Emergency (1975-77): India

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The front page of The Hindu showing the declaration of Emergency; Graphic courtesy: The Hindu, June 27, 2015

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In brief

India Today, December 29, 2008

Gunjeet K. Sra

The Emergency, June 1975-March 1977: It effectively bestowed on Indira Gandhi the power to rule by decree, suspending elections as well as civil liberties, such as the right to free press.


The Times of India, Jun 21 2015

Patrick Clibbens

Emergency wasn't just about Sanjay and his playground

Forty years, on the night of June 25, 1975, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared that India was in a state of `grave emergency'. Although the government had declared emergencies twice before (indeed the 1971 emergency was still in place), they had been in times of war.

In 1975, the government was targeting events within India itself -the `internal disturbance' that it claimed threatened the security of India.

The government's crackdown transformed Indian political life. Yet for many people today , the Emergency is best remembered for its twin social programmes of urban clearances and mass sterilizations.The government pursued them on a massive scale. Almost 11,000,000 people were sterilized in just two years, while 700,000 had their homes or businesses demolished in Delhi alone.

When describing the Emergency , historians have relied on one document more than any other: the three-volume Shah Commission report published in 1978. Justice J C Shah oversaw a fact-finding team which gathered thousands of documents and testimonies. For years the report was hard to trace, with copies languishing in a few uni versity libraries, but since its republication by Era Sezhiyan this crucial document is readily available in India. It is the source of much of our knowledge about the Emergency , but its own blind spots and unspoken assumptions are the origin of many common misconceptions today .

When the Shah Commission was appointed in May 1977, the new Janata government instructed it to inquire into the `excesses' committed during the Emergency -this terminology implied that the Emergency consisted of good policies pursued with too much zeal.The report also assumes a `drastic change after the Emergency', and the idea that it was a short-term aberration was built into the Commission's inquiries. More extensive historical research shows that, at least for the highly emotive social programmes, we must qualify this view.

In the Emergency family planning programme, New Delhi set targets cascading from the central departments out through states to the most junior local officials. The programme created tissues of targets, incentives and disincentives disproportionately directed at the poor and those reliant on government jobs, housing or welfare. All these features predated the Emergency . For example, since 1959 the State of Madras (now Tamil Nadu) had given `canvassers' a cash payment for each man they brought to be sterilized, though they knew the canvassers often misled patients. Mahar ashtra had used a package of `disincentives' to pressure people since 1967, while Kerala had pio neered `massive vasectomy camps' which sterilized thousands at a time in the early 1970s.

Another feature of the Shah Commission's re port which has often figured in discussions of the Emergency is its focus on a few personalities, par ticularly Indira Gandhi's younger son, Sanjay .

Justice Shah naturally wanted to pin down those responsible for the abuses he had documented and it is clear that Sanjay liked to issue instructions to ministers despite having no government position of any kind. Yet identifying Emergency policies so closely with one man means we risk losing sight of other actors.

In particular, regarding Sanjay as the `evil genius' of the whole demolition programme has focused all the attention on Delhi and its environs, as this was Sanjay's playground. Justice Shah dedicated 63 pages to demolitions in Delhi, but covered the rest of the country in 10 pages without providing any statistics. Some large states were neglected entirely . More recently , the influential account by Indira Gandhi's secretary P N Dhar also states that demolitions took place in Delhi, Haryana and western UP `in order to please Sanjay Gandhi'. UP `in order to please Sanjay Gandhi'.

Yet if we take just one example -Mumbai -we can see that this focus is misleading. During the Emergency , the city finally succeeded in demolishing the dwellings of over 70,000 people from the Janata Colony and transported them to the deso late, marshy land at the tip of Trombay . Beggars were also a target: thousands were rounded up and transported to a holding camp in a cattle shed and then to `work camps' 160km inland, where they were also sterilized.

In this anniversary year, we will no doubt hear more about the high politics and drama of the Emergency . Yet there is so much we still don't know about the many different ways in which people across India experienced the Emergency in their everyday lives. The Shah Commission has served us well, but it's time to get researching.

Emergency: The Dark Age of Indian democracy

The Hindu, June 27, 2015

From June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977 were 21 months of uncertainty and fear triggered by the imposition of internal Emergency by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. On the occasion of this period's 40th anniversary, here is a look at the mood in the country as democracy went under.


The Emergency was set in motion by the Indira Gandhi government on June 25, 1975 and was in place for 21 months till its withdrawal on March 21, 1977. The order gave Ms. Gandhi the authority to rule by decree wherein civil liberties were curbed. An external Emergency was already in place even before the imposition of the internal one.


The Emergency was officially issued by the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. With the suspension of the Fundamental rights, politicians who opposed Ms. Gandhi were arrested. Threat to national security and bad economic conditions were cited as reasons for the declaration. In Tamil Nadu, the Karunanidhi government was dissolved. The DMK leader’s son M.K. Stalin was arrested amidst protests under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act.

Chennai’s newspapers go blank

Writer Gnani, who was the working as a reporter in a newspaper in Chennai, recalls how the city reacted. “Among the politically aware, there was confusion as to what will happen... “The Censor wanted to kill newspapers by delaying approvals. Along with letting pages go blank, sometimes innocuous stuff like how to make onion raitha (salad) would be printed since political news could not be taken,” he says.

Calcutta’s prophets of doom

“I was in Calcutta for my Rajya Sabha election, scheduled for 26 June,” writes President Pranab Mukherjee in his book The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Years. “I got to the assembly building at about 9.30 a.m. It was teeming with state legislators, ministers and political leaders, some with questions and others with conspiracy theories. Some went to the extent of suggesting that, a la Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh, Indira Gandhi had abrogated the Constitution and usurped power for herself, with the army in tow. I corrected these prophets of doom, saying that the Emergency had been declared according to the provisions of the Constitution rather than in spite of it.”

Gun shots in Delhi

There was nothing wild or exaggerated, however, about what the bush telegraph said concerning the police firing at Delhi's Turkman Gate where slums were demolished and those living in them "relocated". Soon thereafter, gunfire was heard also at Muzaffarnagar, a town in Uttar Pradesh, 100 km away from the national capital. Above all, forced vasectomies, in pursuance of one of the five points in Sanjay's personal agenda, were to spread both fear and revulsion across North India.

Arrests in Bangalore

Several senior BJP leaders now, including the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani and socialist leaders such as Shyam Nandan Mishra and Madhu Dandavate, were arrested in Bangalore on June 26... With so many leading figures in the same jail, Bangalore became an important point in the movement to oppose Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Unlearnt lessons of the Emergency - Subramanian Swamy

When attempts at seeking homogeneity of Indian society are carried beyond a point, it is dangerous for democracy... Those of us who can stand up, must do so now.

Mastering the drill of democracy - Gopalkrishna Gandhi

The Emergency is a distant memory today because the nation’s collective spine did not bend, the media stayed unbent and the judiciary remained independent.

"An avoidable event"

The Times of India

Pranab Mukherjee, December 12, 2014

The 1975 Emergency was perhaps an “avoidable event” and Congress and Indira Gandhi had to pay a heavy price for this “misadventure” as suspension of fundamental rights and political activity, large scale arrests and press censorship adversely affected people, says President Pranab Mukherjee. A junior minister under Gandhi in those turbulent times, Mukherjee however, is also unsparing of the opposition then under the leadership of the late Jayaprakash Narayan, JP , whose movement appeared to him to be “directionless”. The President has penned his thoughts about the tumultuous period in India's post-independence history in his book “The Dramatic Decade: the Indira Gandhi Years” that has just been released.

He discloses that Indira Gandhi was not aware of the Constitutional provisions allowing for declaration of Emergency that was imposed in 1975 and it was Siddartha Shankar Ray who led her into the decision.

Ironically, it was Ray, then Chief Minister of West Bengal, who also took a sharp aboutturn on the authorship of the Emergency before the Shah Commission that went into `excesses' during that period and disowned that decision, according to Mukherjee.

Mukherjee, who celebrated his 79th birthday on Thursday, says,“The Dramatic Decade is the first of a trilogy; this book covers the period between 1969 and 1980...I intent to deal with the period between 1980 and 1998 in volume II, and the period between 1998 and 2012, which marked the end of my active political career, in volume III.“

“At this point in the book, it will be sufficient to say here that many of us who were part of the Union Cabinet at that time (I was a junior minister) did not then understand its deep and far reaching impact.“

Mukherjee's 321-page book covers various chapters including the liberation of Bangladesh, JP's offensive, the defeat in the 1977 elections, split in Congress and return to power in 1980 and after.


1975: Indira wanted to tax farm income

From the archives of The Times of India

April 10, 2013

Indira Gandhi was willing to go where politicians today fear to tread. Back in 1975, she wanted to tax agriculture income and the rural rich. It remains a no-go area for policymakers even today. Addressing the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bangalore, which was reported by the US mission in India, revealed by WikiLeaks, she reportedly asked the states “to overcome the compulsions that have stopped them from taxing agriculture income and the rural wealthy. She particularly deplored subsidies on water and power used for irrigation. She warned the states they would not receive any overdrafts if they overspent.” While these might sound free-market thinking, Gandhi took a different stance by saying `the "income tax department is being asked to intensify its efforts to bring self-employed professionals and traders within the tax net,’ without indicating how this was to be done.” She also warned industrial borrowers that they were being watched closely, justifying the credit squeeze on the private sector.

1976: Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed resented Indira

From the archives of The Times of India

April 10, 2013

Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, the rubber stamp President during the Emergency era, may not have been a complete rubber stamp after all. According to a US embassy cable sent on August 6, 1976, the mission said, “We have heard much more reliably (than rumours) that Fakruddin is seriously concerned over the govt’s family planning moves.” The cable said the rumours have been about “some disaffection between the Prime Minister and President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed. The stories vary but have as their central core that Fakruddin is concerned that the PM and her son are pushing too hard on the political and constitutional system of India.”


Fundamental rights

The Times of India, Jun 25 2015

Manoj Mitta

Darkest phase of India's history ­- when SC failed to uphold fundamental rights

It was 40 years ago that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, bypassing her own Cabinet, asked President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to sign the Emergency proclamation. He did so promptly , late on June 25, 1975, without in the least serving as a check on executive overreach. The circumstances were fraught as Indira had just received an interim reprieve from the Supreme Court to carry on in office despite being convicted in an election case by the Allahabad high court. All that her “top secret“ letter to Ahmed offered by way of justification for seeking such unprecedented action was some information suggesting that “there is an imminent danger to the security of India being threatened by internal disturbance“. But this claim of hers has since been nailed by the disclosure of the official file under RTI. This file does not contain a shred of material backing such threat perception on that fateful day .

On the contrary , it reveals that the first assessment of an alleged threat of internal disturbance was made more than a fortnight later ­ in the form of a report on the situation before and after June 25 from the IB submitted on July 11. Thus, India's hard-fought democracy was suspended on the say-so of one individual, without a modicum of institutional safeguards.

The dubious origins of the Emergency set the tone for a range of draconian measures that were taken over the next 21 months by not just government functionaries but also extra constitutional authority Sanjay Gandhi. With almost the entire Opposition in jail, Parliament could do little to stop the executive from committing excesses. This is how the notorious 42nd Amendment was passed in Parliament, claiming unfettered authority to change the Constitution in the teeth of the basic structure doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court.

The apex court showed little courage to enforce accountability or uphold fundamental rights when it came to the crunch. In fact, it earned an opprobrium it could never shake off for its judgment in the habeas corpus case. While uphold ing detention orders from across the country , the apex court ruled in ef fect that even the fundamental right to life and personal liberty stood suspended during Emergency . Out of the five judges who dealt with that notorious case, the only one who dissented, Justice H R Khanna, was immediately superseded from being appointed as Chief Justice of India.

Those who were not in jail had to cope with an oppressive regime, reminiscent of the worst of colonial times. The various freedoms en shrined in Article 19 ­ freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble peaceably , freedom to form associations or unions ­ were a major casualty . The crackdown on dissent was such that the government even introduced censorship of the press. That dark phase of India's history bears many lessons in governance, accountability and the rule of law, lessons that are as relevant today as they were then.

Forced sterilisations

The Times of India, Jun 21 2015

Avijit Ghosh in Uttawar, Haryana

A tale of two villages that saw the ugliest face of the Emergency

The Emergency meant different things to different people. For editors it was a daily battle with censorship. For politicians, barring Congressmen and some Leftists, it was time to go underground or to jail. For cops it meant absolute authority , thanks to the dreaded ordinance, MISA (Maintainence of Internal Security Act).

But for Uttawar village, 60 km south of Delhi, the Emergency will always be about one unnerving morn ing in the bitter winter of 1976 when hundreds from the Muslim-dominated village were packed into buses and taken to police stations, where they were thrashed, jailed and forcibly sterilized.

If the 1975 Emergency was a black mark on India's democratic register, forcible sterilization was its ugliest public face. And two Haryana villages, Uttawar and Pipli, lived its horror.The drive stemmed from the wisdom that parivar niyojan or family planning was imperative to prevent population explosion. But the implementation had communal undertones too.

Now part of rejigged Haryana's Palwal district, Uttawar is in Mewat region largely inhabited by Meo Muslims. Many are marginal farmers or daily wagers.

Uttawar had substantial Congress voters but the Emergency turned them against the No. 1 national party .In the 1977 Lok Sabha polls, the entire village voted for Janata Party.

Expressing dissent discreetly

The Times of India, Jun 26 2015

The Times of India, Jun 26 2015 The Times of India]

When a smartly worded obit exposed death of democracy

“O'Cracy, D.E.M., beloved husband of T. Ruth, loving father of L.I. Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justicia, expired on June 26.”

It was a small obit, only 22 words long, which came out among the classified ads in the Times of India on June 28, 1975, three days after the Emergency was declared.

Seemingly innocuous at first glance, the words escape censure from the clerk at the TOI office in Bombay . But when carefully read, they turned out to be a sly expression of dissent against the imposition of the Emergency .

Forty years ago, journalist Ashok Mahadevan, only 26 years old then, used subterfuge and smarts to register his protest against censorship typifying those dark days of democracy in post-independent India. Mahadevan, who used to work for Reader's Digest then, had come across a brief news item of similar nature in the popular magazine. The filler, originally published in a Sri Lankan newspaper, ran into several paragraphs. Not surprising when you consider that the first half of the 1970s was marred by violent internal strife leading to an Emergency-like situation for several years.

5 laws

5 major laws enacted during the Emergency (1975-77); Graphic courtesy: The Times of India


Young opponents of the Emergency

The Times of India, Jun 21 2015

Arati R Jerath

In those heady days of agitations, a whole new crop of leaders emerged. Today, they're key figures on the political landscape

Indira Gandhi's Emergency was a water shed moment for Indian politics and poli ticians. The unprecedented suspension of democracy heralded the demise of the Congress system that had dominated and Congress system that had dominated and shaped India in the years immediately following Independence. As space opened up for nonCongress alternatives, it spawned a whole new crop of leaders who not only redefined Indian politics but continue to hold sway even today , 40 years after that dark day when the state imposed its will on an unsuspecting polity . Ironically , many of them, particularly those who emerged from Jayaprakash Narayan's student movement, are accidental politicians. The current finance minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley and the Bihar chief minister and JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar for instance, candidly admit that they may never have joined full-time politics had they not been sucked into the heady JP movement. Kumar was a student leader in Patna University . “I never thought I'd become a full-fledged politician then,“ he says. “I was inspired by JP and joined his movement.“ And when Emergency came, Kumar, like thousands of other student activists, went underground, only to be ferreted out and jailed.

His time in prison strengthened his interest in politics. An avowed socialist, Kumar recalls that he and other incarcerated leaders held classes for the uninitiated in the jail, enlarging their pool of supporters. “It was easy for us, he laughs. “Most of the youth in prison were drawn to our socialist ideology. RJD chief and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav is another prominent leader who cut his political teeth on the Emergency . Also a student activist during his days in Patna University , he had given up politics to join a veterinary college as a clerk. And then the JP movement called. He enrolled himself in a law college to become a student again so that he could be a part of the heady agitation that engulfed campuses across the country . He became president of the Patna University Students Union which formed the Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti to spearhead JP's fight against rising prices, corruption and the Indira regime.

Like most mass movements, students were the backbone of the JP movement. Protests and street agitations honed their political skills. The crackdown during Emergency only strengthened their resolve and shaped them into the leading figures they would become in the years that followed. The contemporary political landscape is dotted with activists from that time: Venkaiah Naidu, Rajnath Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad are ministers in the Modi government today while those who came from the socialist stream like Mulayam Singh Yadav rule the roost in UP and Bihar.

Former Delhi University professor of political science Neera Chandhoke points out that the JP movement was a broad-based platform for all types of disgruntled elements drawn from different political ideologies. “JP tapped into a moment of deep discon tent, much like Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. Unfortunately , he failed to provide an alternative to the Congress system,“ Chandhoke says. Internal contradictions ultimately led to the disintegration of the Janata Party .But that moment in history paved the way for the Mandal versus Mandir politics that has dominated the Indian arena since the 1980s.

Students apart, Emergency proved a boon to political leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Charan Singh and trade union leaders like George Fernandes who perhaps would have been confined to the sidelines, overshadowed by a pre-eminent Congress with its galaxy of leaders from the freedom struggle. Vajpayee rose to become the first BJP prime minister and the first non-Congress PM to complete a full term in office. Another stalwart from that era is former Union minister and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav. He was one of JP's blue-eyed boys, chosen to contest a bye-election from Jabalpur in 1974 using the farmer-in-a-wheel symbol on an experimental basis. He won from what had been a Congress stronghold and the symbol became the Janata Party's winning card against Indira Gandhi in 1977.

He says the differentiator between the Emergency generation of political leaders and today's Gen Next politicians is political commitment. “We grew up at a time of strong ideologies. We believed in nation building, civil liberties and democracy . Now we have the post-liberalization generation of politicians who are ideology-neutral. Sadly , politics has become a money-making profession today , he says.

Kishore’s voice was muzzled

Vaibhav Purandare, How Kishore Kumar's voice was muzzled during Emergency, June 27, 2018: The Times of India

The ministry, headed by Indira Gandhi’s aide V C Shukla, wanted Bollywood to help promote on All India Radio and Doordarshan the 20-point programme Indira had declared after imposing Emergency and had called top filmmakers to see how their ‘co-operation’ could be obtained. Kishore Kumar, whose popular voice the regime sought to support its actions, wasn’t budging.

CB Jain, then I&B joint secretary, telephoned him, told him what the government wanted and suggested they meet at the singer’s residence. He refused, according to the report of the Shah Commission later set up to probe Emergency excesses, saying he was unwell, had heart trouble, and was advised by his doctor not to meet anyone. He told Jain he didn’t want to sing for radio or TV “in any case.”

Offended, Jain told his boss, I&B secretary SMH Burney, the singer was “curt” and “blunt” and called his refusal to meet “grossly discourteous,” the Shah panel noted. Burney, with minister Shukla’s sanction, then passed an order banning all Kishore Kumar songs AIR and Doordarshan, listing films he was acting in for “further action,” and freezing sales of his gramophone records.

The inquiry panel said the I&B secretary’s subsequent noting that the action had a “tangible effect on film producers” showed it was meant not only to “teach Kishore Kumar a lesson” but to coerce others into submission. The commission called it “a clear case of vindictiveness… against a film artiste of renown.” The muzzling worked at a time the government had curtailed freedoms and imprisoned its opponents.

On July 14, 1976, the panel recorded, Kishore Kumar wrote a letter to the ministry saying he was willing to co-operate. In view of this “undertaking,” Jain wrote, “we may lift the ban.” But they wouldn’t just let the singer be. “Watch the degree of co-operation that he extends,” Jain mentioned in the note.

Summoned by the inquiry commission, Shukla said he took full responsibility for the “regrettable episode” and said “no officer should be blamed,” TOI reported on October 29, 1977. But retired SC chief justice J C Shah found it “shocking” that “a person should be treated in this manner for not falling in line.”

The matter ended, as the Janata Party government that set up the commission collapsed; Kishore Kumar’s voice, though, managed to stand the test of time.

Through a critical lens

“ The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Years”: Pranab Mukherjee

India Today

Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee at the All India Congress Committee session in Calcutta, December 1983, Picture courtesy: India Today

Harish Khare

January 9, 2015

The partisan in Pranab Mukherjee omits crucial details about the Emergency but the politician in him offers a blue book on recouping political fortunes after a defeat.

The Dramatic Decade

The Indira Gandhi Years by Pranab Mukherjee, he has given us a fascinating history of a turbulent period in the journey of our young nation-state. Apart from two possible exceptions- L.K. Advani and Sharad Pawar-no other active political leader is well equipped as Mukherjee is to throw light on a period that saw the rise, fall and rise, again, of Indira Gandhi.

Mukherjee had been a Mr Minister for almost four decades before he became Mr President. He is a natural when it comes to exercising power and authority in the interests of the nation. Now he has given us a peep into his thoughts and calculations as he became Indira's partisan. It makes for an absorbing read.

There are, however, two glaring-and disappointing-omissions. Mukherjee has made Sanjay Gandhi, the catalyst for the political turbulence, an almost non-person; Indira's younger son's role-before, during and after the Emergency-is referred to only in passing, almost as if he were a minor figure, rather than one of the prime movers, if not the prime mover. This is at variance with all other historical accounts; it would have been useful if Mukherjee had tried to explain whether or not Sanjay's culpability was overstated by the Congress's rivals. Instead, there is a hint or two to suggest that Mukherjee was not uncomfortable with Sanjay's presence and role. There is even admiration at the spunk and spirit that Sanjay displayed in standing up to the Janata Party bullies: "It also became clear that his boys would never leave him and, in times to come, Sanjay Gandhi's boys became the cornerstone of our new movement."

A related glaring omission is the virtual absence of any discussion of the "excesses" of Emergency, which Mukherjee calls a "misadventure". For instance, he mentions that "during the Emergency, a large number of judges had been transferred to other High Courts, so much so that in one instance sixteen judges had been transferred on a single day". Yet there is no suggestion as to who had instigated it. It would have been useful to have his reflections on why these "excesses" took place. He, though, makes a loaded observation: "Interestingly, though not surprisingly, once it was declared, there was a whole host of people claiming authorship of the idea of declaring of Emergency. And, again, not surprisingly, these very people took a sharp about-turn when the Shah Commission was set up to look into the Emergency 'excesses'." Mukherjee is indeed drawing attention to a quintessential Indian democratic conundrum, which we have not yet fully confronted. There is a great yearning for a strong, vigorous executive political authority-yet without its inherent potential for over-zeal and abuse. Perhaps this has something to do with our collective gift for duplicity. Though rhetorically the country has come to abhor the Sanjay Gandhi phenomenon, it remains tantalisingly fascinated with Sanjay Gandhi-like political options.

In the context of the JP movement, Mukherjee draws attention to another democratic dilemma: "which democracy in the world would permit a change of popularly and freely elected government through means other than a popular election? Can parties beaten at the hustings replace a popularly elected government by sheer agitations?" These questions remain valid. We were confronted with a similar painful choice when the Anna Hazare platform was used to make peremptory claims in the name of the Janata.

Mukherjee's book serves another purpose. It makes us think about a slogan of which we have become very fond-the curative potency of "willpower". A student of political economy is left dissatisfied because Mukherjee does not explain why it was not possible for Indira's government-with all the requisite accruements of "willpower", a strong leader, political clarity, a decisive parliamentary majority, a cabinet full of first-class talent-to get on top of the 1973-75 economic crisis.

He does quote C. Subramaniam's 1975-76 budget speech to own up that "we have been ill-equipped to withstand" the impact of virulent global economic forces. These were pre-globalisation days. Since then national economies have become much more interdependent, though we persist in believing that a "strong leader" can solve intractable economic problems by sheer political will.

Mukherjee has alluded to some of these significant political propositions that keep on impinging upon the polity. However, the most enjoyable chunks of the book deal with the turmoil in the Congress. Throughout, Mukherjee remains an Indira loyalist, partisan and admirer.

He gives us a flavour of the 1969 split-how the polity, operated as it mostly was by the Congress bosses, had become dysfunctional and how it was Indira's historic task to initiate a series of moves that would help the "system" break out of the politically created logjam. This also created scope for institutional stand-off. The higher judiciary was not inclined to see the need for change, leave alone see any institutional role for itself in the management of that change. The result was, as Mukherjee puts it, a "strained relationship" between the executive and the judiciary-a subdued confrontation that was to later cost Indira dearly.

Mukherjee has done well to reproduce a letter Indira wrote-a few days after Pakistan's surrender at Dacca-to the chief justice of India. In a masterly formulation, she asks the chief justice to appreciate the need to look beyond the comforting stability of status quo: "... As our nation moves forward and our society gains inner cohesion and sense of direction all our great institutions, Parliament, Judiciary and Executive, will reflect the organic unity of our society.

Legal stability depends as much upon the power to look forward for necessary adjustment and adaptation as to look backward for certainty." And then she makes a telling point: "... Needs and grievances of the people in a democracy cannot be met by repression of their manifestation but by remedying the causes which underline them." Indira was riding high; the judiciary waited for her political fortunes to suffer a decline before settling a score or two with her.

When, after the 1977 defeat, the time came to choose sides, Mukherjee had no doubt or hesitation; he stood by Indira: "everybody knew of my affiliation, and I did not give them reason to believe otherwise till the day she died." No ambiguity there. And when the factional lines got redrawn, Mukherjee enjoyed the role of a factionalist: "I was then working with A.P. Sharma, C.M. Stephen, R. Gundu Rao and Vasant Sathe, and we took an active role against (D.) Barooah. We usually moved in a group and took direction from Kamalapati Tripathi and Indira Gandhi herself." As an Indira loyalist, he knew his tactics. He writes: "I knew there was no way out except to resort to a show of strength." And, again, a few pages later: "(A.R.) Antulay and I were all for the split. We were sure that the Congress could not be revived without a split." Mukherjee's account offers many clues and suggestions on how to recoup political fortunes after an electoral defeat. It is almost a blue book on how to create or take over a political party.

RK Dhawan’s revelations

The Economic Times

24 Jun, 2015, TNN

“Sonia had no qualms about Emergency, Maneka knew of Sanjay's acts” : says Indira's aide RK Dhawan

NEW DELHI: Indira Gandhi's private secretary RK Dhawan, part of the sanctum sanctorum of the former PM's office and residence, has spilled the beans on the Emergency claiming that Rajiv and Sonia "didn't have reservations about it while "Maneka knew everything Sanjay was doing and was with him at all times and cannot claim innocence or ignorance." Dhawan’s revelations during an interview to a news channel will surely embarrass the two daughters-in-law of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, especially Menaka Gandhi who is now with the BJP many of whose leaders went to jail for defying the Emergency. He also said that Indira Gandhi was unaware of the excesses of Emergency like forced sterilizations and the Turkman Gate demolitions and held Sanjay Gandhi solely responsible.

Dhawan said Indira was also unaware of land being acquired by Sanjay for his Maruti project. Dhawan said it is he who organised it for Sanjay, adding that there was nothing wrong in it.

Dhawan said West Bengal chief minister SS Ray gave Indira Gandhi the idea of imposing Emergency as early as January 1975 and can be called its “architect.” He also said Emergency was being planned for a long time. Dhawan said Emergency was not called to protect Indira Gandhi's political career after the Allahabad high court struck down her election and the Supreme Court only gave her a conditional stay. In fact, he says, she had dictated her resignation but it could not be signed. Sonia Gandhi had no reservations about Emergency, according to RK Dhawan who was Indira Gandhi's private secretary.

According to him, in the preceding three or four years events were building up that necessitated a response like the Emergency. He pointed to the railway strike, LN Mishra's killing, attempts by the opposition to paralyze government culminating in Jayaprakash Narayan's call to the army and police not to obey illegal orders as reasons for imposition.

Giving a blow by blow account about the events of June 25, 1976, Dhawan said the news channel that only one cabinet minister, Swaran Singh, had questions about imposing Emergency while the entire Cabinet was in its favour. The meeting lasted only 15 minutes. The Cabinet led by Jagjivan Ram called on Indira after her election was struck down insisting she must not resign, Dhawan said. "As a result the resignation letter was not signed," he said.

Dhawan said he was present when Indira and Ray called on the President to say they wanted him to declare an Emergency and the President readily agreed. "The President asked Ray to draft the proclamation and he did so," Dhawan said. Before midnight, Dhawan took the proclamation to Rashtrapati Bhavan for the President's signature. Dhawan also revealed details of how plans to arrest people had been prepared from 20th or 21st June. Chief ministers were called and informed to be ready to make arrests. He said similar preparations were made in Delhi.

Maneka Gandhi knew everything about Sanjay's actions, Indira Gandhi's private secretary R K Dhawan has claimed. Dhawan also said that Indira Gandhi called the 1977 election after being told by the IB that she would win up to 340 seats. PN Dhar, her principal secretary, gave her this report which she believed. Dhawan denied the theory that the elections were called because her conscience had begun to trouble her and this was her way of getting off the Emergency tiger's back

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh supported the Emergency: former IB chief

The Times of India, September 22, 2015

Rajeswar also claimed that Indira Gandhi's decision to impose the Emergency in 1975 “was not made in consul tation with the IB or the home ministry“. He said the IB was completely taken by surprise and found out about imposition of the Emergency from the radio. Rajeswar reveals that BalasahebDeoras, then sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, “quietly established a link with the PM's house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country .“ He told the channel, “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh supported the Emergency . They were not opponents. They not only supported but they wanted to establish contact with Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.“ However, Mrs Gandhi refused because, according to Rajeswar, she didn't want to seen as being close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.


AICC meet post Emergency

From the archives of The Times of India

April 12, 2013

New Delhi: The first AICC session after imposition of Emergency was an ‘Indira Gandhi’ exercise, with then Congress president, D K Barooah (of India-is-Indira fame), comparing her to emperor Ashoka and Mahatma Gandhi rolled into one.

The US embassy in India, reporting on the event (as revealed by Wikileaks), said the Chandigarh session “underscored Mrs Gandhi's overriding political position and enhanced authoritarianism in India. There was no dissent. For the first time, no amendments were even considered to the resolutions that were drawn up by the CWC drafting committee of which the Prime Minister was a member.” Under heavy security, all the speakers sang paeans to Gandhi and all were her loyalists. Everybody rationalized the Emergency. “Mrs Gandhi in several emotional speeches charged that external and internal conspiracies aimed at undermining India's unity were still at work.” In other cables describing the political situation, US diplomats observed that there was apparent calm though press censorship suppressed all news or protests. Another cable said the average Indian citizen seemed unaware or unconcerned about the Emergency. Yet another cable described how Mrs Gandhi was able to craft her foreign policy more “evenly” in the absence of political opposition. The Chandigarh AICC session was also the one where Sanjay Gandhi’s star was on the ascendant, while the meet reaffirmed postponement of elections; continuation of the emergency and the inevitability of constitutional changes. The “foreign hand” theory was in full play, with long anti-CIA tirades by the members. The Embassy observed, “It was clear she was referring to the US, Pakistan, China and the rich nations” of the world as sponsors of these “external dangers”. Internal “dangers” were the foreign press, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu, the Janata front government in Gujarat, etc. “No other speaker surpassed her forcefulness.”

Rajan Warrier case

The Times of India, Jun 28 2015

Siddharth Varadarajan

Lest we forget Emergency, remember a father's lament

In the annals of Indian political lit erature, I do not know of any book more moving than Memories of a Father, the lament written by T V Eachara Warrier, a retired Hindi professor in Kerala whose son, Rajan, was arrested from college on March 1, 1976, and never seen again. That the slim volume should lie neglected today is a loss to the world of letters. That the story it tells throbs with urgency and relevance nearly four decades after it was written speaks to a more frightening deficit: the continuing ability of politicians and men in uniform to get away with abduction and murder.

Rajan `disappeared' during the Emergency , when the courts refused to entertain writs of habeas corpus as the Supreme Court decided even the right to life could be suspended if the state so decided. Warrier raced to get to the bottom of his son's disappearance. His friends witnessed the arrest but from there the trail ran cold. Police officers denied any knowledge of his whereabouts, as did K Karunakaran, home minister of Kerala at the time. They all lied.

The Emergency was lifted on March 21, 1977 and Warrier immediately moved the Kerala High Court. It emerged that Rajan had been held by the police at an illegal detention centre.There, he was brutally tortured and eventually killed. His body was never found. Years later, the driver entrusted with the task of getting rid of the evidence told Matrubhoomi that Rajan's battered, lifeless body was fed to pigs at the government-owned Meat Products of India factory in Koothattukulam.

Warrier died of a broken heart in 2006 without ever discovering this final, horrific detail of what the police had done to his son. It is impossible to read the closing passages of his book, translated beautifully by Neelan, without tears welling up in one's eyes: “I shall stop. The rain is still lashing out. I remember my son when this heavy rain drums my rooftop, as if someone is opening the locked gate and knocking at the front door . It is not right to write that a living soul has no communication with the soul of the dead.

Raja Bano's son, Zahoor Dalal, had been abducted by sol diers near their home in Anantnag on March 24, 2000, killed in a staged encounter and buried along with four other innocent Kashmiri men in a desolate place called Pathribal. “Why did they pick up an innocent man and murder him? she asked me. “If there is a government, if there is justice, the people who did this must be punished. this must be punished. We ran her story on the front page of the Times of India on August 21, 2000. The case against his killers was eventually handed over to the CBI, which indicted several army officers for murder. But Raja Bano never got the justice she deserved and which she so desperately wanted. The courts took more than a decade to decide where the trial should take place. The Supreme Court eventually told the Army to either try its men or let civilian courts do the job. The Army chose the former and quickly concluded last January that no case had been made out against them.

We have happily deluded ourselves into believing the Emergency was an aberrant episode in the life of the nation, ignoring the impunity that continues to mark the exercise of state power in India. Just like Rajan's murderers went on to glorious careers in the police, the killers of Dalal will no doubt prosper. Before our very eyes, the CBI is helping the policemen and politicians accused of killing Kauser-bi, her husband Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati to get away by not appealing their astonishing discharge.

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