Opinion

One person rule in India is that of Modi

Kuldip Nayar | July 03, 2015 06:14 AM
Kuldip Nayar

The PMO, headed by Narendra Modi, is now the real power centre.

I am sorry to revert to the Emergency yet again, over two successive weeks. RK Dhawan, Indira Gandhi’s confidant, has disclosed that Sonia Gandhi had no qualms about the Emergency. This is contrary to what I had heard when the Emergency was imposed. It was reported that both her husband Rajiv Gandhi and she were thinking to return to Italy to bring up their children in a “free atmosphere”.

All political parties should put their heads together to stall any Emergency-like rule before it actually comes to exist. If there was one-person rule of Indira Gandhi a few decades ago, today it is that of Narendra Modi. 

Dhawan’s observation about Sonia Gandhi makes all the more obligatory for her to explain her stand. Even after 40 years, the dynasty is not coming out clear on switching off the lights of democracy. The dynasty alone is responsible for what happened. Indira Gandhi was indicted by the Allahabad High Court in a poll petition and unseated for misusing the official machinery.  It was the Supreme Court that gave a reprieve. 

Dhawan’s remarks show that the dynasty experienced no regret. However, Dr Manmohan Singh tried to make up for the dynasty’s deliberate silence. It is but fair that the sooner it apologises to the nation, the better it would be for it, and also the nation. 

Dhawan has, however, come a long way from the deposition before the Shah Commission, appointed by the Janata government to go into the excesses of the Emergency. He had deposed before the commission that he was not willing to say anything against the dynasty and put the entire blame on Siddharth Shankar Ray, the then West Bengal Chief Minister. 

In the light of Dhawan’s revelations, the case should be reopened. More than that, there should be a probe on how institutions were diluted and power got concentrated in Indira Gandhi. In this context, BJP senior leader LK Advani’s warning that Emergency can return becomes significant. He has not named anyone, but the obvious reference is to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has made all other institutions irrelevant and reposes faith in the PMO. In other words, the PMO has become the real power centre. 

I do not think that the Emergency will be reimposed because the amendments effected in the Constitution by the Janata government make it impossible. Yet, conditions can be created that will suggest Emergency without legal sanction. 

The rule of Modi becomes ominous in the sense that no Cabinet minister really counts in the BJP government and the joint consultation by the Cabinet is only on paper. All political parties should put their heads together to stall any Emergency-like rule before it actually comes to exist. 

If there was one-person rule of Indira Gandhi a few decades ago, today it is that of Narendra Modi. Most newspapers and television channels have adapted themselves to his way of working, if not thinking, as they had done during Indira Gandhi's time. 

Against this background, the murder of a 44-year-old journalist in Madhya Pradesh, one of the better administered states in the country, does not surprise me. The reason was once again the same. Journalist Sandeep Kothari dared to cross the line, which those representing the establishment have drawn. Beyond that line, the freedom of expression is not tolerated because it challenges the interest of entrenched elements. 

Kothari disclosed how the sand mafia was operating with the assistance of the police. That is why they have stated that his death was not connected with journalism. The reading of the case is, however, more harrowing than what has come to light. It is apparent that the police were in league with the sand mafia. 

Some activists had been raising their voice over many months. But the authorities took no action, even as the sand mafia gradually began to increase its area of operation. Initially, the mafia operated at night, but after it was able to ‘influence’ more and more functionaries, it shed any fear and hesitation it may have had.

A couple of weeks ago, Kothari went missing from his home at Katangi town of Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh. His family lodged a missing person's complaint the following day. However, reports say three youths, who were closely linked to the sand mafia, kidnapped and killed him after he refused to withdraw a court case. As per the report, Kothari had been out on bail for the last two months in connection with an alleged rape case.

During investigation, the police rounded up the three youths from Katangi and they confessed to having killed Kothari, setting him on fire and burying him in the forests in Nagpur district. The police is yet to establish whether he was murdered first and then burnt.

Since all the facts about the case have not come to light, it is difficult to apportion any blame, but Kothari’s murder is real, as were his journalistic credentials. That the corporate sector has become more influential and more demanding is not something which can be denied. It is intelligent enough not to get involved directly, and so has roughnecks at its command to fix journalists. 

Kothari was a victim. His murder shows how the establishment and the mafia are indulging in heinous crimes to instill awe. This is what the political parties are accepting. Due to petty rivalries, they are allowing the democratic polity to be mutilated. India has compromised with anti-democratic ways and we know how the demands of one-person rule have told upon the establishments in Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

The two countries cite the example of India to suppress critics. This process has become more effective in Bangladesh, where the once-liberal Sheikh Hasina has now turned into an autocrat, creating conditions where elections cannot be held. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the last general election because it felt that the prevalent conditions in the country did not allow for a free and fair election.

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