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Your subcommittee's concern with human rights anywhere and everywhere in the world is well known. The past hearings of the subcommittee on human rights in general as well as in specific regions and countries have served a most useful purpose, that of creating public awareness.
The message from past hearings comes across loud and clear, especially to a person like me who teaches international protection of human rights no longer can human rights issues be considered a matter merely of domestic concern.
The reason is: That human rights are closely linked with broader issues of global peace.
That is why, Mr. Chairman, I would like to express a deep sense of gratitude to you personally and to the members of the subcommittee for holding these hearings.
These hearings are most pertinent. They are most timely, because, as you mentioned a moment ago, the present situation in India is distressing. According to recent statements by Mrs. Gandhi, the emergency is going to last longer than many people originally had thought.
On the first anniversary of Mrs. Indira Gandhi's dictatorship, friends of India find little hope for the restoration of civil and political rights there in the near future.
I would like to summarize a few points, Mr. Chairman. After my testimony or after the testimony of all witnesses, I will be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.
Mr. FRASER. Your entire statement will be inserted in the record. Mr. NANDA. Thank you very much. First, I will summarize briefly the present situation. Then I will briefly analyze one aspect that you specifically asked me to discuss, that is, the relationship between the emergency and the so-called economic and social reforms. Finally I would suggest that the awareness-raising effort on the part of the House committee would hopefully aid in the restoration of democracy in India.
Mr. Chairman, the first anniversary of the loss of democracy in India seems an appropriate time to reflect upon these questions.
If we look at the June 26 editions of the daily newspapers in India this year as compared with last year I think we will see notable differences on the Indian political scene.
The obvious thing is that the opposition parties which were so vocal last year in demanding Indira Gandhi's resignation have been silenced, their voices are muffled, and most of their leaders are either in jail or underground.
The second obvious fact is that the lively and often irreverent commentaries which were once the hallmark of Indian journalism have disappeared, thanks to the stringent and ruthless government censorship.
The only events considered newsworthy are those which center around Indira Gandhi, her son Sanjay, and her faithful followers in the ruling Congress Party.
Truly significant and critical events have received scant attention in the Indian press in the last year; shackled by censorship, newspapers fail to highlight them. I will briefly note a few such events. A country
wide passive resistance movement, "Satyagraha," was launched by the united opposition in defiance of the Government's ban on demonstrations.
Conservative estimates are that 60,000 to 80,000 volunteers courted arrest. The number of detainees under the Government's oppressive laws and ordinances, combined with the number of volunteers that I have mentioned, might have been somewhere between 110,000 and 170,000. Even at the present time there may still be 50,000 people in jail.
Torture and mistreatment of prisoners and detainees in police stations and jails have already been verified by many observers, and have been forwarded to the Secretary-General of the United Nations by the International League for Human Rights.
Harassment of families and friends, and confiscation of property of those associated with opposition political parties, are common practices.
There have been numerous efforts made in the last few months by former associates of Mrs. Gandhi's father, Jawaharlal Nehru, and of Mohandas Gandhi to persuade Mrs. Gandhi to enter into a dialog with the opposition political parties. These efforts have thus far proved futile because of the lack of interest on the part of Indira Gandhi.
National elections have been postponed. Constitutional amendments have been adopted further drastically curtailing human rights. These amendments seriously undermine the role of the judiciary. And further constitutional changes presently under consideration would strengthen the already too-powerful executive branch of the government. For all practical purposes these amendments would institutionalize the emergency.
Some observers have mentioned that democracy is a luxury which a poor country with a high percentage of illiteracy can ill afford. Notwithstanding the embarrassing images it conjures up of Mussolini's days, Indira Gandhi's competence in making trains run on time is offered to prove that because of the emergency people are more disciplined today.
I will later discuss the so-called social and economic reforms. My conclusion will be that the removal of poverty and the removal of gross inequities which should have been the main concern of the Government in India have been only superficially touched upon, if at all. The much-publicized 20-point economic program, Indira Gandhi's "new deal," has offered little more than very attractive slogans, slogans aimed at that strata of society which suffers the most, especially from the humiliation of poverty-the slum dweller, the unemployed, the small farmers, the agricultural laborer.
While crops are bountiful, some agricultural prices have fallen and India has even built a buffer stock of grain, I think credit is owed to timely monsoons, not to the imposition of the emergency.
Strikes and bonuses in the industrial sector are outlawed. This has pleased the big industrialists who are getting richer, sharing their riches with the ruling Congress Party by making huge contributions to designated charities which serve as the conduit to the Congress Party coffers.
However, if you read through the censored Indian press-and I have been following that press rather closely-and if you look at the IMF and World Bank records and the U.N. at the IMF and World Bank records and the U.N. statistics showing that in India inflation has been halted and foreign exchange gains have been substantial, you would also note that unemployment is up, corruption is rampant and the bureaucracy, which is growing now at a faster rate, is becoming more powerful and arbitrary since it is no longer accountable to a democratic system.
How has the emergency and how have the subsequent changes affected the people of India? Initially, people living in cities, especially those who are politically active, were stunned by the suddenness of events. Fear was widespread but not long lasting. By the end of last December, when I left India after a 3-week visit, the emergency no longer elicited fear. Indeed most people considered it an unnecessary nuisance.
I grant that a majority of the people in villages are still apathetic. They were ever since India's independence, 28 years ago. They have never been given a chance to be active participants in decisionmaking by the ruling Congress Party, which has been continuously in power. But, Mr. Chairman, my concern is that if a year ago, 25 to 30 percent of the people were at least to a limited extent participating in democratic decisionmaking processes, that number has dwindled today to perhaps 1 percent or less. These are the faithful followers of Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay and some bureaucrats; but for them no one is presently participating in any decisive fashion or active fashion on the Indian political scene.
I feel that the greatest hazard of Indira Gandhi's action may be the setting into motion of forces which she or her successor cannot control. For example, the Indian military forces, which have so far maintained a nonpolitical stance, may seek to emulate the role of the armed forces in many of the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
If, as Mrs. Gandhi says, discipline is the key word, who after all is more disciplined than the military? In an emergency the military has a ready-made rationale for a takeover, one used by Indira Gandhi herself, the maintenance of stability and security in India.
To halt the free flow of information, to silence critical opposition, all that is needed is brute, naked force. Once democracy is stifled and human rights crushed, it is an uphill task to re-establish democratic traditions.
This is why, to me, the imposition of the emergency by Indira Gandhi. Mr. Chairman, is an unforgiveable act.
Any discussion of India's return to democracy is highly speculative. At present India can only be described as a police state. Indira Gandhi is not likely to give up power voluntarily. The political opposition in India is, however, mobilizing public opinion which may compel Mrs. Gandhi to enter into a dialog with the opposition.
I think the most promising prospect on India's political horizon has been the recent merger of various non-Marxist political parties into a united party. I feel that this united political party can offer a
viable alternative to the Congress Party, if and when elections are held.
The underground in India is reportedly gathering momentum. It is pledged to nonviolence. It is willing to make sacrifices to reach its goal of the restoration of democracy in the first instance, to be followed by the implementation of a reform program it has recently outlined.
Mr. Chairman, silence on the part of those who care for individual freedom and liberty and human dignity is often considered a license by the oppressor. India's friends abroad cannot afford to be silent and international public opinion, while admittedly fragile, can play a most useful role in putting pressure on Indira Gandhi's government to relent, to halt and even to reverse the current repressive policies.
I would be concerned if people abroad did not care, protest and express their concern and dismay at the events happening in India. I think that would give a license to Indira Gandhi's government to continue oppressing people.
I have detailed in my testimony the inhuman, degrading treatment of political prisoners and the practice of torture. At this point I should mention briefly that actions of the Government of India, are violative of all human rights expectations that have been built by the world community in the last few years around the United Nations Human Rights Declaration and resolutions, and the international covenants on human rights. The United Nations Charter, in articles 55 and 56, calls upon member states to take joint and separate action to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedom for all.
India herself has many times invoked the United Nations Charter in relation to human rights violations by other states. Yet now she defies the charter provisions when applied to her own actions.
I will not go into details. But I would certainly say that as a law teacher, as a person who has followed human rights rather closely in the last few years, I feel very much distressed. It is especially painful because India has often assumed the role of a champion of human rights in the United Nations and other international forums.
I think whenever and wherever human rights are violated it is our responsibility as human beings to raise that issue. We cannot afford to be silent about it.
Not merely has habeas corpus been suspended in India, but basic fundamental human rights have been made nonjustifiable. If the judiciary has no real check upon the arbitrary functioning of the executive and the legislative branches, if the executive becomes so powerful that there are practically no sanctions that the people can take against power run amuk in a country as populous as India, a country with its traditions of Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, then I feel that we are in trouble and that it would indeed be undesirable for international observers to watch it and not to criticize it.
So I feel strongly that in order to have the Indian Government become accountable again to the people of India. international public opinion has to be mobilized, therefore, I again want to thank you very much for holding these hearings.
I feel distressed to have to say these things. I came from India 16 years ago. I fondly cherish the years I spent there. I look forward to a time when democracy in India will be restored.
I will be pleased to answer any questions.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Professor Nanda follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PROF. VED P. NANDA, SCHOOL OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER
Mr. Chairman, I would like to express my personal gratitude as well as that of all friends and well-wishers of India to you and the committee members for holding these hearings. These hearings are most pertinent and timely because the present situation in India is distressing. The demise of democracy in India has been both sudden and severe. The immediate prospects for its restoration are bleak. Instead, Indira Gandhi's government seems to be moving decisively toward institutionalizing the "emergency", and through it, her power. It is ironical that in the name of saving democracy, India is fast becoming a police state, if it has not already become so.
I will briefly describe the Indian Government's policies and actions in the postemergency period and show how these repressive measures are violative of international law-the emerging law of human rights as expressed in a wide range of international conventions and declarations, in the growing consensus among nations and in the expectations of the world community.
The brief description and analysis of the government actions will be followed by an equally brief glimpse into the relationship between the "emergency" and the much-publicized economic and social reforms the government claims the situation has made possible. Finally, I will suggest that violations of human rights anywhere in the world are a matter of concern for everyone, everywhere, for, in the last analysis, human rights and global peace and order based upon human dignity are indeed intricately intertwined.
THE AFTERMATH OF THE "EMERGENCY"
The events leading to the imposition of the "emergency" are relatively well known. On June 26, 1975, the President of India proclaimed a state of "emergency", to protect the country from what Indira Gandhi called "dangerous internal elements", and from "deep and widespread conspiracy [in which] certain powers [were] exciting our armed forces to mutiny and our police to rebel." She promised to lift the "emergency" as soon as possible and pledged that "the new emergency proclamations [would] in no way affect the rights of law-abiding citizens."
Contrary to her statements, however, the Gandhi regimes' actions include: Mass arrests of the political opponents. Estimates vary from 100,000 to 170,000. The number includes 70-80 thousand volunteers who courted arrests as a part of the countrywide passive resistance-a civil disobedience movement modelled after Mahatma Gandhi's independence struggle called by a united front of the opposition parties.
Mistreatment and torture of political prisoners in police stations and jails.
Stringent censorship of the once lively, aware, and informative press, stifling and cowing it into silence. The terms of the censorship are so tight-no "objectionable matter" can be printed-that the press is unable to print speeches and writings of Jawaharlal Nehru (Indira Gandhi's father), Mahatma Gandhi (no relation), and even Indira Gandhi (made before the declaration of the "emergency") because they may be interpreted as criticizing the "emergency". Adoption of laws and regulations and even Constitutional amendments designed to: (1) further curtail civil and political rights by suspending the ancient writ of habeas corpus, allowing the imprisonment of dissidents without disclosing charges, without benefit of legal counsel, and even without bringing them to trial; (2) undermine the independence of the judiciary which is crucial for the protection of individual freedoms; (3) insulate high government officials, including the Prime Minister, from accountability; and (4) alter the framework of the Indian government by further strengthening the already too powerful executive branch of the government at the cost of judicial powers.