RSS the hypocrites: Opposed Ordinance Raj during Emergency, mum now with Modi

Government has issued 22 ordinances in just two years of being in power.

 |  9-minute read |   01-06-2016
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An "underground" pamphlet of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) provenance in Karnataka during Indira Gandhi's infamous Emergency (1975-77), said in Kannada: "Sugreevaajneindaalalu naavu kapigalalla", Sugreeva being a monkey king character in the Ramayana, whose word was law. Thus, Sugreevaajne means ordinance, and therefore, "We're not monkeys to be ruled by ordinances".

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This writer vividly remembers some of the contents of those pamphlets, having distributed many of them during the Emergency, as stated in a long blog post. (Incidentally, the RSS uses the word "kapi", Kannada for monkey, in a pejorative sense but a lot of humans – and not only those weaned on wildlife videos – look upon our Simian cousins with affection and respectful amusement.)

In the Emergency era when constitutional rights were suspended and most prominent leaders including Jayaprakash Narayan (who had led an agitation against Indira Gandhi), Morarji Desai (who went on to become prime minister briefly), LKAdvani (put out to pasture by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi),the once-socialist firebrand George Fernandes and many other opposition stalwarts were imprisoned, Indira Gandhi ruled by decree, i.e. through ordinances.

Arguably the most cerebral of Indian cartoonists yet, the late Abu Abraham, depicted the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed signing on the dotted line from his bathtub and saying, "If there are any more ordinances, just ask them to wait."


Fast forward to 2016: During the two years of Modi Raj, 22 ordinances have been promulgated thus far as the LiveLaw website recorded as of May 24.

Three almost identical ordinances were related to land acquisition but when in the face of much criticism the government was ultimately forced to take the parliamentary route, it demurred in the face of stiff resistance mounted by the Opposition which while lacking numbers in the Lok Sabha, showed its teeth in the Rajya Sabha.

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This is a serious matter as the first ordinance on land acquisition was promulgated in December 2014, the second in April 2015, and the next, in quick succession the following month: an obviously deliberate attempt at hoodwinking the lawmakers and the people by avoiding Parliament sessions.

Note this identical paragraph in all the three ordinances:

AND WHEREAS, Parliament is not in session and the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action;…"

Why did Modi sarkar so carefully avoid the winter and Budget sessions of Parliament? Three ordinances issued on the same issue just in between Parliament sessions and much of India’s supine mainstream media looks the other way!

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In a genuine democracy, legislation, or the making of laws – especially those such as land acquisition which affect the lives of tens of millions of people – has to be preceded by extensive public debate and consensus-building, with legislators or parliamentarians being sensitive to popular opinion, and the government deferring to the will of the people as reflected in parliamentary debates.

Three ordinances on the same issue within a space of some months deliberately skirting Parliament does not look like the act of a democratic government, but more like that of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency style dispensation.

Another exceedingly important issue, namely mining, which has led to the devastation of the lives of Adivasis living in vast tracts of land in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and other places, was carefully issued in January 2015, in between two parliamentary sessions, avoiding consultation with people and parliamentarians. Ditto for the Citizenship ordinance of the same month.

Note that Modi sarkar, which took office on May 26 2014, promulgated the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Ordinance just two days later. Why such hurry? Because some of these ordinances touch on interests close to the hearts of the moneybags behind Modi’s rise, such as the Adanis and Ambanis?

The latest ordinance signed by President Pranab Mukherjee on May 24 2016, The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) which has to do with entrance examinations for seats in medical colleges, has already come in for criticism.

One could go on about other ordinances as well.

Now, Why has the RSS forgotten its Emergency era opposition to Ordinance Raj as expressed in underground pamphlets of that era? Merely because one of its pracharaks (propagandists) is today the prime minister of India and another, Ram Madhav, is being projected as a bright star in the BJP firmament?

The latter, at least, had the courage to face a televised debate and was shown up by a rather too polite Mehdi Hasan in an Al Jazeera interview, whereas, the former is such a puny coward that he has never faced a truly freewheeling interview, having infamously walked away from one by Karan Thapar’s studio, several versions of which are extant on Youtube.

Or could it be because the process of the Sangh Parivar (as it later came to be known) and the Congress looking, if not identical, then at least similar given their Brahminical persona began to fructify around the time of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, their seeds having been laid pre-1947?

After all, Madhukar Dattatraya ("Balasaheb") Deoras had stealthily expressed support for the Emergency, presumably because Sanjay Gandhi and his henchmen had targeted Muslims in Delhi and beyond? And that the anti-Sikh pogrom following Indira Gandhi’s assassinationin 1984 organised by Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar, Kamal Nath, late HKL Bhagatand and others with the blessings of Rajiv Gandhi had the backing of the RSS, including one of its stalwarts, Chandikadas Amritrao ("Nanaji") Deshmukh?

Perhaps, this explains why the RSS and its ideologues went along with Indira Gandhi’s Emergency while speaking with a forked tongue – pretending to oppose Ordinance Raj – having gone along with the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 and other genocidal attacks on the minorities and Dalits and are quite happy with the Modi regime’s Ordinance Raj that rides rough shod over democratic norms?

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During Modi’s chief ministership in Gujarat, he almost totally ignored the state legislature. Now he is trying to do the same at the national level, the Rajya Sabha coming in the way. But the Congress which has some numbers is, as the foregoing shows, not only no respecter of democratic norms, but as was evident during the PV Narasimha Rao regime (1991-1996) and that of Manmohan Singh (2004-2014), followed neo-liberal policies that have meant a blitz on lands and forests of the indigenous people of India.

Discussing the Congress regime’s policies that have been adopted and reinforced by the current Modi sarkar Professor Emeritus, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prabhat Patnaik put it brilliantly, situating the word "fascist" in the historical context of Germany and Italy of the 1930s: "I certainly think of this government as basically to use AmartyaSen’s term, 'Communal Fascist' government, that it is actually fascism of a communal kind…"

One point of similarity between Germany of the 1930s and early 1940s and the Modi regime is that just as German captains of industry, such as Krupp, Thyssen and Siemens stood solidly behind Adolf Hitler and benefited from that, Adani, the Ambanis and Tatas back Modi and have been benefiting from not only massive tax write-offs but the use of the state’s forces to terrorise Adivasis and others whose lands, forests and hills are sought to be usurped.

A point of dissimilarity between Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and the current regime – and one which explains why she overnight imposed press censorship – is that in the late 1970s many privately owned newspapers and magazines printed disparate opinions. There were no private television channels then, unlike now, when those media outlets owned by the captains of industry mentioned above literally mute out opinions of those speaking up on behalf of the Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, Christians and others. There are few widely watched or widely read outlets willing to air dissent.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former West Bengal governor and former Indian ambassador to several countries including South Africa while delivering a lecture on March 23, 2015 in Bangalore honouring Jayaprakash Narayan, who founded the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, said:

"During the Emergency, 1975-'77, there was a kind of an attempt to combine socialist rhetoric with the realpolitik or opportunism. Today there is a great attempt at combining two pulls, two compulsions in the public. One is the inborn set of prejudices that all of us have about other communities, polarization by bringing about things like temples, cow slaughter. But the other great pull, the pull for the good life via the world model of globalization, the corporate-communal binary is like the great combination of two demi-gods wanting to snuff out dissent by a combination of fear and seduction. The latter is even more difficult to resist than the former and in the emergency which JP faced, the problem was fear not seduction except when it came to some small loaves and fishes of office. But today it is much more different and that is why it is much more important to resist."

During Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, the RSS was seemingly part of the underground resistance, whereas its real proclivities coincided with that of Sanjay Gandhi, Jagmohan and others who went after Muslims, Dalits and other indigent folk.

After the promulgation of the Emergency in 1975, the RSS printed several pamphlets opposing Ordinance Raj that got distributed by those such as this writer.

The RSS now is, through its pracharak Modi, supporting Ordinance Raj.


N Jayaram N Jayaram @n_jayaram

The writer is a journalist now based in Bangalore. He has worked for the Press Trust of India and Agence France-Presse.

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