New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the Emergency she had declared between 1975-77 as a “dark period” that the nation would never forget, a day after Union minister Arun Jaitley compared late prime minister Indira Gandhi to German dictator Adolf Hitler in a blog post.
“India remembers the Emergency as a dark period during which every institution was subverted and an atmosphere of fear was created. Not only people but also ideas and artistic freedom were held hostage to power politics,” he tweeted on the 43rd anniversary of the event, exhorting the people to make democracy stronger by “writing, debating, deliberating and questioning” its vital aspects.
He hailed the spirit of the citizens who firmly opposed the Emergency that had deprived them of their fundamental rights. “I salute the courage of all those great women and men who steadfastly resisted the Emergency, which was imposed 43 years ago. Their struggles ensured that people power prevailed over authoritarianism and the stifling of civil liberties,” Modi said.
“Let us always work to make our democratic ethos stronger. Writing, debating, deliberating, questioning are vital aspects of our democracy that we are proud of. No force can ever trample the basic tenets of our Constitution.”
Vice president Venkaiah Naidu also expressed the hope of such an incident never occurring again in the country. “After the resounding pro-democracy verdict of the people of our country, I am confident that no sensible government would dare repeat what was done during that fateful night of June 25, 1975,” as reported him as saying.
In the second part of his three-part blog on the Emergency, Jaitley had drawn parallels between the Emergency — which saw opposition leaders being jailed, press freedom curbed and forced sterilisation carried out — with events that had transpired in Nazi Germany in 1933. “Both Hitler and Mrs Gandhi never abrogated the Constitution. They used a republican Constitution to transform democracy into a dictatorship,” he said.
The Union Minister said that the late Prime Minister’s imposition of the Emergency under Article 352, suspension of fundamental rights under Article 359 and her claim that “disorder was planned by the opposition in the country”, echoed Hitler’s “Reichstag” episode as exposed by the Nuremberg trials after 13 years.
He wrote that just as Hitler arrested most of opposition parliamentarians and brought detailed Constitution amendments vesting all power in one person, Gandhi also remanded most opposition MPs and, through their absence, procured a two-third majority in the house for passing several Constitution amendments.
Jaitley, who was also taken into custody during the Emergency, alleged that Gandhi even surpassed Hitler in some aspects. “There were a few things that Hitler did not do which Mrs Gandhi did. She prohibited the publication of parliamentary proceedings in the media… Unlike Hitler, Mrs Gandhi went ahead and transformed India into a dynastic democracy,” the BJP leader wrote. The Congress criticised his views, calling the comparison “odious”.