On 12th June 1975, Indira Gandhi’s election was declared as ‘void’ by Justice JML Sinha. She was found guilty of corrupt practices during the Lok sabha elections from the Rae Bareli constituency. The order stated that she could still continue in the office of Prime Minister. However, she could not participate in the parliamentary proceedings as an MP but as the Prime Minister, she could speak in the parliament without a right to vote. A judgement that would prove to be disastrous in the coming days. Ideally, under such circumstances, any official who is under suspicion of corruption, should quit the office. A resolution was drafted advising Mrs. Gandhi to quit the office of Prime Minister and was released to the press by the Coordination Committeeof five Opposition Parties (Congress (O), Bhartiya Lok Dal, Jana Sangh, Socialist Party and Akali Dal). This was published in the newspapers of 25th June 1975, and proved to be decisive.
The threat looming at Mrs. Gandhi’s position and power made her take an unlawful route of getting the Proclamation of Emergency signed by the then President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, on the night of 25th June 1975, without informing the cabinet. Even important officials such as the Home Secretary GOI, the Cabinet Secretary, the Director of Intelligence Bureau and the Minister of Law and Justice came to know about the Proclamation of Emergency the next day, i.e., 26th June 1975. It was on 26th June, after the Proclamation of Emergency that the cabinet meeting was held and the emergency was approved and not before, and that was absolutely against the constitutional laws! The power connections of almost all the newspapers in Delhi and outside were disconnected at the behest of the government, so there was no newspaper on 27th June. There was press censorship all across the country and a pressure to write articles in favor of the government. She made several constitutional amendments to get her way to stay in power among which the most notorious was the 42nd Amendment. It was in this 42nd amendment when the Preamble of our constitution was unconstitutionally changed from “Sovereign, democratic republic” to “Sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic”.
Many political leaders and workers of opposition were arrested overnight on 25-26 June and in the following days. Around 20,000 were detained under MISA and Defence Of India Rules. Even the British didn’t arrest so many at one time! The health of the detainees was ignored and were mentally and physically tortured. C.L. Lakhanpal died in detention and similarly when Shri Jayaprakash Narayan fell extremely ill, he was ultimately released fearing his death in detention. Not just detainees, but the common public was tortured as well. Mrs Gandhi exploited the power of her position and so did her son, Sanjay Gandhi who had no political background and acted like an heir to the monarch! Extortion of money in the name of donations from general public, small and big businessmen and industrialists was a general practice.
Many people were forcibly sterilised. These forced sterilisations were done under the guise of family planning as a part of Sanjay Gandhi’s five point programme. According to the Shah commission of Inquiry, during the two years 1975-76 and 1976-77, 10,756,964 sterilisations were performed. These were performed in assembly line fashion, in great haste and unhygienic conditions with no follow up care whatsoever. Many men and women died due to subsequent infections. Around 18,00 families filed wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of their kin but the actual death toll was much higher. Soon there was public anger over the horrific practices and forced sterilizations which resulted in riots. The deaths during the violent “Anti-Family-Planning” protests, forced Mrs Gandhi to bring a stop to the campaign and was voted out as soon as the emergency was over. It is a dark chapter in the history of India and should be remembered by everyone. It is our duty to educate ourselves and others in the matters of our country that are extremely important. Only awareness can dispel the darkness of ignorance and that can make sure nobody plays with our fundamental rights or lives ever again.
References – Saving India from Indira; Untold Story of the Emergency; Memoirs of J. P. Goyal