1975 June 24/25, in the darkness of the night then PM Indira Nehru Gandhi twisted the destiny of independent India; and her father Jawahar Lal Nehru had announced a tryst with destiny in the midnight of 1947 August 14/15 at the Central Hall of the Parliament building. Indira for her ulterior personal benefit pushed the nation to a state of national emergency invoking the Constitutional provision of Article 352. If Nehru took India and Indians to most backward and disgraceful state of affairs, which his Congress successors continued, Indira at the stroke of a pen of the most obliging President, pushed the nation and its people to virtual hell for a period of 18 months. It was the most difficult time for India and Indians. To save her position in power despite being unseated from the Parliament by the Allahabad High Court verdict in her election case against Thakur Raj Narayan Singh, Indira scrambled the freedom of the press, strangled the liberties of the citizens and strangulated the public peace and tranquillity. Even the Constitution was put under quarantine and personal liberty of the people was gasping for breath at the ventilator of executive tyranny. All political leaders who held a different view were arrested and put in prison under the draconian laws of DIR and MISA. There was a silence of the grave as democracy was stifled, smothered and suffocated in all its departments. What followed after the 25th of June 1975 was a reign of terror by Mrs Gandhi and her henchmen.
Indira pushed the nation to virtual hell for a period of 18 months
A new caucus emerged to wield extraordinary and extra-Constitutional power keeping even all senior leaders of the Congress Party under subjugation. Indira’s younger son Sanjay Gandhi and his coterie became the most dominant force in ‘emergency’ administration. Indira announced a twenty point economic programme which was nothing but a ruse to give a modicum of legality to her unconstitutional atrocities. The President of India, Fakrudin Ali Ahemmed was to sign orders and ordinances in time and out of time as the entire machinery of administration was run as per the whims and fancies of the Mother and son. Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarjee Desai, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K.Advani, Choudhiri Charan Singh, Chandra Shekar, George Fernandez, and a host of other leaders were put behind the bar. The movement headed by JP had garnered unusual strength as it received the support of a wide spectrum of political parties. JP called for a TOTAL REVOLUTION as the administration was highly corrupt; there was abject poverty, unemployment, high inflation rate, exploding population and political anarchy. Indira for long was basking under the glory of 1971 war with Pakistan in connection with the Bangladesh liberation, the penalty for which India is even today paying dearly. All adverse factors accumulated in 1975 and as an immediate cause Indira was unseated from her parliamentary seat won from the Rai Bareilly constituency of UP. Justice Sinha of the Allahabad High Court found Indira liable for corrupt practices in her fight at the hustings against Raj Narayan. Her appeal to the Supreme Court was heard by Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, sitting as the vacation judge. The court granted her only partial stay and this led her to think on extra-constitutional means and emergency was clamped on the nation. The emergency was in force till March 23 rd. of 1977. In January 1977 Indira called for general elections after extending the term of the erstwhile House twice.
JP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K.Advani, George Fernandez, and a host of other leaders were put behind the bar
Time started changing against her once the election was declared. The president F A Ahammed died in office; B.D.Jatti, the vice President, became the acting president. All the opposition parties came together to oppose the Congress. A new political experiment was tested in the theatre of Indian politics with the formation of the Janata Party which was the result of a confluence of Old Congress under Morarji, CFD under Jagajeevan Ram, BKD under Charan Singh, Bharatiya Jan Sangh under Atalji and Advaniji, and a breakaway group of Congress under Chandra Shekar called Young Turks; they joined together to float a political party and christened it as Janata Party. At the elections, Indira and Sanjay and the so-called Congress party were routed by the electorate, especially the electorate of northern India. In the South- Andhra, TN, Karnataka, and Kerala stood with Indira. Immediately after the declaration of the results, the national emergency was revoked on 23-03-1977, and all political prisoners were released. Thus India emerged out of a despotic eclipse and the people began to breathe free and democracy dethroned by the Congress was restored.
Andhra, TN, Karnataka, and Kerala stood with Indira
The period of emergency was the most terrible one in the matter of violations of human rights. The people of India were not sitting silent watching the flamboyant show of Indira and her son. Deep beneath the apparent calm was an anger growing and this emerged from the grassroots of the society. A silent move for independence from the clutches of the authoritarian rule of Indira and Sanjay was spreading in the background. The leftist parties, as usual, were watching from the sidelines. In Kerala, the Communist Party and the RSP were in the ruling coalition with Congress. The farmers, labourers, small scale businessmen were all against the fascist rule of Indira. Forced sterilization, demolition of dwelling houses in the name of development, extreme cases of nepotism, rank corruption, and disappointment of the armed forces and the collective strength of the political parties were fuelling the simmering discontent and when the opportunity came the people in large numbers voted against Indira and voted her out of power. The cruelty with which the government suppressed the people’s movement was comparable to the case of Chinese and Russian rulers. Police were given free power and the helpless victims were put extreme acts of cruelty. Thousands of youngsters were kept in custody without even recording arrest. The undertrials were kept in prisons under extreme conditions. The families of those arrested were having a nightmarish period as the police had a field time. It was the second freedom struggle fought by the patriotic people of India. The special target of the executive and police tyranny of Indira and Sanjay was the RSS swayamsevaks who would always hoodwink the police and outsmart the authorities and do their work against the government. Immediately after the declaration of emergency by the 4th of July 1975, Indira banned RSS. Unwittingly, thus, she opened the way for RSS to start focused work and grow with a never before found inspiration. Even after the ban was lifted after the defeat of Indira in 1977, RSS kept the tempo socio-cultural activities. But in the case of those who were taken into custody, it was a sordid experience the like of which we came to hear in Tia a Man Square, Guantanamo, Idi Amin’s Uganda, the concentration camps of USSR, etc. The physical torture done on those in custody was the most horrible incident. Their families were starving, children left out of schools, daughters remaining in fear, and losing all hopes of getting married. It was torture several times more than as it was under the British. In the length and breadth of India, people fought valiantly, suffered silently, and finally saw the devil out of power.
In Kerala the Communist Party and the RSP were in the ruling coalition with Congress
In Kerala State, about ten thousand people, all in their youthful years were arrested and kept in prison for their activities against the government. Kerala government was headed by a Communist CM, Achutha Menon; but the real power was wielded by a stooge of Indira, K. Karunakaran who was the Home Minister and was the epitome of executive tyranny. The tragedy is that those who fought the emergency excesses are today left in the lurch without anybody to support them. In an era of pensions to all and sundry these deserving warriors who fought and won the second battle for independence are kept out of the reckoning by the power centres. Those who called them to come out of their houses leaving their families to poverty and cruelty of the police are now turning Nelson’s Eye to their problems. Throughout India, lakhs of such people are living in abject poverty, diseases, and want who had spent their youth for the service of the nation to fight the emergency regime. The warriors of the second freedom struggle are today living totally abandoned and deserted. They are the living martyrs of emergency rule. They are great achievers. If Sardar Patel unified India despite a wily Nehru, these robust fighters kept India’s democratic legacy intact despite a despot like Indira.
The warriors of the ‘Second Freedom’ struggle are today living totally abandoned and deserted
Another inglorious dimension of emergency was the damage and destruction caused to the Constitution and the institutions created under it. The entire executive was emasculated to dance to the tunes of a few individuals. Freedom of the press was drastically devastated. Judiciary was sought to be mellowed by floating the concept of a ‘committed judiciary’. Even the Supreme Court wobbled for a moment and in A D M Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla, the Court even went to the extent of saying that when an emergency in force the jurisdiction of the High Courts to entertain Habeas Corpus petitions is restricted. The Court did it unwillingly and with the dissent of Justice H R Khanna. This, the Court, corrected at the first opportunity in Maneka Gandhi’s case putting personal liberty above everything; and today the rule in ADM Jabalpur case is totally reversed by the Court in the Aadhar Case also known as Justice Puttaswamy case. The institutions of Parliament, Election Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General, the Railways, and all other departments were made to subserve the demands of tyranny. The Constitution itself was amended to the extent of disfiguring it through the infamous 42nd amendment. Indira behaved like the protagonist of William Cowper’s poem ‘Solitude of Alexander Selkirk’ where he says “I am monarch of all I survey.” But India’s strength is not in Her demagogues; but in its inherent strength of the people.
Freedom of the press was drastically devastated
Once the emergency was lifted and new political equations were drawn incorporating the experiences of the event minus the real warriors. Commemoration functions are held annually with claims and counterclaims by parties regarding the fight against the Congress and Indira. Congress remained as a party still coming to power with the advantage of the short public memory and the fight among the non-congress parties. A positive result of the overthrowing of Congress and the emergency is the gradual but strong growth of the nationalist forces culminating in the present good governance of NDA and BJP under Shri Narendra Modi.