Book Extract: Proposed Book of Amitabh Tiwari (aka Politicalbaba) co-authored with Subhash Chandra on Indian National Congress.
After having won 1971 elections in an emphatic style, Indira was seen fighting two serious battles soon after – one in Bihar and the other in Gujarat. Coupled with worrisome economic situation for which she alone cannot be put to blame, things were getting too hot for her to handle. She was also fighting a court case against Raj Narain, whom she defeated in Lok Sabha polls held in 1971 from Rae Bareli seat. Raj Narain alleged that Indira used unfair / corrupt electoral practices and misused her official position to win the seat.
Rout in Gujarat
Morarji Desai and opposition parties were exerting pressure on Indira to order fresh polls in Gujarat. The house was dissolved in Mar. 1974. Morarji Desai sat on another fast unto death to exert pressure on Indira. Indira succumbed to pressure against Morarji. Elections were held on 10th June 1975 and results declared on 12th June.
Congress faced a rout in the elections with seats reduced to half compared to 1972. Janata Front comprising of BJS, INCO, KLP and independents formed the government with Babubhai Patel as Chief Minister.
Indira’s Disqualification as MP
More bad news awaited Indira. On the same day Allahabad High Court upheld the allegations of Raj Narain and set aside the election of Indira Gandhi. She was disqualified from contesting Lok Sabha elections for the next 6 years. Indira was found guilty of dishonest election practices, excessive election expenditure and misuse of government machinery / officials for party purposes. The judge, however, rejected more serious charges of bribery against her. The court gave Congress twenty days to replace Indira.
After the news of her verdict spread, hundreds of supporters demonstrated outside her house, pledging loyalty. Indira retained the support of het party which issued a statement backing her. Indira appealed against the verdict in the Supreme Court of India. The vacation bench of Justice V R Krishna Iyer gave a conditional stay on the HC order, ruling that she could remain PM, but could not speak or vote in Parliament pending a decision by a larger bench.
The order galvanized the opposition parties and gave them a much needed issue to take head on Indira Gandhi under the leadership of JP. Narayan announced a week long satyagraha for Indira and Congress CMs to resign. He exhorted the military and police to defy unconstitutional orders of these Congress leaders. At a massive rally against the current govt., held in Ramlila Grounds, Delhi on 25th June 1975, in front of a strong 1 lakh crowd, JP gave the call to Indira to step down. He recited Rashtrakavi Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s poem – Shinghasan khaali karo ke Janata aati hai!.
Imposition of Emergency
This massive show of strength shook up Indira and reportedly on the advice of the then West Bengal CM S.S. Ray she recommended to the then President Fakhruddin Ahmad to declare a state of emergency on the same day on the pretext of disorder and lawlessness following the Allahabad High Court order.
Accordingly, President of India declared a State of Emergency caused by internal disorder, based on the provisions of Article 352(1) of the Constitution. In the days that followed, civil liberties were suspended, media censored, and amendments were brought that threatened to alter the basic character of the Constitution. Draconian laws like MISA were strengthened. The government suspended the right to move court for enforcement of Fundamental Rights. The cabinet was not consulted. At 8 am on June 26, she made an unscheduled radio broadcast to tell the nation about the emergency. Many newspapers in Delhi had power supply cut off the previous night and had not reached readers. They reported the news only on June 27.
Young Turks opposed the Emergency
The entire Congress Parliamentary Party barring five dissidents — Chandra Shekhar, Mohan Dharia, Ram Dhan, Krishan Kant and Laxmikanthamma who were known as Young Turks opposed Indira’s decision. All five were suspended from the party.
All Congress state units and Chief Ministers passed resolutions declaring faith in Indira’s leadership. The CPI wholeheartedly supported the Emergency, and the Soviet Union described it as a “blow to a right-wing plot”.
Emergency united the opposition
JP was the face of the opposition. Congress (O), Jana Sangh, Bharatiya Lok Dal, Socialist Party, Akali Dal, CPM and DMK openly opposed it. Fali Nariman, who was Additional Solicitor General, quit. The RSS, Ananda Margis and Jamaat-e-Islami were banned. Naxalites faced the brunt of police brutality.
Supreme Court Justice H R Khanna took a principled stand against attacks on the Constitution and attempts to subvert justice. He was the only dissenter in the five-member Bench that ruled against habeas corpus, allowing the government to detain a person indefinitely.
Five Main Features of the Emergency
Thousands of leaders of the Total Revolution movement were arrested and jailed (including JP, Advani, Vijayraje Scindia, Morarji Desai, Jivatram Kriplani and many more). Thousands went underground to prevent arrest. There are horrifying stories of people being tortured in jails. Many politicians like George Fernandes, Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley went from one place to another in disguise to escape arrest.
Not only opposition leaders even ‘young turks’ of Congress party who were opposed to Indira Gandhi like Chandrasekhar, Mohan Dharia and Ram Dhan. Freedom fighters including Dr Sushila Nayyar, Acharya Kriplani and H V Kamath were arrested from Rajghat for protesting on Gandhi Jayanti. A total of 110,806 people were detained (Shah Commission Report). At least 30 Members of Parliament were also jailed.
Elections were postponed in states which had completed five years of tenure like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Even the Lok Sabha polls were to be held in 1976 but was deferred due to emergency. Democratically elected opposition governments in two states Gujarat (Congress O led) and Tamil Nadu (DMK led) were suspended and brought under President’s Rule.
Sanjay Gandhi in the name of “family planning” carried on a sterilization program. This was described by many as a “gruesome campaign” to sterilise poor men. Though it started as a voluntary exercise, there were reports of unmarried, old and even opponents being forcefully sterilized. There were reports of police cordoning off villages and virtually dragging the men to surgery.
An astonishing 6.2 million Indian men were sterilised in just a year, which was “15 times the number of people sterilised by the Nazis”, according to science journalist Mara Hvistendahl. Two thousand men died from botched operations.1
With 2/3rd majority in Lok Sabha, Indira took it upon herself to change many laws to improve her position and dominance. A total of 5 amendments were introduced in the constitution after imposition of Emergency.
|Constitutional Amendment No.||Details|
|38||Barred the review of proclamations of the Emergency, judicial review of overlapping proclamations, of ordinances promulgated by the President or by Governors, and of laws that contravened the Fundamental Rights.|
|39||Amendment designed to negate the judgement of Allahabad High Court invalidating Indira’s election to Parliament. The amendment placed restrictions on judicial scrutiny of post of PM. The official gazette notification was issued on Sunday, August 10, 1975. As a consequence of this amendment, Supreme Court of India’s scheduled hearing on August 11, 1975 of the petition challenging PM Indira’s election became infructuous. The amendment was placed in the 9th schedule beyond judicial review.|
|40||Enable Parliament to make laws with respect to Exclusive Economic Zone and vest the mineral wealth with Union of India. Place land reforms & other acts and amendments to these acts under Schedule 9 of the constitution.|
|41||No criminal proceedings “whatsoever” could lie against a President, Prime Minister, or Governor for acts before or during their terms of office|
|42||Designed to curtail fundamental rights granted to citizens under the constitution, impose fundamental duties on citizens and prescribe changes to the basic structure of the constitution by making India a “Socialist Secular” Republic. It invalidated the Supreme Court ruling in the Keshavananda Bharti case that the government couldn’t change the basic structure of the Constitution.|
Severe censorship was imposed on various print media including newspaper, television and radio prohibiting their reporting of all domestic and international news. On 26 June 1975, the day after emergency was imposed, the Bombay edition of The Times of India in its obituary column carried an entry that read, “D’Ocracy D.E.M, beloved husband of T Ruth, loving father of L.I.Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on June 26.”
Indira used “security of the state” and “promotion of disaffection” from second part of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution which enumerates limitations on the various types of freedom to as its defense for imposing strict controls on the press. During censorship, most of the Indian dailies, however, gave up battle of press freedom.
But two tough prominent publishers of English language dailies – The Indian Express and The Statesman, fought courageously against Indira’s opposition of the Indian press.
Indira used at least three methods in manipulation the newspapers2:
Magazines and journals including Himmat, Seminar, Mainstream, Janata, Quest, Freedom First, Frontier, Sadhana, Tughlak, Swarajya and Neerikshak were banned.
Correspondents of The Times of London, The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and The Los Angeles Times were expelled. Reporters of The Economist and The Guardian left after receiving threats. The BBC withdrew its correspondent, Mark Tully. Kuldip Nayar of The Indian Express was detained for organizing a protest of journalists in Delhi. Kishore Kumar was banned by All India Radio after he refused to support the Youth Congress.
Indira also replaced I&B minister I K Gujral (future PM) with Vidya Charan Shukla as he had conflicting views over media censorship and a tussle with Sanjay Gandhi.
Who Is to Blame for Imposition of Emergency?
Dr. Jagannath Mishra, then CM of Bihar and prominent Congress leader had put forth an alternative theory on who imposed Emergency, when he said, “My elder brother Lalit Babu had called Chandra Sekhar to arrange a meeting of Indira Gandhi with JP. My brother died in the blast and the meeting never took place. On June 12, 1975 I went to Delhi to attend Congress CM’s meeting with PM Indira Gandhi. She offered to resign in the wake of Allahabad High Court setting aside her Lok Sabha election. She had suggested names of Jagjivan Ram or Pandit Kamalpati Tripathi as her successor till she got court relief. But it was West Bengal CM Siddarth Shanker Ray who came up with the idea of internal Emergency citing constitutional provisions. Indira was hesitant. Ray later met Sanjay Gandhi with the idea. JP’s 25 June Total Revolution Call from Ramlila Ground provided the final trigger and convinced Indiraji to clamp Emergency.”3
R.K. Dhawan, then private secretary to Indira, echoes similar sentiment. In an interview to Indian Express he says that her first response on hearing the Allahabad High Court order was to quit and she dictated a resignation letter. “It was typed but never signed. This is because her cabinet came to see her and insisted that she must not resign.”
Some historians blame Indira saying she always had dictatorial tendencies, some blame Sanjay and his coterie and some blame SS Ray. It was a combination of all the three I would say (with the limited knowledge of history we have) and the twenty one months of Emergency were indeed the darkest phase of Indian democracy.
1India’s dark history of sterilization, Soutvik Biswas, BBC News
2The Indian Mass Media System: Before, During and After the National Emergency, Indu B Singh
3Ruled or Misruled: Story and Destiny of Bihar by Santosh Singh.