For Indians, the period of 1975-1977 brings to mind only one thing — the State imposed Emergency. The 21 months of Emergency saw the masses getting jailed, imposition of restrictions on the press and suspension of the civil liberties of people under the rule of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A harrowing episode of forced sterilization of the masses spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi also occured during this period. President Fakhrudin Ali Ahmed issued the decree of Emergency citing ‘internal disturbances’.
Gandhi received a lot of flak and criticism for her role in the Emergency and for the ill-treatment meted out to the general public during then. During the 1977 general elections — the first after the Emergency, Gandhi and the incumbent Indian National Congress lost the elections — a first for the party since Independence and Janata Party’s Morarji Desai came to power.
In the year after, Gandhi was interviewed by Jonathan Dimbleby of Thames Televisions, a broadcast channel based out of London. A video of the interview shows Dimbleby asking Gandhi some rather uncomfortable questions.
In the video first broadcasted on November 16, 1978, Dimbleby asked Gandhi if she can imagine any circumstances in which she wants to become the Prime Minister again. To which, she replied the question is whether she actually wants to be or not. on being prodded further, she said, “I don’t want to be (the PM of India).”
Further in the interview, the Iron Lady of India said how even though they were “defeated”, people had started to come back to her within a month of Janata party coming to power. The tenor of Dimbleby’s questions with each passing one only increases, especially when he asked point blank ones like — “Do you ever feel that you have in any way abused the trust the Indian people have put in you?”, “What was the precise nature of that danger (about which Gandhi wrote to the President following which Emergency was declared)?”. She called the report by Shah Commission — committee made to enquire about the emergency as “an entirely prejudiced, one-sided report.”
What seems like a rather unsettling conversation, the video also manages to give an insight of the mind of one of the strongest leaders India has ever seen — Indira Gandhi.
The interview touched on topics that India, even today wants to know the answer to and also at the same time, showed why Gandhi is known as the Iron Lady of India — her steady answers and unperturbed face says it all.