Forty-five years ago on 25 June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had announced a national emergency in view of 'threats to national security'. During the emergency, opposition leaders were arrested, censorship was imposed, and a ban was announced on grassroots organisations which lasted for a period of 21 months.
The emergency was imposed by then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352(1) of the Constitution, giving “internal disturbance” as the reason to impose it over the country.
Here are 4 things that led to the 21-month period announced by Indira Gandhi:
Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat
During the period of 1973-75, political unrest against the Indira Gandhi led government was on its peak. Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat, between December 1973 and March 1974 was one of the first movements which begun the strife in the nation. Students of L D College of Engineering in Ahmedabad, in December 1973, went on a strike to protest against a hike in school fees. A month later, students of Gujarat University erupted in protest, demanding the dismissal of the state government. This movement forced the central government to dissolve the state legislature in Gujarat and chief minister Chimanbhai Patel had to resign. After, chief minister Chimanbhai Patel resigned President’s rule was imposed on Gujarat.
Inspired by the Navnirman Andolan, a similar movement was launched in Bihar, where students started a movement in 1974 to protest against the same issues. The students in Bihar Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), who had given up active politics and was involved in social work, to lead it. When Jayaprakash Narayan took charge of the protest, it became a national level. Narayan led a huge political rally in Delhi’s Ramlila grounds on June 25, 1975, where he announced a nationwide Satyagraha for Indira Gandhi’s resignation.
Similarly, employees of the Railways too called for a nationwide strike, led by George Fernandes. The railways’ protest lasted for three weeks, in May 1974, the strike resulted in the halt of the movement of goods and people.
Raj Narain verdict
Raj Narain was defeated by Indira Gandhi from the Rae Bareli constituency during 1971 Parliamentary elections. Later, Narain filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court accusing Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractices.
On June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha found Indira Gandhi guilty of misuse of the government machinery during her election campaign and declared her election null and void and also barred her from contesting an election for the next six years. The Allahabad High Court gave Congress 20 days to find a replacement to Gandhi as PM.
After Allahabad High Court’s verdict, Indira Gandhi moved the Supreme Court against the verdict. The Supreme Court on June 24 granted her a partial stay on the High Court order – till her appeal was decided and that she could remain an MP but could not take part in the proceedings of the Lok Sabha. The government responded to the June 25 strike by declaring a state of emergency that night itself.