THE DARK NIGHT CONTINUES…
- Fr. Cedric Prakash sj *
The night of June 25th / 26th 1975, is undoubtedly, the darkest night in the history of independent India. That night emergency was declared. Fundamental rights were suspended and the freedom of the press was gagged. Several stalwarts including opposition political leaders were arrested and a pall of gloom enveloped the whole country.
The twenty one months that followed, saw brutal repressions on every front; when emergency was lifted on March 21st, 1977, the country heaved a sigh of relief and like the post-World War II period, the people of India said "NEVER AGAIN". This was clearly demonstrated by the fact that Indira Gandhi was crushingly defeated in the Parliamentary elections which followed.
However, we never seem to learn from history….in several parts of the country "a state of emergency" still rules and most of the time, those on the receiving end are the poor and the marginalized like the adivasis, the dalits and other vulnerable communities. In the last few years, the country has seen great "economic leaps" for a section of its people. This is evident from the many ways the consumerism culture has managed to have a stranglehold on several, very particularly those living in the urban areas. The mining and the industrial lobbies seem to have a 'hay-day' with hardly any consideration for the thousands of tribals who are displaced in order to satisfy their profiteering.
Glaring examples are also found in Gujarat: those who stand up for the rights of tribals and dalits are intimidated and harassed and are very conveniently branded as "Maoists". In spite of advertisements appearing in the Bihar dailies recently, the situation of minorities in Gujarat leaves much to be desired; many minority institutions are now subject to all kinds of queries by local authorities demanding that they submit their "weekly receipts of foreign money" to the local police officials! In the name of development, mega projects continue to displace several thousands. Gujarat's Freedom of Religion Law is perhaps the most draconian one in a democracy, the world over, which curtails freedom of belief and expression of an ordinary citizen…. The list is endless indeed!
For many in India, the dark night continues….Can we not learn from history?
25th June, 2010
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
PRASHANT (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India
Phone : 27455913, 66522333
Fax : 27489018
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.humanrightsindia.in