40 years of Emergency: Here is what happened over the two years that changed India’s history

Steeped in the need for economic development, the Emergency allowed Gandhi to carry out mass arrests of ministers and have complete control over what the media published. It also resulted in her son carrying out forced sterilisation drives in Delhi and slum clearance programs.

Written by Adrija Roychowdhury | New Delhi | Published:June 26, 2017 3:13 pm
Emergency, Indira Gandhi, Emergency 1975, 40 years of Emergency, Indira Gandhi's Emergency, Emergency history, Indian history, Indian Express Demolitions near the Red Fort during the emergency. Express archive Photo. 1975

“The President has proclaimed the Emergency. This is nothing to panic about. I am sure you are all aware of the deep and widespread conspiracy, which has been brewing ever since I began to introduce certain progressive measures of benefit for the common man and woman in India.”

With the announcement of these words on the All India Radio, prime minister Indira Gandhi declared the historic moment of Emergency in 1975. Analysed in retrospect to be one of the darkest period of post-independent Indian history, the two-year-long period of Emergency was also perhaps the most momentous episode in the political evolution of the Indian National Congress.

Emergency, Indira Gandhi, Emergency 1975, 40 years of Emergency, Indira Gandhi's Emergency, Emergency history, Indian history, Indian Express Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi addressing a rally outside her house after the Supreme Court ruling (Emergency) on Tuesday. Express Photo by RK Sharma. 1975

Referred to as ‘the matriarch’ by historian Ramachandra Guha, Indira Gandhi had an uncomfortable relationship with democracy, a fact that is evident from several documented conversations of hers. Guha reproduced in his book, “India after Gandhi” a dialogue between Gandhi and her friend in 1963 wherein she said that “democracy not only throws up the mediocre person but gives strength to the most vocal howsoever they may lack knowledge and understanding.” Gandhi’s rise to the role of Congress president and then to the position of prime minister was accompanied by every effort on her part to gain absolute control over the government and her party. Her authoritarian stance was aided by her charismatic appeal, particularly among the middle class and the economically downtrodden who considered her to be the one who could rescue them from their economic problems. The Emergency, for Gandhi was her strongest attempt to shut out every democratic voice and tighten her authoritarian grip.

Announced soon after the Raj Narain verdict, wherein the Supreme Court barred Gandhi from voting, the Emergency was one of the harshest clamp down on her political opponents and the media. The politico-economic situation including the recently concluded war with Pakistan, the 1973 oil crisis and the drought in the country, did everything to creating conditions perfect for Gandhi’s proclamation. Steeped in the urgent need for economic development, the Emergency allowed Gandhi to carry out mass arrests of ministers and have complete control over what the media published. It also resulted in her son, Sanjay Gandhi carrying out forced sterilisation drives in Delhi and slum clearance programs. Consequently, it was also the time of large scale protests against the dictatorial methods of the government. Foremost among them were the demonstrations organised by Jayaprakash Narayanan. Media outlets including The Indian Express and The Statesmen protested against the undemocratic conditions in the country. By the end of the two years, Gandhi had been at the receiving end of huge amount of criticism, both from her country’s people and from world leaders. Finally, in March 1977, India was freed from the clutches of Emergency.

Emergency, Indira Gandhi, Emergency 1975, 40 years of Emergency, Indira Gandhi's Emergency, Emergency history, Indian history, Indian Express Meeting of Opposition leaders Jai Prakash Narayan, Raj Narain, Morarji Desai and LK Advani during the Emergency 1975. Express archive photo.

Here is a timeline of important events in the Emergency of 1975:

January 1966: Indira Gandhi elected prime minister.

November 1969: The Congress splits after Gandhi is expelled for violating party discipline.

1973-75: Surge in political unrest and demonstrations against the Indira Gandhi-led government.

1971: Political opponent Raj Narain lodges complaint of electoral fraud against Indira Gandhi.

June 12, 1975: Allahabad High Court found Gandhi guilty over discrepancies in the electoral campaign.

June 24, 1975: Supreme Court rules that MP privileges to no longer apply to Gandhi. She is barred from voting. However, she is allowed to continue as Prime Minister.

June 25, 1975: Declaration of Emergency by president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed on the advice of Indira Gandhi.

June 26, 1975: Indira Gandhi addresses the nation on All India Radio.

September 1976: Sanjay Gandhi initiates mass forced sterilisation program in Delhi.

January 18, 1977: Indira Gandhi calls for fresh elections and releases all political prisoners.

March 23, 1977: Emergency officially comes to an end.

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  1. K
    KUSH MISHRA
    Jun 29, 2017 at 8:55 am
    i like to mohndas krmchandra gadhi
    Reply
    1. K
      KUSH MISHRA
      Jun 29, 2017 at 8:53 am
      INDIA HISTRY IS THE BEST HISTRY
      Reply
      1. E
        Employ Ment
        Jun 27, 2017 at 3:26 pm
        योजना ✔मोदी जी द्वारा चलाए गए डिजिटल इन्डिया से जुड़े और 15,000 - 50,000 रुपए ✔अब कोई नही रहेगा बेरोज़गार और नही करेगा कोई बेरोज़गार आत्महत्या ✔क्योंकि अब आ गई है 21वीं सदी की सबसे बड़ी रोज़गार क्रांति ✔हमारा सपना पूरे भारत को ही नही पूरी दुनिया को डिजिटल इंडिया से जोड़ना सबका साथ सबका विकास ➡शुरुवात कैसे करे ✔C.h.a.m.p`C.a.s.h को प्ले स्टोर से इन्स्टल करे, और साइन अप करे, $1 डॉलर बोनस : 468942 ➡चैलेंज को पूरा करे ➡और इंकम करनी शुरू करे 👇🏻इसे जरूर नोट कर ले👇🏻 : 468942 ........................ Hhshhdjsjjsiiso
        Reply
        1. P
          Prabhat
          Jun 27, 2017 at 3:03 am
          Emergency was the greatest thing ever happened to India otherwise those using religion to get into power would have par ioned and divided it into many small countries out of it like they are desperately doing it using paid criminals and murderers and helping them to gather mobs for Lynching innocents and stay silent on such crimes because of their involvement and conspiracy to get votes.
          Reply
          1. A
            Anthony
            Jun 27, 2017 at 2:57 am
            Emergency was at least much better than Modi and BJP rule. At least it has some good side too when the development took fastest leap though implementation was not good and misuse by Government employee which harm the Government. Because of good happening to the country Indira Gandhi came back to power in less than 3 years with thumping majority. Had Indira Ji implemented Emergency after winning election instead of 2 years before elections then they would never lost election and country would have seen biggest development and progress we cannot even imagine today. Biggest thing would have been those who create religious riots for majority votes may have been wiped out for good as they are killing innocent using paid criminals with religious slurs and hate comments. RSS which was banned under Indira ji would have never existed after emergency.
            Reply
            1. S
              skp
              Jun 27, 2017 at 4:21 pm
              Paagal paapu ka camcha
              Reply
            2. G
              George Cruz
              Jun 26, 2017 at 10:19 pm
              For which both Indra and Sanjay met with their unnatural end. Present leaders and his minions should read history and behave so that it doesn't repeat. Bhakts should not be blind.
              Reply
              1. P
                Paddy Singh
                Jun 26, 2017 at 11:36 pm
                Absolutely right. It is getting dark in India and one fears the violence that will follow in the not too distant future which will take innocent lives.
                Reply
                1. S
                  skp
                  Jun 27, 2017 at 4:22 pm
                  thu chupp bait bae , RC
                  Reply
                2. E
                  Employ Ment
                  Jun 26, 2017 at 8:25 pm
                  योजना ✔मोदी जी द्वारा चलाए गए डिजिटल इन्डिया से जुड़े और 15,000 - 50,000 रुपए ✔अब कोई नही रहेगा बेरोज़गार और नही करेगा कोई बेरोज़गार आत्महत्या ✔क्योंकि अब आ गई है 21वीं सदी की सबसे बड़ी रोज़गार क्रांति ✔हमारा सपना पूरे भारत को ही नही पूरी दुनिया को डिजिटल इंडिया से जोड़ना सबका साथ सबका विकास ➡शुरुवात कैसे करे ✔C.h.a.m.p`C.a.s.h को प्ले स्टोर से इन्स्टल करे, और साइन अप करे, $1 डॉलर बोनस : 6140686 ➡चैलेंज को पूरा करे ➡और इंकम करनी शुरू करे 👇🏻इसे जरूर नोट कर ले👇🏻 : 6140686 ........................ Jbshjshsijxusghsiz
                  Reply
                  1. I
                    Indian
                    Jun 26, 2017 at 6:53 pm
                    A Namo Bhakt here. But I have been told by elders that common man actually was happy during emergency. Govt employees were afraid and used to come to offices on time. They were also afraid of asking bribes. Sterilization program was necessary given the huge rise in population with people having 10 children. Land grabs were removed. Common man was happy.
                    Reply
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