“The President has declared a state of Emergency,” these words were announced on the All India Radio on the night of 25 June 1975, just a few minutes before the clock struck midnight. These words were enough to terrorise the entire nation. All rights of the citizens, except the right to life, were suspended. This one announcement had a huge impact which resulted in the arrest of a number of senior politicians, activists, and journalists under Defence of India rules and Maintenance of Internal Security Act. The press was censored. Mass-sterilisation campaign spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi began. No wonder, the 19-month long period from 1975 to 1977 is considered the darkest era in the history of India. But what was the reason behind the announcement of ‘Emergency’? Despite having won the Lok Sabha Elections, Gandhi was insecure with the ongoing developments in the country. From Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat to State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain case, we list down four incidents that responded with the then Prime Minister declaring ‘Emergency’.
What led to the declaration of Emergency?
Navnirman Andolan, Gujarat
Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat was a protest by students and middle-class people against economic crisis and growing corruption. On 20 December 1973, students of L.D. College of Engineering in Ahmedabad went on strike against a 20 percent hike in hostel food fees. A similar protest was organised by Gujarat University students on January 3, 1974. The protests resulted in the clashes between students and police personnel. Thus, provoking students across the state. An indefinite strike with demands related to food and education was called on January 7 in all educational institutions in Gujarat. The protests were soon joined by middle-class people and factory workers. A committee called ‘Nav Nirman Yuvak Samiti’ was formed by students, professors and lawyers to hear the grievances of the people. And soon the movement resulted in the dissolution of a government of the state. In July 1973, Chimanbhai Patel replaced Ghanshyam Oza as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
After Chimanbhai Patel’s resignation, Jayaprakash Narayan, also known as JP, visited Gujarat. Inspired by Gujarat’s Navnirman Andolan, the Bihar Movement began in Bihar. JP’s Gujarat visit inspired him to be an active member of the movement, which soon resulted against the then PM Indira Gandhi and against corruption in the government of Bihar. The Bihar Movement was also called as JP Movement and Sampoorna Kranti. Opposition parties called a state-wide strike. The strike resulted in police firing on protesters, killing eight students.
On 18 February 1974, the Patna University Students Union organized a convention inviting student leaders from the whole state, forming Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti (BCSS) to lead the ongoing agitation. Lalu Prasad Yadav was chosen the President of BCSS. Sushil Kumar Modi, Narendra Singh, Basisth Narayan Singh and Ram Vilas Paswan were the youth leaders that gained popularity during the agitation.
1974 Railway Strike
The 1974 Railway Strike was a strike by Indian 1.7 million workers of the Indian Railways. The 20-day strike resulted in the halt of the movement of goods and people. Led by social activist George Fernandes, the strike held to demand eight-hour working day for locomotive staff and raise in the salary. The strike that began on May 8, 1974, was brutally brought to an end on May 27, 1974, by the Indira Gandhi government after thousands were sent to jail and many losing their jobs.
State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain
A 1975 case called ‘State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain’ was a case heard by the Allahabad High Court that held Indira Gandhi guilty of electoral practices and barred her from holding elected office for six years. The case was filed by the defeated opposition candidate Raj Narain, who questioned Indira’s win. The verdict caused a political crisis and led to the imposition of ‘Emergency’ from 1975 to 1977.
About the case – In 1971, Raj Narain contested against Indira Gandhi from the Rae Bareilly constituency in the Lok Sabha elections. Gandhi won the election with a majority. Appealing the electoral verdict, Narain filed a petition against Gandhi alleging that she used bribery and government resources to win the poll.
(Compiled by Sonali Pimputkar)