news Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 05:30

Image: How do you know what you have lost if you have never had it?  How do you know how terrible – for want of another word - the Emergency declared by former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1975 was if you had not enjoyed the freedom and civil and political rights earlier? These were rights and responsibilities given to us by people who constructed them bit-by-bit and secured it for future generations, or so they thought. In one stroke, Gandhi suspended those hard-earned freedoms plunging the country into darkness of a kind that had never happened in free India and must never happen again. In a few hours from now, it will be the night of long knives, midnight knocks and arbitrary detentions and arrests across India. The Emergency pit friend against friend, separated families and jailed them, moved some to distant corners of the country making any visit impossible, or worse, sterilized men in the prime of their youth so they could never procreate. Indira Gandhi was ably assisted by her son Sanjay Gandhi and a cast of characters in a grotesque story brilliantly described in Coomi Kapoor’s latest book The Emergency – A Personal History. The Preamble to our Constitution is the soul of India. Read it to yourself. Read it aloud, to your friends and family, and if possible and if possible, listen to this as you make your way through the marvel that is India. Discuss and question it because that is what was expected of us by our clairvoyant leaders. The preamble to the Constitution of India makes me cry whenever I read it. That short text shows us just how generous and resolute the women and men who fought for our freedom and secured its delivery were. They showed us where they wanted us to go, outlining the hopes and aspirations of a young nation taking baby steps in the comity of nations hesitant and sure all at once. It is not without reason that the Preamble has been called the soul of our freedom. Not a word out of place - any spillover of words or a wrong stroke of the brush would make it would make it all very ugly. Adopted on the 26th of November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly, it says We, the people of India solemnly resolve to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST (SECULAR was a later addition) AND DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION On the night of June 25, 1975 all these rights were suspended in one blow –India was in a state of Emergency and civil and political rights were suspended casting an indelible mark in the country’s psyche - a blow in that many are still to recover from. The Emergency was the darkest hour in India’s democracy. It was fought not by an hour-long candle-light march or song but by 18 month of fearless opposition by people who refused to bend and battled it out at great risk to themselves and their families. They kept hope alive for future generations, just as the framers of our Constitution would have expected them to do. Towards them, our gratitude is immense. Read our other stories from the Emergency here.