New Delhi, June 26: Every one of the speakers on the BJP dais — barring Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — was jailed during Emergency. L.K. Advani, whose jail jottings have been recorded in A Prisoner’s Diary, was the most nostalgic, as expected, but after five years as home minister, he could not resist touching on his pet topic — cross-border terrorism — while reminding people of the 28th anniversary of an infamous chapter in India’s history.
The deputy Prime Minister mentioned it at the end of his speech at a function in the BJP headquarters, but that turned out to be the most significant aspect.
Without naming the US and the UK, which he visited recently, Advani said: “On cross-border terrorism, I mentioned to other governments that when you think of India, you should not only think of its government, but of the people of India. We can understand your compulsions but (the) people of India do not understand them. They do not understand how world powers leading the fight against global terrorism can assist countries which are supporting and sponsoring cross-border terrorism. India is a vibrant and vigorous democracy, every government is elected on the wishes of the people and they cannot be ignored.”
Stressing how memories of Emergency were gradually fading from public consciousness, Advani narrated an anecdote of how the publisher of a daily recently printed excerpts from his book to enlighten not his readers so much as his staff of that era.
“The people of India never supported it. Their anger gradually built up and eventually spilt over in the elections. We were surprised at how events ended,” he said. “Those who imposed and perpetuated Emergency never mustered (the) courage to defend it.” Advani went on to say that the only blot on 55 years of India’s “vibrant” democracy was the 19-month-long Emergency. He called on his party to “rededicate itself to the cause of democracy and strengthen democracy in the country”.
A “simple safeguard” was “eternal vigilance”, said BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu. People have to cultivate the attribute instead of just leaving it to political parties, he added.
BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan took a more realistic look at the period. “Twenty-eight years have passed. Some who fought Emergency with us have left us and some who supported it are with us,” he said in an obvious reference to Jagmohan, a senior BJP member and a Cabinet minister. He then tore into the Congress.
“When I reflected on the period, I remembered a line from a Russian writer who said, ‘Let them say they will not arrest a person for his thoughts and then we will decide whether to forgive them or not’.”
“(The) Congress had no regrets about the Emergency. If they get an opportunity, they may do it again, at least there is no guarantee they will not. So people have to be reminded about it each year.”