The 25th anniversary of the assassination of Indira Gandhi has produced reams of fawning tributes, leaving you to wonder how low today’s supine, profit-hungry, ratings-driven media would have crawled had “the only man in her cabinet” reimposed censorship in the year of the lord 2009.
In an era of austerity (remember?), the Congress-led UPA government splurged shameless millions on newspaper ads; Doordarshan began live coverage from the very moment she received the first bullet that morning on October 31. Magazines produced thick special issues. And television was a hagiographic bore.
In The Pioneer, Delhi, Arkalgud Surya Prakash strikes the right note of dissent:
“All those who value democracy must challenge the contents of these advertisements for the following reasons: Mrs Gandhi turned a vibrant democracy into a dictatorship and presided over a fascist regime that jailed political opponents and independent journalists when she imposed Emergency in 1975. Her Government was responsible for many despicable acts, including forcible sterilisation of citizens, bull-dozing of Muslim-dominated localities like Turkman Gate in Delhi, and incarceration of Government employees who failed to obey her illegal orders. These are just a few of the most horrendous, inhuman and undemocratic acts committed by her regime. All these terrible deeds have been fully documented by the Shah Commission which probed the Emergency excesses.
“Once this infrastructure for dictatorship had been laid, other things followed. Her government suspended Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (no deprivation of life and liberty except by procedure established by law). With the passage of these orders, citizens of India lost their fundamental right to life and liberty. They were also prohibited from moving courts. The Attorney-General virtually conceded the fascist nature of that regime when he confessed in the Supreme Court that if a citizen was shot dead by a policeman, the victim’s family would have no right to seek relief before a court.
“Here is a short recapitulation of some other things Mrs Gandhi did as Prime Minister: She bamboozled the judiciary, superseded judges and repeatedly amended the Constitution to protect herself. The 39th Amendment was meant solely to prohibit the Supreme Court from hearing the election petition against her; the 41st Amendment declared that no civil or criminal cases could be filed against her; even more reprehensible was the 42nd Amendment which abolished the need for quorum in Parliament and gave the President the right to ‘amend’ the Constitution through an executive order. With this amendment, Parliament allowed the President to tinker with the Constitution when ‘necessary’. Further, since there was no requirement for quorum in Parliament, Ministers could push through anti-democratic laws in late night sittings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the presence of just a handful of Congress MPs. These were ideas which were taken straight out of Hitler’s book.”
Read the full article: Travesty as tribute
Cartoon: courtesy The Economist, London