The Emergency Period of 1975 is considered as the darkest hour the democratic system in India ever faced in its 57 year old existence. The State of Internal Emergency (Under article 352 of the Indian Constitution) was announced by the prime minister Indira Gandhi on June 25 1975 and it persisted for a long 19 months.
Indira Gandhi was on the crest of popularity after winning the 1971 war against Pakistan, and the explosion of a nuclear device in 1974 inceased her reputation among Indians as a bold and shrewd political leader. But, by 1973, the whole North India were rocked by campaigns and demonstrations against high inflation, the poor state of the economy, corruption, and the poor standards of living. In June 1975, the High Court of Allahabad found Mrs. Gandhi to be guilty of using illegal practices during the last election campaign. The court ordered her to vacate her prime ministership. There were demands for her resignation from everywhere around the country. Finding that there was no other way to resume her power, Mrs. Gandhi launched the State of Internal Emergency.
How the Emergency was Implemented:
Civil liberties were suspended and many opposition leaders were imprisoned. The greatest democratic setup in the world turned out to a dictatorship for the sake of a handful of selfish people. Offices of many of the newspapers including The Indian Express were raided and telephone lines were cut. One million people were jailed and tortured without any trial.
This is double the number of people arrested by the British during the great Quit India Movement of 1942.
Nobody was allowed to write or speak freely. The BBC was the only news service that could inform the people of the large scale arrests of opposition leaders by the government.
Indira Gandhi introduced a twenty point plan to divert the attention of the public and to convince them that the emergency would become an engine of great social change and common economic development. Sanjay Gandhi, her son added five more points to this and stood as her righ hand during the period. She also tried to convince the people that emergency will become a boon for the poor around the whole country.
After Emergency :
My political bias is evident from the writeup. But the opinion of the whole nation and the strong frustration they suffered during the period were revealed in the General Elections which occured soon after.
In March 1979, Mrs. Gandhi lifted the Emergency and announced the public elections. She might have hoped to get support of the masses for her regime. But the Indian National Congress lost the elections, with even the prime minister being defeated in her Lok Sabha constituency, though she returned as Prime Minister after three years.
Emergency was a great lesson to the democratic system in India. The country needs to be alert to internal threats to its democracy.
"With or without Mrs. Gandhi, independent India— with institutions of government opposed to its social organization, with problems of poverty that every Indian feels in his bones to be beyond solution—would have arrived at a state of emergency.”
-- V.S. Naipaul, India: A Wounded Civilization.