Former Janata Party leader and current BJP MP Subramanian Swamy today said that the media, and people in general, are increasingly afraid to speak the truth in political matters, and said such unhealthy fear was a major factor that enabled the emergency 45 years ago.
Swamy’s comments come in the context of the Indo-Chinese skirmish, during which the media — which had been showing graphics and maps on Chinese incursions into India for several days — abruptly changed its narrative once it looked like the government had denied any Chinese incursions into Indian territory. Swamy was one of the few who expressed skepticism about the claim that the Chinese had never entered Indian territory.
Later, Prime Minister’s Office issued a clarification that the PM never intended to convey the message that there had been no Chinese incursion, but was merely pointing out that they were no longer on Indian territory.
Swamy has also criticized the BJP government of Uttarakhand for taking over the administration of temples.
“I want to say one thing, which makes me very unhappy today [and] which is also in your media: People are afraid to speak the truth,” Swamy said in his weekly ‘Swamy Speaks’ program on NewsX television channel.
He said, starting from the time of the UPA I, a sort of fear has been spreading in the media, and among people in general, about expressing differences on political matters, and that this was very unhealthy for the country.
“A sort of fear has spread. I felt, during the emergency, that the biggest thing that promoted the emergency is fear…I feel that now, people must learn to speak frankly. If it’s not the truth, you can correct yourself and say I was wrong. But people are afraid to speak.”
He pointed out that even on social media, there are paid trolls who attack anyone who speaks anything their master does not like.
Swamy said, due to his enormous fan following on Twitter, it’s easier for him to withstand such paid trolls, but that’s not the case with everybody.
“There is a new element of paid tweeters who rubbish you and so on..I’ve seen other people who have been rubbished. It’s very sensitive when they start attacking women in very crude terms. That cultural decline has taken place. In politics, when Chandrasekhar was there, when Morarji Desai was there, you could meet and criticize each other and nobody minded.”
“But today, the moment I criticize you, I’ve gone to the other side, or I’m doing it because I’m paid by the Americans or the Chinese or someone. This whole debate is being shut down, and after this is over, the prime minister should call a meeting and see how we can restore the kind of fearlessness we showed after Janata [Party] came to power in 1977. We must have healthy debates and we must be able to speak.”
Swamy, who will turn 81 in September, said people must consider it part of their duty to the nation to speak the truth, however unpopular it may be.
“Of course, you must speak for India, but you must give your opinion on how India can be better my way than your way. That kind of culture must come, and that is what I’d like to see as we remember the state of emergency.
“Today, I’d urge everybody: Don’t be afraid to speak the truth about political matters. There may be personal matters you need not speak, because personal matters, up to a point, you should leave out. If the politics of the country is affected because of your personal matter, of course, it should be made public. But generally speaking, where [there is] a political issue, you should not be afraid to differ,” he said in conversation with journalist Priya Sehgal.
DON’T BLAME THE BJP
He dismissed the oft-repeated allegation that it was the ecosystem associated with the ruling party that was to be blamed for the fear.
He said nobody can intimidate anyone who has nothing to hide, and pointed to his own experience within the ruling party.
Despite airing so many differences on several issues, he said the party was quite comfortable with him due to various internal checks and balances within the organization that protects members who air their opinion in good faith.
“It’s only there, if at all, in BJP,” he said, adding that people are trying to hide their own fear by blaming the ruling party.
“There’s no point in blaming BJP for bringing this, when you yourself are afraid. Many people have many things to hide, and they’re afraid [because] of that. Hence, they use this excuse – ‘You know, there’s an element of fear in the country’.
“It is all imaginary, and that’s the lesson we should learn from the emergency. Never again, be afraid to speak the truth,” he said, speaking on the 45th anniversary of the Emergency.