Revisiting the Emergency: When Iron Lady's dark move galvanized the Opposition

WION Web Team NEW DELHI Jun 26, 2020, 12.30 AM(IST)

Indira Gandhi. Photograph:( Getty )

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The Emergency was imposed after India's President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed issued orders under Article 352(1) of the Indian constitution plunging the country into what is now known as the "darkest period" in post-Independent India.

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had imposed Emergency in India forty-four years ago on June 25, 1975.

The move threw India's democratic polity completely out of gear as several Opposition leaders were arrested and draconian measures undertaken to stifle free speech and press. The Emergency lasted for 21 months from June 25 to March 21, 1977.

The Emergency was imposed after India's President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed issued orders under Article 352(1) of the Indian constitution plunging the country into what is now known as the "darkest period" in post-Independent India.               
Under the powers of the emergency law, Indira Gandhi had given herself extraordinary powers to arrest opposition leaders. There is an interesting story about George Fernandes, who later went on to become India's Defence minister.

He was living underground, trying to escape a police encounter. His socialist friends had made a plan to call BBC'S correspondent in Mark Tully. In case the police came knocking.

True to their suspicions — it happened and they called Mark Tully, and the BBC flashed the news.

Many believe that may have saved George Fernandes' life. Finally — in January 1977 — Indira Gandhi called for fresh elections and released all political prisoners. That was two months before the emergency was lifted.

The opposition warned Indians and said it's the last chance to choose between democracy and dictatorship. In the elections — both Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi lost their seats.

Morarji Desai became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India and he amended the Indian constitution making it impossible for any government in the future to clamp emergency.