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Mainstream, VOL LV No 30 New Delhi July 15, 2017

Imbecility and Impudence: The Emergency and RSS

Sunday 16 July 2017

by Navneet Sharma and Anamica

“Imbecility of men, history teaches us, always invites the impudence of power.” —Late (Justice) H. R. Khanna

June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977 is the blackest period in the history of Indian democracy, liberty and freedom that we gave to ourselves in August/January 1947-50. George Santayana (1906) observed: “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We, the people or generation ‘X’, who have born or grown young after/despite the ‘Emergency’, must be reminded of the times of pre- and during Emergency because if we land in a soup again it will be our inanity of not being able to distinguish between democrats, demagogues and dictators.

The dictators in the making have always evolved through the stage of being chaotic imbecile, the stage through which Mrs (Indira) Gandhi sailed and Mr Modi is navigating. In this commentary we wish to flag the pre-Emergency situation that led Mrs Gandhi to decree Emergency and the similarity of the times then and at present. This commentary will also analyse how the mighty Hindu cultural organisation is fond of and would ideally prefer a totalitarian and archaic ‘benevolent’ dictatorship as the form of rule and governance.

Shared Imbecilities, Synchronised Impudence: Mrs Gandhi and Mr Modi

Congress hatao, Modi lao, Desh bachao (Remove Congress, Bring Modi, Save the Country)—the appeal was individual-centric with which Modi-bhakts campaigned in 2014. Modi chose to rise above and beyond his party to establish direct connect with the voters/people (?!) prompting a scene where the BJP is Modi and Modi the BJP. The BJP—the party with a difference—gets its cadre from the RSS and whosoever was the ‘party’ is now in the ‘margdarshakmandal’. Consequently, no other leader of the party possesses virtue even close to that of Modi. Even in the selection of the presidential candidate it was taken care that the President might not ‘outshine’ the Prime Minister. Ram Nath Kovind waits to be sworn in as the next Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. When ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’ was observed by sycophant Dev Kant Barooah, he would have never thought that in future the ‘nation’ would be surpassed and even god would get replaced, Har Har Mahadev to Har Har Modi. Mrs Gandhi used the rhetoric in her campaign—‘They (Opposition) say Indira Hatao, I call for Garibi Hatao.’ Modi used something somewhat akin to it: ‘They (Opposition) say Deshbachao Modi se (from communal forces) I call for Congress-Mukt Bharat (Congress-Free India).’

In 1969, after replacing the ‘Syndicate’, and usurping the Congress of the freedom movement, Mrs Gandhi made it a fiefdom and named the party as the Congress (I). Mrs Gandhi called for midterm elections to legitimise her role and supremacy. The near-absolute majority handed over to the BJP in the UP Assembly elections in 2017 is also projected as legitimacy and a positive response to Modi’s style of functioning and governance, the barb of being a ‘suit boot ki sarkar’ has rebounded to hit only the Opposition. The valour of the Indian Army, Manekshaw and Mukti Vahini was projected as the heroic and decisive character of Mrs Gandhi akin to the success of the ‘surgical strike’ that was also put to optimal use in the UP Assembly elections; and the valour of the Indian Army has again been used as the backdrop for the halo of Prime Minister Modi.

The success of the green revolution was also acknowledged as the ‘visionary’ approach of Mrs Gandhi. The abolition of the Privy Purse and nationalisation of banks had put Mrs Gandhi in the constellation of radical progressive leaders. She used this position to clamp down over the popular nav-nirmaan movement in Gujarat and JP’s movement in Bihar. Surgical strike, demonetisation, Benami Property Act and the rhetoric of Swachha Bharat, Beti bachao, Namami Gange are all obligatorily acknowledged to the visionary leadership of Modi. Most of the above are either imbecile or impudent acts as many initiatives like Namami Gange or Swachha Bharat are only the renaming of earlier efforts at Ganga Bachao or Nirmal Bharat. The musical chair for renaming of institutions will hardly yield anything other than the ideological validity for the impudence of the dispensation at the helm. The erstwhile Planning Commission has been renamed as NITI Aayog or the UGC is proposed to be HEERA (Higher Education Empowerment and Regulating Authority). This maverick governance is hardly going to influence things at the ground level.

Demonetisation was one such verdict which was announced by the PM even though the RBI berated this step and termed it as ‘not a wise move’, as claimed by Chidambaram. On November 8, 2016, Modi announced scrapping of 500-1000 denomination notes which were 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation and amounted to Rs 15.44 lakh crores in value. This step was allegedly taken to curb black money, but figures of the RBI shows that demonetisation has failed miserably. The Deputy Governor of the RBI on December 13 announced that Rs 12.44 lakh crores of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes (illegal tenders now) had been received by the RBI and by December 30, the bank had 97 per cent of scrapped notes. These figures indicate that either there is no black money or tax cheats have found a way out of the demonetisation policy. The target of the government may have been tax evaders but those who suffered most were the middle and poor classes and specially women. Limited education, resources and lack of nearby banks (only 27 per cent of Indian villages have a bank within five kms) created chaos throughout the country. Agriculture and farmers are in maximum stress because of this sudden move of the government. Farmers had to accept either demonetised notes or delayed payments. For buying inputs for agriculture, they had to pay high rates for seeds for giving 500 or 1000 notes. The impact of this move was also felt across sectors such as seasonal/daily labour, on mandi, real estate, health sector, household sector, and so on. The great demonetisation has proven to be a failure and the imbecility of this decision has and may continue to result in further slowdowns in the economy.

To divert attention from the debacle of demonetisation, Modi is doing various gimmicks. Announcing the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Amendment Act after the huge failure of Modi’s demonetisation policy is another such hurried act which is also an example of self-aggrandisement. There are a number of hurdles associated with the Benami Property Act such as Benami transactions are not always illegal because it is common in India to buy property in the name of family members as a sign of goodwill, sometimes without even being a joint owner of that property. With such complications associated with this law, there is limited scope of litigation.

The impudence of Modi’s government can also be seen in the beef-ban which has been promoted as another way to divert attention from adverse ramifications of demonetisation. The attempt is to rewrite the history of India and produce an account that Muslims introduced beef-eating whereas Swami Vivekananda, in his lectures, had mentioned Brahmins of ancient times consuming meat as part of their diet. This order not only targets the Muslim population but it is a way to garner faith and loyalty of the Hindu majority of the nation in the upcoming 2019 elections. The ‘cowspiracy’ of Modi’s government on beef-ban is visible as, according to data released by the US Department of Agriculture, India has surpassed Brazil and retains the top spot as the world’s largest exporter of beef despite the ban on cow slaughtering in various parts of country. Also, the leather industry of India is worth Rs 40,000 crores a year and the Make in India scheme focuses exclusively on this sector. Thus, the hypocrisy of Modi’s government on beef-ban is massive and the hate campaign in the name of the banning of cow-killing has claimed several lives, especially of Muslims and Dalits. This issue of beef-ban has also been coupled with nationalistic fervour which seems to be the favourite topic in the saffron agenda.

Making the national anthem compulsory before movies in theatres is one such move which aims at stirring the feeling of nationalism in citizens of the country. This ruling has transformed the love of citizens for their country into a duty. Besides, the reason why the Supreme Court discarded the plea of making the national anthem compulsory for courts and both Houses of Parliament is still an enigma. The Modi Government is blatantly using certificates of ‘anti-national’ to curb free speech or the voice of anyone who tries to question the decisions and ideology of this government. According to the nationalist taxonomy of the BJP Government, university students (especially Dalit and Muslim students), some religious minorities, beef-eaters, Pakistan non-haters, Left intellectuals, Opposition parties and the like are already in the category of anti-nationals.

The controversy of different universities like the DU, JNU, HU and surgical strike fed into the BJP’s nationalist narrative. Universities are always deemed as spaces of free speech and being tolerant to diverse opinions. These universities now seem to be the new battleground for this party in which it is trying to curb all the ideas and thoughts which may prove as hurdles to Modi Government’s Hindutva agenda. The ideological parent of the BJP, the RSS, and its student wing, the ABVP, have their own crucial role in the BJP’s anti-democratic-secular India agenda. The party is trying to impose its own version of nationalism by fiat and anyone who doesn’t conform to the party’s idea of nationalism is termed as anti-national. Furthermore, the BJP is using the sacrifices of soldiers to sidetrack all discussions and debates on its working and ideology. Soldiers and war, chiefly the surgical strike, are increasingly used as cards played by the Modi Government for immediate electoral advantage. Questioning if the surgical strike actually took place automatically amounts to anti-nationalism and Modi is unapologetically milking this claimed success of the Indian Army in all his electoral ventures.

The BJP has wittingly set such a pedestal of black money, terrorism and nationalism for its future endeavours that its scheme can’t be criticised even by the Opposition, as it may lead to being stamped as anti-national or losing mass support. The party is impudently trying to keep the nationalist fervour alive in the voters by talking about issues of surgical strike, cow slaughtering, nationalism, Pakistan and Kashmir in all its rallies and public gatherings to keep them away from the government’s failure in the areas of job creation, economic development, hunger, mortality rate, and gender gap. The BJP has created pseudo-agendas for its political crusade to hide the failures of its government on nearly all fronts.

The Emergency and RSS

The RSS’ claim that it was in the forefront (underground?!) organisation that opposed the Emergency was blown to pieces when the former IB chief, T.V. Rajeshwar, stated that in fact the RSS supported the idea of Emergency and sang paeans for Mrs Gandhi. Subramanian Swamy in his sneeringly written article on the Emergency in its 25th anniversary, when the NDA-I was at the helm, spilled the beans that Balasaheb Deoras and Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote many letters of apology and promised ‘good behaviour’ to Mrs Gandhi to earn freedom from jail. Dr Swamy also mentions of an accord of surrender that was to be signed by the RSS but was not, due to the unexpected repeal of Emergency in March 1977. Dr Swamy is an insider of the BJP-RSS and his observations, though needed to be taken with a pinch of salt, sound indubitable. The RSS’ love to hate Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar and adulation for Hitler, Israel and Mrs Gandhi during the Emergency reflects how this organisation in its philosophy and in making favours totalitarian benevolent dictatorship as a form of rule and governance. The recent observations by the Army Chief on the Kashmir issue and other minions (like Shahnawaz Hussain) reflect why Venkaiah Naidu hailed Mr Modi as God’s gift to the country and how his party and its parent organisation believes that dictatorship (decisive leadership!) is better than the stoic patience of the leadership (of Manmohan Singh).

Quoting Charles E. Hughes, “A dissent is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law, to the intelligence of a future day...”, Late (Justice) H. R. Khanna observed in the famous habeas case (ADM of Jabalpur vs Shiv Kant Shukla): ‘The Constitution and the laws of India do not permit life and liberty to be at the mercy of the absolute power of the executive.’ We, the generation ‘X’, need to understand that it is we who need to be vigilant of democracy and democratic institutions. Media, as has been observed, begun to crawl when it was asked only to bend during the Emergency. The recent raids on NDTV and coming together of journalists from different hues such as Arun Shourie and H.K. Dua to raise their voice give a more compelling reason to worry. The former BJP President, L.K. Advani, has already observed that the forces which can crush democracy are stronger today, and therefore, we need to be more vigilant. The American revolutionary, Patrick Henry, observed that ‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’. Either we all Indians gear up for that vigilance or end up as Pehlu Khan or Rohith Vemula or we surrender to live with what Nikhil Chakravartty observed, ‘The ugly visage falls into the pattern of historical evolution and lives on as such.’


Chakravartty, Nikhil (1995), ‘The Roots of the Emergency’, Mainstream, Vol. LV, No. 27, New Delhi, June 24, 2017, http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article7265.html

GoI (2017), Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=159882

India Today (2015), ‘RSS backed Indira Gandhi’s call for Emergency in 1975: Ex-IB chief TV Rajeswar’ http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rss-backed-indira-gandhis-call-for-emergency-in-1975-ex-ib-chief-tv-rajeswar/1/479659.html

Mazumdar S. (2016), ‘While the RBI Is Silent, Its Numbers Tell Us Demonetisation Has failed’, https://thewire.in/90231/rbidemonetisation-currency/

Santayana, George (1980), Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol-I, New York, Dover Publications.

Singh D. K. (2017), Demonetisation ‘not a wise move’, HT, February 15, 2017 http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/rbi-wrote-to-pmo-saying-demonetisation-was-not-a-wise-move-claims-chidambaram/story-eiI6l8CrTTnWDpBTBK9E1N.html

Swamy, Subramanian (2000), ‘Unlearnt lessons of the Emergency’, The Hinduhttp://www.thehindu.com/2000/06/13/stories/05132524.htm

Vivekananda, Swami (1905), The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda http://belurmath.org/complete_works_of_ swami_vivekananda/

Navneet Sharma, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala. He can be contacted at navneetsharma29[at]gmail.com

Anamica is presently pursuing Masters in Education (M.Ed) from the Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi. She has done B.El.Ed from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi.

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