New Delhi, June 28 (IANS) The judiciary, the bureaucracy and the media that were destroyed during Indira Gandhi-imposed 1975-77 emergency rule when civil liberties were suspended have not regained their health and need to be revived, senior journalist Kuldip Nayar has said.
Speaking at a discussion Thursday evening to mark the re-release of his book “Emergency Retold” (Konark, 320 pages), Nayar said the judiciary, the bureaucracy and the media were among the institutions that were dented when internal emergency was imposed on the country by presidential decree on June 25-26, 1975..
“Institutions that were destroyed during Emergency have still not regained heath. We should do something to revive them,” said Nayar, one of the thousands of government critics, including opposition leaders, activists and media persons who were jailed during the 18-month Emergency era, Senior journalist and Rajya Sabha MP H. K. Dua released the book.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, who was among those arrested and who later famously said of the media that “those who were asked to bend crawled”, was among those who spoke at the event at the India International Centre. .
Nayar, who later became an MP and India’s high commissioner to Britain, said it was important to speak out if human rights were violated or freedom denied.
“If you do not speak out, that’s the day you begin to die,” he said. Nayar said the day the Emergency was imposed should never be forgotten.
He said if Indira Gandhi had decided to go to people after the 1975 Allahabad High Court judgment declaring her 1971 election invalid on grounds of corrupt electoral practices, there was every chance of her returning to power.
The “decision (to impose Emergency) was taken by an interested prime minister who wanted to save herself from compulsions of the verdict against her, Nayar said.
“Her instinct was to concentrate power in herself.she used fear. Once she took over, she started weakening institutions. Illegal orders were carried out because bureaucrats (were) afraid. Very few stood up,” Nayar said.
He said it was very unfortunate that the recommendations of the Shah Commission, appointed by the Morarji Desai’s government that came to power after the 1977 elections that unseated Indira Gandhi’s Congress, were not taken to their logical conclusion.
The commission, which submitted its report in three volumes of 525 pages, said that there was no economic crisis or law and order situation to justify the imposition of the Emergency, which was arbitrarily done by Indira Gandhi without consulting her cabinet colleagues.
It said laws like the Maintenance of Internal Security Act and the Defence of India Rules were abused to target political opponents. It said the bureaucracy accepted orders even though they thought they were not in order and were politically motivated.
Nayar said there could be a change of government after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and he would demand that the Shah Commission findings be still implemented.
Responding to a query from H. K Dua about parliament getting weak as an institution and political parties only indulging in power politics, Nayar said there had been deterioration on the whole.
“As a nation we have to think.what do we stand for,” he said..
Nayar contended that the people must exert pressure on political parties to restore democratic institutions and he was confident this would happen.
Answering a query, he said the media was not playing the role it should.
Advani said the judiciary as a whole did not succumb during the Emergency but the ripple effect, at least in the lower echelons, was still being felt.
“The judiciary, I believe, was the best (to withstand Emergency) at the high court level,” Advani said, adding it was the failure, mainly of political activists, who should have stood up more firmly.
Advani said the decline in ethical conduct after Independence affects all sections.
The BJP leader said that the 1977 polls, which saw the defeat of Indira Gandhi and her Congress party, were a beacon for democracy.
“The 1977 polls are the biggest guarantee that, as a rule, democracy will survive (in India),” Advani maintained.