by Dr. Subhash Kapila
25 June 1975 will go down in the history of the Indian Republic as a most infamous day and a black day when the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who headed the Congress Party as its dynastic head imposed an Internal Emergency in India for reasons which had no bearing to the internal security of the country.
The Emergency was declared by PM Indira Gandhi to suppress the widespread political unrest and agitation generated by her refusal to submit to her unseating from power in a judgment by the Allahabad High Court on an election petition charging her with electoral corruption in her Lok Sabha General Elections. Rather than to submit gracefully to the verdict given in the Court judgment the Congress Prime Minister by political subterfuge decided to continue in office.
The political agitation against the Congress PM was not led by any run of the mill Opposition political party leader. It was led by one of India's most venerated Gandhian and Sarvodaya leader Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan who stood for high moral values in political office and political life. He was a freedom fighter of Indira Gandhi's father's generation and he could have assumed a high political appointment after Independence. But seeing the emerging trends in the closing stages of India's freedom movement he opted to be a crusader for morality in public life and of India's political leaders.
The Emergency was declared post- midnight with Congress PM Indira Gandhi virtually forcing a pliant President Fakhruddin Ahmad to sign the Proclamation imposing the Internal Emergency. Placed in office as a pliant President, by Indira Gandhi, he did not even question the reasons from the Prime Minister for such a grave measure.
Overnight, hundreds of political Opposition leaders and activists were arrested and put in jails all over India. The Indian media was strangled and put under stringent censorship. Human rights and freedoms were brutally suppressed by the Indira Gandhi regime. India's Supreme Court judiciary was interfered with. Some reports indicate that as many as eighteen Supreme Court judges were changed including a Chief Justice. There was talk of a committed judiciary. Even from within the Congress Party, the Young Turks MPï¿½s led by later PM Chandra Shekhar were also put behind bars for questioning Indira Gandhiï¿½s policies earlier.
Pliant bureaucrats were positioned in important appointments and were given sweeping powers to stifle all opposition to the Government and they really went on a rampage. Some of them occupy high Constitutional positions today under the present Congress Government.
The Indian democracy stood subverted by Congress Party Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and India was to be under a draconian siege till the 1977 General Elections. Till then the unquestioned writ of Indira Gandhi and her younger son, Sanjay Gandhi as an unconstitutional power centre plagued India. The Emergency imposition was to impose a "shock and awe" effect on the Indian polity and the Indian public for their temerity to agitate against the existing political set-up.
In a manner of speaking the Emergency rule in India imposed by Congress Party Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was no different from the military dictatorship regimes of Pakistan.
It was ironic that an Emergency was imposed in India for reasons of political survival by the daughter of India's most admired democrat and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It was more tragic that Indira Gandhi who also joined the freedom struggle for India's freedom struggle alongside her father should in 1977 stoop to suppress the very same freedoms and democracy that were fought for in order to continue as Prime Minister. The self-proclaimed high political morality of the Nehru- Gandhi dynasty stood compromised.
It was also ironic that the vast majority of Congress Party political leaders with the exception of the Young Turks did not raise even a whimper of protest against their dynastic political leader for the subversion of democracy. They supinely went along and many of the senior Congress Party leaders stooped low even to touch the feet of the young dynastic heir apparent.
Another 25 June came and went past without India even pausing to recall this infamous black day thirty two years ago. The Congress Party could not be expected to recall the political misdeed of an earlier dynastic head. The Bharatiya Janata Party which fought against the Emergency in its earlier avatar as the Jan Singh seems to be politically frozen today by political inertia. This was an occasion which should have been highlighted on a massive scale by it all over India. It was only in the Punjab Legislative Assembly that Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal made special mention of the excesses of the Emergency despite vehement protests by Congress MLA's. Many would not know that the Akalis under the leadership of Badal spearheaded a massive protest against the Emergency rule. More than 40,000 Akali workers were put in jails.
The bulk of the Indian media controlled by industrial houses close to the ruling Congress Party, did not highlight this infamous day. If for nothing else they could have emphasized that India's democracy should never be allowed to be subverted by self-seeking politicians.
Against such a background, the only redeeming feature that strikes the mind is that the people of India did no hesitate to strike back in 1977 against Congress Party Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her subversion of democracy and the Emergency excesses. They unseated her from power. Though she came back to power again, not because of any new found political popularity but because of the internal squabbles of the Janata Party, politically the things were never the same again for her. Her image took a dive.
In this lie many lessons for the India of today stretching from attempts to put into Rashtrapati Bhavan once again a pliant political non-entity as President by the Congress Party President, to the questioning of Supreme Court judgments on unconstitutional legislation passed by the Parliament by political leaders and contriving dubious legislative measures to perpetuate in office those unseated as happened in the Office of Profit controversy.
India's middle class in1977 was small and yet they along with the rest of India unseated Indira Gandhi for her political transgressions and subversion of democracy. Today India's burgeoning middle class is over 300 million strong and they must politically empower themselves not only to correct the distorted electoral arithmetic imposed by casteist political leaders and custodians of minority vote banks, but also to act forcefully as sentinels of Indian democracy.
Never again should the people of India ever allow another Internal Emergency to be imposed on India by self-seeking Indian politicians, however charismatic. It is well said that Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty and every Indian citizen should be alive to it.