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From student protests that brought down Indira govt to opposition hoping same fate for PM Modi: How Congress hopes for Emergency 2.0

Having exhausted all other means to dethrone the Modi government, the Congress, in conjunction with left-leaning propagandists, have been weaponising student protests and propping up Khalistanis to recreate the Emergency-like situation and precipitate a collapse of the government.

25 June 2022 marks the 47th anniversary of one of the darkest chapters of Independent India’s history—The Emergency. It was on this day in 1975 that Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the then President of India, under the auspices of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, announced a countrywide Emergency, plunging the country into an era of crushed individual freedoms, arbitrary arrests of dissidents and political opponents, and draconian centralisation of power.

The Emergency came into force on 25 June 1975 and remained in effect till 21 March 1977. To this date, it remains one of the highly contested chapters in the country’s modern history. The Emergency was marked by unchecked state incarceration of political dissidents who raised their voices against Mrs Gandhi or refused to comply with her autocratic impulses. There were reports of frequent human rights violations and widespread repression as the Indira Gandhi-led regime imposed sweeping measures to suppress criticism, jail political rivals and censor the press.

The genesis of The Emergency could be attributed to the Allahabad High Court order in 1975 that dismissed Indira Gandhi’s 1971 election victory against Raj Narain, following which she imposed a national emergency in the country to protect her political interests. Instead of accepting her defeat with all grace, Indira Gandhi imposed a draconian emergency and locked up her political opponents in 1975.

The Allahabad Court’s judgment to dismiss the electoral victory of Indira Gandhi from Rae Bareli came from the fact that she had indulged in corrupt electoral practices during the elections. The court had also barred her from contesting any Lok Sabha elections for the next six years, which led Indira Gandhi to subvert the country’s democratic procedures enshrined in the constitution.

While the trigger for Indira Gandhi to impose the Emergency was indeed the court order that invalidated her hold over the power, the seeds of the crisis were sown during the student protests movement that swept the country in the wake of unbridled corruption, deepening unemployment and acute food insecurity.

Students’ protests leading up to Emergency heralded the downfall of the Indira Gandhi government

In December 1973, students of L.D College of Engineering, Ahmedabad, went on strike in protest against a 20 per cent hike in hostel food fees. Similar protests erupted in January 1974 at Gujarat University that saw clashes between students and the police, touching off massive student protests across the state. As protests spread through different educational institutes across the state, middle-class citizens and factory workers joined the demonstrations, metamorphosing it into a socio-political movement whose widespread ramifications traversed state boundaries and jolted the Indira Gandhi government in New Delhi.

As protests in Gujarat started taking ominous proportions, students, professors, and lawyers came together to form a committee, later known as the Nav Nirman Yuvak Samiti, to voice grievances and shepherd protests. The Indira Gandhi government at the centre took notice of the Nav Nirman Andolan that was taking root in Gujarat and asked the then Gujarat CM Chimanbhai Patel to resign.

However, the fire of the protests in Gujarat did not just incinerate the Chimanbhai Patel government in the state. Its flames inevitably reached New Delhi, most notably after Jayprakash Narayan, inspired by the Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat, spearheaded a similar movement in Bihar that segued into a total revolution which later resulted in an Emergency.

Decades later, the Left intelligentsia is trying to instigate a similar insurrection against the Modi government. If the recent undertakings by the left-leaning liberals are anything to go by, they are desperately trying to inflame countrywide protests, hoping that the ensuing tumult would bring about the downfall of the Modi government just like the students’ protests heralded the undoing of the Indira Gandhi’s government.

It is to this end that every policy move made by the Modi government attracts sharp criticism from the usual suspects, who spare no time in hurrying to denounce them even before critically assessing them. Objectivity has never been the goal of this section of chronic critics, for whom each decision taken by the Modi government unlocks a vast array of opportunities to incite fears, exploit apprehensions and fan misgivings that could result in a countrywide insurrection against the government.

Congress, opposition parties instigate nationwide student rebellion to fuel perpetual sense of resentment against the Centre among the masses

For instance, earlier this year, large-scale protests swept India as students, instigated by political parties and dubious elements with vested interests, took to the streets demanding the postponement of NEET PG 2022 examinations. The opposition leaders saw an opening to prey on the resentment among NEET aspirants and use it as an instrument to chart their path to power. Politicians who thought piggybacking on the protests could earn them political mileage eagerly co-opted the demonstrations and vilified the government as anti-students.

Earlier this year, protests against the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) roiled the country as protesters took the streets alleging discrepancies in its Non-Technical Popular Categories Exam 2021. The protesters are unhappy over the “inaccurate exam results”. The opposition, which is always ready to pounce on the opportunity to corner the Centre, jumped the railway protests bandwagon to capitalise on the disgruntlement of the railway aspirants and use it as a springboard to mobilise people and incite further protests against the government.

While the opportunist politicians and professional troublemakers aka “andolanjeevis” as PM Modi famously termed them were always on the prowl to sow anarchy and revel in the ensuing mayhem, they were profoundly encouraged in their nefarious designs by the Centre’s rollback of the farm laws after monthslong protests. They believed that protests could be employed to bend the government to their will. They realised that mobilising protesters against every government decision would not only instil a perpetual sense of resentment against the government but also undermine its credibility.

So when the detractors resorted to inflaming protests over the Centre’s Agnipath recruitment drive, it was quite evident that the objection was not rooted in logic or rationality but in a deep desire to discredit the government. No sooner did the government announce its plan of providing youth with an opportunity to know and work with the Indian Armed Forces, than the restive opposition backed by motivated propagandists made a beeline to induce protests and hold the government of the day to ransom. Even though the senior officers of all three streams of the Armed Forces backed the move, the propagandists continued to peddle misinformation about the recruitment scheme.

Without delving into the details of the Agnipath programme, those who are pathologically opposed to the Modi government fanned unfounded rumours and misgivings about the scheme, inciting people to take to the streets as a part of their grand plan of shaping a popular rebellion against the Centre that they hope is potent enough to topple the government. A raft of left-leaning liberals created fear psychosis among the agitating ‘aspirants’, which turned the protests violent as protesters resorted to rioting, vandalism, and arson. Public properties across the country were damaged while the mob at places across the nation burnt down trains.

The unrestrained claims of “undeclared Emergency”, “Emergency 2.0” shows the opposition wants Modi govt to meet a similar fate as the Indira govt after the Emergency

In their desire to subject PM Modi to a similar fate that befell Indira Gandhi, the opposition has also leaned on Khalistanis, as witnessed during the last year’s farmers’ protests, when Khalistani supporters actively participated in the protests against the three farm laws. In fact, Khalistanis openly issued death threats to PM Modi for passing the three agriculture bills that would have ushered the country into the era of modern farm practices. Indira Gandhi, during her time, was also up against Khalistanis, who eventually took away her life. However, the symmetry cannot be starker as Khalistanis are now let loose against PM Modi for his commitment to alleviating the problems ailing the country’s agriculture sector and providing farmers with their due.

The unabashed weaponisation of the student protests, the propping up of Khalistanis against PM Modi and the constant pursuit of keeping the pot boiling is why the Congress party and other opposition leaders ceaselessly throw around claims of “undeclared Emergency”, “Emergency 2.0” and similar such insinuations. By loosely throwing around references to the Emergency, the Congress and other opposition parties seek to undermine the electoral mandate that vested power in the Modi government, not once but twice. The goal for such an endeavour is pretty straightforward: to discredit the government by linking it to the autocratic rule of Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and hope such an association would result in the government’s undoing.

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Jinit Jain
Jinit Jain
Writer. Learner. Cricket Enthusiast.

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