Millennium Post

Nightmare of the Emergency

Whilst reading this book focusing on the life and times of RahulGandhi – Decoding Rahul Gandhi, I have been sitting and thinking rather aloud – what if books on other ‘young’ politicians were penned! Mind you, those baring the intricate details, whatever they’d be. Of course, depending on the facts and the flesh around them, together the writer’s very ability to web adequate underlying factors.

Books carrying the personal and the not-so political details on Akhikesh Yadav, Sachin Pilot, Omar Abdullah, Mohammad Azaruddin, Priya Dutt, Mamata Banerjee, Sandeep Dikshit,Varun Gandhi, Jitin Prasad, Jay Panda and several others… the list could be long as the young brigade seems going up in numbers. And till date little is known or bared on their personal front. Except, of course, some of the very basics on a couple of them – Omar Abdullah has joined the singletons club, Azaruddin has gone a step ahead and been twice divorced and yet seems undeterred!

Though Rahul Gandhi is still single but talks do emerge of his once upon a time Spanish girlfriend, an architect. But, beyond that there’s little heard of his personal life. He does not socialise and keeps to close friends, who are more political in nature. Yes, a couple of years back he did get in touch with Khushwant Singh and had dropped him at his place, with prior appointment of course. And Khushwant was left rather impressed. I quote him from Absolute Khushwant, ‘Rahul had telephoned sometime last year and said he wanted to come and see me. He came at the appointed time – 4 pm – and spent almost an hour at my home. I gave him tea – he said he’d like some tea – and we spoke of politics, about the current situation in general and other things in particular. I think Rahul is much more talented than his father. He has a vision and that’s very important. He has the right attitude. Even if much of what he does only amounts to gestures, the thinking behind them is right. He himself seems to have no caste or class prejudice. What he has been doing in Amethi, staying with the lowest castes and sharing their food – I don’t think you can criticise him for that. He is not being patronising; he is highlighting a shameful reality in our country. Even in the 21st century there are untouchables in our society and they live wretched lives. And the manner in which he took on the Shiv Sena in Bombay in February 2010. He lambasted them for attacking the non-Maharashtrians and said publicly that Bombay was for all Indians. Then he went to the lion’s den and dared them to do their worst. He walked around in the streets, traveled by local train. The young Gandhi is becoming a mature leader. Maybe, after the next elections (2014) if his party wins, he may agree to become to the PM. Or he may still choose not to.’

No, not along the clichéd ‘come September’ format; rather more along the ‘going September’ one, this week end will see two major events hosted right here, in this capital city. Sahmat together with the Nehru memorial museum and library will be hosting a two day conference on Manto. Celebrating 100 years of Saadat Hasan Manto. The list of speakers is long and rather impressive, with several writers of Pakistan also expected to participate and talk of the writer who wrote fearlessly, emotionally from his heart.

Then, the Constitution Club will be the venue for a ‘People’s Hearing’ focusing on victims wrongly accused in terror and related cases and also those arrested under those various charges, during the recent anti-nuclear protest meets. Around 50 victims, their family members or friends whose testimonies will be heard by a jury comprising of judges, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and artists. After listening to all the presentations the jury will report their observations and conclusions with clear recommendations for various institutions of the Indian state.

Resist the Silent Emergency as this meet is called, it will be addressed by several of those well respected activists and academics – Justice Sachar, Binayak Sen, Teesta Setalvad, Praful Bidwai, Ram Puniyani, Ajith Sahi, Zakia Soman, Colin Gonsalves, Rahul Ram, Manisha Sethi, Mehtab Alam and several others.

‘The nightmare of the infamous Emergency of Indira Gandhi was supposed to be over in 1977 when it was lifted after two years due to large scale public protest. Political parties, institutions and individuals who defended Emergency were discredited. The sigh of relief evoked a hope for a functioning democracy in India. But today, we are entering a similar phase of authoritarian governance without any formal declaration of Emergency. This silent Emergency has regulated, controlled and restricted all space for democratic public protests against ruling governments. Custodial deaths and encounter killings have become a routine phenomenon. Rape, murder, loot, torture and arrests in Manipur, Nagaland and other north eastern states as well as Kashmir have even crossed the excesses of the Emergency period. Many discriminatory laws have been enacted to silence the Media without a censorship. Several discriminatory laws have been enacted to enhance and strengthen the power of the state over civil society and crush dissent. Laws to facilitate the corporate control and loot over the resources of people are being enacted.

Humra Quraishi is a writer and columnist.
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