Modi speaks of Emergency’s ‘dark night’, asks for vigilance

42 years later, PM says country became a ‘prison’ under Indira Gandhi govt; Cong hits back, says India is going through an ‘undeclared Emergency’ under the BJP rule

NEWDELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled on Sunday the “dark night” of Emergency imposed on the country by the Indira Gandhi government 42 years ago and said one needs to be alert about democracy.

Modi, who is currently in the US, in his monthly radio address, remembered how the country had “virtually become a prison” during the 21 months of Emergency. The voice of the opposition was smothered and prominent leaders jailed. The judicial system, too, could not escape the “sinister shadows” of the Emergency and the press was completely muffled.

“Eternal Vigilance is the price of Liberty… We must keep remembering the events that inflicted harm upon our democracy…The believers of democracy fought a prolonged war, and the great nation that India is, where the spirit of democracy pervades the very being of all its people, the strength of that spirit was demonstrated when the opportunity of elections came. We have to further fortify that legacy,” said Modi.

Hitting back at PM’s remark on Emergency, the Congress said he should remember the country is facing an “undeclared Emergency” under the BJP rule. The party, however, acknowledged that the Emergency was a “mistake” and said lessons have been learned. “The prime minister talks of remembering the Emergency. Yes, we remember the Emergency. But we also ask him to remember we are facing an undeclared Emergency,” party spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said. Vadakkan cited CBI raids at the residence of mediapersons, incidents of lynching and harassments by Anti-Romeo squad to support his allegations.

Modi also underscored India’s diversity as “its strength”, extending greetings on Eid-ulFitr — that marks the end Ramzan — and on the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, celebrated in Puri, Odisha. He narrated an “inspiring” incident at Mubarakpur, a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnore district, where 3,500 Muslim families constructed toilets during Ramzan. The government offered ₹17 lakh for the initiative but they returned the money, saying they would build the toilets with their labour and money.

“I felicitate the residents of Mubarakpur, for transforming the pious occasion of Ramzan into an opportunity for the welfare of society,” said Modi.

On the occasion of Rath Yatra, Modi said the underprivileged are connected to Lord Jagannath and BR Ambedkar, the architect of Constitution and a Dalit icon, and praised the Lord Jagannath temple and its traditions.

Exhorting people to replace bouquets with books or ‘khadi’ handkerchiefs, the Prime Minister said he has started issuing instructions in the government to do the same. “The lifespan of a bouquet is very short. You receive it in your hand for a moment and then abandon it. But when you present a book, it becomes a part of the household… One can also use a ‘khadi’ handkerchief to welcome people…”

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