The famous speech “Tryst with Destiny” delivered by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru assured the citizens of India a free democratic nation with all the rights to follow their dreams and passions. But, her own daughter, Indira Gandhi, invoked a spell of authoritative functioning of the government often known as “One man government”.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency across the nation on 25th June 1975 and thus all the promises made by the creators of this nation came under cloud. The president, Fakruddin Ali Ahmad’s promptness and meek capitulation in signing the proclamation was harshly criticized.
Such was the secrecy around this decision that even her cabinet colleagues got the news from media. Widespread corruption, complete disconnect from the masses and intoxication due to immense power guided her to take this extreme step. These are some atrocious steps taken by the then incumbent government to destroy all sorts of freedom enjoyed by Indian citizens:
Emergency started off with imprisonment of every single prominent leader in opposition by Indira Gandhi- First sign of an autocratic rule
Jaiprakash Narayan, the charismatic leader demanded resignation of Indira Gandhi after her election win from Rae Bareli was declared null and void by the Allahabad high court due to electoral malpractices. However, with the invocation of emergency all prominent leaders and politicians were arrested without citing any reasons. Those arrested included Jaipraskash Narayan, Morarji Desai, L K Advani, A B Vajpayee etc.
Newspaper with blank pages – Not everybody yielded easily to the efforts of censorship of media
Newspapers and TV channel contents were censored and sometimes even dictated. Nobody was allowed to write anything about the political prisoners not even the location where they have been jailed. Government officers were appointed to overlook media houses activities. Nevertheless, newspaper like Indian Express registered their protest by printing blank pages instead of censored content.
Even the cartoonists were not spared. The famous weekly magazine, Shankar’s weekly, was forced shut. But, this didn’t stop Shankar from publishing a deeply sarcastic last edition. He stated that autocrats can’t afford to have a good sense of humor.
Indira Gandhi released a New model code of conduct for Journalists – Never report “Politically incorrect” news
Not only political dissidents were arrested, even journalists were jailed for not abiding by the rules imposed. More than 250 journalists were booked under MISA and several foreign journalists were denied entry into the country. Government also disaccredited 53 reporters and expelled 7 of them.
The ministry of Information and Broadcasting formulated a new model code of conduct for media persons where they weren’t allowed to report anything which was “Politically Incorrect”.
If you can’t fight the law then change the law – Rewrite constitution through amendments
Mrs. Indira Gandhi rewrote several laws to grant herself immunity. Through 39th amendment of Indian constitution, she protected President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Loksabha speaker from any court scrutiny. This was primarily done to save Ms. Gandhi from several cases pending with judiciary and could have resulted in imprisonment for the prime minister.
The 42nd amendment stripped Supreme Court of many powers and moved the political system towards parliamentary sovereignty. The amendment gave Parliament unrestrained power to amend any parts of the Constitution, without judicial review.
No equality before law, no personal liberty – Suspension of fundamental rights
Through 42nd amendment, the tyranny of the government increased manifolds. The amendment suspended the fundamental rights of all the citizens. Article 14 or “Right to equality before law” and Article 21 or ”Right to life and personal liberty” were abolished. Authorities cracked down on individuals who opposed this move. Thousands of protesters were arrested under MISA or DIR.
States asked to be loyal to the central leadership or face the wrath – Governments of opposing parties dissolved
In order to bring every state under the purview of central government, Congress decided to dissolve the state legislative assemblies of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, which had governments from opposing political parties.
President’s rule was imposed on the recommendations of the governors of the respective states who themselves were appointed by the party. The mood was clear to bring entire country under the central leadership.
No elections further – Indira Gandhi postponed impending state legislative elections indefinitely
The government decided to postpone all the elections of the state assemblies indefinitely in order to continue their reign uninterrupted. Emergency was extended several times and ultimately was called off after a period of 19 months.
Government to decide the number of children for parents – Forced sterilizations for “Birth Control”
Some projects like population control were implemented strictly through regular monitoring. Hospitals in rural and urban localities were given targets to achieve which many times led to forced vasectomy of the patients. Several such cases were unearthed later. The government officials feared a crackdown on underperforming individuals and thus they resorted to such unlawful practices.
Mr. Sanjay Gandhi took a personal interest in this project, as it was part of his dream to transform India. Family planning and population control was paramount for the success of Twenty-Point program conceptualized by Indira and Sanjay Gandhi together.
“Gareebi nhi gareebon ko hatao” – Forceful eviction of slums
Another major crackdown, which raised furore, was destroying of slums near Tughlaq road and Jama Masjid. This was part of Slum-clearance program overlooked by Mr. Sanjay Gandhi himself. He considered Muslim population responsible for India’s plight. Thus, he ordered removal of all slums from these Muslim dominated areas.
These pet projects of Sanjay Gandhi never cared to address the root of the problems. He had no patience for tedious bureaucratic processes. The fact that he had unquestioned support of her mother, the prime minister of India, made him arrogant and fearless about the consequences of his actions.