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The Emergency

The Emergency

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Published by: felixsss on Sep 09, 2010
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The Emergency (India)
The
Indian Emergency of 25 June 1975 – 21 March 1977
was a 21-month period, whenPresident Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, upon advice byPrime Minister  Indira Gandhi,declared astate of emergencyunder Article 352 of theConstitution of India, effectively bestowing on her the  power torule by decree,suspending elections and civil liberties. It is one of the most controversial times in thehistory of independent India.
 
Background
Political unrest
Opponents had long made allegations that Indira's party,Congress, had practiced electoral fraudto win the1971 elections. TheGandhiansocialistJaya Prakash Narayan had been agitating in Bihar for a change in provincial government, and increasingly sought to direct popular actionagainst theCentral Governmentthrough
. Narayan and his supporters sought to unify students, peasants, and labour organisations in a'Total Revolution' tononviolentlytransform Indian society. Indira's party was defeated inGujarat   by a coalition of parties calling itself the Janata Party(People's Party), and even faced an all-  party,no-confidence motion inParliament.
[edit] The Allahabad conviction
 Raj Narain,Who had been defeated in parliamentary election by Indira Gandhi, lodged cases of election fraud and use of state machinery for election purposes against Mrs. Indira Gandhi in theAllahabad High Court. On 12 June 1975, JusticeJagmohanlal Sinhaof the Allahabad High Court found the Prime Minister guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign. The court declared her election null and void and unseated her from her seatin theLok Sabha. The court also banned her from contesting any election for an additional sixyears. Some serious charges such as bribing voters and election malpractices were dropped andshe was held responsible for misusing the government machinery, and found guilty on chargessuch as using the state police to build a dais, availing the services of a government officer,Yashpal Kapoor, during the elections before he had resigned from his position, and use of electricity from the state electricity department. Because the court unseated her on comparativelyfrivolous charges, while she was acquitted on more serious charges, 
 described it as'firing the Prime Minister for atraffic ticket'. However, strikes in labor and trade unions, studentunions and government unions swept across the country. Protests led by J.P.Narayan, Raj Narain  and Morarji Desaiflooded the streets of Delhiclose to the Parliament building and the Prime Minister's residence. The persistent efforts of Raj Narain, was praised worldwide as it took over four years for Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha to finally pass judgement against Indira Gandhi. Theruling later became the primary reason for the imposition of emergency by Indira Gandhi. It alsoencouraged greater belief in the judiciary and democracy in India.
Declaration of Emergency
 
Siddharth Sankar Ray, the West Bengal chief minister, proposed to Mrs Gandhi the imposition of "internal emergency". He drafted a letter for the President to issue the proclamation on the basisof information Mrs Gandhi had received that "there is an imminent danger to the security of India being threatened by internal disturbances". He showed how democratic freedom could besuspended while remaining within the ambit of the Constitution.
President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmeddeclared a State of Emergency upon the advice of the Prime Minister on 26 June 1975. In her own words, Indira brought democracy "to a grinding halt".As the constitution requires, Indira advised and President Ahmed approved the continuation of Emergency over every six-month period until her decision to holdelections in 1977.
The Emergency Administration
Elections for the Parliament and state governments were postponed. Invoking article 352 of theIndian Constitution, Indira granted herself extraordinary powers and launched a massivecrackdown on civil liberties and political opposition. The Government cited threats to nationalsecurity, as arecent war withPakistanhad just been concluded. It claimed that the strikes and  protests had paralyzed the government and hurt the economy of the country greatly. In face of massive political opposition, desertion and disorder across the country and the party, Indira stuck to the advice of a few close party loyalists and her younger sonSanjay Gandhi, who had becomea close political advisor.The Government used police forces across the country to arrest thousands of protestors and strikeleaders.J.P. Narayan,Raj Narain, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh,Jivatram Kripalani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Satyendra Narayan Sinha and other protest leaders were immediately arrested. Organizations such as theRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, along with some opposition political parties were banned. Numerous Communist leaders were arrested along with many othersinvolved with the party.Indira attempted to re-write the nation's laws with the help of the Parliament, where the Congresscontrolled over a two-thirds majority. She felt her powers were not amassing quickly enough, soshe utilized the President to issue "extraordinary laws" that bypassed parliament altogether,allowing her torule by decree. She constructed a 20-point economic program to increaseagricultural and industrial production, improve public services and fight poverty and illiteracy.Also, she had little trouble in making amendments to the constitution that exonerated her fromany culpability in her election fraud case, declaringPresident's Rulein GujaratandTamil Nadu  where anti-Indira parties ruled (state legislatures were thereby dissolved and suspendedindefinitely), and jailing thousands of opponents.One of the consequences of the Emergency era was that the Supreme Court of India ordered that,although the Constitution is subject to amendment (as used by Indira), changes that areultraviresto its basic structure cannot be made by the Parliament of India.
Sikh opposition
With the leaders of all opposition parties and other outspoken critics of her government arrestedand behind bars, the entire country was in a state of shock. Shortly after the declaration of theEmergency, the Sikh leadership convened meetings inAmritsar where they resolved to opposethe "fascist tendency of the Congress"
. The first mass protest in the country, known as the"Campaign to Save Democracy" was organized by the Akali Dal and launched in Amritsar, 9July. A statement to the press recalled the historic Sikh struggle for freedom under the Mughals,then under the British, and voiced concern that what had been fought for and achieved was being
 
lost. The police were out in force for the demonstration and arrested all those who raised the Sikhcall of "Jo Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akal" (Whoever speaks, shall be fulfilled, Truth is Undying),including theShiromani Akali Daland Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) leaders.The Prime Minister seemed genuinely surprised at the strength of the response from the Sikhs.Fearing their defiance might inspire civil disobedience in other parts of the county, she offered tonegotiate a deal with the Shiromani Akal Dal that would give it joint control of thePunjabLegislative Assembly.The leader of the protests, Sant Harchand Singh Longowalrefused to meet with government representatives so long as the Emergency was in effect. In a pressinterview, he made clear the grounds of the Save Democracy campaign."The question before us is not whether Indira Gandhi should continue to be primeminister or not. The point is whether democracy in this country is to survive or not. Thedemocratic structure stands on three pillars, namely a strong opposition, independent judiciary and free press. Emergency has destroyed all these essentials."
 While the civil disobedience campaign caught on in some parts of the country, especially atDelhi University, the government's tactics of mass arrests, censorship and intimidation curtailedthe oppositions's popularity. After January, the Sikhs remained virtually alone in their activeresistance to the regime. Hailed by opposition leaders as "the last bastion of democracy"
, theycontinued to come out in large numbers each month on the day of the new moon, symbolizingthe dark night of Indian democracy, to court arrest.According to Amnesty International, 140,000 people had been arrested without trial during thetwenty months of Indira Gandhi's Emergency. Of them, 40,000 had come from India's two percent Sikh minority.
[edit] The role of RSS
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was seen close to opposition leaders, and with its largeorganizational base was seen potential of organizing protests against the Government, was also banned
.Police clamped down on the organization and thousands of its workers wereimprisoned
.The RSS defied the ban and thousands participated in Satyagraha (peaceful protests) against the ban and against the curtailment of fundamental rights. Later, when there was no letup, thevolunteers of the RSS formed underground movements for the restoration of democracy.Literature that was censored in the media was clandestinely published and distributed on a largescale and funds were collected for the movement. Networks were established between leaders of different political parties in the jail and outside for the coordination of the movement
.'The Economist', London, described the movement as "the only non-left revolutionary force inthe world". It said that the movement was "dominated by tens of thousands of RSS cadres,though more and more young recruits are coming". Talking about its objectives it said "its platform at the moment has only one plank: to bring democracy back to India"
.
[edit] Elections of 1977
See Also
:Janata Party,Jaya Prakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Raj Narain, Nandini Satpathy On January 23, 1977, Indira Gandhi called fresh elections for March and released all political prisoners. The Emergency officially ended on March 23, 1977. The opposition Janata

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