Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed the Emergency, imposed in 1975, as the biggest blow to democracy and said its memories should be kept alive to draw lessons to further fortify the democratic framework and values in the country.
"Emergency was the biggest blow to democracy. The kind of crisis that hit the country during that period had tempered the Indian democracy which came out stronger. I am grateful to those who struggled and fought against it. ...
"Emergency should be remembered not to brood over what had happened then, but to strengthen our resolve to fortify and further strengthen the democratic values and framework in our country," Modi said at the programme 'Loktantra Ke Prahari' where he also felicitated many of those who fought against Emergency and went to jail in 1975-76.
Paying glowing tributes to Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan on his 113th birth anniversary at the function, he said Narayan was "an institution, he was a light house and a role model" and "a new political generation was born during the Emergency that was fully dedicated to democratic values, inspired by JP."
"The biggest message that came out of the anti-Emergency struggle was the inspiration to fight repression. So many people in politics today owe their initial days to those days of Emergency, JP Movement, Navnirman Movement ... they gave birth to a new kind of politics in the nation," the PM said.
Observing that the struggle by Jayaprakash Narayan for democracy should be taken as a benchmark, he said his speeches reflected the "deep anguish" of the people who had suffered during Emergency. "Even though he was a soft-spoken man, his speeches were like the boiling lava."
Earlier, Modi also visited the residences of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former National Democratic Alliance Convenor George Fernandes, who had played a significant role in the fight for democracy in those days.
Among those who were felicitated at the function were veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal, four Governors -- Kalyan Singh, O P Kohli, Balram Dass Tandon and Valubhai Vala, former Deputy Speaker Kariya Munda, besides BJP leaders V K Malhotra, Jaywantiben Mehta and Subramanian Swamy.
Nationalist Congress Party leader D P Tripathi, journalists Virender Kapoor and K Vikram Rao, Prof Ramji Singh, Kameshwar Paswan and Arif Baig were also honoured by Modi.
Observing that the democratic values were inherent among Indians, Modi said though the top political leadership was in jail when elections were announced by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, it was the people who sent home many bigwigs by exercising their franchise.
While there was one view at that time to boycott these elections, another view was to take part in them, he said. "When elections were declared in 1977, the top leadership was in jail. No one knew what was happening, but see the strength of people and their respect for democracy. Elections were held in the shadow of fear ... people did not attend public meetings due to fear, but the voters sent home many bigwigs by employing the mighty tool of democracy," he said.
Modi said, "We do not want to remember Emergency to criticise someone, but to constantly be reminded of commitment towards democracy and freedom of press." He said the Indian media may have its preferences, but it should never let people of this country forget the days of Emergency.
"Media should not let the country forget Emergency," he said, adding that the leadership born during Emergency was not one for TV screens. "It was a leadership to live and die for the nation," he added.
Attacking Indira Gandhi for imposing Emergency, Modi said something good emerges even from a bad and the struggle that ensued during that period helped strengthen democracy.
Gandhi was more bothered about her image abroad than within the country, he said, adding that several opposition leaders were also in foreign countries to spread the word against repression. "We decided people will go overseas and talk about the true picture of the Emergency," Modi said, adding he had worked with Subramanian Swamy, who went abroad, in those days.
Modi also referred to a book written by him during the days, which he distributed on the sly.
"The programme to mark JP's birth anniversary was a great walk down the memory lane, with those who participated in anti-Emergency movement," he later tweeted.
Modi's comments on Jayaprakash Narayan came a day ahead of the first phase of polling in the Bihar assembly elections
Paying glowing tributes to Jayaprakash Narayan, Modi said, "JP's message of total revolution should give us the strength to convert it into the form of total development while bringing about 'sabka saath, sabka vikas' and to further strengthen democracy." He also lauded JP for being a person with an open mind who was not restricted to any one thought or ideology. "He lived for the truth and what he felt was right," he said.
Modi also recalled how he had worked closely with veteran leader L K Advani, whom he saw closely during the Emergency.
The PM also highlighted the role played by Akali leaders who differed with the political views of those in power at the time, and lauded Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as the 'Nelson Mandela of India', saying "he has spent so many years in prison and that too for political reasons."
The PM also mentioned former President Abdul Kalam, saying, "If there is anyone whom Abdul Kalamji has personally praised in his writings, that's Nanaji Deshmukh."
Image: Prime Minister Narenrda Modi