New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) There is a striking similarity between the unfolding of events during the 1975-77 Emergency under then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the contemporary times under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a new book suggests.
In “Emergency Chronicles” (Penguin/Rs 699/439 pages), Gyan Prakash, the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University, delves into the accounts of the preceding years to reveal how the fine balance between “state power and civil rights was upset by the unfulfilled promise of democratic transformation”.
Stating that “Hindutva is fundamentally anti-democratic”, the author finds enough reasons to compare the two regimes, separated by over four decades, and contends that since 2014, India has witnessed the Hindutva ideologues targeting dissent as “antinational”.
“In a different but also eerie replay of 1975, JNU students face the charge of subversion. Critics are dismissed as ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ elites out of step with the supposed mass culture of Hindutva. This is to delegitimise criticism and win over those in the population not yet in their corner. It is the classic strategy of totalitarian propaganda to win over the insufficiently indoctrinated,” Prakash says in the book, a copy of which is with IANS.
He says that under Modi government, Muslims have been lynched by “cow protection goon squads”.
“Supported by ground troops, which Indira’s Emergency rule never enjoyed, and a largely compliant and corporatised electronic media, which did not exist in 1975-77, the regime enjoys unprecedented power,” he adds.
The author acknowledges that there is no formal declaration of Emergency in India today. “But the surge of Hindutva nationalism,” Prakash contends, “has catapulted Narendra Modi into the kind of position that indira occupied only with the Emergency”.
Prakash further states that today the courts, the press, and political parties do not face repression but “they appear unable or unwilling” to function as the “gatekeepers of democracy in the face of state power spiked with Hindutva populist ressentiment.
“Like Indira, Modi is his party’s undisputed leader. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which traditionally boasted a galaxy of seasoned politicians, now bows to its supreme leader. He looms as large in Indian politics as Indira once did. His photographs, slogans, and programs appear everywhere as hers once did,” the book mentions.
The author takes a potshot at the ruling regime, reminding it that BJP leaders assail Indira Gandhi’s accumulation of executive powers under the Emergency while they strive for a one-party state and display intolerance for minorities and disdain for dissent as anti-national.