The experiences bestowed by Kanchi-Mahaswami — Part 14 : Emergency Declaration — why & how did it happen

(A humble translation of the original article by Sri S.Gurumurthy , as it had appeared in Thuglak Tamil Magazine) —

Kanchi Mahaswami
Author S.Gurumurthy

On 25th June, 1975, Emergency was declared by Indira Gandhi; Next day, when the news came out in the newspapers, “Emergency declared, Opposition leaders were arrested”, not many in the country had understood its implications. Even, when the fundamental rights were withdrawn, they did not understood it fully. Due to lack of fundamental rights, Jallianwala bagh massacre had taken place. Freedom fighters were tortured. The generation that rose after Independence were enjoying the freedom without any suffering, they did not understand the magnificence of fundamental rights and impact in its absence. Thousands of people were imprisoned, terrorizing the people with the support of government authorities like Police, Income tax, Supreme court judges were oppressed & enslaved, individual/common liberties were seized; By doing this, Indira Gandhi took the credit for helping the then generation to understand the importance of freedom.

Indira’s family rule

Why did Indira declare emergency? In a single line, it can be answered — To save herself, her govt & her family, she took that decision to finish off democracy. Sanjay Gandhi involved in Maruthi scandal, (Indira’s name was involved in Nagarwala scandal) Nagarwala’s secretive death in the prison, Political opposition that rose in Gujarat, Bihar against the corrupt centre-state governments were happening on one side. Indira Gandhi’s victory in the election was nullified by the Allahabad high court’s verdict on the other side. She forced the president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to sign the declaration by making him to believe that a state of emergency was prevailing in the country.

By suspending the fundamental rights provided in the constitution, she took the Authoritarian power in her hands. Selfishly for her survival, she pledged her party, opposition parties, govt, democracy, country, our country’s Honour & respect in the eyes of foreign countries. Tall leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai, Advani, Vajpayee, Chandrasekhar, Charan Singh, Dandavate were arrested. Starting on 25th June and within 24 hours, Hundreds of political leaders, members of Parliament were arrested & kept in different prisons of the country.

After the declaration, her power/authority was transferred to her inner circle that comprised her son, Sanjay Gandhi, Daughter-in-law Maneka Gandhi, many partners-in-crime who were inside & outside of her govt (including Arjun Das, Sanjay Gandhi’s car mechanic). Under the leadership of Sanjay, they were managing both the central & state governments. Justice Shah commission investigated the happenings later and reported it in detail (marked as a post-script). It will be difficult for the present generation to believe those days’ happenings. During the emergency period,it was a shameful truth that the congress party, government, bureaucrats, state govts, even our country judiciary’s leadership that claims itself as the supreme court were bending/genuflecting/touching-her-feet. During those unimaginable authoritarian period, when the grand-old party like Congress became her household party, govt, laws, bureaucrats, police, judiciary were falling at the feet of that family. Family rule means authoritarian rule, only.

1975 June 12th — June 25th

On June 12th, Allahabad high court cancelled her 1971 electoral victory on the grounds that she had used the governmental power, over-spending through party and snatched away her MP post. In 1974, Congress lost in the Gujarat assembly election. Janata-Jansangh alliance captured the power in Gujarat. Opposing Allahabad court’s verdict, she went to Supreme court seeking unconditional suspension of the verdict. The then vacation Judge V.R.Krishna Iyer allowed her to continue in the post. But, he imposed insinuating conditions that as a PM she should not speak, vote in the parliament. This had happened on 24th June. Opposition parties were slamming her saying that she lost the moral authority to continue to be PM and would continue to hold demonstrations every day until she demits the office.

Next day (25th June), Jayaprakash Narayan had reminded the people of this country with Mahatma Gandhi’s saying, “The government officers should not follow the orders of the govt that lost its moral authority to rule”. Loss in Gujarat, shameful verdict given by Supreme court, Rallying war-cry of the opposition parties together shook her govt. The Congress party was expected to get split and Indira felt that such forces cannot be handled democratically; Hence, she had decided to become an autocrat. It came into play with an emergency declaration at midnight on 25th June.

Indira, a total autocrat by 25th Jun midnight

On 25th jun evening, after consulting her son, West Bengal CM Siddhartha Shankar Ray, R.K.Dhawan and decided to declare emergency as per their advice. As per rules, it needs the approval from the council of ministers. But, there was a big question. Hence, she decided to by-pass her council of ministers and implement it through a presidential proclamation. Many said that idea was given by S.S.Ray (but Goenka told me that the idea was given by a Tamil lawyer located at Bengaluru. Later, I will share an incident of how the services of that lawyer was utilized by Goenka to threaten Indira). S.S.Ray had convinced the president and made him to sign the proclamation at 11.55 pm. Immediately, Power was disconnected at Bahadur shah road, where the newspaper offices were located. That night & next day morning, opposition leaders and workers were arrested.

Not only against opposition, but she played the spoil-sport against her party people like Chandrashekhar. Having seen her acts performed with asuric-speed, other congress leaders who were opposing her, kept quiet. Next day, the ministers were woken up at 4 AM and brought for the council of ministers meeting at 6 AM. They were all terrified and did not open their mouth at all. The entire meeting was conducted in a hushed silence and the council gave its approval of the presidential proclamation, without any murmur. With that act, except the handful of ministers preferred by Indira, Sanjay, all other lost their respect, honour and authority. As per constitution, during the emergency rule is in force, Central govt can usurp the powers of state governments too. On 26th, the entire power of central & state governments put together were in the hands of a 29 years old Youth called Sanjay Gandhi. Then started the deadly dance & Asuric acts of Indira-Sanjay’s group.

Struggle against Authoritarianism

The struggle against emergency between 1975–77 was claimed by the world as the second Independent struggle. That is an absolute truth. Under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, Lok sankarsh samiti was constituted. As part of that, RSS participated , worked against the emergency in a discreet manner and made the people to wake up. Without RSS, the struggle against emergency was not possible. In 1977, under the false-nation that she would gain the victory, when Indira conducted the elections, Congress lost heavily in north India due to the upraise of people, who were woken up by that struggle. RSS conducted the struggle for 18 months and 23,000 of its workers were arrested under the draconian MISA act. 70,000 volunteers who were participating in satyagraha were arrested. Advani had documented the details in his book — A Prisoner’s Scrap book.

Lakhs of people went under-ground and published newspapers, bit notices secretively. In spite of the govt’s gag on newspapers, they took the truth to crores of people. During the emergency period, in my family, my elder brother did participate in Satyagraha and went to prison. Having been involved in Kamaraj’s congress & RSS, I went underground during that struggle and participated in the struggle like many commoners. I am very proud of that act.


Era. Chezhian, who gave life to hidden Shah commission report

J. C.Shah’s report that exposed the anarchic acts & atrocities was submitted to Parliament in 1978. When Janata govt was about to take action based on that report, its govt was dismissed by Indira with the help of Charan Singh. She won in 1980 elections and came back to power. Then, Congress party started hiding the atrocities committed during the emergency period. She destroyed the entire copies of Shah commission report. Era. Chezhian was shocked, when he came to know that “all the copies of the report were destroyed. Couple of copies are available in the libraries of England & Australia”.

Then, he started searching his set of huge sets of papers to locate the report. Luckily, he was able to get his hand on the report. Then, he had a brain-surgery and was staying at home. One day, He called me on the phone and told me to come over to his house immediately. I went and met him. Then, he narrated the disappearance of the report and urged me to publish it by any possible manner. Auditor G.Narayanaswamy & I accepted the responsibility. Our responsibility was minimal compared to the efforts undertook by Chezhian, despite his poor health. It was a highly commendable act. For months together, he tried to remember the then happenings, searched for many details and documented the disappearance & appearance of Shah commission report in his defining work called “Shah commission Report Lost , and Regained” and gave life back to the report.

Advani released that seminal work (Dec 20, 2010). In that book release function, Chezhian, Cho, B.S.Raghavan, G.Narayanaswamy participated. In order to reach more number of people, he made it freely available in the internet. He was aged 87, while performing that great work. I was astounded by his commitment & hard labour, despite ill-health. It will not be an exaggeration, If I say that our country and democracy are indebted to him, for that great piece of work. His speech in parliament during the emergency period became world famous. After the emergency period, he saw the merit in the national politics, resigned from the regionalistic DMK and joined Janata party in 1977. Later, I will share my experiences with him.