The Emergency - Declared in the PAST, Undeclared in the PRESENT

Jun 26, 2023
By K. Veeramani

‘Emergency’ was declared under Art 352 of Indian Constitution by Indira Gandhi on 25th June 1975, but its ill effects were not experienced by the people of Tamil Nadu in the beginning. The DMK rule was then under Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi as the Chief Minister.  We, the Dravidar Kazhagam founded by Thanthai Periyar along with the DMK opposed the emergency vehemently. ‘Tamil Nadu remains an island’ stated the then PM Indira Gandhi.  The day of vendetta was on 31st January 1976. My leader E.V.R. Maniammaiar and I addressed a public meeting in Thindivanam.  While addressing, we were told that the DMK government was dismissed under Article 356 of the Constitution.  After winding up the meeting when we returned to our headquarters, Chennai, Periyar Thidal it was about 1.00 am on 1st February.  Periyar Thidal was crowded with a large team of police officials.  A highly ranked police official met me and said, ‘we have come to perform an unpleasant job’.  They arrested me and took under preventive custody to Chennai city police commissioner office.  One after one, the top leaders of the DMK and other political parties were arrested and brought to that office.


On the same night we were taken to central prison, Chennai.  Our whereabouts were not revealed to our movement and our family. Our numbers were disproportionately large compared  to the size of the prison cell, in which we were lodged. The cell we occupied was previously filled with leprosy patients. The cell was opened illegally after January 1976. We were beaten severely.  During the  day time we were not allowed to come out of the cell. We were allowed out  only during the  lunch hour and locked in  again for the  night hours.


On the next day when we were locked inside the cell, in the darkness , a youth who was bleeding profusely was pushed inside and he fell on me.  In that darkness we were unable to identify him. Later we could find that he was M.K. Stalin (the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu). He was also brutally beaten. We were told that all of us were arrested and imprisoned under Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), a draconian law which is no more in vogue.  Only after a month our whereabouts were informed to the parties and families.   We were kept in the  dark and were not aware of the happenings outside the prison.  Freedom of individuals and organisations was curtailed.   Print medium was subject to scrutiny and restrictions were imposed, with there being  censorship in the contents that were critical of the government either directly or indirectly. We faced unbearable abuses and physical torture.


Almost after a year of imprisonment and release, a Single Member Commission was formed under Justice M.M.Ismail to enquire about the atrocities committed on the political detenue that proved the veracity of the allegations of atrocities.   Many of the atrocities committed on the leaders and cadres in the name of internal security throughout the country were not revealed but was reflected through people’s anger that brought down Congress party from power.  Revolting against the oppressive rulers showed the spirit of democratic sentiments and thirst for freedom prevailed in the citizens of the country.


Almost after 40 years, the present BJP rule has started similar atrocities just differently, but under undeclared emergency.  Promising growth and development to people but performing the internal agenda of its Hindutva has led the country to economic slowdown which is detrimental to the well-being and harmony of our people. Invariably the agenda accomplished by the present rule is against the spirit behind the constitutional values.  The diversified culture and languages presently in the sub-continent is negated by every action of the BJP – led government.  Diminishing the power of States has made a mockery of the federal polity. By enacting laws that deny equal rights to people of a specific religion, the BJP rule has caused enmity among different religious identities.


The first 5 years of BJP rule did not reveal its agenda openly.  This second term would end within the next 10 months or even earlier. The rulers are unmindful of constructive criticism.  Opposition and dissent are integral to democracy but debates and discussions are not allowed today in both the houses of the Parliament.  Central investigating agencies are directed to foist false cases on political leaders in the States ruled by the parties other than the BJP.  Both the print and the electronic media are unduly influenced by the rulers. The economic wellbeing of the majority population has declined. The concentration of wealth is now only in  a few corporate giants; typically it is a form of crony capitalism.  In brief, the image of our country’s democratic polity has been tarnished.


All these features are certainly the outcome of an undeclared emergency by the saffron rulers.  This trend is more dangerous than the emergency suddenly declared and suffered by people in the past.   Many citizens today are not aware of the present-day challenges. Unless they foresee the danger to our democracy, the 2023 election would bring back the same problems faced by us today.


All the democratic forces in the country, irrespective of policies of parties and movements, must unite and fight to root out the BJP from its rule.  This must be our agenda for the next 10 months.


Let the 48th anniversary of declared emergency make us all jointly plan and perform to save our democracy from the clutches of undeclared emergency!


(K. Veeramani is the President of the Dravidar Kazhagam, the parent body of the DMK party.)