliament are not here. They are not absent because they wanted to but they are not here because they are behind the bars without trial. Mrs. Gandhi and her party have made the house a matter of farce and contempt. I too was in the jail and got released only a week back. Jyotirmoy Basu is known to you all. Nurul Huda is another member of our party. I am an old man and cannot shout much. I have been released but those two still are in jail. The motive is very clear. I am not scared of jail because I was behind the bars for 17 years of last 45 years. But I cannot forget the inhuman treatment on me for two days. I had to declare hunger strike. Finally I sent telegram to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and that might have changed the situation …” The internal emergency was imposed not due to any external threat but the real causes were the ruling of the Allahabad High Court verdict against the Congress party in the Gujarat assembly elections, Indira Gandhi’s denial of stepping down from the prime ministership before the final ruling of the Supreme Court and mass discontent against the Congress government. The mass discontent took shape because of the deep crisis in the Indian economy and the adoption of capitalist mode of development which made the rich richer and the poor, poorer. The imposition of emergency clearly showed that the government initiated anti-people measures. All the democratic practices were abolished. Fundamental rights conferred through the Indian constitution became paralysed. Constitutional provisions given through Article 14 and 22 were kept in abeyance. Bills were moved for further curtailment of constitutional rights. All the power was centralised by the prime minister without even taking into account the constitutional provisions. Amendment of the constitution became a frequent affair. And the equal status of every citizen in front of law also became non-mandatory. Government administration started all sorts of discrimination. The administration did not find it necessary to produce several of the arrested persons to the court and suppressed the information about the arrested. The BJP government under the leadership of Narendra Modi has been formed in the centre with a clear majority, due to the illusions among several poor people especially the young generation. The RSS is the life blood of BJP and this fanatic Hindu fundamentalist force is playing the key role in Modi’s government. They have come to power by promising good days but we have to wait to see how they react to people’s wrath after failing to minimise the discontent among common people and failure to create employment. The communal threat has been increased in the country with their being at the helm of affairs. We have to be cautious enough so that they cannot divert people’s attention after failing to bring any paradigmatic shift. We should also not forget that it was none other than Trinamul Congress who initiated them in West Bengal. Since the assembly elections in West Bengal, attacks have been unleashed on the leaders and activists of the democratic movements by the police administration and hoodlums backed by the ruling party to prohibit movements based on people’s demands. False and fabricated cases are being initiated against the leaders and activists of the democratic movements. Arrest warrants are being issued against them who could not be arrested. Attacks on the houses of Left Front activists, looting, arson, terrorisation and attacks on livelihood have been taking place extensively. Cattle, poultry, fishes in ponds, agricultural produce and seeds also have been looted. About 27,300 farmers, agricultural labourers and share croppers have been uprooted and deprived of their right to land. Near about 50,000 persons have been evicted from their own houses. 157 Left leaders, activists and supporters have lost their lives in attacks by hoodlums, nakedly backed by the ruling party. Thousands of Left activists have been forced to live with injuries. All these have been happening in a state where emergency has not been imposed but still the ruling party is trying to trample the voice of the opposition. But it is impossible to terrorise the people for a long time. Movements have to be launched by all of us for resurrection of democracy and democratic rights in the state, and for that, close connection with common people has to be reinforced by taking lessons from history. We must overcome this suffocating atmosphere of terror with the people’s movements. We don’t have any other alternative. Communists and Leftists never surrender. The hoodlums of the ruling party will try to sustain terror-driven atmosphere but, isolating them from people and reducing their strength is not at all impossible. The united strength of working class and all other poor sections of the society is quite capable of dislodging them. The call of the hour is to mark protest against all single attacks in every locality and launch movements. Communists and Leftists may be attacked or killed, but ultimately victory awaits them. We shall not forget that the devils could never make history; on the contrary, it is always made by the invincible people.