Decoding the before, during and after of the 1975 Emergency. 
Decoding the before, during and after of the 1975 Emergency. (Photo: The Quint)
  • 1. Why Did Indira Gandhi Impose the Emergency?
  • 2. What Happened During the Emergency?
  • 3. Did Nobody Speak Out Against this Draconian Emergency?
  • 4. What Did Indira Do During the Emergency?
  • 5. What Made Indira Repeal the Emergency After 22 Months?
The 1975 Emergency Retold in 180 Seconds

Vaqt ne kiya, kya haseen sitam...Tum rahe na tum, hum rahe na hum.

The good folks at All India Radio had some sense of timing, playing this song from Guru Dutt’s 1959 classic ‘Kagaz ke Phool’, right after the announcing that Indira and her son Sanjay Gandhi had lost the election from their respective constituencies.

This was in 1977.

The general election was delayed by a year, thanks to Prime Minister Indira extending the life of the Lok Sabha by a year. The Emergency allowed her to do just about anything without being questioned.

  • 1. Why Did Indira Gandhi Impose the Emergency?

    Six years earlier, in 1971, Indira dismissed all doubt over her ability as a leader after the split in the Congress party, when she led her party to victory on the back of the ‘Garibi Hatao’ campaign.

    While she had consolidated her position as the undisputed leader of the Congress party, she was losing her grip on the country.

    The monsoon was delayed, prices were skyrocketing, economic growth was at a standstill and to make matters worse, a union leader by the name of George Fernandes led 14 lakh railway workers in strike. The Indian Railways, the backbone of the country, were paralysed for three long weeks, before Indira jailed and/or sacked thousands of workers, crushing the strike with an iron hand.

    In Gujarat, the student-led Navnirman movement had cornered the Congress government. Chants of ‘Chiman Chor’ had come to embarrass the party and Indira was forced to dissolve the Assembly.

    In Bihar, a 26-year-old law student named Lalu Prasad Yadav was part of a group of student leaders who had made life hell for Congress Chief Minister Abdul Ghafoor. They even got Jayaprakash Narayan, or JP as he was fondly called, out of political retirement.

    JP was a freedom fighter who knew Indira well, but had come to condemn her domineering leadership style. JP held sway over the masses, much like Indira herself.

    So, when he gave a call for ‘Sampoorna Kranti’ or ‘Total Revolution’, lakhs of students readily gave up one year of their studies to protest.

    But Indira was adamant and refused to repeat Gujarat and dissolve the Bihar assembly.

    On 12 June 1975 came the biggest blow.

    The Allahabad High Court found Mrs Gandhi guilty of electoral malpractices and disbarred her as an MP and from contesting elections for six years.

    The same day, JP led a massive rally at the Ram Lila Maidan and declared the ‘Indira Resign’ movement.

    Incidentally, Raj Narain was represented by Shanti Bhushan, who would later be Law Minister in the first non-Congress government that would be voted in, in 1977.

    Speaking to The Quint on the 42nd anniversary of the Emergency, the legendary lawyer and anti-corruption crusader, recounted how he fought the case against Indira’s lawyer Nanabhoy Palkhiwala.

    Video Editor: Kunal Mehra


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