It has been over more than six and a half decades since India ousted the British and become the country that it is today and there has been an insidious corrosion of freedom of Indians within the country. This change has occurred so slowly, steadily and stealthily that it has been practically invisible.
The Past Scenario and the Slow Rise of Corruption
The first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was beset with nightmares over people’s demands for linguistic states – to which he had to comply. He was rooting for a dual-language Bombay State or at least creating Bombay (the city) as a Union territory – but he was in minority within the party itself – so he stepped down from his preference. He struggled to create and perpetuate a democracy, as it is defined.
When Nehru and then Law Minister B. R. Ambedkar first proposed the Hindu Code Bill in 1949, they faced a lot of dissent from masses and also from with their own party. The Bill was reworked, split up and passed in 1954 and became law in 1955. One of the people strongly against the Bill was Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Despite the fact that he was opposing Nehru, democracy allowed that he became President in the interim with powers to reject or hold back the Bill. Obviously, at that time members within the party were there not because they simply agreed with the party leader. People could make demands that were given an ear and thought. Decisions like creating linguistic states rose from people’s demands.
Nehru’s successor was his daughter, Indira Gandhi. Often reviled as a dictator in her own times, Indira Gandhi’s public exposé negating any pretensions of being a democrat came when she declared Emergency in the country on June 26, 1975. The Emergency (often termed as the most immoral act and the darkest period in the history of independent Indian) was declared 13 days after she was found guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign in the 1971 elections, her win from Rae Bareilly was declared null and void, and she was barred from contesting election for 6 years. Essentially, this ruling fired the Prime Minister of the country. After the Emergency ended on March 21, 1977 she faced a deafening defeat in the 1977 General Elections.
It is important to note that while she was being demonized, Indira Gandhi still offered enough democracy for major and powerful opposition leaders like Jayprakash Narayan to rise; for movements like the student’s agitation to take place and for the judiciary to be able to act independently from the government (as it is supposed to) and give a ruling against her, the serving Prime Minister. It is even alleged that one of the judges hearing the case (uncertain, whether it was in the High Court or Supreme Court) called Indira Gandhi a congenital liar who spoke an untruth every 19 minutes.
People and judiciary both had a voice, autonomy, fearlessness and power.
The Scenario Today; Corruption Reigns
The CBI has become a self-declared caged parrot. An IAS officer (Durga Shakti Nagpal) who set out to do the right thing was suspended in a record-setting 41 minutes decision. Popular support, support by the wakf board (who were supposed to be the aggrieved party in the supposed act of demolition of a wall) and general outrage had no impact on the determined-to-punish government. Far from taking criminals to the courts by the common people, today criminals are taken to government posts by political parties. We have a Prime Minister who is known as a puppet Prime Minister. Protesters who demanding justice and security face the wrath of water cannons. (This happened during the spontaneous Nirbhaya protests in December 2012). There have been no real agitations, movements or demands for any rights from a beaten and cowed down country against any transgressions by anyone in power.
Today, Indians have become a toothless mass of fearful people whose only exercise in democracy is armchair agitation which takes the form of discussing the state of affairs and spewing courageous rhetoric in private gatherings.
By Sujata Garimella