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How emergency bridged barriers between RSS and Muslim leaders in captivity

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By Ishan Kukreti

Sadanand Panday has been associated with the esteemed Hindi daily Vir Arjun for more than 20 years. The daily, once a staple diet of nationalists and an unrelenting voice for freedom, had Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its editor at one point of time.

NewsGram talked to Sadanand Panday, associate editor of the newspaper about the situation during emergency and his views on Democracy and Dictatorship.

Ishan Kukreti- How was the experience of emergency by the media fraternity?
Sadanand Panday– Senior journalist Kuldeep Nayyar has often told me how during emergency power supply to the press area on Bhadur Shah Zafar Marg was withheld. The editors had to get their news stories pre-approved from Press Information Bureau. Because of this distribution of the papers suffered a lot during this period. It can be said that newspapers weren’t printed during emergency, only pamphlets were.

IK- What was the treatment meted out to Vir Arjun during emergency?
SPVir Arjun faced the atrocities of emergency, like the rest of the newspapers. The paper had to be discontinued because of the pressure from Mrs. Gandhi. K. Narendra, the then editor of Vir Arjun was given an option of either publishing pro government stories or facing closure. He chose the later. Vir Arjun broke down, but it did not bend.

IK- How was everyday life and ordinary populace affected by emergency?
SP– I remember, people were scared. Many of my teachers were arrested and treated with complete disregard for human and fundamental rights in prisons. They had to face a difficult time there. But, at the same time, there used to be a lot of intellectual people in the jails like journalists, politicians, lawyers etc and the kind of company one had there was very revolutionary.

I was told a very interesting incident by Mr. Arif Beg of BJP. The RSS members and the Muslim leaders who were locked up, although initially sat in opposite corners of the cell, by the end of it all, became close friends as they suffered similarly at the hands of the government.

Mr. M. Faruqi of CPI( Communist Party of India) told me that there was an unsaid understanding amongst all prisoners that Indira Gandhi had to be dislodged from power to maintain the democratic nature of India.

IK- Was there a sea change in the situation during and after emergency?
SP– People were quiet at that time, but they were angry. Although Vinoba Bhave called the period an ‘Anushashan Parv‘, it is completely wrong. Emergency was the decision of a weak and scared woman who feared losing her power. This was felt by everyone.

At that time a pamphlet used to be published called, ‘Ram aur Sham‘, which laid bare the atrocities committed during that time. It was widely read by people. They used to listen to BBC instead of AIR. Literate people liked the speeches of Richard Nixon where he criticized Mrs. Gandhi. Henry Kissinger was popular for his comments against Mrs. Gandhi. Although people could not express their anger openly, they pledged to punish Mrs. Gandhi in the next elections, and they did.

Some Congress members too could not express themselves freely because of the fear of top party officials. They tried to create a favorable image of the efforts/atrocities committed by Sanjay Gandhi force without being convinced or convincing others.

IK- Which were the sections that were most aggrieved by the situation?
SP– The lower classes, who had to face forced sterilization drive were too scared to openly say anything. But there was resentment in their hearts too. The Muslim section was completely against the Congress and Mrs. Gandhi as the period saw the demolition of Turkman Gate. I’d say all the sections were equally outraged by the imposition of emergency. Even many Congress members just paid lip service to the higher authorities in the party.

IK- Before the 2014 Parliamentary Elections, there was a section of people who believed that India needed a dictatorship to make it a superpower. Do you agree with this contention?
SP– No. Not at all. Dictatorship has never created a successful nation, and it never will. Democracy and freedom have their own charm and there is no substitute to it. I don’t think anywhere in the near or far future, Dictatorship can replace Democracy as a better model of governance.

Next Story

US President Donald Trump Declares Emergency to Fund Border Wall on Mexican Border

While government was under a shutdown with all but the essential services operating and 800 government employees under temporary layoff, Trump scaled back his idea of a wall to a series of metal slats along the border

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U.S. President Donald Trump is seen through his transparent teleprompter as he speaks during the Missile Defense Review announcement at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 17, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump declared a State of Emergency on Friday to fund his campaign promise of building a wall on the Mexican border after the Congress resolutely refused to give him the money he wanted.

Trump backed away from his threat to again shutdown the government if the legislature did not vote $5.7 billion for the border wall and approved the bipartisan funding bill without the allocation, and instead resorted to the Emergency.

He cited the drug-smuggling problems and the “15,000” people who came to the border in convoys from Central America and are camped there hoping to cross the frontier, as reasons for his Emergency.

Unlike in India, an Emergency of the type that Trump is planning does not bring sweeping powers or allow suspension of civil rights and arbitrary arrests, but only enables limited action in government operations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party’s leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, declared that imposing an Emergency would be “a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency”.

Pelosi said that challenging the Emergency in court was an option.

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President Donald Trump talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans, Jan. 14, 2019, in Washington. VOA

Announcing the Emergency at the White House, Trump said that he expected a cases to be filed in a federal court with judges favouring the Democrats which he would lose and a subsequent appeal, but would ultimately prevail in Supreme Court.

Trump also called on the Democrats to work with him on broad immigration reforms that would include ending immigration of relatives of citizens, but move towards a merit-based preference for immigrants.

Congress passed the bill on Thursday with $1.375 billion for a 55-mile fence, nowhere near the $5.7 billion Trump had demanded for the wall along the Mexican border that he had promised during his election campaign.

The measure was hammered out by lawmakers from both parties after Trump allowed the government to reopen after a 35-day shutdown in a showdown over the wall funding.

Trump had threatened to veto any bill without the money he demanded for the wall, but is now agreeing to it while making good on his threat to impose an Emergency to get money for the wall.

Calling the Emergency a “presidential over-reach” and “a dangerous precedent”, Democratic Party Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said: “The Constitution maintains that only Congress has the power of the purse and may appropriate funds. This is not a Constitutional power any President has.”

Pelosi said a legal challenge was “an option and we’ll review our options”.

Several lawmakers from Trump’s own party were against an Emergency declaration. Republican Senator John Cornyn called it a “dangerous step”, saying: “The President is going to get sued and it won’t succeed in accomplishing his goal.”

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Donald Trump. VOA

He added that if Pelosi introduces a resolution against the Emergency, it will split the Republicans.

According to media reports quoting the White House officials, Trump plans to spend a total of $8 billion on the border barrier. While there is $1.375 billion allocated in the spending bill, he wants to make up the rest by diverting money from the military construction budget and funds seized from drug smugglers and dealers.

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Trump had said during his election campaign that he would make Mexico pay for the border wall – an unrealistic claim that has continued to haunt him as he sought funding in the US budget.

While government was under a shutdown with all but the essential services operating and 800 government employees under temporary layoff, Trump scaled back his idea of a wall to a series of metal slats along the border.

Having had to back down from his funding demand with Pelosi standing firm amid growing opposition to the shutdown, Trump sees the Emergency as the only way for him to build his barrier and save his credibility among his most steadfast supporters. (IANS)