Background of Emergency
(i) 1970s was a period of political turmoil in India. This period witnessed tensions in relationship between the government and the judiciary.
(ii) Ideological differences erupted within the Congress and its sharpened the division between Indira Gandhi and her opponents.
(i) Congress gave the solar of Garibi Hatao in 1971 elections. Due to various national and international factors, the social and economic condition in the country did not improve much after 1971-72.
(ii) In such a context non-Congress opposition parties were able to organise popular protests effectively.
Gujarat and Bihar Movements
(i) Gujarat and Bihar were Congress ruled states. Despite this fact students from both the states started agitation against rising prices of food grains, cooking oil and other essential commodities, and against corruption in high places.
(ii) Jai Prakash Narayan from Bihar gave a call for total revolution in the social, economic and political spheres.
(iii) In 1975, Jai Prakash led one of the largest march to the Parliament.
The Naxalite Movement
(i) In 1967, a peasant uprising took place in Naxalbari area of Darjeeling (West Bengal) under the leadership of CPI(M), headed by Charu Majumdar.
(ii) After sometime one branch broke off from them and was known as Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML). It was founded by Charu Majumdar.
(iii) Government have taken stern measures in dealing with the Naxalite movement.
Railway Strike of 1974
(i) A nationwide strike by all employees of the Railways was led by George Fernandes.
(ii) Its main demand was related to bonus and service conditions.
(iii) The government declared the strike illegal and it had to be called off after 20 days without settlement.
Conflict with Judiciary
(i) 1970s witnessed a bitter relationship between legislature and judiciary.
(ii) Constitutional Amendment and its interpretation was a pivotal point of bitter relations.
(iii) In 1973, issue of appointment of Chief Justice of India worsened the condition.
(iv) Highest point in controversy came when High Court declared Indira Gandhi’s election invalid.
Declaration of Emergency
On 12th June, 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court declared Indira Gandhi’s election to the Lok Sabha invalid. This decision created a political crisis.
Crisis and Response
(i) In response to rapid changing political situation and JP Movement, the government of India on 25th June, 1975 recommended the imposition of emergency to President Fakrudin Ali Ahmed. The President issued the proclamation immediately.
(ii) The emergency was proclaimed under Article 352 of the Constitution which declared a state of emergency on grounds of external threat or a threat of internal disturbances.
(iii) The cabinet was informed about it at a special meeting at 6 am on 26th June, 197 after all this had taken place.
(i) Freedom of Press and some of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens were suspended. All the ongoing protests ended, strikes were banned, opposition leaders were put in Jail.
(ii) The Parliament also brought in many new changes to the constitution.
(iii) Prior approval of government was needed to publish any article or matter it is called press censorship.
Controversies regarding Emergency
(i) After emergency , an investigation was done by Shah Commission. It found that in some areas excess restrictions were implied during emergency.
(ii) The government argued that in a democracy , the opposition parties must allow the elected ruling party to govern according to its policies.
(iii) The critics say that Indira Gandhi misused constitutional provision meant for saving the country to save her personal power.
(iv) The Shah Commission estimated that nearly one lakh people were arrested under preventive detention laws.
(v) Apart from the arrests of political workers and the restrictions on the press, the emergency directly affected lives of common people in many cases.
Lessons from Emergency
(i) It is extremely difficult to do away with democracy in India.
(ii) ‘Internal’ emergency can be proclaimed only on the grounds of ‘armed rebellion’. Advice to the President to proclaim it must be given in writing by the Council of Ministers.
(iii) The emergency made everyone more aware of the value of civil liberties.
Politics after Emergency
The experience of emergency was quite visible in 1977 Lok Sabha Elections. The people’s verdict was decisively against the emergency.
Lok Sabha Elections, 1977
(i) The Janata Party made this election into a referendum on the emergency.
(ii) For the first time since independence, the Congress Party was defeated in the Lok Sabha elections.
(iii) The Congress could win only 154 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. The Janata Party and its allies won 330 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha; Janata Party itself won 295 seats and thus enjoyed a clear majority.
(i) After the election of 1977 there was stiff competition among three leaders for the post of Prime Minster Morarji Desari, Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram. Finally Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister.
(ii) The Janata Party split and the government which was led by Morarji Desai lost its majority in less than 18 months.
(iii) Fresh Lok Sabha elections were held in 1980 in which the Janata Party suffered a comprehensive defeat and Congress Party came back in power.
Return of Congress
(i) By 1970s the Congress Party identified itself with a particular ideology, claiming to be the only socialist and pro-poor party.
(ii) In an indirect manner the issue of welfare of the backward castes also began to dominate politics since 1977.
(iii) The issue of reservation for ‘other backward classes’ became very controversial in Bihar and following this, the Mandal Commission was appointed by the Janata Party government at the centre.