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Monday, May 29, 2023

1975 Emergency- The Dark Chapter in History of Bharat

This day in the year 1975 shall be remembered as one of the darkest days in the history of independent Bharat. Then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi had called for an emergency to be declared across the country. It lasted for 21 long months starting from 25th June, 1975 to 21st March, 1977. A dark phase in the democratic Bharat wherein undemocratic rule presided across the country.


It began with the case against Indira Gandhi for election malpractices in Allahabad High Court. The verdict of the same was later challenged in Supreme Court which granted Gandhi a conditional stay. It allowed her to be an MP but not preside over parliamentary proceedings. This was viewed as the first step to emergency.

The second step was the ‘Total Revolution’ initiated by Jayaprakash Narayan who demanded the resignation of Indira after the Allahabad High Court gave its verdict. JP declared the nationwide plan of daily demonstrations in every state capital. The police, army and the people were asked to follow the Constitution than Indira Gandhi. The emergency is regarded as the outcome of a systematic failure as Bharat was facing social, economic and political crisis.

Emergency was imposed at the pretext of “Internal Emergency” using Article 352 of Bharat’s Constitution.

Indira Gandhi and her team spent no time in preparing the official document of “Proclamation of Emergency” to be signed by Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the President of Bharat. Incidentally, Ahmed was a rubberstamp installed by Indira Gandhi the previous year due to which she was confident that he would return her the favor by unquestioningly approving Emergency. The President signed it without much persuasion.


At 7 a.m. (26th June 1975), Indira went on air, speaking on All India Radio about the decision to impose emergency. She went on to explain about the “Deep & widespread conspiracy” which she claimed was hatched against her to block her from “progressive measures of benefit to common man of Bharat” i.e she tried to portray the emergency as a “bitter pill” to safeguard the nation from the troubles created by “foreign hand”.


Her team had already prepared a list of all the opposition leaders to be put behind bars. Arrest warrants were issued the same night. Most of the top opposition leaders like JP, Morarji Desai, Jivatram Kripalani, LK Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee were arrested. In response, the authority of the maintenance of Internal Security Act was used in the early hours of June 26th to arrest more than a hundred people who opposed Mrs. Gandhi and her party.

1975 emergency

Even royalty was not spared. Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia & Maharani Gayatri Devi were also arrested.


Censorship on Press

Press was censored. All news articles had to be sent to the government for approval before publishing it the next day. Any form of protest against emergency by newspaper (editors) would be curbed. Most of the newspaper printers had come to a standstill because the government had cut off their electricity supplies to make them “fall in line”. While several news editors used different strategies to voice out their protest, Indian Express protested by leaving the editorial section blank.


Censorship of press had led to regular large-scale rumors (against government) going viral. Indira Gandhi tried to counter them using dictatorial methods like installing large billboards “ordering” people to avoid loose talks and do their “duties”. Censorship played a huge role. It was imposed on the press, cinema and other forms of art as well. Many people died and it all went unreported.

Apart from such billboards, there were government sponsored videos which were aired in TV and advertised in theaters to pursue people to avoid rumors.
One such video:

Sufferings of Common Men

All forms of protests (dharnas, gheraos, satyagrahas etc) were curbed using “Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA).” Even the common man was not spared and just a trivial criticism of Emergency or Indira or the government was sufficient to invite arrest. There were several instances where the MISA act was misused for personal and political vendetta as well. Due to number of arrests outnumbering capacity of jails, many were just tied with chains to poles & pillars.

A powerful documentary titled “Zameer Ke Bandi (Prisoners of Conscience)” produced in 1978 (with several interviews with victims) by an eminent film-maker shows how several innocent men & women (who had no political links) were jailed for trivial reasons. For example, the very first interview of the documentary is about a young man who was jailed & tortured for drawing a sketch of Indira Gandhi behind bars.
Link to the complete documentary:

Organizations like RSS were banned and most of its prominent leaders were arrested. However, some of the leaders went “underground” to carry out back-end activities like spreading real news to people (since newspapers were censored), creating awareness & acting as messengers of those leaders who were imprisoned.

For example, Narendra Modi & Indira Gandhi’s most outspoken critic Dr Subramanian Swamy disguised themselves as Sikhs during the Emergency period to avoid being arrested and acted as messengers.


The emergency gave immense power not only in Indira’s hand but also her son, Sanjay Gandhi. He performed atrocity of sterilization. Covered with a blanket of ‘family planning’, the process was supposed to be voluntary. But as it turned out, there were reports where unmarried, old and in some cases opponents were forced to get sterilized.

A Dark Period

Bharat was pushed into darkness for the next 21 months due to the death of democracy, atrocities & excesses of Emergency. Indira’s son Sanjay Gandhi unleashed a slew of projects which eventually backfired due to his political immaturity. The mother-son duo had held the nation hostage.

The horrors of Emergency shall haunt the democracy and Bharat’s history. The common men suffered due to hunger for power of a family. It was like going back into atrocities of pre-1947 era. Democracy was actually under threat, in fact, had perished during that period.






(Featured Image Source)

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