Indira's Emergency Recalled
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Indira’s (1975-1977) Emergency Recalled

While Pakistan is going through the emergency I go into retrospection. Pakistan is a part of this subcontinent, and the entire subcontinent is going through volatile social, political, environmental, economic etc. crisis.

Architects of the Emergency (1975-77) – Indira Gandhi, her Opponents and the Opportunists – may, or may not, have foreseen and measured, then, its long-term effect on the Indian democracy and polity.

     After the emergency all successive governments at the centre and some states became caretaker governments, by the political parties manipulating alliances in scramble for power.

     In a tribute to the event I did some sketches, which I now dig out. My daily living had been hectic then, and I had been travelling for almost one-third of every year in struggle for survival. Many a times I visited interior areas.

     The people in Mumbai were talking in hushed voice in public places during those days. The real estate prices nosedived. Grocery shops were displaying the prices and stocks of commodities on the boards in public view.

     I have been visiting tribal areas and villages since 1960s, in and around Gujarat State, which also included the hills with dense forest that are now submerged in the infamous Sardar Sarovar Project, and from where thousands of tribal families are displaced. I noticed, the Emergency did not make even a ripple among the tribal.

     The tribal have been perpetually living in a state of emergency for thousands of years. I recount two events from epic Mahabharat.

     In one event, Dronacharya, the guru of Pandavas and Kauravas for military skills, demanded and took Eklavya’s thumb as his fees for being an absentee guru in archery. His descendants, the Bhil tribe in India, to this date, do not use their thumb in archery; it’s a living memorial.

     Democratic India, of course, forbids the tribal to carry bows and arrows, being a weapon. The impotent imagination/creativity of the Agency could not turn archery as a sport for the tribal and treat them with dignity. Archery remains an exclusive domain of the elite, the Pandavas and Kauravas of modern India.

     In another event, Arjun and Krishna were prospecting a suite for Pandava’s new capital. They selected Khandav-van, which was inhabited by the Nag tribe, close to present Delhi. (Nag were not snakes. Likewise, the Katkari tribe, near Mumbai, claim to be descendants of Hanuman and his clan, wh0 were called monkeys, in the Ramayana times.) 

     Arjun and rishna put Khandav forest to fire and destroyed it together with the Nag people. One of them – Takshak – escaped. He took wow to destroy Pandava’s vansh – lineage, dynasty. King Parikshit, the last of Pandava’s, in fear of death lived in a foolproof, tight security. Takshak took to a form of “sookshmajiva” – minute life-form (or bacterium!), entered into an apple, which Parikshit ate; Takshak killed him from within. Will the history repeat?  

     The ruling elite minority, in whatever garbs, with power of money, military and knowledge, are playing horror in the lives of the tribal, the peasants  and the poor of the minorities, in the name of development and progress (of money and economics). Have they learnt any lesson from the Emergency, and the Past or history that they glamorise with pride? But who will bell the cat?

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Remigius de Souza (07-11-2007