Democracy Interrupted – Emergency 1975

Parliamentary structure, Judiciary, Control on government through opposition, Media and Freedom of expression were all slowly gaining momentum and the process of gaining power of democracy began unilaterally after 1947. Then why should there have been such an imposition of emergency? What was the role of Congress which took the lead in the country’s freedom struggle and established democracy after independence? Many such questions arise. In 1950, with the initiative of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, independent India got its own constitution. The importance of freedom was realized by the people after establishment of democracy.


Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in the country. Her father Jawaharlal Nehru was a great leader of the country and played a major role in the freedom movement. Indira herself has said on one occasion that “My childhood went through an unusual situation due to political struggles. I always felt lonely and insecure.” (Reference: Black Wednesday, Pratima Kalhan, page 149) Indira was at Oxford for studies and Nehru had gone there to convince Indira to return to India. Indira was ready to come back but she got upset and stopped talking to her father. The two were traveling together for a fortnight by ship and later by train from Mumbai to Prayag, but Indira did not utter single word with her father. Nehru resented Indira’s behaviour and sent her back to Oxford a few days later. On one occasion, Jawaharlal Nehru went so far as to say that “Indira is so stubborn that she should not be given any post in future.” (Reference: Dictatorship Challenge, Chandrabhan Gupta, Page No. 9) The same is true about Indira’s marriage. Indira herself informed her father of her decision to marry Feroze Jahangir. Jawaharlal Nehru was not interested in his daughter’s decision and asked some close relatives to talk to Indira to see if the decision could be reversed. Even Mahatma Gandhi himself spoke to Indira about this. But to no avail. In March 1942, Indira and Feroze got married in a very simple manner. Later, Indira did not get along well with Feroze and did not take much interest in her marriage.


Such stubborn and arrogant Indira Gandhi had already sowed seeds of emergency in her mind. Although Indira Gandhi was leading the Congress and Kamaraj Nadar was the president. He had support of some anti-Indira leaders. This group was called Syndicate. In 1965, the syndicate played a major role in promoting Shastriji for Prime Minister. Indira Gandhi had planned to destroy the syndicate ever since. Later in the presidential election, Giri was placed against Reddy and in this fierce battle, Giri won with Indira’s support. Indira defeated the Syndicate for the first time here. Later, Congress, led by Morarji Desai, faced a split. Gandhi was in the minority but could save her government with the support of the Communists, the Muslim League and the DMK. Later, the original Congress came to be known as Indira Congress.

End of democracy within party

She won a huge number of seats in the 1971 general election and won widespread support across the nation. Indira Gandhi used all her skills to separate Bangladesh from Pakistan and came to prominence as a successful Prime Minister. Indira Gandhi’s popularity had reached its peak in these sequence of events. She had succeeded in reflecting the victory of the army into her personal victory. The ego of this success was definitely ingrained in her head and the moon stars were now floating in front of this Indira-like sun of original Congress party. All the leaders were blessed to see with Indira’s eyes, hear with her ears and think with her brains. The Chief Ministers would not travel around the province, but ensure they make frequent rounds to Delhi. And thus Indira Gandhi was the first to end the democratic process in the Congress party that Nehru, Gandhi and Patel had set up. The word ‘high command’ was originated in the Congress party ever since.

Preparation was on

During her visit to Kenya in 1950, Indira Gandhi had said that “If there is no opposition in the country, it will be easier to strengthen the country, eradicate poverty and illiteracy”. Indira’s faith in parliamentary democracy and the Opposition was somewhat dubious, and it was for this purpose that the Misa Act was passed in Parliament in 1971 on the grounds of curbing Bangladeshi infiltrators and anti-national elements. Under this law, it was not mandatory to give a reason or explanation for the arrest of a person. In this way the Misa Act was made by deceiving the Parliament.

CIA is the US intelligence agency. There was a fundamental difference in the way RAW and CIA would function. That is, the CIA is accountable to the US Senate, but Indira Gandhi placed RAW in such a fashion that RAW fully complied with the orders of the Prime Minister’s Office. RAW’s was directed to keep an eye on ministers, leaders and officials. The names of some prominent MPs and journalists were also added later.

The rapprochement between the United States and China had grown. India had no choice but to move closer to Russia. With the signing of a 20-year peace and cooperation agreement with Russia in August 1971, KGB’s intervention in India increased. RAW and KGB officials came together and started exchanging information. RAW was given clear instructions to go ahead and understand the KGB’s repressive tactics. The arrest of leaders during the emergency, the manner in which press censorship was carried out, clearly showed the imprint of the KGB.

The next step was an unprecedented increase in the number of Central Reserve Police and Border Security Force. The number of these two forces under the control of the Central Government was increased to one million, while the total number of police forces in all the states did not exceed eighty thousand. In case it was time to go ahead and suppress a movement, these numbers would be used.

The role of US in Bangladesh war was ambiguous. The public sentiment of Indians was naturally turning against the United States. So any of your opponents would raise a little head that he would be openly declared a CIA agent. Doubts about the leader would automatically arise in the eyes of the people. Jaiprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Ashok Mehta and other big leaders were being harassed. All discussions on public issues were stopped and the propaganda against US started banging inside.

What went wrong?

On one hand, Indira Gandhi was proving her supremacy, while on the other hand, the work of Sarvodaya Andolan, Samajwadi Andolan and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was in full swing. Indira Gandhi was keeping a close eye on all these activities. He was fully aware that these organizations could work to thwart Indira’s imaginary plan. She was taking special care of the RSS as the nature and scope of the RSS was national. The Sangh was denounced as a sectarian, riotous and obstructive organization.

On the other hand, by 1972, while trying to make its image pro-poverty, anti-exploitation and protector of the nation, some cases of corruption started coming out. In it, mainly in Nagarwala, Tulmohan Ram, Maruti, Pondicherry License, Jayanti Shipping, Indira was seen standing behind the corrupt leaders. Around the same time, the Watergate scandal erupted and President Nixon was forced to resign by the US Senate. However, Indira Gandhi started appearing openly in support of the Corruption, claiming Corruption is all over, There is corruption even in the big countries of the world. She went to the extent of saying even Opposition is corrupt.

In 1972, the country faced severe drought. There was a huge shortage of food grains. There were three sides in all four directions. There emerged depositors who would try and take advantage of this situation. In this situation, the attitude of the leaders had not diminished, the people were being robbed by the leader, the deficit in rations was harassing the people. In such an environment, the Maharashtra Bandh of January 2, 1974 was an unprecedented success. The student movement in Gujarat got the support of all the opposition parties. In the form of Jayaprakash Narayan, a star started shining in the people’s movement across the country.

Due to inaction, lack of will, failure to implement government programs, anger about Indira Gandhi was growing among the congress leaders and public at large. In Gujarat, Chimanbhai Patel’s government was recently dismissed by Indira Gandhi and elections were announced. But ambiguity was created about when the election would take place. Morarji Desai was constantly agitating for elections. It was finally decided to hold an election.

June 12: Day of upheaval

This day was very unlucky for Indira Gandhi. In Allahabad High Court, Judge Jagmohanlal quashed Indira Gandhi for contesting as an MP and barred her from contesting for next six years. In the four-year-old case, her rival Rajnarayan had presented evidence before the court alleging electoral fraud. In the evening of same day, results of the Gujarat elections were declared and the Congress lost, while the Janata Morcha won.

Moment aroused

The omnipotent Indira Gandhi suffered these two blows on the same day, realizing that it was time to blow the trumpet of coveted dictatorship. A massive public meeting was held on June 20th at the Boat Club in Delhi. In her speech, Indira Gandhi said that this is the largest public meeting in the history of world. She was trying to show the world that he still had support of the masses.

On the one hand, the powerful ruling party and on the other hand, the opponents who live a life of morality and selfless sacrifice. At the same time there was widespread public discontent. On June 25, 1975, the ruling party completed preparations to raise the weapons of Misa, Censorship and Constitutional amendment.

The names of nation’s top leaders were sent across to the local police. On the night of June 25, a strategy was devised to arrest such prominent leaders. Arrests started everywhere and there was outcry all over. Many people were sent to prison within a few days. Battalions of local police and central police started sitting on crossroads. The atmosphere was one of fear. It was not possible to predict who would be picked. In such a situation, the question arose as to what to say to whom and whom to trust.

On June 30, Sangh’s Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras was arrested from Nagpur railway station. From then on, they started laying hands on the Sangh workers. The police started moving around with lists. On July 4, 1975, Sangh was officially banned. Sangh offices were sealed. Punchnama was recorded as sticks, fake knives, spears and weapons found in the Sangha offices. Sangh is a violent organization and it was forced to spread propaganda in such a way as to create social divisions among the youth and force them to support violence.

The whole country was turning into a huge prison. It all started to take the form of an organization called Lok Sangharsh Samiti. There was no argument, no lawyer, no appeal everywhere in the country. Students stopped going to school, lawyers stopped going to court, officials started resigning, officials started returning government awards and testimonials. The Prime Minister’s Office was flooded with letters of protest from the people. The Tamil Nadu and Gujarat governments officially protested.


The chain of Satyagraha and peaceful rallies continued and 1977 dawned. The demands of Opposition were met. The Lok Sabha elections were announced on January 18, 1977. In all these endeavors, the Sangh was an organization with no political will, but Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the Samajwadi Party and other smaller parties formed Janata Party. In the election, Indira Gandhi’s party was defeated. By electing 295 MPs, the people filled the Janata Party’s pockets and thwarted Indira Gandhi’s plans to establish dictatorship.

Again, the public said that they would not spare anyone who would dare to touch the democratic fabric of this nation.

Author : Satish Nikam

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