Former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi
The imposition of Emergency is arguably one of the most controversial events in Indian politics till date. Declared by the then Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi, on 25 June 1975, it is still tagged as the ‘darkest hour’ of our democracy. If reports were to be believed, PM Gandhi had imposed the Emergency as there were ‘imminent internal and external threats’ to the country.
On its 46th anniversary, let us look at some of the incidents, which triggered the Emergency and led to a 21-month-long ‘lockdown’ in India.
It was on 12 June 1975, the Allahabad High Court in Rajnarayan Vs Indira Gandhi case, had found Gandhi guilty of using ‘corrupt practices’ to win her 1971 Lok Sabha election.
She was held guilty of using government officers to arrange her rallies and manage her campaign.
It was for the first time in independent India that a sitting PM’s election was declared void and the PM was debarred from contesting elections for any public office for six years.
This was the moment the Opposition was just waiting for. Senior leaders including late Morarji Desai, late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and others were led by veteran leader late Jay Prakash Narayan, who staged protest against Gandhi and demanded her resignation.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had granted Gandhi a partial stay on HC’s order. Although she continued as the PM, her right as a Member of Parliament was taken away.
After SC’s verdict, on 24 June 1975, JP Narayan along with student leaders from Bihar, leaders in Opposition and nearly a crowd of eight lakh supporters staged a protest against Gandhi at Delhi’s Ram Lila maidan and threatened to start a nationwide strike on June 29, 1975 if Gandhi didn’t resign.
Narayan, in his rally said, “I ask government officers, policemen and military not to follow orders from the corrupt government sitting in the Centre.”
By saying so, JP had given Gandhi just the golden chance she was waiting for. She summoned her most trusted advisers and confidants to find a permanent solution to this problem.
She had to silence the Opposition and also overturn SC’s verdict if she had to remain in power. One of Indira’s closest friends, late Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was the then West Bengal Chief Minister and also a celebrated lawyer, advised her to call for a state internal emergency.
By using Article 352 of Indian Constitution (declaration of internal emergency in case of internal disputes and wars), Gandhi advised the then President of India late Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to sign the proclamation of emergency, which she had prepared.
With one single stroke of the Presidents’ pen, Indian Emergency was declared on 25 June 1975, result of which Gandhi had absolute power. All senior leaders were jailed overnight. Early morning on 26 June 1975, a cabinet meeting was called at 6 am and the union ministers then got to know that emergency was declared a night ago and many prominent leaders were detained.
At 8am on the very same day, Gandhi addressed the nation via All India Radio(AIR) and said, “The President has proclaimed the Emergency; there is nothing to panic about.”
That’s how the world and India got to know that India was now a puppet in Indira’s hands.
The emergency lasted for a total period of 21 months. During this time, right to life and liberty was taken away from citizens. Abuse of power was done, as there was no one to question.
Gandhi became the supreme authority. Press was heavily suppressed and for the first time ever after the independence, India experienced a democratic lockdown.
In 1977, Gandhi finally called off the emergency and announced fresh general elections. Aftermath of which, Congress for the first time since 1947, was thrown out of power from the Centre and Morarji Desai became India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister.
(Views are personal)