The following is the text of “A Citizens Guide to Rajiv Gandhi’s India” produced by The People’s Union Of Democratic Rights, an Indian Human Rights Organization. Excerpts from the report will be published in subsequent issues of the World Sikh News.
Soon after Rajiv Gandhi came to power he introduced the TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1984) one of the most draconian legislations that the country has seen in recent times. In September 1985, he extended the ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) which bans strikes in essential services by another five years.
The next year, 1986, saw the introduction of an amendment to The Indian Post Offices Act to further tighten the provisions of this piece of colonial legislation (passed by the British rulers in 1898) which empower the government to snoop into the private mail of citizens.
Not satisfied with these measures, the Rajiv government sought to impose further curbs on the rights of citizens in 1987 by amending the National Security Act to provide for prolonged prevention detention without obtaining the opinion of the advisory board. The same year, when the TADA was about to expire (it was initially meant for two years), the government introduced an amendment to extend it for two more years and make confessions normally extracted through torture before senior police officers admissible in courts the first time in the country’s legal history.
The ascending order of repression reached its apogee in 1988 with the 59th amendment to the Constitution which permits the imposition of Emergency in Punjab on the plea of any internal disturbances there, and provides for the blacking out of news of Punjab from the rest of the nation.
In his determination to see to it that the repressive arms of the state the police, the paramilitary forces, the intelligence services carries out the task of persecution without any protest, Rajiv Gandhi during his regime introduced three legislations with the specific purpose of curtailing the fundamental rights of members of these forces. The National Security Guard Bill of August 1986 purports to suspend some of the fundamental rights with regard to the NSG. The Intelligence Organizations Bill of August 1985 disallows members of the intelligence wings to exercise their democratic rights like attending meetings or communicating their grievances to the press. The Special Protection Group (SPG) Bill was introduced on May 5, 1988, constituting an armed force to provide prominent security to the Prime Minister and his family. It prohibits members of the SPG from joining any organization and from communicating with the press or publish anything.
This then has been the record of Rajiv Gandhi’s first three years in office, His voyage towards the 21st century is pulling the nation steadily away from the shores of Constitutional safeguards.
“Ours is a vibrant living democracy. The people’s voice rules through the legislature. The rule of law prevails. Our courts of justice are vigilant protectors of the rights of the individual. Our press is free. Ours is a great secular democracy in which every individual of every community is an equal Indian, equal in the enjoyment of civic and political rights…”
Rajiv Gandhi’s speech at the commemorative session of Parliament to mark the 40th anniversary of independence. August 13, 1987
Article extracted from this publication >> March 24, 1989