Friday, April 9, 2010



Banyak penulisan oleh wartawan-wartawan asing dan rakyat Malaysia yang bukan Melayu atau Melayu yang anti UMNO, Perikatan dan Barisan Nasional mengenai keburukan amalan demokrasi di Malaysia. Tujuan petikan karangan ini ialah sebagai perbandingan demokrasi di antara negara kita dengan di negara demokrasi yang terbesar di dunia, yang dikarang oleh seorang warganegaranya sendiri yang mencintai negaranya dan masih menjadi rakyat India walaupun bermustautin di Barat.


One summer night in 1975, while the nation slept, the Prime Minister ended democracy in India.

Indira Gandhi declared a State of Emergency 'to defend India's unity and integrity'.

For goodness' sake! What on earth had threatened Indian integrity? Well, on June 12 the courts had found Indira Gandhi guilty of 'using government personnel to further her electoral prospects'. She was forbidden from holding any elected office for the next six years. In view of her lofty office, she was given twenty days to appeal to the Supreme Court of India, but she could no longer act as Prime Minister of India.

'A week is a long time in politics,' the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said. But twenty whole days? For a leader who could already sense the sharks circling?

The clock was ticking, so on June 16, at three o'clock in the morning, the Delhi police handcuffed Mrs  Gandhi's political opponents and carted them off to jail. That same night power was cut off to newspaper printing presses. When the power was turned on again, the sensored newspapers printed blank pages with black borders, announcing the death of India's freedom in the obituary columns.


A week later the President of India declared that an imperilled India was now under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. Indian citizens could no longer question the grounds on which they were detained. Or invoke habeas corpus - the court's right to view a prisoner and establish that he was well, or even alive.

The proclamation was followed by midnight raids and mass arrests across the nation - political opponents, dissenting members of the Prime Minister's own party, students, social workers, journalists, teachers, judges, union leaders, and thousands of innocent bystanders. Even a group of astonished hippies.

The writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and other Indian patriots on the rights to freedom were proscribed, Mahatma Gandhis's own newspaper closed by government fiat.


And with half the nation's elected representatives in jail, the Constitution of India was amended four times. The first amendment prevented any legal challenge to the declaration of the Emergency. The second nullified retroactively the judgment of the court against Mrs Gandhi for corrupt practices, and deprived the courts of jurisdiction over any future electoral malpractices by a Prime Minister.

The third amendment gave India's Prime Minister permanent immunity from any civil or criminal proceedings - not only while occupying office but before assuming office, and just to be on the safe side, after leaving office.

The fourth amendment was particularly poignant. Having lost their fundamental rights, Indian citizens were now given a list of fundamental duties.


Neutered of its constitutional power, the Supreme Court over-ruled Mrs Gandhis's sentence. Only Justice Khanna, next in line to become the Chief Justice of India, argued that all these constitutional amendments had become meaningless, since depriving a person of life and liberty without the authority of law was to remove the distinction between a lawless society and one governed by law.

As if to prove his argument, the offices of over two hundred rebellious Delhi lawyers were bulldozed to the ground. The lawyers marched, black-robed, in silent protest on the Supreme Court. They were promptly arrested as arsonists and looters.


But the poor who objected when their homes were bulldozed for beautification of the city were given no reason for their arrests. And they had no redress against a new population control programme in which government employees were given sterilization quotas which had to be filled if the employees wanted promotion, or even to keep their jobs.

Villagers were rounded up, police cornered the city's poor, people died of botched operations, doctors who objected to the lack of hygiene were jailed. Meanwhile, nationaliszed television and radio kept up a barrage of propaganda telling the nation we had never had it so good. After all, each sterilized person was being given a transistor radio by the government.


With awesome inevitability, Mrs Gandhi raised her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi, to become an unelected center of absolute power, second only to herself in the country.

Equally inevitably, having ruthlessly silenced all dissension, the Prime Minister and her son believed the massive organized crowds were spontaneous displays of a nation's adulation. And across the border Pakistan was going to the polls.


Determined to prove to the world that she was indisputably the voice of India, assured by intellingence reports that victory was a certainty, Mrs Gandhi suddenly called a snap election to legitimize her actions.

The elections were to take place in a mere six weeks, but most of India's political leaders were still in jail. To prove the election was not a fiction they were now released - on parole, required to report their movements to their local police, forbidden to travel.

There was every expectation that Mrs Gandhi would win. The state-owned radio and television companies were pumping out government propaganda. Newspapers were censored. Now the government raised the salaries of millions of government employees - teachers, factory workers, army personnel, bureaucrats - certain that self-interest would guarantee electoral success.

Everyone knew - though they could not speak of it for fear of being overheard and reported to the police - that India's future rode on this election. What Mahatma Gandhi had done in the 1930s with his Salt March had to be done again in the 1970s, a silent protest of gargantuan proportions. And six weeks was all the time the nation had.


I attended a series of rallies in Delhi in those weeks, learned about through word of mouth. At each rally the crowds grew larger, proving the bush telegraph to be as effective a means of communication as electronics when there is something urgent to convey. While Indira Gandhi addressed meetings in the main parks, with all the attendant panoply of state - police cordons, massive platforms, free transport to bring reluctant audiences back and forth - we strained to hear paroled leaders standing on soap-boxes with only a megaphone for amplification.


On the road leading into Delhi University I listened to the redoubtable Madame Pandit, with her Chinese collars and blue-rinsed hair, urging us to vote for freedom. Although she was Nehru's sister, she had needed no nepotistic appointments. She had been the first woman president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and had played a distinguished role in the struggle for India's freedom. Now, despite the fact that she was already in her eighties, Madame Pandit had come out of political retirement to hold meetings all over the capital, appalled by the smashing of the Indian democratic process by her own niece.

At one rally Madame Pandit was speaking to us in Hindustani when she noticed the arrival of camera crews. She broke off her speech to enquire who they were. Learning they were European reporters she proceeded with her impassioned speech but translated her words into English, German and French for the television cameras. It was a tour de force performance. Such effortless sophistication - it made you proud to be an Indian.

Then, only days before the momentous general election a meeting was held at night in the walled city of Old Delhi, inside the great Friday Mosque built by the Moghul emperors to face the Red Fort that was the seat of the Empire. For five hundred years this particular area of Delhi had been the goal of those who wished to gain power over India. It was here that the victorious British soldiers had built their army barracks on the harem of the last Moghul emperor, here that the Union Jack was lowered and the Indian flag unfurled when India became a free nation.


The sun had long since set by the time I reached the rally but crowds were still streaming into the grounds of the mosque. To discourage attendance electricity to the entire area had been cut off by the city administration, and for once the brooding vastness of the mosque dwarfed the narrow streets of the old city crowded with veiled women. Many of its residents were Muslim families who still lived in the same sixteenth-century houses, with the interior courtyards and latticed stone balconies and narrow stairways, that their ancestors had occupied. For two long years they had endured the excesses of the Emergency - seen respected elders, or young boys not yet pubescent, focibly sterilized to fulfil government quotas; see shops crushed into rubble under the bulldozers' inexorable advance.

Now the darkness, lit only by kerosene lanterns and huge torches, added a sombreness to the occasion, almost a magnificence, allowing us to see the great mosque as it must have been seen by he Moghuls themselves, its massive lines looming above us undiminished by the neon strips which would ordinarily have illuminated the bazaars and warrens of streets of the old city. Two- and three- storey houses ringed the mosque. Women in billowing burnouses crowded at the dimly lit balconies like the silhouetted audience in some theatre, their shapes negated by folds of black cloth.


There was no room for us on the wide sandstone steps leading up to the platform, where lanterns threw the features of the speakers in grotesque relief as they addressed the crowds spilling down the steps and into the streets. We could hardly hear the speakers but we knew from their shapes who they were. The Imam of the mosque, spokesman of Muslim sentiment, shared the steps with the leader of the right-wing Hindus. Sworn enemies from the time of Partition, theirs was a blood hatred. Yet together they were exhorting us to exert our democratic rights. There was the greatest snob in India, Madame Pandit, her hair purple in the lamplight, unable to find a place on those crowded stairs, sitting at the feet of the leader of the untouchables. Ignoring the separation of caste, of class, of gods, the speakers shared the crowded platform while we stood there straining to hear them remind us how our ballots could change history.


Suddenly the women weren't up on the balconies any more. They were among us, their faces exposed, cloth panels thrown resolutely above their heads, breaking the enormity of purdah to rally against the leader whom they held responsible for dishonouring their menfolk, destroying their homes.

A fortnight later the counting had ended and the Government was preparing its victory celebrations.


At two o'clock in the morning I waited with thousands of other Indians in front of the offices of the Indian Express newspaper. We were milling in the street at that ungodly hour because the newspapers's correspondents were telephoning through the election results from all over the nation, results which the shocked government television and radio stations were not announcing.

Every few minutes a journalist came out of the offices, handed a piece of paper to a thin clerk in gray trousers scribbling with chalk onto a blackboard, raced back inside again. While we held our breaths the clerk scribbled the latest election results onto the spotlighted blackboard. Each time a candidate of Mrs Gandhi's party lost a seat, money was flung at him for bringing good news and he blinked at us in surprise throught the currency floating like confetti over his head.

When Mrs Gandhi lost her own parliamentary seat by a massive margin, women began flinging their jewellery at the clerk.

In all the cheering I heard someone say, 'She got what she deserved. Why did she trouble the poor?'

( The sub-headings are mine - SJ )

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