Emergency, Indira Gandhi, Modi, BJP, dark period
The Emergency was imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 citing breakdown of law and order situation in the country

Emergency anniversary: Modi, BJP leaders slam 'dark period'; those jailed recall days of fear

On the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the Emergency on June 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leaders took the opportunity to evoke memories of what they called the “dark period’ in Indian history with tweets, visuals and videos, even as some activists and politicians who were hauled off to jail at that time recalled their days of fear and uncertainty.

The Emergency was imposed by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975 citing breakdown of the law and order situation in the country, after massive protests by  Opposition parties broke out alleging corruption and election fraud in the 1971 general elections by the Congress regime.

The Indira Gandhi government imposed the Emergency on June 25 night, suspending civil liberties and censoring the press. The morning after the Emergency was imposed, a crackdown began on Opposition leaders and activists with scores of them being jailed across the country. Civil liberties were suspended and press censored.

Subsequently, Mrs Gandhi went on to impose Emergency every six months for a period of 21 months from June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977.

On June 25, Modi remembered those “courageous” people who had resisted the “dark days of the emergency” and said that the 21-month period remains an “unforgettable period” in our history, which was “totally opposite” to Constitutional values.

Modi, who is often accused by Opposition parties of curbing freedom of speech and intolerant to dissent and of imposing an “undeclared emergency” in the country, tweeted: “I pay homage to all those courageous people who resisted the Emergency and worked to strengthen our democratic spirit. The #DarkDaysOfEmergency remain an unforgettable period in our history, totally opposite to the values our Constitution celebrates.”

Earlier, in his Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast on June 18, Modi described the Emergency as a “dark period” in India’s history and said those who supported democracy at that time were tortured.

The BJP twitter handle carried a number of graphics and video clips remembering the Emergency. They also tweeted a poster of Indira Gandhi amid a dark background titled ‘1975 Emergency,’ the darkest chapter in Indian democracy. And termed the period as a “horrible saga of trampling the temple of democracy”.

While Union minister Smriti Irani posted a slickly edited video which narrates the events leading to the imposition of the Emergency along with archival clips of that time accompanied by some volatile text like ‘Freedom of press was choked, and the judiciary’s arms cut off.’

Also read: Emergency was a dark era in country’s history: Modi in ‘Mann Ki Baat’

Along with the video, the minister tweeted, “Torture, imprisonment, murder, stifling the voice of free press – 25th June 1975 symbolises all that and more. Lest you forget, what the Emergency imposed on India and Indians entailed; do watch this video & see what the Congress party is capable of!”

Several other ministers, including Hardeep Singh Puri, Rajnath Singh, Kiren Rijiju, Pralhad Joshi, Nitin Gadkari, former minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, among several others, condemned the “dark days for democracy”. Union  minister Hardeep Singh Puri said…”an insecure & authoritarian ruler will always be remembered as a crushing blow to democracy & human rights”.

An activist remembers

It has been nearly 50 years but Lucknow-resident Tej Narayan Gupta vividly remembers the evening a police team knocked on his door and picked him up. Equating the imposition of the Emergency with dacoity, he said, “Generally, dacoity is carried out around midnight. Similarly, this dacoity of democracy in the country also took place around midnight.

A nationwide crackdown had begun on June 26 in 1975, a day after the Emergency was imposed in the country, with scores of Opposition leaders and activists put behind bars.

“Around 9 pm I had just returned home when a police team raided my house and arrested me,” recalled Gupta, who was then an activist and lawyer.

A policeman took him on a bicycle to Bazar Khala police station, two km away from his home. He was then taken to Kaisarbagh police station and finally lodged in the Lucknow district jail along with other arrested persons.

“The policemen was riding the bicycle, which was taken from a labourer, and I sat on the rod in front of him. He was riding the cycle very slowly. The motive was to create terror in the minds of the residents of my locality,” Gupta, 83, told PTI.

“In jail, we were not sure about the future and whether we will ever walk out of it,” Gupta reminisced. Months later the situation changed and the Emergency was lifted on March 21, 1977.

Also read: DMK not scared of I-T raids; faced MISA during Emergency: Udhayanidhi Stalin

The fighters of democracy

According to the Political Pension Department of Uttar Pradesh, 4,755 of those arrested during the Emergency in the state are still alive. They are now called “loktantra senani or fighters of democracy”.

Among them are 83-year-old Ramdeen and 74-year-old Kedar Nath Srivastava.

“An atmosphere of fear and uncertainty prevailed in the minds of people during the Emergency…The forced sterilisation made people go against the Congress in the subsequent general elections,” Ramdeen said.

Srivastava said, “After being arrested, many of us wondered whether we are going to live in the jail forever!”

Politicians tell their story

A former speaker of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, Hriday Narayan Dixit, also talked about his incarceration during the period.

“I was lodged in Unnao jail…. he parliamentary elections were announced and we were hopeful that the Congress and Indira Gandhi would be defeated. On the night of counting of votes, I somehow managed to get a radio and was listening to announcement of results.

“Late in the night, the deputy jailor came and said agar transistor mila toh danda kardoonga (If a radio is found, you will be beaten with a club). At around 4 am, we got the news that Indira Gandhi lost the election from Rae Bareli. The same deputy jailor came running towards my barrack and said badhaai ho, sir (congratulations). When I asked how your tone changed so soon, he said you are forming the government,” recounted Dixit, then a Jana Sangh leader.

The Emergency was imposed on the pretext of internal disturbance though there was no such issue, he said.

“It was a situation for which the country was not prepared, it had never happened before. The new generation should know about it so that in future no ruler gets the audacity to commit such an act,” Dixit, 76, said.

Senior Samajwadi Party MLA from Itwa in Siddharthnagar district Mata Prasad Pandey told PTI that “uncertainty and fear” prevailed during the days of the Emergency.

Pandey, also a former speaker of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, was lodged in Basti jail.
Referring to the mass sterilisation drive during the Emergency, he said, “Police used to harass people. People used to hide atop trees or in sugarcane fields. Such was the fear.”

“However, at that time, only the leaders were arrested and their family members were not harassed,” said Pandey, 70.embers the evening a police team knocked on his door and picked him up.

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