New Delhi, India — Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, faced with spreading rioting and terrorist violence, warned Sunday he would impose a state of emergency — sharply limiting individual freedoms —if it became necessary.
Gandhi’s comments were his strongest public defense of the methods used by his mother, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, to quell unrest in 1975.
Under the June 26, 1975 emergency declaration, Mrs. Gandhi ordered the arrest of hundreds of political opponents, imposed tight press censorship and enforced a birth control policy that included forced sterilization. The emergency declaration contributed to Mrs. Gandhi’s stunning election defeat in 1977.
At an hour-long news conference, Gandhi endorsed his mother’s decision, and warned he would
Impose the same type of “harsh measured’ if it is necessary.
“I think at that time it (the emergency) was the right step,” Gandhi said.
“There were various forces working,” he said, referring to mass demonstrations against his mother that followed her conviction for election abuses two weeks before the declaration of emergency.
“If those conditions are repeated it might be necessary to have an emergency, but that will have to be seen with the conditions that prevail,” he said.
“I personally am not in favor of using such harsh measures if they can be avoided,” Gandhi said. “But if it is necessary, they must be used.”
Some Gandhi supporters have recently called for an emergency declaration to deal with terrorist violence in the northern state of Punjab, rioting between rival social caste groups and the booming population growth rate.
Gandhi, relaxed and genial but showing a new toughness, said his government would never succumb to pressure from terrorists or any other groups. He said some countries supported terrorism but did not name them and called for an international agreement to curb terrorist activities in every nation.
Gandhi predicted “high chances” of a return to normalcy in Punjab, where militant Sikhs want to set up a separate state. He refused to say when elections could be held there to allow a return of local government.
“We would like to have elections before Oct. 6 so that we don’t have to extend president’s rule (rule by the national government),” he said. “But if it is necessary to extend president’s rule, we will extend president’s rule.”
Gandhi expressed concern over the failure of police to contain civil disturbances throughout the country, and said he wanted to strengthen police forces — “their quality, their quantity, their methods, their equipment, their training.”
The prime minister also said he was dissatisfied with efforts to control the growth of the population, which is expected to increase from the current figure of 730 million to more than 1 billion by the end of the century.
Article extracted from this publication >> July 12, 1985