Earlier in 1975, due to the prevailing internal disturbances,
a state of emergency was officially declared by the President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the constitution across the country. The emergency was in effect from 25 June 1975 until its withdrawal on 21 March 1977. The order bestowed upon the Prime Minister the authority to rule by decree; a style of governance allowing quick, unchallenged creation of law by a single person or group, and is used primarily by dictators, absolute monarchs, and military leaders, allowing elections to be suspended and civil liberties to be curbed.
During this period, most of Gandhi's political adversaries were imprisoned and the press was blue-penciled. Several other human rights violations were reported including a forced mass-sterilization campaign commanded by Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister's son and this has made Emergency one of the most controversial phases of independent India's history.
The final decision to impose an emergency was proposed by Indira Gandhi, agreed upon by the president of India, and thereafter ratified by the cabinet and the parliament (from July to August 1975), based on the rationale that there were imminent internal and external threats to the Indian state.What Happened during the Emergency period?
The current political scenario
- This was India's 3rd emergency since its Independence telling us how unstable political conditions were.
- Censorship played a huge role. It was imposed on the press, cinema and other forms of art, and political leaders were being arrested at the whim and fancy of the government.
- Everything that went in the papers would first be screened by the government. Hence, the media suffered the most. The Indian Express stood out in particular - after the imposition of emergency, it consisted of a blank page instead of editorial. The Financial Express had Rabindranath Tagore's poem, "Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high".
- Indira Gandhi thought the existing laws of the country were too slow. So she took it upon herself to re-write the law. She was ruling by decree and was criticized severely for her actions. During this time, Indira Gandhi came out with a 20-point program to help the economy and fight poverty and illiteracy.
- Strikes and protests everywhere and the rise of a political opposition were responsible for the economic tumble. Political leaders and protesters started going underground but still carried on their protests. The Gandhis were going overboard with the power.
- The 1971 war with Pakistan left the country in a bad state. Problems like drought and oil crisis made the economy suffer which led to a rise in tension levels.
- Elections were postponed and people died and it all went unreported.
- The first Lok Sabha election that took place after the emergency in 1977 saw Janata Party oust the Gandhis.
While India reminisces about the emergency period, which is known as the dark age in the history of democracy, the stability of the prevailing political system in the country is also under the watch. Even though, issues like rising intolerance, communal violence, political killings and farmer protests to name a few pop-up, all these remain unresolved no matter who rules the country. Due to this very reason, citizens couldn’t taste the fruits of developments that they have been promised for a long time.
By looking at the reasons why the Emergency was instigated, one can understand why it was termed as the dark age in the Indian history. Perhaps, we’re undergoing much worse than that as almost all the media houses became the mouthpieces of the government. The nation trembled with fear when the supreme court judges openly protested against CJI. If the killings of various rationalists and journalists who have spoken the truth against the right-wing outfits in the recent past didn’t move us, it’s time we must start questioning whether our democracy is really under threat? Are we really heading towards another internal emergency with the same sort of turbulence with a new face?