Shilajit Kar Bhowmik

It was the day when India’s democracy was trussed in chains, taken as a prisoner and sent to the gallows. It was the day when the obituary of free speech, free thoughts and free expression in India was written. In a letter, dated January 25, 1931 Pandit Nehru wrote to his daughter from prison by quoting Chanakya’s Arthashastra concisely. According to Chanakya, “In the happiness of his (the king) subjects lies his happiness, in their welfare, whatever pleases himself he shall consider as not good, but whatever pleases his subjects, he shall consider as good. Nehru added, “It is interesting, however, to see that the idea of kingship in ancient India meant service of the people. There was no divine right of kings, no autocratic power. And if the king misbehaved, his people had the right to remove him and put another in his place.” Perhaps, those teachings faded away from the memory of Nehru’s daughter in 1975 who was then basking in the highest echelons of power. She misbehaved and the masses removed her, put another in her place.

The roots of the Emergency were sown in Gujarat which was sown by the Congress under the leadership of Chief Minister, Chimanbhai Patel. Owing to his involvement in a massive scale of corruption, he was daubed in the choicest epithet, ‘Chiman Chor’ by scores of his opponents. Students across Gujarat under the banner of Nav Nirman Andolan spearheaded a movement in January 1974 which threw normalcy out of gear owing to the momentum it gathered. Buses and government offices were consigned to flames. Gujarat’s social and political circumstances drifted into quandary. The Government was brought down to its heels and ‘Chiman Chor’ was forced to put in his resignation papers. President’s rule was imposed. Taking a cue from the Nav Nirman Andolan, students in Bihar decided to follow suit by overthrowing the corruption-ridden Congress government in the state. And for that purpose, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), along with sundry student organisations formed the Chhatra Sangharsh Samity (CSS) and marched on to the Legislative Assembly in Patna on 18 March, 1974. There was a violent clash between the police and protestors. Many were injured and three of them succumbed to it.

The CSS approached Jayaprakash Narayan to lead as the avant-garde of this movement. JP agreed on the condition that the movement should be non-violent and based out of Bihar as well. On 5 June, 1974 JP addressed a meeting at Gandhi Maidan. There he said, “India has been free for twenty-seven years, yet hunger, soaring prices and corruption stalk everywhere. The people are being crushed under all sorts of injustice.”

“You will have to make sacrifices, undergo sufferings, face lathis and bullets, fill up jails,” he added. It was a Nostradamus-like prediction.

And thus, a state-level agitation began to acquire a national dimension.

Of late, it is believed that then West Bengal CM, Siddharth Shankar Ray played a decisive role in the proclamation of ‘Emergency’. This notion would be verily substantiated if one recalls Ray’s deposition before the Shah Commission (set up by the Janata government to investigate the excesses of the Emergency). Ray stated that he was summoned by the Prime Minister on the morning of 25 June, 1975. At 1 Safdarjung Road, Indira Gandhi told Ray that the country was heading towards ‘lawlessness’ and needed a ‘shock treatment’. Some ‘emergent or drastic power’ was necessary for this.

As per “The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years” is concerned, “He (Ray) recalled to the Shah Commission that on one such occasion (before the announcement of the Allahabad High Court judgement on 12 June 1975), he had told her that they could take recourse to the laws already on the statute books, and cited to her the success with which he had tackled the law and order problems of West Bengal within the framework of the law. According to Siddhartha babu, Indira Gandhi then read out intelligence reports of Jayaprakash Narayan’s public meeting scheduled for that evening. The reports indicated that he would call for an all-India agitation to set up a parallel administration network as well as courts, and appeal to policemen and those in the armed forces to disobey what were supposed to be illegal orders. Indira Gandhi, he maintained, was firm in the understanding that India was drifting towards chaos and anarchy.”

On the other hand, Raj Narain (a socialist leader) filed a writ petition with the Allahabad High Court challenging Indira Gandhi’s validity of election in 1971 from the Rae Bareli constituency. Indira sailed through it with flying colours by defeating Narain and others by a huge margin. Narain could not afford to eat the humble pie. And thus, he vowed to extract his pound of flesh. Through his petition, he alleged electoral malfeasance conducive to Indira Gandhi’s victory.

Nanbhoy Palkhiwala and Shanti Bhushan represented Gandhi and Narain respectively.

Following the assumption of power by the Janata Party in 1977, Palkhiwala was sent to the US as ambassador and Shanti Bhushan was made a minister in Morarji Desai’s cabinet.

The Court pronounced its verdict under the single bench of Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha on 12 June, 1975. This verdict impinged on Indira Gandhi’s otherwise scintillating political career like a cascade. This verdict led to her decline in the 1977 Indian General Elections. Perhaps, the worst of tragedy befell her from the political perspective as it steered to her inconceivable defeat. Her hegemony over the Indian polity had to put up with a stiff challenge. Nevertheless, the Court found her guilty of taking recourse to government officers for constructing rostrums and supplying power for loudspeakers at two election rallies. It also found her guilty of taking assistance of a certain government official named Yash Pal Kapoor for boosting her election prospects.

These developments became a thorn in the flesh of her Government. And hence, she resorted to the decision of foisting ‘Internal Emergency’, which was underscored as the darkest day in the history of post-independent India’s democracy.

At the stroke of the midnight hour on 25 June, 1975, when the world slept, when media offices were packing up for the day and newspapers were being put to bed for getting circulated the next day, an abrupt message was conveyed across teleprinters that President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed proclaimed a ‘State of Emergency’ in India under Article 352 of the Constitution.

The light of democracy went out of every Indian lives.

India After Gandhi: Ramachandra Guha

The Dramatic Decade: Pranab Mukherjee

Glimpses of World History: Jawaharlal Nehru

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25/06/2018 14:05:46Ramlal sarkarramlalsarkarscout@gmail.comEmergency At Midnight it's a very unforgettable sad moment in india. sir your article identify this moment clearly.. great article sir thanks to share india's historical moment
25/06/2018 14:16:08Sumitra dassumitradas.sagar@gmail.comSir your article identify some issue of democracy, Nirman Andolan and Emergency in Gujarat . It's realistic and Informational article, thanks sir share your experience and thoughts
25/06/2018 14:24:15Gouri Duttaduttagouri86@gmail.comIn this article clearly identify the emergency at midnight time situations .It is very informational article to write you sir , thanks
26/06/2018 10:47:29subhajit paulspauldeep@gmail.comthis is an awesome article sir
02/07/2018 11:58:13Tasmita Ghosh123agartala@gmail.comVery Interesting article...

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