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Emergency was declared by PM Indira Gandhi this day 44 years back when the citizen’s fundamental rights of life, liberty and expression were abrogated. Thousands were jailed, Press freedom was scuttled, hundreds were killed by the State in fake encounters and people, particularly the poor minorities, were forcibly sterilised. It lasted 19 months and when elections were held, Mrs. Gandhi’s party was handed down a crushing defeat by people celebrating freedom and democracy once more.

Today we need to remember the dark days of Emergency not only to cherish the value of freedom and democracy, but also because we are at present going through a period of undeclared Emergency for substantial sections of our people, with thousands living under conditions of detention in the North-East, daily fake encounters occur in vast areas of North and Central India when innocent citizens are just picked up and shot, when hundreds of farmers are pushed against the wall, when tribals and lakhs of forest-dwellers are evicted from their land and homesteads to clear the ground for rich and hungry corporates, where unemployment and near-starvation are rampant, when journalists and human rights activists are arbitrarily arrested for doing their duty, when women and children are not safe from predatory forces and the State fails to protect them, and when Dalits and minorities are mercilessly targeted by cow vigilantes and the police look away.

A corporate – communal fascism is emerging. If we look back at Emergency as a period we the people of India need to and must absolutely avoid, then this undeclared Emergency must also be identified, resisted and defeated. For, we must never forget that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” , liberty in every sense : political, social , religious and economic.

Aurobindo Ghose , Lawyer and Human Rights Activist.


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