Down With These Undeclared Emergencies !

June 26, 2010 will mark the 35th anniversary of the imposition of the infamous Emergency. Formally speaking, there has been no second imposition of Emergency since 1975. The Congress party that had imposed Emergency in 1975 suffered its first defeat at the Centre in 1977, in the first post-Emergency election. On the face of it, it may therefore appear that the ruling classes and their parties have drawn their lessons and we can look back at the 1975 Emergency as an aberration. But a closer look at the state of our democracy clearly reveals that 1975 was no aberration but a trend-setter. Indian democracy is now permanently embellished with several undeclared mini emergencies.
In states like Jammu and Kashmir and several North-Eastern states, the armed forces enjoy special powers which grant them not only the ‘right’ to shoot and kill (and also rape) but also impunity. During his recent visit to Kashmir, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waxed eloquent about human rights and said human rights violations by armed forces would not be tolerated. But independent observers and even official reports record any number of fake encounters, custodial killings and mass rapes over the last two decades of virtual army rule in the valley. The J&K state police, for example, report 52 rape cases by armed forces between November 2002 and January 2009. From time to time the Government of India talks of improvement in the situation in the valley, but withdrawal of armed forces and scrapping of the AFSPA remains an absolute no-no.
Where there is no AFSPA, there is UAPA and Operation Green Hunt. The other day the whole country was treated to a most shocking glimpse of Operation Green Hunt from Lalgarh in West Bengal. Central paramilitary and state police forces are jointly spearheading a combing operation in the area for last one year. The other day, as the operation approached its first anniversary we were told that the joint forces have had a major success in a close encounter with a Maoist squad and 8 dead bodies and lots of weapon and one injured Maoist had been captured from the site. The identity of the killed Maoists was never revealed, the captured weapons were never displayed, but we had a shocking televised display of how the dead are treated by our security forces.
Security forces were seen carrying the body of a young woman exactly the way the carcass of a wild animal displayed as a ‘trophy’ of a hunt would have been carried – trussed up on a bamboo. How better could we possibly expect the Indian state to treat the ‘preys’ of Green Hunt! The oppressed poor are denied their right to human dignity even in their death. The same security forces presented a mute and mentally challenged young man named Rameshwar Murmu as a hardcore Maoist “too stunned to speak”. The reality of Operation Green Hunt as a war on the oppressed poor could not perhaps have been revealed more graphically than what we saw in the “anniversary victory” footage of the combing operation from Lalgarh.
Even in the rest of the country where there is no ‘insurgency-like situation’, the state is no less repressive while dealing with popular protests and struggles. In rural areas where the poor are asking for land and food, or jobs and wages, or the peasants are demanding seeds, water and power – the state routinely showers lathis or even bullets and imprisons people in false cases. Every struggle of workers is facing victimization by employers, with the administration and judiciary often siding with the employers to crush the genuine grievances and demands of the workers. The scene is similar in most of our university campuses where students are being systematically denied their democratic rights to organize and struggle against injustice. And the Union Home Minister loses no opportunity to target human rights organizations and dissenting intellectuals.
When the footfalls of Emergency get louder, it is surely time for the people to heighten their vigilance and intensify the resistance. Let us insist on the scrapping of all draconian laws and bringing all perpetrators of crimes against the people and democracy to justice.