Renewal of democracy and the republic is the demand of the times!
June 25th 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of “National Emergency” by the then President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed. This state of “national Emergency” was lifted after over 20 months and elections were called for the parliament. During this period of 20 months, the cloak of democracy that has covered the rule of the Indian big bourgeoisie was lifted to reveal it’s thoroughly fascist, anti working class, anti people character.
Protests and rallies by working class, peasantry, youth and students, were banned. Student organizations were suppressed on campuses. The voices of dissent were brutally suppressed. Tens of thousands of people were arrested and incarcerated in jails all over India for expressing their opposition to the attack on democratic rights and civil liberties. Revolutionary communists were hounded within the country and abroad by the Indian state and its agencies. Many were simply murdered. State governments run by bourgeois opposition parties were dismissed.
In the name of “making trains run on time”, rail workers, including engine drivers, guards, and station masters, who had been in the forefront of the historic railway strike of 1974, were terrorized, arrested and tortured. In the name of “family planning”, the Indira Gandhi government carried out a barbaric campaign of forced sterilization in the cities and countryside, in which the target was the poor who were accused of “breeding” too fast. In the name of “cleaning” the cities, the government launched a campaign of slum demolitions, removing hawkers from the streets, and so on, at one stroke attacking the livelihood and rights of millions of urban poor.
The proclamation of “National Emergency” was not a whim of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, as is made out by apologists of the Indian state. It was a deliberate act of the biggest monopolies of India, in the conditions when the working class and toiling peasantry, the youth and students, were showing, through their struggles, that they were unwilling to accept their conditions, and when internal divisions within the ruling class made it difficult for it to rule in the old way. The biggest capitalists of the day endorsed the Emergency publicly.
The challenge before communists of that time was to channelize the opposition of the working class and toiling masses against the hated emergency, to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie and establish the rule of the workers and peasants. This is the path that revolutionary communists advocated, including the revolutionaries of the Hindustani Ghadar Party (Organisation of Indian Marxist Leninists Abroad).
The Communist movement was splintered at that time. A section of communists justified the imposition of “National Emergency” in the name of “defeating right reaction”. Another section propagated that the immediate task of communists was to “restore democracy”. In such a situation, with different signals being given by communists to the working class and toiling masses, the bourgeoisie came out of the crisis, organized elections, and declared that “democracy had been restored”. The Constitution was then amended to allegedly ensure that the events of 1975-1977 could not be repeated by future governments.
The point is not to blame this or that communist party or group for their stand towards the National Emergency declared by the bourgeoisie in the 1975-1977 period, or their support to the “restoration of democracy” carried out by the same big bourgeoisie that had declared the Emergency in the first place.
Most important is what attitude communists must take to Indian democracy and the present Republic today. What has been the experience of our people with this democracy and this Republic over this period?
Fooling by the ballot and ruling by the bullet has been established as the preferred method of defending the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the working class and toiling masses. Punjab, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed prolonged periods of President’s rule, whenever the ruling class found it difficult to establish an “elected government” because of mass opposition of the people. Entire states of our country have been under the jackboots of the rule of the armed forces for decades on end, with the fascist AFSPA providing legal immunity to the armed forces to commit the most bestial crimes against the people. In these states, the ruling class has ensured that elections are routinely held to bring this or that party to power, even as the Armed Forces have been openly calling the shots.
State terrorism, including state organized communal massacres, has been the official response to the striving of our people for their rights. The Army assault on the Golden Temple in June 1984, the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other places in November 1984, the destruction of the Babri Masjid followed by state organized massacres in 1992-1993, the genocide of Gujarat of 2002, the turning of Punjab, Assam and Manipur into killing fields in the 1980’s and 1990’s — the list is endless. People are routinely tortured, jailed and murdered for their beliefs. Fascist laws have been passed one after the other — each more draconian than the previous one. The MISA of the Emergency period has been followed by a host of fascist laws including ESMA, NSA, TADA, POTA, and now the UAPA. Tens of thousands of people have been incarcerated in the jails for their political beliefs, under these and other laws.
People opposed to the present system are routinely labeled as “terrorists”, “extremists”, “fundamentalists”, “separatists”, “Maoists”, “Pakistani agents”, “enemies of national unity and territorial integrity”, in order to justify their suppression.
While the struggles of workers, peasants, and revolutionary intelligentsia are crushed by fire and sword, the bourgeoisie routinely carries out the charade of elections, replacing one party in power, with another, according to its needs, to carry out its agenda.
This is a democracy for the exploiters. It is a brutal dictatorship over the vast masses of workers and peasants, the tribal people, and the people of oppressed nationalities. It is a democracy that ensures that the vast masses of people are deprived of power. It is a Republic that denies the nations, nationalities and tribal peoples their very existence.
It was during the period of the “National Emergency” that the words “secular” and “socialist” were added to the word “democratic Republic” in the Preamble to the Constitution. These words remain in the Preamble, even while the most bestial communal massacres have been organized targeting different religious communities, and a broad-scale attack on the rights of workers and peasants has been taking place, in service of the imperialist drive of the Indian big bourgeoisie. The words “defence of national unity and territorial integrity” were also added in the Constitution during the National Emergency, to justify the suppression of the nations and peoples constituting India. Just like the people of India were not consulted when the Constitution of India was prepared and adopted, so too the people of India were being crushed under the jackboots of the National Emergency regime of the big bourgeoisie, when it declared India to be a “secular, socialist and democratic Republic”.
The lessons of the past 40 years ring out loud and clear! National Emergency may have been lifted, an elected government exists, but what lies behind it is the dictatorship of the biggest monopolies over the vast masses of people. The political system and process of this democracy ensure that the biggest monopolies can decide which party or coalition to bring to power to ensure that their agenda gets fulfilled, and organize elections to give legitimacy to this. The working class and peasantry are marginalized from political power. Parliament is a talk shop to fool the people. The executive implements the program of the big bourgeoisie. It crushes the aspirations of the toiling and oppressed people. Parliamentary democracy has been revealed to be the best shell for the rule of the bourgeoisie under which the rights of the nations and peoples constituting the Indian Union, and the human and democratic rights of people are brutally crushed.
The Indian Republic needs to be reconstituted as a voluntary union of nations and peoples, with human, democratic and national rights guaranteed and enforceable. The working class must lead the Indian people in the writing of a new Constitution which will be the fundamental law of the new Republic. A new political system and process needs to be established in place of the present one so that people can become the rulers and govern themselves. For this, the executive must be subordinate to the legislature and the legislature must be subordinate to the electorate. The right to select and elect their representatives must belong solely to the people, as also the right to recall, and the right to initiate legislation. The role of political parties in the new system must be to organize the people for their rights and enable them to be the decision makers, the rulers.
All those who are fighting for their human, democratic and national rights, all those who want that people should actually be the decision makers, need to unite around such a program of renewal of democracy and the Indian Union. Such a movement is already going on in our country, and it is this movement that needs to be strengthened. Instead of creating any illusions about the present Indian state and its democracy, the times are calling upon communists to be in the forefront of the movement for people’s empowerment — the struggle for the renewal of democracy and the Indian Union.