ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Afterthoughts on the Emergency Debate

Like Indira Gandhi at the time of the Emergency, the current prime minister has no dearth of democratic collaborators. The difference is this: the absence today of countervailing forces and alternative ideology in the opposition. A ruling class may find values of freedom and dissent incompatible with its uniform commitment to nationalism.

Discussions in political meetings, intellectual seminars and media on the occasion of 25th anniversary of the Emergency left more questions unanswered than might have been settled. Doubts were also expressed whether Indian democracy is more secure today than it was in 1975. What are the similarities and dissimilarities between the two situations? And have the dissimilarities added strength to democracy? That the forces that overthrew the Emergency are not synonymous with democratic forces of today is obvious. The present confusion in the ranks of the latter and the rise of threat to them raises a number of questions about the character of the anti-Emergency movement and its role as a source of inspiration and strength for democracy. These questions need not be postponed till another anniversary celebrations of the Emergency which is hardly an occasion for serious reflection. Any time and every time is relevant for a discussion on the future of Indian democracy drawing upon the lessons of the past.

It may be relevant in this context to ask: why did the democracy and the Emergency collapse? It was a search for security by an insecure personality of Indira Gandhi that is held to be her principal motivation to drive the regime towards the Emergency. But she acquired self-righteousness and determination to do so by the success she could achieve in equating her insecurity with the insecurity of the nation. It, however, remained a semi-fascist regime mainly, because the Congress Party had become too decadent to be an effective instrument of running a full-fledged fascist state. Moreover, it could not stand the challenge of a far superior moral force led by Jayaprakash Narayan.

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