Dark days of emergency are long forgotten but its horrors are still alive in the minds of those who faced it. Declaration of national emergency by the incumbent President, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed in 1975 paralyzed the democracy to such an extent that one of the four pillars (Press) of it was crushed and with it pulverized the fundamental rights, hopes, and aspirations of the people.
Restriction on the freedom of the press was just one facet of national emergency. There were many other aspects of emergency like forced sterilization. Since India is a democratic republic and a democracy has four legs –judiciary, executive, legislature and Press thus it is necessary for a democratic country that all the four legs should carry out their functions responsibly but with one leg amputated country is bound to become paralyzed and that’s what happened when the national emergency was declared and then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was allowed to rule by decree.
The press was severely censored to the extent that no information was allowed to be published without scrutiny and it was spoon fed what was to be disseminated. Anyone who opposed was dealt with force. Most of the Indian Media succumbed to the pressure. Those emergency days are often entitled as the dark days of Indian history and the pages of these history chapters are meant to be torn away and never to be remembered again but this emergency also ushered India from the days of severe censorship of press to numerous reforms to avoid such misuse of power by the government. These were the repercussions of a declared emergency.
Do you ever wonder that if the declared emergency can paralyze the democracy to such an extent then what an undeclared emergency would do? At least in declared emergency people know what is coming their way but in an obscure emergency, people don’t even know whether there is something amiss. This obscure emergency has started to hold the ground. It became quite conspicuous after the two senior journalists- managing editor Milind Khandekar and senior anchor- Punya Prasun Bajpai of a mainstream Hindi News channel left the channel last month. Prasun Bajpai while giving reasons for his exit told that he was asked to drop certain references to the government. Even the signals of Mr. Bajpai’s programme which was critical of the government were disrupted. This is a different form of censorship which is being imposed upon the media. Negation of media’s role can be disastrous and it can shake the very foundation of the country on which it has stood firm for so many years. Media plays the role of critics which makes the government aware of the flaws in the policies and keeps a check on the government. Criticism is the very foundation of a democracy and this role is played by the fourth pillar- Press which is the voice of people. If the press is being gagged by unscrupulous practices then this shows the betrayal of people who advocate their views through the press. There is a need to stop the repetition of history by taking necessary actions as Winston Churchill said, “want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”