Akali stalwart Sardar Parkash Singh Badal said today that constant vigilance by the people and a strong and independent media are the only recipes against threats to India’s
secular democracy,both overt and covert.
“No one may ever have the courage to launch an open and frontal assault on the country’s democratic fabric like Mrs Indira Gandhi had done on June 25, 1975. But the tendency in governments to curtail civil liberties and basic freedoms on one pretext or the other will
always remain a threat in any society where people are not vigilant and where media freedom is compromised in one way or the other,”. said Mr Badal,recalling how the country was suddenly thrust into a dark draconian cave by the imposition of Internal Emergency by Mrs Gandhi just to escape a judicial verdict against her.
“Democracy and secularism are the two reasons for the worldwide respect that India enjoys and these two values are the cornerstone on which the nation’s edifice rests. Tinkering with either of the two can prove dangerous. Respect for democratic values, peace and communal harmony are essential for our country to prosper and emerge as a world
power.,”said the five-time Chief Minister of Punjab.
Mr Badal said that Mrs Gandhi’s Emergency had taken everyone, including the political parties, completely by surprise at a time when India was just finding her feet as an independent and democratic country. “Emergency came within less than 30 years of India’s
independence. Democracy in the country was passing through adolescence and many in the world had doubted if India and Indians were mature enough to afford this ‘luxury'”
“But I feel a special pride that it was at this critical juncture that the Shiromani Akali Dal put its hand up and led the fight against dictatorship with a Morcha which ended only when Emergency was lifted.
I must thank the Fourth Estate for being the only other force to oppose Emergency, ” said Mr Badal in a statement. Mr Badal praised the India media for playing a key role in the success of democracy in the country but added that the Fourth Estate was faced with new kinds of challenges in the modern times when its freedom is threatened by ways that are not as direct as was the case during Mrs Gandhi’s times.
“A strong and independent media is one of the main reasons why the democratic experiment has succeeded in India while it has floundered in many other countries. The success of democracy in India has always intrigued the Western observers because
they have failed to observe the role played by the Indian media every time democracy came under a threat here.”
But Mr Badal said that the Fourth Estate will now have to demonstrate an even greater character as attacks on the freedom of the press now come in much more subtle and sometimes even unnoticeable ways. “But I have total faith in the ability of our media and media persons to stand up to the new challenges.”