H C Singh

Declaration of Emergency June 75

Indira Gandhi declared emergency in the night of June 25-26-1975. There were individual cases of protests especially by the students of Delhi University for a couple of months as in an obituary notice in The Times of India, ‘death of Mrs Democracy wife of Mr Freedom’. But by and large the people took it casually. No political party except the Akali Dal took up the challenge. ‘According to Amnesty International,1,40,000 persons were detained without trial during emergency and of them 60,000 were Sikhs.’ (quoted from Inder Malhotra ‘Indira Gandhi a Personal and Political Biography’ (London 1989) p 178) As Akali agitation was going with greater intensity despite MISA and other laws to punish the agitators, Indira sent emissaries Amrinder Singh and Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian. But they failed in getting Akalis to withdraw agitation even during a deal including a formation of a coalition government in Punjab with Akalis ( from Mark Tully and Satish Jacob , Amritsar Mrs Gandhi’s lost Battle London 1985) Because of failure of compromise due to effort of Amrinder Singh and other Mrs Gandhi took up, in revenge, to inflict injury to Sikhs and Punjab. Firstly, as Sangat Singh says in his book The Sikhs in History, she came up with award in March 25 1976 allocating the waters and Hydal Power of the punjab rivers under section 78 of Punjab Reorganization Act of 1966 to Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and Punjab. Indira now used the discretion with malice and vengeance to award 75% of waters to neighbouring non-riparian states to create in them vested interest to the deteriment of legal rights of Punjab. Secondly, the Defence Ministry for the first time issued orders for recruitment in the armed forces based on the quotas to provinces on the basis of population. This was designed to reduce the intake and content of the Sikhs in armed forces to just two percent.

The Sikhs were asked to pay a very heavy price for their uprightness and standing up to the dictatorial perceptions of Indira Gandhi.

Even a non-political princess like Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was not spared.

As explained before Indira Gandhi got the President to sign the proclamation of Emergency because Supreme Court in its interim order had disallowed her to vote in Parliament though she could attend Parliament till final order of Supreme Court. It is thus evident that the Emergency was proclaimed , so that she could continue PM without waiting for the decision of S.C which could go either way. The moment this historic proclamation was singed by the President, Indira Gandhi became bold and ordered switching off power supply to all News Papers so that there was no issue in the morning with any editorial or comments on the issue of Emergency. On the morning of 26th June she addressed the nation on AIR trying to justify the issue of Proclamation of Emergency. Here are some extracts from her speech:-

The President has proclaimed the emergency. This is nothing to panic about. I am sure you all are conscious of deep and widespread conspiracy, which has been ever since I began to introduce certain progressive measures of benefit to the Common man and Woman of India… Certain persons have gone to the length of muting our armed faces to mutiny and our police to rebel…..The forces of disintegration are in full play and Communal passion’s are being aroused threatening our, unity…..This is not a personal matter. It is not important whether remain Prime Minister or not…….. May I appeal for your continued cooperation and trust in the days ahead.

In the first session of Parliament on July 23 after Emergency few opposition leaders who were not yet arrested, protested vehemently on the imposition of Emergency just to allow Indira Gandhi to continue as PM despite SC verdict against her. Shri A K Gopalan the seasoned CPM leader said that large scale arrest of men and women since imposition of Emergency had reduced Parliament to a farce and object of contempt “ But CPI’s Inderjit Gupta supported Emergency and went so for as to say that Jayaparkash Narain through agitation of over one year wanted to seize power in many states”.

On the other hand a Jan Sangh MP openly accused Indira Gandhi of betraying the motherland for the sake of personal ends’. Thereafter the opposition MP’s either bycotted the parliament or were arrested or sent to jail. In the first three months of Emergency it is reported that 80,000 people had been put behind bar, both men and women.

Besides satyagraha by followers of JP who had been arrested on the very first day of Emergency, another leader Manibehn Patel, daughter of Sardar Patel started Satyagraha in Ahmadabad, she and her followers raising slogans in Dandi, famous for Gandhi Ji’s salt Satyagraha known as Dandi March, “Remove Emergency” and release all political prisoners. Even Sardar Patel’s daughter was not spared. She was arrested but the next day a judge ordered her release. Being Sardar Patel’s daughter she continued with the march to the sea with handful of policemen in plainclothes because all her supporters in the precession had been either arrested or beaten by police.

There were intellectuals and men of letters who were upset because of composition of Emergency. Highly respected Kanada novelist Shivranjan Karnath who had joined freedom movement in 20’s under Gandhiji inspiration and was awarded Padma Bhushan, returned the award. Similarly a Hindi novelist Phaneshwaranath RENU returned the award of Padmashri. These intellectuals were inspired by Rabindera Nath Tagore, who had relinquished his Knighthood in protest against Jallianwala Bagh measure by the British Government. Of all the prominent leaders only J.B Kirplani was not arrested. Kirplani had joined independence movement in 1917, many years before Jawahar Lal Nehru joined. He had been Congress President at the time of independence—was not arrested despite his fiery speech on Gandhi ji birthday at Gandhi Ji’s Smadhi Rajghat on 2nd Oct 1975. Kuldeep Nayyar in his book. The Judgment writes that on 2nd oct JB Kirplani, the 85 year old Gandhite was also one of the protesters. “He was first arrested but then released in Kerala, posters even in remote villages appeared to urge the people not to be cowards in front of injustice and tyranny. In April 76 Kirplani asked the government to publish the names of those political leaders who have been arrested during Emergency. He regretted and even complained that why he did not have the ‘privilege’ of being arrested along with JP Desai and other leaders.

After six weeks of Emergency Sanjay Gandhi, Indira’s son became virtual Deputy P M with almost exclusive powers . Even his mother the PM started referring all congress leaders and Ministers to consult Sanjay. So from that day Sanjay’s words or orders became law. None could dare oppose him or even suggest an alternative or give advice or opinion. In his first long interview after Emergency he said that his mother always consulted and even took his advice. He advocated free enterprise in place of socialist pattern or state ownership, so that his Maruti car will not be behind Fiat and Ambassador. This made fundamental change in the policy of the Government during Emergency.

With proclamation of emergency India, under Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi moved towards dictatorship. Many journalists were arrested for instance Malkani of Motherland Delhi and Jagat Narain of Hind Samachar of Jullundur. On 29th June a meeting of journalists and editors was held at Press Club of India that passed a resolution to protest against the imposition of Press Censorship and urged the Indira Govt to lift the ban and release the journalists that have been arrested.

Kuldeep Nayyar in his book ‘The Judgement’ has quoted from Washington Post Correspondent who was banished from India, Lewis M Sinon, a very infecting para in “Sanjay Gandhi and his Mother” which is reproduced below:

“Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, distrustful of even her closest cabinet colleagues at this time of grave crisis for India, is turning to her contraversial younger son, Sanjay, for help in making major decisions. She is scared to death of him”.

That is the stuff of which Sanjay Gandhi was made of, with no respect or even regard for elders including Cabinet Ministers and high officials and even his mother, who was Prime Minister of India and had imposed on India for the first time and last time to date Emergency so as to remain in power come what way. But she willingly handed over all powers of PM to Sanjay as will be seen from the para quoted from Kuldeep Nayyars Book.

During first couple of months of Emergency 60,000 people had been arrested including Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur and Rajmata of Gwalior and sent to Tihar Jail to stay with common “criminals and prostitutes like living in a bazaar” said Gayatri Devi, one of the most beautiful, sophisticated princess and graceful mother.

From 9th July, Akali’s in Punjab launched a morcha in Punjab against Emergency and offer arrests. “Roughly 45000 Sikhs courted arrests” including Akali top leadership including Parkash Singh Balal. Akali Chief Minister of Punjab and Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SGPC President.

Even prominent Gandhitis like Bhim Sen Sochar, who was a Minister in undivided Punjab before partition and was thereafter Chief Minister of India and Punjab and even was Governor, was arrested for demanding abrogation of Press Censorship and demanding freedom and dignity of individual belonging to one party or another or even not being in active politics.

While R.S.S. had been banned, Eminent opposition leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, S N Mishra of congress (O) and Madhu Dandwate, a socialist, were in jail in Karnatka, Shanti Bhushan an eminent advocate (who later become Law Minister) took up their case in the High Court at Bangalore saying “ We are challenging the entire emergency and the measures that the government has imposed and how they were part of what Mrs Gandhi called ‘the gravely threatening conspiracy’ . Dedicated and fearless lawyers had filed thousands of writs for release of detenues or for improving their living conditions as Princess Gayatri Devi who fell ill in Tihar Jail had said they were living in the ‘bazaar’ of ‘prostitutes’.

Other eminent lawyers like V M Terakunde, former judge of Bombay High Court, Minoo Masani Soli, Sorabjee fought gratis the cases of many detenues. Former justice of a Supreme Court of India M C Chagla said almost all or majority of people in jails thought Indira (about one lakh), do not know ‘ why they are in jail and so they cannot defend themselves’ unless they know the charges against them. But neither Indira nor her son Sanjay had thought or had time for these legal matters. They were busy consolidating their power and ruling the country as a dictatorship like that of Hitler in Germany or Stalin in USSR.

With most of the opposition MP’s locked in jails, a series of constitutional amendments were passed by the Parliament (belonging to congress). The 38th Amendment passed on July 22, 1975 barred judicial review of the emergency. Only two weeks after 39th amendment outlined that election of Prime Minister could not be challenged in any court, including Supreme Court.

To gag the process constitutionally, the Press council an independent watchdog body was abolished. A law ‘granting immunity to journalists covering Parliament was revoked and as many as 253 journalists were placed under arrest’ including Kuldeep Nayyar of Indian Express and K.R Sunder Rajan of Times of India.

J P was a great Selfless Social worker and honest leader of India. He was sometimes socialist in his youth but ultimately joined Gandhiji’s non-violent independence movement. He was dedicated to Sarvodya and even after independence did not or declined any political status or office of importance in Congress Party or Congress Government. It is irony of fate of JP and India that such a social worker of such eminence was put behind bars by Indira Gandhi during Emergency. It was negation of not only our constitution but all that for which Gandhiji, Indira’s father Jawahar Lal Nehru and leaders like Dr Rajendra Parsad, Sardar Patel and Dr B R Ambedkar stood and fought throughout their lives.

As stated earlier J P was jailed along with other political leaders immediately after declaration of emergency. While in jail, in November 75, JP’s health suddenly deteriorated because of filthy conditions of over crowded jail and unpalatable food . It created panic in Indira – Sanjay dictatorship and also in the Congress Party fearing if JP died in jail hell will break out for the Government and Congress Party. Accordingly J P was at once shifted to Jaslok Hospital in Bombay to provide him best possible treatment to save his life as well as the life of government.

Sanjay Gandhi had become virtual or effective PM as Indira delegated all powers to her younger son, directed all Ministers and senior officers to consult Sanjay or in fact take orders from him. Sanjay and his views and actions were given wide publicity on state controlled Radio and Media as will be noticed from following:

‘ In a single year 192 news items were broadcast about Sanjay Gandhi from the Delhi Station of AIR. In the same period Doordarshan telecast 26 items on Sanjay’s activities. When he made a 24 hour trip to Andhra Pradesh, the Film Division shot a full-length documentary called ‘A day to remember with commentary in their languages’.

Because of his extra constitutional powers Sanjay Gandhi had his own coterie of which Jagmohan was the key member, other members of this coterie were Navin Chawla who was then secretory to the Governor of Delhi and senior Police officer P.S. Bhinder. Among the ladies who were members of this unlawful coterie were Ambika Soni and Ruksana Sultana. Every morning this coterie met in Sanjay’s office to report on how and what they had implemented on previous days orders of Sanjay and to take fresh instructions and orders for the day. R.K Dhawan Indira’s steno was the link between PM’s office and Sanjay’s ‘Darbar’.

Mission to clean up Delhi convened with Jagmohan as in charge of this enterprise which was fraught with dangers. Demolition started on 13th April 1976, when a bulldozer moved into unauthorized area near Turk man Gate demolishing some slums inhabited by forty poor families, A few days later bulldozer moved to the ground some antique structures in Turk man Gate area. Many people protested but were helpless. For couple of days there was pause but demolition started again with bulldozers under direct instructions of jagmohan who was DDA’s Vice Chairman or head. As hundreds of houses were demolished in the narrow streets of Turk-man Gate area affected, as inevitable, people stoned the Police which is relation lathi charged and then spoadic fire killing a number of protectors between “10 to 200” as exact number could not be ascertained because curfew was imposed in the Turk-man Gate area.

Meanwhile another problem cropped up as Sanjay was keen to control India’s growing population,he authorized sterilization. This,too, was carried to unforeseen limits and frenzy and protests. As it was mostly the Muslim inhabited area of old Delhi’s Turk-man Gate, to cool down the tempers and rebellions protests Sheikh Abdullah was called. He visited the congested area where shooting had taken place and was very much moved. He protested to Indira Gandhi saying that the whole trouble began when young, old and even in valid were dragged off to the sterilization camps”. Even compulsory sterilization was thereafter imposed in the villages around Delhi. Simultaneously protests continued in Delhi and neighboring UP. Worst incident took place in Muzzafer Nagar where to curb the violent protests “Police opened fire in which fifty people died”.

This incident moved even the PM who admitted the excesses in sterilization campaign in the Parliament. From here the decline of the popularity of Congress, Sanjay and Indira commenced. To stem the tide of protests and firing, Indira Gandhi commented on 18th January 1977 that Parliament would be dissolved and fresh elections will be held. Infact Indira, because of emergency, could extend Parliament from year to year but she took the decision without consulting anyone, not even Sanjay. She broadcast the decision to hold general elections in states and for Parliament. This announcement led to release of all Political prisoner from jails all over India. Speak Congress leadership even was surprised.

Though J P was old and infirm as he was on many occasions on dialysis. Yet between February 25 and March 5 “ he spoke at Patna, Calcutta, Bombay, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Indore, Pune and Ratlam. Everywhere he warned the audience that this is the last free elections if the congress is voted back to power then nineteen months of tyranny shall become nineteen years of terror”. In her speeches Indira Gandhi spoke as usual about the conspiracy against her and that emergency ‘was necessary at that time’.

In northern India there was a sort of referendum against ‘Compulsory Sterilization’ and forced vasectomies. In many meetings voters asked the congress speakers or candidates to show their own sterilization certificates. Often there were slogan’s against Sanjay Gandhi. There were hectic campaigns in all states against Sanjay, Indira and Congress. Even the Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid asked the Muslims not to vote for Congress. Jana Sangh and Akali Dal were vociferous against congress of Indira and Sanjay. To ensure defeat of Congress all opposition had united under one party ie Janta Party which constituted of Jana Sangh, Bhartiya Lok Dal of Charan Singh, socialist Party and Morarji Desai’s Congress (o). Even Jagjiwan Ram took the courage to resign from Indira’s cabinet and join the newly formed Janta Party. This brought vast number of backward classes to the fold of Janta Party as hitherto they had been supporting Congress of Mahatma Gandhi.

On the 20th March election results came as a shock to Indira and Sanjay as both mother and son were defeated. In UP in particular congress could not win even one seat out of 84. It was Congress debacle.

August 28, 2009 - Posted by | India, Indian History, Political Commentary | , , ,

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