Those of us who only read about the Emergency felt that something like that could never again happen in India. After all we had judicial precedents and constitutional amendments to make sure that it didn’t. But the events of the last few days tell us otherwise. It’s grown colder in India and it’s been chilly for a while now.
India is a democracy and in a democracy, a person should be permitted to peacefully espouse and ideology. After all we won our freedom movement because we were permitted to go out and peacefully demand the overthrow of the King-Emperor. There is no constitutional requirement to be affectionate towards the state. There is no obligation to love one’s country. People love their country out of choice. The only requirement is that what a person does to show their disaffection be one that is non-violent.
Lawyers have been arrested along with other human rights activists. Houses have been raided and lives have been thrown apart. In some of the searches, literature about left movements has been seized as being incriminating evidence of “Naxalite” activities. If literature is dangerous, then they need to burn down the universities and libraries. Perhaps this is what they truly wish to do.
It is not a battle between democracy and a dictatorship anymore. It’s now a battle for the minds. Instead of using the common refrain of shoving fearful ideas down the masses of the country to meet political ends, it is now a situation where the Government wants people to fear ideas in themselves. This is what makes it very cold. For in this climate to think at all is considered the greatest act of violence against the state. To speak, to question, to breathe air differently is symbolic of being anti-national.
It’s been chilly for a while. It started when they didn’t prosecute people for lynching others on the streets. It may have started when a rioter and mass murderer was voted into office with a thumping majority. It may have started even earlier. Only the wind knows when it changes its course. The rest can only feel the chill of the wind on their skin.
Constitutions turn into mere pieces of paper if those who are to abide by them choose to ignore its tenets. A constitutional republic can only survive if there is a semblance of the rule of law. But yesterday the rule of law broke down. Raids and arrests occurred. Those who were arrested didn’t have the charges read out to them. Arrest memos were presented in a language the courts couldn’t follow and courts granted remands based on those memos. Searches were conducted without warrants and the most intimate of articles were seized.
The national motto in this country is that truth will triumph. But for truth to triumph, there must be a semblance of truth left. But there is none, one turns on the television and it is apparent that the media is now part of a propaganda machine toeing the party line. When one read about how the Nazis came to power, one thought it was fiction, things like this would never happen again. But here it is happening, unfolding before our eyes.
There are many like me who feel like today is the day to eulogise this republic. But that would mean that those who seek to destroy its very foundations win. They cannot be allowed to win. Those who can still think must not give up. We must rise up and fight this monster that has now revealed itself to be a fascist juggernaut. We must do so peacefully with the greatest weapon that we have at our disposal; our ideas and our thoughts.
This republic was forged on the idea of freedom. The idea that a person could be free and equal under the law. That we live together bound by the constitution yet diverse in our opinions. The republic will survive. Freedom will return one day. But till then we must cling to liberty, even if it means clinging on to it like one clings on to fistfuls of rain.