Recalling the Emergency years

In 1975, the government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency, widely seen as the darkest hour of India’s democracy.

Updated: June 29, 2015 8:53 am
1975 emergency, 1975 india emergency, 1975 indian express emergency, 1975 indira gandhi, indira gandhi emergency, emergency reports indian express, india news, news Indira arrives in Parliament on October 10, 1976. (Source: Express Archive) Dec 18: 42nd Constitution Amendment Act commences with President’s assent, almost revising the Constitution. The Preamble is amended, along with 53 articles and the Seventh Schedule, Fundamental Duties are introduced, Fundamental Rights degraded, Parliament is given primacy over courts, and judicial challenges to the changes are disallowed. The post-Emergency government repealed most of these amendments

1975-76:
Arrests, Torture, Assaults on Constitution; Worldwide Protests and Condemnation

1975
JUL 7: CRPF surrounds dormitories at Jawaharlal Nehru University, arrests 60 students, 10 of whom are kept in jail for weeks

JUL 10: Bombay University teachers write to Indira to protest Emergency, 4 months later, their leaders are jailed under MISA

JUL 21: Parliament meets, Jagjivan Ram moves motion for approval of Emergency, which Lok Sabha approves. Newspapers barred from reporting speeches by Opposition leaders like A K Gopalan, Somnath Chatterjee, H M Patel, Era Sezhiyan

JUL 22: Rajya Sabha too approves Emergency; both Houses pass the 38th Amendment Bill, prohibiting judicial review of the proclamation of Emergency and associated curbs on freedoms

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AUG 1: With 30 MPs in jail, President approves the 38th Amendment

AUG 6: Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975 specifically changes the law to nullify Allahabad High Court Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha’s order convicting Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractice

AUG 7-8: With many members detained or underground, Parliament passes the 39th Amendment Bill, placing the  elections of the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Speaker outside the purview of the judiciary. Also puts MISA in Ninth Schedule, giving it judicial immunity. State legislatures are summoned to ratify amendment on August 9; India’s “fastest ever” constitutional amendment gets Presidential assent on August 10

AUG 9: Days ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Indira’s appeal, Rajya Sabha adopts the 41st Amendment, giving the Prime Minister permanent immunity from civil and criminal proceedings

AUG 15: Advertisements signed by several hundred prominent persons appear in The Times, London and The New York Times, saying “Today is India’s Independence Day. Don’t let the light go out of Indian democracy. Free Jaiprakash Narayan”

1975 emergency, 1975 india emergency, 1975 indian express emergency, 1975 indira gandhi, indira gandhi emergency, emergency reports indian express, india news, news Apr 19: Bulldozers destroy tenements around Jama Masjid at Turkman Gate in Old Delhi. Police fire on resisting residents, killing and injuring an undisclosed number.

1976
JAN 8: President suspends the “Seven Freedoms” guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution

JAN 24: Parliament approves Ordinance that took away the power of courts to ask for reasons for detention under MISA

JAN 26: 2,000 march in London in “Alliance Against Fascist Dictatorship in India”; world leaders appeal to Indira to “Let Mahatma Gandhi come to India”

JAN 31: DMK government sacked, Tamil Nadu Assembly dissolved, 700 arrested

MAR 5: 80 American Nobel laureates, academics and peace activists ask Indira to restore Fundamental Rights

MAR 12: Gujarat government dismissed, President’s Rule imposed

APR 28: Reversing orders passed by seven High Courts, a Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice A N Ray rules by a 4-1 majority that no one could move a writ petition for habeas corpus or for a judicial questioning of the Emergency. The dissident judge in the infamous “Habeas Corpus case”, the legendary Justice Hans Raj Khanna, who wrote that the constitutional right to life and liberty was not subject to executive decree, was punished by being superseded for the post of CJI.

MAY 1: Lawrence Fernandes of Bangalore is arrested and tortured to force him to reveal the whereabouts of his trade unionist brother George, the only major Opposition leader to have escaped the police dragnet

MAY 2: All India Radio bans Kishore Kumar’s songs as punishment for refusing to support the Youth Congress

MAY 24: Government gives figures of arrests, since June 26, 1975, of those “involved in circulation of clandestine literature opposing Emergency”: more than 7,000

JUN 3: International League of Human Rights complains to the UN about India’s official policy of torture, brutality, starvation and ill-treatment of political prisoners

JUN 11: Vinoba Bhave’s ashram is raided for copies of its journal Maitree. Other journals such as Opinion, Himmat, Freedom First, Srujana, Bhumiputra, Thuglak, Swarajya are harassed or banned

JUN 31: More journals are silenced: Seminar, Janata, Sadhana, Quest

AUG 10: With a warrant out for him, Subramanian Swamy, who had escaped to the US, makes a dramatic appearance in Parliament and, after a quick intervention, slips out and flees the country once again

AUG 16: Eight editions of The Indian Express are pre-censored and delayed; the same day, Indira Gandhi declares to Non-Aligned countries in Colombo that there is “no censorship in India”

SEP 20: ‘Indians for Democracy’ begin Long March from Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, to reach the UN on October 1. The same day, the Home Ministry announces that 22 members of Lok Sabha and 11 of Rajya Sabha are under detention. Advertisements to The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Tribune are quietly withdrawn

OCT 2: Veteran freedom fighters Acharya J B Kripalani, H V Kamath and Dr Sushila Nayyar are arrested at Rajghat

OCT 18: Police kill 43 for protesting compulsory sterilisation in Muzaffarnagar

OCT 30: 28 MISA detenues in Varanasi jail are thrown into solitary confinement in chains for going on a protest fast and raising slogans against Indira Gandhi

NOV 5: Lok Sabha, whose term was to have ended in March 1976, gives itself a second extension, until November 1977

NOV 6: Massive police force rounds up 180 UP villagers for forced sterilisation

1975 emergency, 1975 india emergency, 1975 indian express emergency, 1975 indira gandhi, indira gandhi emergency, emergency reports indian express, india news, news Jun 10: George Fernandes is finally arrested in Calcutta on charges of allegedly smuggling dynamite to blow up government buildings (the so-called Baroda Dynamite Case). On June 16, a joint statement is issued by Willy Brandt, chairman of the German Social Democratic Party, Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme expressing “great concern and dismay” over Fernandes’s ill-treatment
in prison

1977:
Indira’s Sudden Change of Heart, Return of Democracy

JAN 18: Indira Gandhi dissolves Lok Sabha, announces “fresh elections”

JAN 20: Certain rules of the Emergency are declared “relaxed”, including press censorship. The Congress (O), Jana Sangh, Bharatiya Lok Dal and Socialist Party form the Janata Party

JAN 23: Morarji Desai chairs the National Committee of the Janata Party

FEB 2: Jagjivan Ram resigns as minister; on February 5, forms Congress For Democracy

MAR 16: Polling begins

MAR 19-20: Indira, Sanjay, Bansi Lal and many Cabinet ministers lose elections

MAR 21: Internal Emergency and press censorship orders are revoked

MAR 22: Indira Gandhi resigns; Janata Party gets majority in Parliament; ban on 26 organisations is lifted

MAR 24-25: Prime Minister Morarji Desai forms the Janata Party Cabinet

MAY 28: Janata government appoints a Commission of Inquiry under former Chief Justice of India J C Shah to probe excesses, malpractices and abuse of authority during the Emergency

(Adapted from, among other sources, chronology of the Emergency prepared by Prabhudas T Sanghvi for Voices of Emergency, (ed) John Oliver Perry)

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First Published on: June 29, 2015 12:31 am
  1. A
    Ashis
    Jun 29, 2015 at 8:25 am
    Black years and completely wrong decision or wilfully taken this decision for the benefit of her own Govt through that she wanted to keep herself in power and there from country development gone into worse situation..
    Reply
    1. G
      Gopal
      Jun 29, 2015 at 6:14 am
      Let's not forget that a large number of people who risked their life, liberty and livelihood were from BJP (called Jan Sangh) at that time. Emergency was supported not just by Congressmen but a large number of people who call themselves progressives, marxists, left wing academics and people who today call themselves "supporters of democracy".
      Reply
      1. उर्मिला.अशोक.शहा
        Jun 29, 2015 at 7:56 am
        vande matram-in advertant refrance of emergency by Advaniji have proved to be a shot in arm for BJP as it has snow bolled the discussion and have listed again the culprits and victims of emergency ja g te r ho
        Reply