Indian Emergency 1975

Democratic Disconnect: Indian Emergency of 1975

“The number of those in Indira Gandhi’s prisons during the Emergency far exceeded the total number jailed during the 1942 Quit India”― Coomi Kapoor, The Emergency: A Personal History.

A powerful photograph was taken during Indira Gandhi’s regime, which shows her absolute authority; image courtesy: satyabhasanam.blogspot

Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat

In 1971, India had just defeated Pakistan, and Mrs. Gandhi was re-elected as Prime Minister of India. In 1972, Gujrat faced one of its worst famines, followed by a horrible Kharif crop. Gujarat, at this point, was governed by the Congress under chief minister Chimanbhai Patel. The government was largely infamous for its corruption charges and political scandals. It took many youngsters from LD Engineering College, Ahmedabad, to topple the Gujrat Government little they knew their movement would change the face of Indian politics forever. They organized protests over the rising food prices, which had increased their mess charges. The student protests against the government gained momentum when factory workers and people from other sectors of society also joined in. Clashes with the police, buses and government vehicles' burning, and ration shops' attacks became an everyday sight. By February 1974, faced with continuing agitation and fast unto death by Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi dissolved the assembly and announced fresh elections in June.

The JP movement

In the 70s, as Indira ascended to political supremacy and economic issues gravely impacted lives. A hero of the freedom struggle, Jai Prakash Narayan, popularly called JP, was known for his selfless activism since the days of the nationalist movement. Following in the footsteps of Gujarat or rather inspired by its success, a similar kind of student protest was launched in Bihar in March 1974, to which opposition forces lent their strength. The protest gained popularity when 71-year-old freedom fighter JP joined the student protest. Though in the case of Bihar, Indira Gandhi did not concede to the suspension of the Assembly. However, the JP movement was significant in determining her to declare an Emergency.

A few days before the Emergency was declared, Jayaprakash Narayan led an anti-government rally in Patna. He was arrested after the rally.

The Raj Narain verdict

While opposition parties, trade unions, and students had occupied the streets in protest against Indira Gandhi’s government, a new threat emerged before her when a petition got filed in the Allahabad High Court by socialist leader Raj Narain who had lost out to Gandhi in Raebareli parliamentary elections of 1971. The petition had made serious accusations against the prime minister of having won the elections through corrupt practices. It alleged that she spent more money than allowed and further that government officials managed her campaign.

Shanti Bhushan represented Raj Narain in a case against Indira Gandhi.

Indian Emergency

George Fernandes in shackles, where he stands with his fist raised defiantly, is one of the most exemplary photographs defining the 21-month-long deplorable emergency.

Later Advani addressed the media and said: “You were asked only to bend, but you crawled.”

Several other human rights violations were reported from the time, including a forced mass-sterilization campaign headed by Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s son.

Mother and son: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with his son Sanjay Gandhi

The emergency period in India is considered the darkest phase of independent India. It stands out as the demarcating point in a country with such political diversity like India; political individualism will always make it advent and leave a corrosive mark on democratic institutions and traditions.

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Aishwarya Singh

Software Engineer by profession | History Buff | Writing about outsider's intake on current political scenarios and it's association with historic event of past