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How Indira Gandhi’s Emergency changed Indian politics

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Pahlavis_meet_Indira_Gandhi_in_India,_1970

By Saeed Naqvi 

Ofcourse there was an Indian, regional and global context in which Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency on June 25, 1975?

The 70s were a decade of fierce contest between the West and the Soviet Union. The Cold War was going badly for the West-Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua had all returned Communist governments.

The June 14, 1976 cover of Time magazine had a menacing photograph of Italian Communist leader, Enrico Berlinguer with a headline in thick, red fonts: The Red Threat. Franco and Salazar had died, leaving Spain and Portugal exposed to the blandishments of the Left. Secretary general of the French communist party, George Marchais was a formidable force.

Baath socialists in Baghdad and Damascus, pro-Soviet regimes in Algeria and Libya – all tended to give the balance of advantage to Moscow, even though the US had scored a major victory by having Anwar Saadat sign the peace accord with Israel in 1979.

Stand-alone comedians in Washington continued to titillate the audience on detente which, at that stage was going badly. A standard joke was: “Détente is like going to a wife swapping party and returning home alone.”

The US had learnt its lessons in Africa, West Asia and Latin America. In many countries listed above there were either nascent or full blown communist movements or anti American regimes like the ones in Baghdad, Damascus, Tripoli and Algiers.

The Shah of Iran’s Secret Police, Savak, dreamed up a plan to eliminate the Left – Khalq, Parcham and a latent Shola e Javed – from around the establishment in Kabul. Accidental death of a trade union leader, Mir Akbar Khaibar, resulted in the plan being exposed. Communists, Aslam Watanjar and Abdul Qadir of the Afghan armed forces, acted pre-emptively. They trained their tanks on President Daud and his close supporters who were killed in the palace. Nur Muhammad Taraki of Khalq became prime minister. This happened in April 1978. In Islamabad, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s judicial assassination inaugurated the era of Zia ul Haq’s Islamism. The Ayatullahs came to power in Tehran in 1979.

Where was India in all of this? It turns out that the intense east-west contest of the 70s may well have begun in India. In 1969, Indira Gandhi split the Congress along ideological lines. The right wing, business friendly party bosses, the Congress (O), searched for and found like-minded groups they could coalesce with – Jana Sangh (which later became the BJP), RSS, (BJP’s ideological mentors), Socialists (in their anti communism, close to all the groups listed above), and the professional Gandhians, Hindu and austere.

This coalition acquired urgency because Indira Gandhi had begun to lean directly on the Communist Party boss, S.A. Dange. Colleagues like Mohan Kumaramangalam, P.N. Haksar were strong leftist influences on her.

Global moves, counter moves were on. Henry Kissinger was plotting a Washington, Beijing, Moscow triangle. Just then the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was signed. With Soviet help, India liberated Bangladesh.

On the one hand, India was now in a vice-like grip of the Soviet Union, on the other, Secretary General of the Communist party in Bihar, Jagannath Sarkar, had taken up the land question with sufficient success to worry the Congress.

Between the Deendayal Upadhyay Institute in Jhandewalan, Gandhi Peace Foundation and Ram Nath Goenka’s apartment in the Indian Express building, a scheme was hatched to resurrect Jaya Prakash Narayan as a counterpoint to Indira Gandhi who seemed invincible after the Bangladesh operations.

Anti Vietnam war youth movements at Grosvenor Square, London, the barricades in Paris building upto the Kent State university shooting in 1970 which killed four anti Vietnam (Kampuchea) war protestors, were far away to infect youth movement in India. And yet, by 1973 a powerful youth movement was taking shape in Gujarat ignited by students. They were protesting against inadequate hostel facilities. Mysteriously, the dissolution of the state assembly became a prime demand. The Congress (O) leader Morarji Desai went on indefinite hunger strike. The assembly was dissolved. Agitationists had tasted blood.

JP, ofcourse, had visited Gujarat to pick up tricks he might employ in the Bihar agitation which initially targeted the country’s most innocuous chief minister, Abdul Ghafoor. JP invited Morarji Desai to be chairman of the Sangharsh Samiti (Action committee). The senior most RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh, was its convener.

It was Naanji Deshmukh and his RSS cadres on whose shoulders the Bihar movement was carried. JP had very kindly invited me to stay with him in his family house in Kadam Kuan. I therefore had a ringside seat on the JP movement.

Peter Hazlehurst of The Times, London, described Indira Gandhi’s politics in a pithy phrase: she is a little left of self interest.

It was her dependence on the left and the Soviet Union, that the JP movement sought to bring under strain.

Relentless pressure was kept up, first by a successful Railway strike in May 1974 led by the firebrand George Fernandez. The Allahabad High Court judgement of June 12, 1975 unseated her from parliament for misuse of office during her election to parliament.

On June 25, an unnerved Indira Gandhi, imposed the Emergency.

When elections were held in 1977, the electorate trounced Indira Gandhi. The coalition woven by JP during the Bihar movement came to power in Delhi as the Janata Party under Morarji Desai. Atal Behari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi became ministers. Indian politics had taken a turn it was not going to recover from in a hurry. (IANS)

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US Backtracks on Iraqi, Kurd Cease-fire Claim

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An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri
An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq. VOA

Iraq, October 27: The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State announced Friday morning a cease-fire between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq but quickly backtracked on the claim, saying it is not an “official” cease-fire.

Army spokesman Ryan Dillon posted a clarification on Twitter to say “both parties (are) talking with one another,” but that a “cease-fire” had not been reached.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority have been clashing for several weeks after the Iraqi troops moved to secure areas in northern Iraq that had been seized from IS jihadists by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces abandoned the land largely without resistance, though low-level clashes have been reported.

Iraqi PM rejects Kurdish offer

The areas Iraqi forces are moving into were mostly under Baghdad’s control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces recaptured the lands, and the Kurdistan Region has since held them.

The Iraqi leadership said it is retaking the areas to establish federal authority after a Kurdish referendum for independence in September threatened the nation’s unity. More than 92 percent of Kurds in Iraq voted “yes” in a vote Baghdad called illegal, and the international community leaders said was dangerous and ill-timed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday rejected an offer by Kurdish leaders to freeze the results of their independence referendum in favor of dialogue in order to avoid further conflict.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, in a statement, said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.

“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.

‘Unified Iraq is the only way to go’

Abadi said in a statement his government will accept only the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution.

During a briefing Friday morning at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes “a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward.”

He added, “We’re not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis.”(VOA)

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Iraqi Kurdish Leader Claims Victory in Independence Referendum

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Iraqi Kurds
Kurds celebrate voting for Independence referendum from Iraq. (voa)

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani on Tuesday claimed victory in the referendum vote for independence and called for a “dialogue” with Iraqi authorities, who have rejected the vote as unconstitutional.

“Instead of harassment, let’s have dialogue for a better future,” he said, adding, “Negotiations are the right path to solve the problems, not threats or the language of force.”

On Monday, Iraqi Kurdish voted on an independence referendum that drew objection from the government in Baghdad, as well as neighboring countries and the United States.

In response to the vote, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatened to ban all flights into and out of the Kurdish region if leaders there didn’t concede control of airports to federal authorities.

Al-Abadi said the Kurdish region has until Friday to hand over the airports or the ban will be put into place.

The referendum vote is non-binding, but Barzani said he hopes the “yes” vote will lead to increased dialogue between the Kurds and Iraqi government.

“I call on Mr. Haider al-Abadi and the others [Iraqi political officials] not to close the door to dialogue, because it is dialogue that will solve problems,” he said in a televised address. “We assure the international community of our willingness to engage in dialogue with Baghdad.”

At the polls in the Kurdistan Regional capital, many voters donned trditional clothes and carried Kurdish flags, saying they believed this vote could be the beginning of the realization of their dream for independence. (VOA)

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The holy month of Ramadan: Unholy Killings. Why this disconnect?

What is our maximum life span on this moral world? Not more than 100 years. Then why is there bad blood among ourselves and brutal hostility?

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Iraqi security forces and civilians inspect the site of a deadly bomb attack, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, May 30, 2017. Another bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in the Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad just after midnight on Monday, killing and wounding dozens of civilians, hospital and police officials said. VOA
  • The holy month of Ramadan is witnessing mass killing of people 
  • On May 30, a car bomb hit an ice-cream shop in Baghdad killing 15 wounding at least 30
  • Next day, a massive blast tore apart the diplomatic quarter in Kabul killing at least 90 people

By Salil Gewali

June 04, 2017: Ramadan is a holy month for Islam which we all must respect. More so when it’s observed with the rigorous austerity, renouncing the material indulgences, dedicating this to the Almighty who is “common” to all and one. True, always through the “austerity” one’s mind, inner heart and soul can be cleansed that finally raises one’s spiritual level. Of course, throughout the holy month, those who fast should not at all be hurtful to anyone, even the non-human creatures whether through the speech or action. Also, the “mind” must not harbour anything that precipitates the negativity.

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But when this holy month is defiled by the gory incidence of blasts — the most ungodly acts, how could we link it with the holy Islam or GOD? Is it a prelude to a bigger mission that it started with the Manchester’s suicide explosion on May 22 that shattered the euphoria of the concert-goers leaving 23 people dead, 129 others grievously injured? This is followed by the May 26 episode when a scary masked gunmen attacked a bus carrying Christians. The incident left 26 men dead, including many children in Egypt’s Minya. After a brief lull of four days, on May 30, a car bomb hit an ice-cream shop in Baghdad killing 15 wounding at least 30. Then immediately the next day a massive blast tore apart the diplomatic quarter in Kabul near the German embassy, killing at least 90 people, sources put the injured count at a whopping 460. Then followed another deadly carnage early Friday morning in the Philippines when a gunman burst into Manila hotel, who later set himself on fire, that left 36 people dead due to suffocation and at least 54 severely hurt. Now how many more tragedies will happen until the end of Ramadan…? Peoples are worryingly apprehensive.

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One very thoughtful friend of mine from Mumbai — Mr M. Nazeer, in a sorrowful tone, laments – These all are the heartless attacks on humanity which only sink the holy spirit of the true believers of the Allah, we are not feeling too safe on our own? I guess he is right. Of course, no one can disagree that the principle teaching of the Quran or the Bible or the Gita —  Love all and serve all should ever be allowed to be misinterpreted and harm the humanity? One strongly feels that those who kill and those who get killed, are both created by the “One Almighty”. What is our maximum life span on this moral world? Not more than 100 years. Then why is there bad blood among ourselves and brutal hostility? One feels that we should firstly determinedly practice believing that we all the children of the “same” GOD. The time is ripe that we all must introspect with all sagacity and human compassion. The merciless killing is never the way to the Almighty.

 Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘great minds on India’

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