On the night of June 25, 1975, a sudden power cut fell upon Delhi’s Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg which was home to most of the country’s largest newspapers. In other parts of the country, on the other hand, newspaper presses were raided and stopped and bundles of newspapers seized. In the early hours of the following morning, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi notified to the nation that the President has proclaimed Emergency on account of “imminent security threats” to the country. Soon after, constitutional rights of citizens were suspended and curbs placed on the freedom of the press. For the next couple of days, all major newspapers of the country could not be published. Gandhi expelled several foreign correspondents and over 200 journalists were arrested. The publications could be back two days later.
On June 28, when The Indian Express resumed its publication, it issued a front-page apology for being out of circulation for two days. It went on to report on the mass arrests that had taken place over the past two days. However, it was its framed blank editorial, representing censorship by the Indira Gandhi government in the name of Emergency, which gained maximum attention and would go on to be remembered for years down the line.
The blank editorial metaphor of censorship was soon adopted by other newspapers, including the Statesman.
The Indian Express was at this point in time headed by Ramnath Goenka, who was known for having stood up against press censorship since the time when the British ruled over the country. His tough stance against the Emergency was soon met with a strong reaction on the part of the government.
Goenka, however. stood firm and continued publishing critical news reports on the government, questioning their policies through the newspaper editorials and also producing a number of cartoons that condemned censorship. Later, when he was asked how he managed to continue fighting the government despite the enormous pressure, he replied, “I had two options: to listen to the dictates of my heart or my purse. I chose to listen to my heart.”
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