Emergency- Dark Nights Returns
As we all know, dark nights of India has begun with a smile of Indira Gandhi. After independence, Indians had believed Congress and its dramatic acts even-though they were so aware of Nehru Dynasty. The Irony was dead when Indira showed her dictatorship on entire India by declaring emergency on June 25th, 1975 and led Indians to stay the same for long 21 months that had ruined the system of Indian society.
A long road to dictatorship!!
Let’s begin the journey with the quote of one great personality, who had elaborated real Indira, which India has ever seen.
“As a consequence of her victory in the 1971 elections, Indira Gandhi has successfully magnified her figure as the one and only leader of national dimensions. However, if power is voluntarily surrendered by a predominant section of the people to one person and at the same time opposition is reduced to insignificance, the temptation to ride roughshod over legitimate criticism can become irresistible. The danger of Indira Gandhi being given unbridled power shall alwaysbe present.” -Khushwant Singh, 1971.
Indira Gandhi was more than a legend, after showing her senior in the Congress that she was not dumb and deaf! She had all the rights to prove that her government was not a “Petticoat Government” anymore.
She nationalised the banks in 1969 an abolished the Privacy Purses next year. As a result, She has won 352 out of 518 seats in the LokSabha elections which held in 1971.
Later, she had successfully emerged in the formation of Bangladesh in the war against Pakistan!
Yet, it was also a kick-start of the worst times. RajNarain, the Socialist Party candidate who was defeated by Indira Gandhi in Rae Bareli had challenged her election in the Allahabad High Court, citing electoral malpractices.
Later, Indira’s down-trip has begun with Sanjay’s escapades. His small car project has become unpopular in the pre-liberalised socialist era which led to the nepotism charges. Soon, it was renamed as “People’s car” and banks were lending money to a non-manufacturing unit. Another stroke was given by Haryana Chief-Minister Bansi-Lal, who acquired the most fertile land in his state for the project.
In early 1974, under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, students protested aiming their agitation of building new India, which turned into something big. But, Narayan’s goal was transformed when Indira Gandhi repressed it with all the might of the state. Earlier, he wanted the transformation of the social order in the countryside, across India.
By May, 17 lakh railway employees stopped work for long 20 days, demanding a pay hike. The strike was led by George Fernandez, who was the president of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation. Later, Indira countered the strike by arresting 20,000 workers, including Fernandez.
On June 12, 1975, Indira received the news of the Allahabad HC’s verdict in her case against Narain that the justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha found her guilty of malpractices and set aside her election.
Through Sinha stayed execution of his order for 20 days to give her time to appeal in the SC, the opposition demanded her to resign immediately.
After so many conflicts between the parties, she finally approached the single-judge vacation bench of the SC arguing that her continuation as PM was just in “National interest.”
Then, the Justice V.R.KrishnaIyer granted a conditional stay declaring that she could continue as Prime Minister, but she did not have the right to vote in the Lok Sabha till the Supreme Court had disposed of her appeal, which led the opposition parties to threaten the civil disobedience so far.
By end of June 25th midnight, including Narayan, many more opposition leaders were arrested and the Congress presented the threat of Indira’s power as a threat to the National Internal Security! Then, with no cabinet approval, Indira made President Fakhruddin-Ali-Ahmed to sign the promulgation of the Emergency!!!!
Total suspension of basic rights!
The emergency had given power to suspend Article 19, which elaborated the democratic rights such as speech and expression, freedom to assemble, to form associations and so many. The suspension told courts not to entertain people who wanted their rights to be enforced, which have a plan to target media and the opposition leaders.
A person who studied in a government school in Delhi at that time said the fear of sterilisation was such that once parents did not send children to school for three days, because an immunisation and vaccination camp was scheduled on those days. In many cases, young boys and old men were vasectomised. “Such was the impact that the word family planning was used very cautiously by the Indian government since,” said Pramod Kumar, director of the Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh.
It was a total disaster of the system. The stories of torture were not published under the suspension of articles. There were much resistance to publish or to speak against her emergency agenda. Most of them got arrested with no arrest warrant and carried out in the mid-night.
Bhim Sen Sachar, a freedom fighter and seven others got arrested and tortured for writing an open letter to Indira which said, “… the common people of Delhi now talk in hushed tones as they do in communist societies, they do not discuss politics in the coffee house or at the bus stand and look over their shoulders before expressing any opinion. An atmosphere of fear prevails and politically conscious citizens differing from your viewpoint prefer to observe a discreet silence, with some of them afraid of the midnight knock on their door.”
Indira issued pamphlets of her 20-point agenda including Sanjay’s five points and forced to paste all over India. “We were ordered to paste these pamphlets on our shop walls. Those who refused were arrested,” said a grocery store owner.
With the help of M.F.Husain, the Congress began to build Indira as an icon by painting her as Durga!!
After long ten months of emergency left, a bench compromising five senior members of the SC had to decide whether a Habeas Corpus petition could be maintained to ascertain if a detention was in compliance with MISA. The justice H.R.Khanna’s dissenting note was maintained that the rule of law required the right to life and personal liberty could not be suspended under any circumstances and that the legality of the detention could be questioned by the detainee. “A dissent in a court of last resort… is an appeal to the brooding spirit of the law; to the intelligence of a future day, when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting judge believes the court to have been betrayed.”
It was Indira’s wrong assumption that the people would support her in coming election after this bloody emergency! Confident Indira Gandhi had lifted the emergency on March 21, 1977. In the following election, she was completely swept out of the office with anti-congress politics. The Janata Party, which was born, won a huge mandate which was printed as “The finest hour of Indian democracy” in the history pages of India. It dismantled much of the terrible infrastructure of the Emergency regime.
Most importantly, it constituted the Shah Commission to look into “the widespread misuse and abuse of power during the imposition of double emergencies, external and internal in 1975-77.”
The irony of a Home ministry of India is the letter Indira wrote, with her signature to Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, in which she asked to promulgate the Emergency is missed!!! Today, we have that typed copy without her signature. Other papers and precious documents are also missed from the HM as well as the National Archives of India.
Professor Emma Tarlo from the University of London has visited the Nehru Memorial and the Indira Gandhi’s memorial in Delhi, found books published in 1975-76 in the favour of Emergency. “What we have, then, are two alternative narratives, each with its own vision; one which projects the Emergency as a step into a brighter future, the other which remembers it as a bleak and shameful past.” She noted in her book, “Unsettling Memories: Narratives of India’s Emergency. Further, she observed that, “by 1979, such books were “already subsiding. By 1980, their demise is marked by an absence of new additions that year to the Emergency shelf.”
“They are so petrified, they don’t open their mouths,” said a retired IAS officer, of her friends who were in service. “We were not so frightened even during the Emergency.” Some lately made the references to the emergency.
Some reels beyond reality during emergency period!!
Amrit Nahata was jailed because of directing “Kissaa Kursee Kaa” film, which blamed Sanjay Gandhi for most of the excesses.
The Censor Board received the film for certification, a couple of months before the emergency was declared. The censor board referred the film to government and asked to cut 51 scenes and then later, the film was later banned.
No matter how Nahata had challenged the censorship and fought in law consequences, his film had vanished, rather it was deliberately destroyed.
On the allegations of the film, Sanjay and V.C.Shukla, who was the minister of Information and broadcasting, were sentenced to jail. District judge O.N.Vohra of the Tis Hazari court found them guilty of burning the celluloid reels of the film in Sanjay’s car plant in Gurgaon.
An interesting story is all about Kishor Kumar’s voiceless protest against the emergency!!
The ministry of information and broadcasting wanted Aradhana movie to praise Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme on All India Radio and Television. But, Kishore Kumar refused to sing and refused to co-operate in anyway. Also, he declined to meet the I&B ministry officials.
Later, on April 30th, 1976, S.M.H.Burney, a secretary of I&B, ordered to ban all songs of Kishor Kumar.!
Indira Gandhi’s dictatorship disrespected the Royal family!
Gayatri Devi and her stepson Lt.Col.Bhawani Singh, a Mahavir Chakrea recipient for gallantry in the 1971 war, were arrested under the conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling act 1974.
The former queen of Jaipur was jailed atTihar. But she challenged the detention before the Delhi HC.
Narrating her Tihar experience before the Shah Commission, Gayatri Devi said, “There were no sanitation and no running water. The public latrines had failed, and inmates had to use the drain instead. She was kept near the “phansikothi” for condemned prisoners, which was where they had also put up Vijaya Raje Scindia, a Jana Sangh leader and former Maharani of Gwalior. Gayatri Devi, who had a steep fall in blood pressure during her imprisonment, spoke of shabby treatment of the detainees and prisoners, including a pregnant woman who gave birth to a child in the lavatory.
This is how the emergency period influence entire India to step backs a decade. This is how Indira Gandhi led her all the way to dictatorship in order to continue in power.
But, some great personalities emerged victoriously by protesting against this non-sense emergency declaration. Jayaprakasha Narayan gave a call for “total revolution” at Bihar in 1974, which extended to the entire country just before the Emergency by asking opposition parties to unite against the Congress and fight in the 1977 election.
Raj Narain was lost to Indira in 1971 Lok Sabha election and filed a petition in Allahabad HC alleging malpractices which led him to win Indira in the 1977 polls.
A.B.Vajapayee was arrested heeding JPs Call for a united opposition. He merged the Jana Sangh with the Janata Party, which won 1977 elections.
Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha found Indira guilty of misusing state machinery for elections and declared her elections null and void.
George Fernandes organised a nationwide railway strike and went underground during the emergency. But, he got arrested in 1976.
Nanaji Deshmukh took part in a procession led by JP in Patna, was badly beaten up to save JP from the Police and got bedridden.
Shanti Bhushan represented Raj Narain in his case against Indira Gandhi.
Morarji Desai went on an indefinite hunger strike on March 12th, 1975 in support of the Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat, was jailed. He became the PM after the Janata Party defeated the Congress in 1977.
The worst part was, with the support of Dhirendra Brahmachari, Rukhsana Sultana, R.K.Dhawan, Sanjay Gandhi, Siddharta Shankar Roy and -V.C.Shukla, she had maintained her “Cheap Dignity”!