Congress should apologise to the nation
Kuldip Nayar in The Tribune , Chandigarh
Even if history is a mere record of important events that happened to a country, it has to be accurate and dispassionate. The official account of the 125-year-old Congress achievements is neither honest nor factual. The Indian nation may forget what the party leaders have said but it can never forget what they did.
The biggest blemish on the Congress is the suspension of the constitution during the 1975-1977 Emergency. I am a witness to the events of those days when the party gagged the Press, smothered effective dissent and detained more than one lakh people without trial. I expected the Congress to seek an apology from the nation for its illegal, authoritarian rule. Instead, the official history of the party has the cheek to say that people welcomed the Emergency when it was imposed. There was so much regret over losing the democratic way of functioning that the nation was initially in a state of shock and then of stupor, unable to realise the full implications of the government’s actions.
And how can the party deflect the blame to Sanjay Gandhi? No doubt, he ran the government. But his acts had the approval of his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. R.K.Dhawan, then an aide to both Sanjay Gandhi and Mrs Gandhi, has correctly commented on the Congress history — he is a member of the party’s working committee — that Mrs Gandhi possessed such a strong personality that the responsibility should not be put on Sanjay Gandhi.
It is known to everyone that Mrs Gandhi imposed the Emergency because she did not want to be out of power. The Allahabad High Court had unseated her for six years on the charge of misusing official machinery for election purposes. The Congress does not even refer to the judgment in the book it has published. In the recent days one more fact that is now in the public domain is that she did not even sign the letter which advised the President to impose the Emergency due to internal disturbances and insecure conditions obtaining in the country. Even her contention of insecurity has been found incorrect by the Shah Commission which went into the whole gamut of the Emergency.
The commission says: “There was no threat to the well-being of the nation from sources external or internal. The conclusion appears in the absence of any evidence given by Smt Indira Gandhi or anyone else, that the one and the only motivating force for tendering the extraordinary advise to the President to declare an ‘internal emergency’ was the intense political activity generated in the ruling party and the opposition, by the decision of the Allahabad High Court declaring the election of the Prime Minister of the day invalid on the ground of corrupt election practices. There is no reason to think that if the democratic conventions were followed, the whole political upsurge would in the normal course have not subsided. But Smt Gandhi, in her anxiety to continue in power, brought about instead a situation which directly contributed to her continuance in power and also generated forces which sacrificed the interest of many to serve the ambitions of a few…”
As coincidence has it, the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court has admitted that the 1976 judgment endorsing Indira Gandhi’s emergency role violated the fundamental rights of a large number of people. The bench has considered the 4-1 judgment “erroneous”. Obviously, the pronouncement by the two cannot supersede the verdict given by the five-judge bench. But it is time the government prepared an appeal for review. Law Minister Veerappa Moily, supposed to be a man of principles, owes it to the nation to have the 1976 judgment quashed to see that nobody, however high and mighty, can play with our democratic traditions in the future.
It was impossible to believe that a detention order tainted by mala fide could not be challenged during the Emergency. Justice H.R. Khanna courageously differed with the majority judgment. He ruled that “even during the Emergency the state has got no power to deprive a person of his life or personal liberty without the authority of law. That is the essential postulate and basic assumption of the rule of law in every civilised society.” Mrs Gandhi did not make him the Chief Justice of India when his turn came. The Congress history doesn’t mention this.
No doubt, the ruling Congress is under pressure because too many scams of corruption have come to light, one after the other. But initiating a debate on the Emergency, however important, is not going to divert the nation’s attention to anything else. The government has to accept the fact that there is no alternative to a probe by the Joint Parliamentary Committee which might unmask the faces which have hidden their identity so far in the 2G spectrum scandal.
In any case, no other demand has had the entire Opposition, from right to left, united since Independence. The more the government resists it, the greater is the doubt of its credentials. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s appeal to the people on New Year’s Day not to be cynical and gloomy has had little effect because the country is convinced that the government is hiding something big, something sensational.
The deterioration in public life, in the Congress as well as in other parties and groups, is matched by growing disruptive tendencies, rooted in factors like province, religion, caste and language. People are forgetting major issues and getting excited over minor matters and thereby harming the country’s unity, strength and progress. There is need for new thinking, not in terms of slogans and dogmas but of idealism related to both modern conditions and human values.
I vainly looked for such an approach in the history that the Congress has brought out. It is a pity that a party with an experience of 125 years has not risen above petty politics and has not depicted the past as it has taken place. The party has lost a golden opportunity to assure the people that its actions were neither in the interest of the Congress nor the nation as a whole.
- Emergency, judiciary , polity (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Advani: Congress is trying to make Sanjay Gandhi a scapegoat (thehindu.com)
- Sonia Gandhi reminiscent of Mahatma? Sycophancy at its best (ramanan50.wordpress.com)
- Supreme Court makes amends (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Corruption in judiciary: Time for action (indialawyers.wordpress.com)