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The Emergency (India)

21-month period in the history of India

In India, "the Emergency" refers to a 21-month period from 1975 to 1977 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had a state of emergency declared across the country.


  • This is precisely what happened in India, in June 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought democracy under an eclipse by bringing India under Emergency Rule. Nineteen months later, the eclipse disappeared as the result of a glorious struggle launched by the people of India against the Congress party’s authoritarianism. If the Emergency was the darkest period in India’s post-Independence history, the righteous struggle for the restoration of democracy was undoubtedly the brightest. It so happened that I, along with tens of thousands of my countrymen, was both a victim of Emergency and a soldier in the Army of Democracy that won the battle against it.
  • Freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life and it has remained so ever since. Freedom with the passing of years transcended the mere freedom of my country and embraced freedom of man everywhere and from every sort of trammel—above all, it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the mind, freedom of the spirit. This freedom has become the passion of my life and I shall not see it compromised for bread, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else.
    • Jayaprakash Narayan, (said at the height of the Emergency when Indira Gandhi stated that ‘food is more important than freedom’), quoted in L.K. Advani, My Country My Life (2008), also quoted at [2]
  • The question before us is not whether Indira Gandhi should continue to be prime minister or not. The point is whether democracy in this country is to survive or not. The democratic structure stands on three pillars, namely a strong opposition, independent judiciary and free press. Emergency has destroyed all these essentials.
  • The Emergency that followed in June 1975 was by no means an ad hoc idea accepted for meeting an abrupt situation. The idea of imposing an authoritarian regime on the country had been maturing for a long time in the minds of the communist mafia that Pandit Nehru had promoted. The situation, too, was being shaped in the same direction by the self-righteousness and consequent high-handedness which accompanied the idea. The seeds sown by Pandit Nehru were bearing fruits. All those who stood up against Mrs. Indira Gandhi's guiles and greed were denounced as agents of the CIA. The "progressive" flock was one again in the forefront of the "fight against forces of fascism". And by the time Mrs. Indira Gandhi realized what was happening, much mischief had been done.
    • S.R. Goel, Genesis and Growth of Nehruism, Second Preface (1993)
  • In his book My Eleven Years with Fakhruddin Ahmad, Mr. Fazle Ahmed Rehmany quotes an incident which throws interesting light on the psychology of secularism and its need to keep Muslims in isolation and in a sort of protective custody. During the Emergency period some followers of the Jamaat-e-Islami found themselves in the same jail as the members of the RSS; here they began to discover that the latter were no monsters as described by the 'nationalist' and secularist propaganda. Therefore they began to think better of the Hindus. This alarmed the secularists and the interested Maulvis. Some Maulvis belonging to the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind met President.. Fakhruddin Ahmad, and reported to him about the growing rapport between the members of the two communities. This 'stunned' the President and he said that this boded an 'ominous' future for Congress Muslim leaders and he promised that he would speak to Indiraji about this dangerous development and ensure that Muslims remain Muslims.
    • Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6 (quoting Ram Swarup and citing Fakhruddin Ahmad)
  • During the Emergency, many socialists were left untouched by Indira, while the RSS was made to bear the brunt of the repression. But when the Janata government was formed, the same socialists, who had come to power on the blood and sweat of the RSS workers, demanded that the RSS members of the government choose between their seat and their RSS membership. There was no come out in their defense, no front or committee of intellectuals of expose the utter dishonesty and absurdity of the whole dual membership issue. Everybody thinking was moulded by the Left, and had no affinity or sympathy with RSS thought. Everybody felt some allegiance to socialism and would not go against a socialist demand. And in shame the RSS people were sent into the wilderness.
    • Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • “… I came under obvious suspicion within days of my arrival in the country (India)… After arranging meetings by telephone, odd characters would turn up to observe who I was seeing each morning, others would be waiting in red settees in the entrance of the Delphi Hotel. People I spoke to openly would be later stopped and questioned. At least twice my hotel room was broken into and searched…” Sweeney further recounted: “When I complained of the continued harassment by Government agents and asked Mr Haksar (A N D Hakasar was the chief government spokesperson) to explain why it had been necessary to organise breakings to my hotel rooms, he replied that unless I left the country, as soon as possible, there would be a ‘further prospect of physical inconvenience’.”
  • “The shock troops of the movement [against the Emergency] largely come from Jana Sangh and its ideological affiliate, the RSS, which claim a combined membership of 10 million (of whom 80,000, including 6000 full-time party workers, are in prison).”
  • “…Pro-CPI (Communist Party of India) journals in India are being given some latitude by the censors because the party is in favour of even stronger measures to suppress the non-communist opposition.”

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