Indira Gandhi, the third Prime Minister of India, is considered as one of the strongest leaders in the political history of India. She was instrumental in transforming India’s socio-political and economical condition internally and also elevated the prestige of India in the world arena. Under her leadership, India made remarkable strides in various fields like agriculture, technology, social security, poverty eradication and worked towards realization of the goals enshrined in Directive Principles of State Policy of the constitution.

Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi, also known as The Iron Lady of India, was born in Allahabad on 19th November 1917. She was India’s third Prime Minister after Jawahar Lai Nehru and Lai Bahadur Shashtri. She served as Prime Minister from 1966 until 1984, barring a short period of 1977-1980. In 1980, she was re-elected and served until her assassination in 1984.

In 1966, again the question of succession arose in the party after a very short period of two years. This period witnessed the tough competition between the senior leader of Congress, Morarji Desai, and daughter of Pandit Nehru, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. This time, the old guards decided to favour Indira Gandhi but this decision was not unanimous. In January 1966, after Shastri’s death, the Congress legislative party elected Indira Gandhi over Morarji Desai as their leader. Congress party veteran, K. Kamaraj, was
instrumental in achieving Indira’s victory. Political leaders in India saw Indira Gandhi as weak and hoped to use her as a puppet once elected. The contest was done through a secret ballot amongst the MPs of congress and Indira Gandhi defeated Morarji Desai with the support of more than two thirds of the party’s MPs. This can also be considered as a sign of maturity of India’s democracy.

Challenges for Indira Gandhi

The challenge for Mrs. Gandhi was to face the general elections within a year (i.e. in 1967) of her settlement as a Prime Minister. With successive wars and drought like situation, India’s economic condition further deteriorated. But Indira Gandhi wielded power with a toughness that intimidated even her contemporaries. She was easily elected in 1967 general elections.

Congress party returned to power but support base of Congress was shrinking gradually due to economic and social problems. The Congress party won a reduced majority for the Lok Sabha in these elections owing to widespread disenchantment over rising prices of commodities, unemployment, economic stagnation and a food crisis. Indira Gandhi had started on a rocky note after agreeing to devaluation of the rupee, which created much hardship for Indian businesses and consumers, and the import of wheat from the United States fell through, due to political disputes. The party, also, for the first time, lost majority in a number of states across the country (9states) like in Tamil Nadu. Following the 1967 elections, Indira Gandhi gradually started moving towards socialist policies.

The strategy regarding economic policy of Indira was simple. She took basic principles from Nehruvian consensus and stretched them to the extreme, be it nationalization, centralization, bureaucratic control of economy, etc. She chose centralization and exaggerated the socialistic pattern of society. Under her leadership, 14 big banks were nationalized in 1969 for greater reach of formal finances to the poor and the marginalized. In ‘License Raj’ bureaucratic control was so high that the state almost controlled the Indian economy leaving very little scope for private sector. This eventually led to public dissatisfaction.

This period also witnessed the rise of regional political parties as well as Naxalbari Movement, particularly in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. This was mainly due to economic crisis and inequitable agrarian structure

The Congress party’s loss of majority in many states in 1967 general elections had posed the question on efficacy and functioning of Congress party. Many senior leaders were deliberating on revival and strengthening of Congress, infusing and attracting the young blood into the national politics from 1963. Amongst them, K Kamaraj, then National President of Congress party put forward the Kamaraj Plan in 1963.

Political Developments

Split in Congress

Congress, after the death of Lai Bahadur Shastri, found no political leadership. Two poles emerged in
the Congress party on the issue of next leadership i.e. Indira Gandhi supported by Syndicate and other pole in the form of strong leader Morarji Desai. The Indian National Congress bifurcated in 1967 over the issue of the leadership of Indira Gandhi. Supporters of Indira Gandhi claimed to be the real Congress party, adopting the name Indian National Congress (R) – where “R” stood for “Requisition”, Congress politicians who opposed Indira identified themselves as the Indian National Congress (O)- where “O” stood for “Organization” or “Old”. She was now going through two major crises of her career. One was about her personal freedom from the Syndicates and the other was in the form of political crisis which she faced at 1967 elections.

Till then congress was already divided into Congress Right and Congress Left. Congress Right was supported by old guards and syndicates whereas Congress Left was supported by the followers of Indira Gandhi. But this division could not be considered as a formal split. In May 1967, Congress Working Committee adopted a radical Ten Point Program. This program included the centralization of power in the form of bank nationalization, general insurance nationalization, land reforms, ceiling of urban property and income, land reforms, public distribution of food grains etc . Syndicates formally approved this left wing program but this also led to widening of the gap between the two wings.

The final blow came after the death of President Zakir Hussain. Syndicate supported the then speaker of Lok Sabha, as Presidential candidate. But Indira Gandhi had different plans; she wanted to support the then Vice President V.V. Giri and wanted him to file his nomination as an independent candidate. This issue led to serious differences between Deputy PM Morarji Desai and Indira Gandhi resulting in Desai leaving the party.

The Congress President at that time was S. Nijalingappa. He issued a whip in favour of Reddy asking all the MPs and MLAs to vote for him. Initially, Indira supported Giri silently but later she came up openly in his favour and called for a ‘Conscience Vote’ which meant the MPs and MLAs were free to vote the way they wanted. Finally during election, nearly one third of the members voted in favour of V.V. Giri. He was elected as the President of India.

For the 1971 election, the Congress (O), Samyukta Socialist Party and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh had formed a coalition called the “Grand Alliance” to oppose Indira Gandhi and the Congress (R), but failed to have any impact. Indira’s Congress (R) won a large majority in the 1971 elections and her popularity increased significantly after India’s victory in the war of 1971 against Pakistan (discussed in detail later).
The syndicate played a major role in elevating Indira to the position of Prime Minister and expected that she will follow their advice. Indira chose her own trusted persons from different fields and tried to sideline the syndicates.

Single Party to Multi-party System

Though the position of the Congress was strong till the elections of 1957, there were challenges emerging to it. In the elections of 1957, across northern India, the Congress was unchallenged. But it faced challenges in Orissa from Ganatantra Parishad. Also, in Bombay province, it had limited success, wherein the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti and the Mahagujarat Parishad posed challenges. The
success of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Madras was worrying for the Congress in southern India.

But, it was Kerala where the Congress authority eroded significantly and it was reduced to the position of second party. The Communist Party of India (CPI) won 9 seats, while the Congress won 6 seats out of 18 seats. In the assembly polls, the CPI with the support of independents formed the government. But, still, the challenge to the Congress was not significant and it won 371 seats and its, share of votes increased.

In the elections of 1962, the Congress voting percentage declined and, as a result, its seats reduced to 361 out of 496 parliamentary seats. The communists, the Swatantra Party (formed by C. Rajagopalchari in 1959) and the DMK improved their performance. But, it is the elections of 1967 which proved to be the
watershed elections for the political system of India. The Congress suffered a serious setback. Though it succeeded in getting majority in the Lok Sabha, its seats declined significantly to 284 out of 520 seats.

Reasons for Decline of Congress

  • Problems within the party: Congress as a party lost its character and motivation as a party of social and institutional change. There was increasing corruption, factionalism and hunger for official positions grew amongst the party leaders. After Nehru’ death, the Syndicate did not handle the intra-party matters well. For example, the ticket distribution was based on their whims and fancies. This increased defection from the party.
  • Coming together of opposition parties: The opposition parties formed anti-Congress fronts. For example, the Socialists Party formed an alliance with the Jana Sangh. Also, the Swatantra Party and Jana Sangh formed fronts in several states.
  • Defection of the rich and middle class peasants from the Congress: The policies like land reforms initiated in early 1950s, food grain policies, political awakening of landless, etc. was seen by the rich peasants as a threat to their newly acquired economic position and social status. These rich and middle class peasants controlled the rural vote bank and had muscle power to disrupt polling with the help of their agriculture labourers.
  • Rise of regional parties: The regional aspirations were vented through the formation of various regional parties. For example, DMK in Madras and Akali Dal in Punjab grew in prominence.

Impact of Multi-party System

  • (a) The elections of 1967 initiated the era of coalition governments, which became norm after the elections of 1984. Coalition governments were formed in all Opposition-led states except Tamil Nadu. Till the recent times, it continued and the elections of 2014 gave the single party majority for the first time since 1984.
  • (b) Politics of defection started. The horse trading led to instability in the governments. This practice was curbed by the government with the passage of antidefection law.
  • (c) The regional parties grew in prominence. This was evident from the fact that in various states they formed the governments.
  • (d) The importance of rich and middle class peasants grew in Indian politics. They became a power to reckon for within rural social, economic and political sphere.
  • (e) The balance of power in the Congress changed. The power of the Syndicate received a major blow, while the position of Indira Gandhi got strengthened

Era of Coalition Governments

The 1967 elections, also, initiated the dual era of shortlived coalition governments and politics of defection. The elections broke Congress’s monopoly of power in the states. Congress was replaced not by a single party in any of the states but by a multiplicity of parties, groups and independents. Coalition governments were formed in all opposition-ruled states except in Tamil Nadu.

Except the DMK government in Tamil Nadu and the Swatantra party led government in Orissa, the coalition governments in all the other states, whether formed by Congress or the opposition, proved to be highly unstable and could not stay in power for long. All the coalition governments suffered from constant tensions and internal strains because of the heterogeneity of the partners. Parties, including Congress, would topple existing governments, change partners and form new governments. In between governments, a state would, sometimes, undergo a period of President’s Rule or even mid-term polls, which seldom changed the pattern of seats in the assembly.

Politics of Defections

Many of the governmental changes in the northern states were the result of defections or floor crossings by individual legislators, both party members and independents. Coalitions started at regional level and people supported the coalition government as these parties understood their local issues and tried to address them more profoundly. Corrupt legislators indulged in horse-trading and freely changed sides, attracted mainly by lure of office or money. In Haryana, where the defection phenomenon was first noticed, defecting legislators began to be called Aaya Ram and Gaya Ram (in-coming Ram and out-going Ram).Consequently, except in the case of the two Communist parties and Jan Sangh, party discipline tended to break down. In 1967, sixteen states had gone to polls. The Congress lost majority in them and was able to form government only in one state. This election set off largescale defections. Between 1967 to 1971, some 142 MPs and over 1900 MLAs migrated between political parties. Governments in many states, beginning from Haryana, collapsed. The defectors were awarded with plum ministries in the governments, including Chief Ministership in Haryana.

However, the issue was not addressed immediately. It took, further 17 years to pass the anti-defection law in 1985. The 52th amendment of the Constitution in 1985 inserted 10th schedule in the Constitution with Provisions disqualification on grounds of defection.

Other major factor for coalition era was JP movement, that played a major role in imposition of emergency, and coming of Janata government later, which was an amalgamation of various parties with differing ideologies, ushering in the coalition government at Centre.

J P Narayan and Total Revolution

India, during 70s, was facing a multitude of challenges including India-Pakistan war, rise and fall of Indira Gandhi’s popularity, rising protests and gheraos, JP movement, Emergency, Janata Government, etc. India-Pakistan war put tremendous pressure on the resources and wars in a sudden span of 10 years led to precarious socio-economic conditions. This reduced the popularity of Congress party. The clarion call for Total Revolution’ was given by Jayaprakash Narayan. It is the only indigenous revolution in the post independence era. Though a Sarvodaya activist, a revolutionary Jayaprakash could not remain indifferent to the crumbling of Indian polity. Corruption, manipulation, exploitation, social discrimination, unemployment and rise of authoritarianism provoked an old guard of freedom movement like Jayaprakash to launch a total revolution in post independence polity.

Total Revolution

On 5th June, 1974 addressing a mammoth gathering of 5 lakh people in Gandhi Maidan at Patna, Jayaprakash Narayan launched the revolutionary programme called Total Revolution. He defined total revolution as a combination of seven revolutions:

  • Social Revolution: Establishing equality and brotherhood in the society.
  • Economic Revolution: Decentralization of economy and making efforts to bring about economic equality by taking villages as the units of development.
  • Political Revolution: Ending political corruption, decentralization of politics and making public partner by giving them more rights.
  • Cultural Revolution: Defending Indian culture and regeneration of cultural values in common man.
  • Educational Revolution: Making education occupation based and changing of education system.
  • Spiritual Revolution: Developing moral and spiritual values, and turning materialism towards spirituality.
  • Thought Revolution:Revolution in the way of thinking.

Janata Government: Coalition at Centre

Meanwhile, in Raj Narain case, Mrs. Gandhi was found guilty of corrupt electoral practices during the general elections of 1971 by Allahabad High Court, in 1975. The court, thus, barred her from contesting the elections for next six years. Other factors included economic crisis, agrarian distress, corruption, etc. which together led to the widespread protests against Congress (R). The party responded towards all the problems by imposing State of Emergency for preserving National Security. The emergency remained for a period of 21 months until the next general elections were called upon. This period is considered as most crucial and controversial period of independent India’s history. Raj Narain case and Emergency are discussed later in detail.

This gave rise to political unrest and it was the biggest challenge towards the democracy of India. Thus, era of coalitions started at the central level since 1977 general elections. During campaigning for elections, Janata Party gave the option to choose between ‘democracy and dictatorship’. As a result, Janata Party won the elections by a huge majority.

But Janata Government could not stabilize and it fell in 1979 due to various reasons like rising significant ideological and political divisions amongst different groups, major economic reforms which were difficult to achieve without triggering a public divide. Violence between Hindus and Muslims led to further confrontations within the Janata party.

The decline in the popularity of the Janata government was aided by the stalled prosecution of Emergency-era abuses. The government had failed to prove most of the allegations and obtained few convictions. Cases against Indira Gandhi had also stalled for lack of evidence, and her continued prosecution began to evoke sympathy for her from the Indian public and anger of her supporters, who saw it as a “witch hunt”.

Through 1979, support for Morarji Desai’s standing had declined considerably due to worsening economic conditions as well as the emergence of allegations of nepotism and corruption involving members of his family. On 19 July 1979, Desai resigned from the government and eventually retired to his home in Mumbai. The failing health of Jayaprakash Narayan made it hard for him to remain politically active and act as a unifying influence, and his death in 1979 deprived the party of its most popular leader. Dissidents projected Charan Singh as the new prime minister in place of Desai.

Analysis of Coalition Politics

This history of coalitions since 1977 makes it clear that the scope of coalition politics is that coalitions may be formed with or without ideological foundations, but a combination of parties having little in common cannot bring about the evolution of norms which would be essential for the stability of the system. The future of coalitions depends on this important factor. Since then, India witnessed the era of
coalition for long till 2014, when BJP came with sweeping majority in the centre.

As long as India was a centralized federation, the Congress dominated it; once the federation began to loosen up, a multiplicity of parties emerged in the states. The rise of regional political parties was partly a natural development and partly a reaction to over centralization by crucial national leaders and Congress governments in 1970’s and 1980’s. The decline of Congress in one party dominated system and with the emergence of various new political parties at various levels, regional political parties have gradually assumed a lot of significance in Indian political system.

The emergence of strong regional political parties like DMK, TDP, AIADMK, TMC, JD(U), RJD, Shiv Sena and Akali Dal has brought about a significant change in the coalition politics at the national level. At the same time, coalition governments have been instrumental in strengthening the federalism and decentralization of political power.

Economic Developments

A basketful of reasons were responsible for the initiation of first ever economic reforms after independence, during Indira Gandhi’s era. Some of the reasons include recession, unemployment, inflation, corruption, scarcity of food grains, low foreign exchange, etc. To tackle these situations , Indira Gandhi ‘s governments had to go through major reforms.

PL-480 Program

PL-480 Program refers to Public Law 480; also, known as ‘Food for Peace’ program, it was US funding program for food to provide overseas aid. This program was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954, commonly known as PL-480. This program helped poor nations to pay US in their own currency. This program brought humiliation for India because of its dependence on the foreign supplied food and led to the need of food security .

Aftermath of World War II was very disastrous. This led US to provide economic assistance to several nations to meet the needs of the developing world. President Johnson also emphasized the ‘Food for Peace’ program as a corner stone of US foreign assistance program. He also understood that food aid served diplomatic ends and bolstered US strategic interests. Johnson used PL-480 agreements as leverage in securing support for U.S. foreign policy goals, even placing critical famine aid to India on a limited basis, until he received assurance that the Indian government would implement agricultural reforms.

Two successive droughts during 1966-67 had shaken the Indian farmlands badly. India urgently needed wheat, that too, on low cost. Indira Gandhi devalued the Indian currency by 36.5%, increasing dollar’s value against it by 57.4%. The issue of devaluation and to accept this ‘Ship to Mouth’ aid (as food came directly from the ships into the hungry mouths due to acute shortages) went infamous and drew a huge criticism against Mrs. Gandhi. The move , however, was in the offing for some time. Since Independence, India had held the dollar constantly at Rs 4.76 in spite of increased trade deficits and a reliance on foreign aid to maintain a constant valuation. The final straw was the wars that India fought with China and Pakistan and the shock of a major drought in 1965-1966. Each instance increased deficit spending, further accelerating the already severe inflation. Besides, the World Bank, largely funded by the US, fell short of its promised aid inflows to India.

The devaluation had its ramifications abroad as well; Oman, Qatar and the UAE- countries which used the Gulf Rupee issued by the RBI were forced to come up with their own currencies. With the state of affairs as they were in 1966, the devaluation was unavoidable. But, to some extent, this devaluation worked as India averted famine and bankruptcy. Also, India was quick to learn from its PL-480 mistake and neglect of agriculture. As a result, it imported 18,000 HYV seeds from Mexico and ushered a new stepping stone in the name of Green Revolution. And, today, India is not only self sufficient in agriculture but is a net exporter of agriculture produce. The precarious economic situation compelled India to take the widespread reforms in various fields, including economy.

Nationalization: Banks and General Insurance

On 19th July, 1969, Indira Gandhi led Congress government announced the nationalization of 14 commercial banks. This was done by the means of an ordinance known as Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Ordinance, which was later followed by an act through
which the nationalisation process was completed.

The 14 banks controlled 70 percent of the country’s deposits. In 1980, six more banks were nationalised. Till 1969, SBI was the only nationalized bank. Rest 361 banks were privately owned. They didn’t perform well from 1947-1955 and, with time, the situation even worsened. Two major reasons were responsible for the nationalisation of banks. First being the unpredictable manner of their functioning and second was their catering to large industries and businesses and ignoring the agriculture sector.

Nationalization can also be seen as a political move for Mrs. Gandhi. At this time Congress was going through internal crisis and nationalization served to widen the gap between the two factions of the party. This proved to be a political masterstroke for Indira Gandhi and it made the public rally behind her. Morarji Desai, who was finance minister then, remained adamant and refused to go ahead with the proposal. Flowever, still, the nationalization took place. This made Desai’s position in the cabinet untenable. Indira Gandhi, however, offered that he could stay on as deputy prime minister, but Desai declined (and it was later called a political masterstroke).

Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) came into existence on 19th January 1956 by the issuance of an ordinance. This was the first move to nationalize the insurance sector. Later, in 1972, General Insurance Business (Nationalization) Act was passed during the government of Indira Gandhi. With this, General Insurance Business was nationalized with effect from 1st January 1973. Till late 90’s, only two insurers
had the monopoly under the state LIC and General Insurance Corporation (GIC). Thereafter, the insurance sector was reopened to the private sector. Earlier, GIC had 4 subsidiary companies , but, in 2000 they have been delinked and had been set up as independent insurance companies. These are Oriental Insurance Company Limited, New India Assurance Company Limited, National Insurance Company Limited and United India Insurance Company.

Public Distribution System (PDS)

PDS is a food security system which was launched in India, in June 1947. It is now under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and it is managed jointly with the state governments. Under this scheme, the subsidized food and non-food items are distributed. Subsidized food items are distributed through Fair Price Shops/ Ration Shops. The food items include wheat, rice,sugar, etc. whereas non-food items include kerosene. PDS is maintained by Food Corporation of India (FCI).

FCI was established in 1964, when India faced critical shortages of food grains during the period of wars. The main objective to establish FCI was to check the shortage and black marketing of food grains. Later, PDS network expanded in 1970s and 1980s after Green Revolution. Initially, it addressed urban consumers only and faced criticism due to this urban biasness. Later, during 1980’s, it was extended to rural areas, and, by 1985 many efforts were made to convect it to the tribal blocks.

Till 1992, PDS was untargeted, but, in June 1992, it was converted to Revamped PDS (RPDS) and launched in 1775 blocks of the country. After 5 years, in June 1997, Targeted PDS (TPDS) was introduced.
PDS helped in stabilizing the food prices and ready availability of food grains. On the other hand, due to
inefficiency in the system, food grains get spoiled because of bad weather conditions and improper monitoring. In the present scenario, PDS has been put under Right to Food Act, 2013, which has now become a legal right.

Abolition of Privy Purse

Privy Purse was a payment made to royal families of princely states. After independence in 1947, 565 princely states existed. Most of these states signed Instruments of Accession with India or Pakistan on the eve of Independence. According to this, princely states only ceded communication, foreign relations and defense to India. Later, in 1949, these states were completely merged and new states were formed. In 1949, when revenues of these states were acquired by the government, the Indian administration decided to provide Privy Purses to the rulers of these states and their families, too. It was determined
by many factors including history of ruling dynasty, gun salutes and revenues of princely state.

Privileges given to the rulers were actually against the principles of equality and social and economic justice which were laid down in the Constitution of India. Many a times, Pandit Nehru also expressed his dissatisfaction over the matters of Privy Purses.

Later , in the year 1971, Indira Gandhi proposed the nation to abolish Privy Purses. The Constitutional (Twenty Sixth Amendment) Act, 1971 was, then, successfully passed and led to the abolition of Privy Purses. This has been mentioned in Article 361B of Indian Constitution.

The rationale behind the abolition was based on the requirement of the government to decrease the revenue deficit and, also, on equal rights for all citizens.

Garibi Hatao

‘Garibi Hatao Desh Bachao’ (Abolish Poverty, Save the Nation!) was the theme and slogan of Indira Gandhi during 1971 elections. The slogan along with various antipoverty slogan were well crafted to reach out directly to the poor and marginalized section of society, especially the unprivileged ones.

Indira’s political opponents campaigned on the slogan ‘Indira Hatao’ (Remove Indira) while Indira retooled it to “Garibi Hatao“ (Remove Poverty). This slogan had a considerable impact; Indira was, then looked upon by many as India’s saviour. Indira Gandhi faced a great deal of restrictions from the higher and dominant classes, because these dominant classes had been enjoying the fruits of all government measures for a very long time.

Other Major Developments

The Naxalites

During all these decades (50s, 60s and 70s) secessionist tendencies in North Eastern states were growing, including the major threat in the form of Naxalism, due to socioeconomic and administrative problems.

Indian agriculture was in poor condition due to exploitative British policies and was bad condition for farmers because they were exploited by the zamindars. The lands of the peasants were taken and handed over to the landlords and revenue collectors. The situation changed little after independence due to limited land reforms, powerful zamindars and lack of governance.

Violent social movement started in Naxalbari village of Bengal. This movement began in 1967, in Naxalbari district, as a left wing revolutionary peasant uprising backed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist and Leninist) groups under the leadership of Charu Mazumdar. The CPI (M-L) was born as the third Communist Party in India and the announcement of its birth was made by Kanu Sanyal.

Naxalbari village of Bengal

Naxalite movement was the result of prevailing social and economic issues which included failure of land reforms, anti-people actions of tea gardeners and jotedars. Regions where naxal movements took place reeled at alarming levels of poverty. Further, commercialization of agriculture led to widened economic disparity.

Naxals or Naxalites is a far left radical commitment which follows the Maoists ideology, to wage a violent struggle on behalf of landless labourers and tribal people against landlords. The term ‘Naxal’ was derived from a village in West Bengal, known as ‘Naxalbari’. Naxals follow the ideology of Communism and Maoism and are the members of Communist Party of India. Naxalites wanted to form a classless society where everyone is treated equally and are not exploited or deprived of any resources.

The prominent areas of their operation is the very heartland of India where forests and mineral resources are in abundance in states like Jharkhand , Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, eastern Maharashtra, Telangana and Western Odisha. These areas were already most neglected and coupled with exploitative colonial policies, failure of Land Reforms and negligence of governance, it further led to the deterioration of condition in these areas. Landlords frequently moved the courts to delay implementation of these reforms.

A key characteristic of this region is non-diversified economies that are solely primary sector based.
Agriculture, sometimes supplemented with mining or forestry, is the mainstay of the economy, which is often, unable to support rapid increases in population. The social structure of society in these areas could be cited as another reason for emergence of the Naxalite problem. These areas had stratified societies with caste and feudal divisions. Much of the area of these states have high indigenous tribal populations with caste and tribal divisions and violence associated with friction amongst these social
groups with a strict social hierarchical arrangement.

The Naxalites operate mostly in rural and adivasi area. Naxalites say that they represent the most oppressed class of India i.e., adivasis, dalits and poorest of the poor , who remain untouched by the development happening in India. These people mainly work as landless laborers. Naxalites believe that Indians are still to acquire freedom from hunger and poverty, and believe that rich classes control the means of production. The eventual aim of Naxalites is to overthrow the present democratic political system.

In late 1960s and early 1970s, Naxalite movement was very popular as it was led by principles and ideology of equality and to serve the marginalized sections of the society. Many intelligentsia groups also joined it in order to join the struggle for the rights of farmers but, with time, it started compromising on its principles and lost its vision. Over the period, the movement has spread to urban pockets as well and devised the urban perspective to revive the movement and garner the support for Naxal Movement. Till date, many men and women are joining this movement because of their strong belief in its cause. This led to the current existence of Communist Party of India (Moist) which was
formed in 2004, with the merger of Peoples War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Center of India (MCCI). This organization has been designated as terror organization in India under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.


Naxalite Peasant Movement

Originally, this movement began as a mass movement but, later, naxalites organised themselves as small groups with new military strategy and guerrilla warfare. The revolutionaries that emerged out of peasants, were trained up for armed struggle against the influential land owners. The Naxalite revolutionary programme which began with massive peasants participation for forcible occupation of
benami (illegal) lands held by the rich land owners, finally ended with the programme for elimination of their class enemies. These Naxalite revolutionaries got the political support of the CPI (M-L) leaders.

Initially the government considered it as law an order problem and tried to suppress the movement by use of force. Charu Mazumdar named 1970’s as ‘Decade of Liberation’ while the centre chose to make it ‘Decade of Repression’. In spite of government’s force and strict laws, Naxalites were able to spread their base in different states, also. These areas are generally resource rich and is, also, called as Red Corridor which includes the regions of eastern, central and southern parts of India and experiences considerable Naxalite-Maoist insurgency.

Naxalaism is still prevalent in many states of India which includes around 75 districts of around nine states. The Naxalite movement has come a long way since its birth and continues to persist in terms of spatial spread, intensity of violence, militarization and increased efforts to draw out mass support. It is no longer an agrarian driven movement. Land for the tiller is not the only war cry. Naxalites have improved in training and are increasingly taking recourse to high-end technology. They have become more aggressive and have resorted to attacking economic infrastructure. Their method of operation revolves around stealth, speed and surprise. They often target unprepared police establishments by overwhelming them in large numbers.

Naxalite Peasant Movement

Naxalism is spreading its base across the country. Naxals today are very well organized and have a very clear strategy of engaging in anti-state operations in various states. Naxal cadres are drawn from across class and caste barriers, with even educated unemployed youth joining them. Their source of finance is the local extortion economy and their support base is in areas which lie in the remote interiors. Mis-governance and poor socio-economic profile as well unstructured, top-down state responses are factors that facilitate their sustenance. Nexus with politicians is also a factor that provides impetus to the Naxal movement.

Recent reports of Union Home Ministry indicates decreasing number of attacks and fatalities on the security establishment . The three pronged approach consisting of developmental, police and strengthening grass root level politics have yielded positive results.

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

Communist groups emerged in different parts of India in the early 1920s. The inspiration to these groups lies in the Bolshevik Revolution of Russia. It advocated socialism for the rising problems of the nation. Later in mid 1930s the communists were associated with the Congress and worked within the party as Congress Socialist Party. However, the communists were not satisfied with the political independence of India achieved on 15th August, 1947 and said, that it was not true independence. In response, they encouraged violent uprisings in Telangana popularly called as Telangana Movement. Armed forces suppressed their power and they could not find popular support from the masses.

In 1951 general elections, they decided to fight the general elections and ceased the violent revolution. It emerged as largest opposition party by winning 16 seats. Mass support was concentrated in the core areas of functioning like Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Kerala. After 14 years of their political career, party witnessed a ideological clash amongst the members of the party because of two different ideologies of USSR and China. Followers of Soviet Union remained as CPI whereas Maoist ideology was united as CPI (M). Both the parties still exist in the present scenario.

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

The founder of CPI (Marxist-Leninist) was Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal. It was founded on 22 April, 1969 in Calcutta. The party followed the ideology of MarxismLeninism which advocates the development of a ‘socialiststate’. They followed revolutionary methods to achieve that Socialist State.

The rise of CPI (ML) has its seeds deep rooted in the incident of 25th May 1967 which took place in Naxalbari village of Darjeeling district of West Bengal. CPI (ML) didn’t approach electoral process to gain their rights as they lost the faith in government; rather, they advocated armed rebellion. The party was also receiving moral support and encouragement from China as well.

In 1971, CPI (ML) witnessed a split because of ideology mismatch between the leaders. One group was led by Satyanarayan Singh and other by the founder Charu Mazumdar. In 1972, Charu died in Police custody and this phase witnessed a series of splits. Still, more than 75 districts in around nine states are affected by Naxal Movements.

Bangladeshi Refugee Crisis

This was the aftermath of Bangladesh Genocide which began on 26th March 1971. This period witnessed worst human influx from ‘East Pakistan to India. According to official reports around 8-9 million migrants took shelter in 829 refugee camps. From the very beginning, India followed the Open Door Policy allowing anyone who wants to come in. The responsibility for the camps was vested with the center, not with the states.

The crisis was the outcome of brutal crackdown by Pakistan Army, ordering its men to kill and rape; huge massacres took place which ultimately triggered, East Pakistan to rush to India. West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, MP, UP and Bihar were flooded with refugees. Overcrowded camps led to sickness and death. India was, also, suffering through food crisis and, at that time, providing food and shelter to around 10 million refugees was not a small task.

Bangladeshi Refugee Crisis

By mid 1971, India hosted millions of refugees, while training them as Bengali guerrillas. The atrocities
committed by Pakistan army gave rise to the birth of Mukti Bahini; it was a potent guerrilla force and face of Bengali resistance. Around 20,000 volunteers were trained by the Indian army to use light arms. This led to a war between India and Pakistan for liberation of East Pakistan as Bangladesh, which started on 3rd December 1971 and ended on 16th December 1971, which is commemorated as ‘Vijay Diwas’. Throughout the crisis, Indira Gandhi acted with immense courage and caution. Atal Bihari Vajpayee called Indira as ‘Durga’. It was Indira finest time, a journey of her from ‘Goongi Gudiya’ to ‘Durga’ and ‘Empress of India’, so called popularly.

Indo-Pak War, 1971

The war of 1971 and subsequent liberation of Bangladesh is considered as a great politico-military and diplomatic victory for India. It occurred from 3rd December 1971 to 16th December 1971, until fall of Dhaka. It was just a 13 days war and 16 December is celebrated every year as Vijay Diwas.

The reasons for war dated back to the independence of India. In June 1947, Bengal Legislative Assembly voted to break away from India and on July 7, 1947 a referendum was decided in favor of Pakistan. Finally, on 15th August 1947, East Pakistan was a reality.

With the advent of 70’s, the internal crisis which was going on in Pakistan heated up. East and West Pakistan witnessed the split verdict in the general elections, where Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto won the elections in West Pakistan while the leader of Awami League led by Mujib-ur-Rehman, won from East Pakistan.

East Pakistan consisted of Bengali Population who felt that they were treated as second class citizens by their West Pakistan Counterparts. They looked upon them as ruling classes. In the light of this treatment, they started to protest against the dictators sitting in the West Pakistan. But the rulers in West Pakistan didn’t wish to accept it, nor were they ready for the federation proposed by the Awami League.

Indo-Pak War, 1971

Instead of trying to ‘ameliorate’ the situation and maintain peace, Pakistan army arrested Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman and created havoc in East Pakistan. People were terrified with the arrest of their leader, but decided to fight a decisive battle to get liberated from this suffocated environment of terror. Therefore, they started the struggle to liberate ‘Bangladesh’ from Pakistan. Pakistan blamed India of conspiracy between both ‘East Pakistan and West Pakistan’ to break it up. USA and China gave their supporting hands to Pakistan. Indira declared open support to East Pakistan and opened the eastern border.

Indira Gandhi tried hard to gather support of US and other western countries to solve the problem of East Pakistan and the related refugee crisis. Her efforts were overshadowed by the selfish national interests of the US, UK and other western powers. This crisis brought the Cold War theater in
South Asia in the form of two blocks i.e. Pakistan supported by US and India supported by USSR .

The United States stood with Pakistan by supporting it morally, politically, economically, and materially. The U.S. establishment perceived the impression that they needed Pakistan to help stop Soviet influence in the South Asia region. During the Cold War, Pakistan was a close formalally of the United States and, also, had close relations with the People’s Republic of China. US feared that an Indian
invasion of Pakistan would mean total Soviet domination of the region, and, that it would seriously undermine the global position of the United States and the regional position of America’s new tacticalally, China. Nixon, US President, encouraged Jordan and Iran to send military supplies to Pakistan while, also, encouraging China to increase its arms supplies to Pakistan, but all such supplies were very limited. The Nixon administration, also, ignored reports it received of the “genocidal” activities of the Pakistani military in East Pakistan.

In response to this, India signed a twenty year “Treaty of Peace and Friendship” with Soviet Union in August 1971. With this treaty, Soviet Union gave assurance of support to India, if it faced an attack in future by a third party . But the tensions between the two parts of Pakistan didn’t reduce, rather scaled up furiously. Also, till late November 1971, India was ready to wage the war and, finally, the full scale war broke out on 3rd December 1971 when Pakistani bombers attacked airfields all along the western border of India.

Strategy of War

On the evening of 3rd December 1971, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) launched surprise pre-emptive strikes on eleven airfields in north-western India, including Agra. This preemptive strike, known as Operation Chengiz Khan, was inspired by the success of Israeli Operation Focus in the Arab-lsraeli Six Day War. But, it met little success as number of planes was very less.

In an address to the nation on radio that same evening, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi held that the airstrikes were a declaration of war against India and the Indian Air Force responded with retaliatory air strikes. These air strikes were expanded to massive air strikes the next morning. This marked the official start of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the immediate mobilization of troops and launched a full-scale invasion of Pakistan.

This involved Indian forces in a massive coordinated air, sea, and land assaults on Pakistan from all fronts. The main Indian objective on the Eastern front was to capture Dacca and, on the western front, was to prevent Pakistan from stepping onto Indian soil. India, successfully, tackled the challenge of US in Bay of Bengal with USSR navy mandated under Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1971. India was able to manage the threat from US, UK and China with the involvement of USSR’s military power and her role in UNSC.

Simla Agreement,1972

Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation with the declaration of unilateral ceasefire by India. Later on 2nd July, 1972, Simla agreement was signed between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan. It was much more than a peace treaty to reverse the consequences of 1971 war (to withdraw troops and exchange of PoWs). It can be seen as a comprehensive blueprint for good neighbourly
relations between India and Pakistan. It was to establish durable peace, friendship and co-operation between two nations. Under this agreement, both countries undertook tosolemnly resolve the conflict and confrontation which both the nations have experienced in the past. This agreement contains a set of guiding principles which were mutually agreed upon, by both the nations. These principles emphasized:

  • Respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,
  • Non-interference in each other’s internal affairs,
  • Respect for eacha other ’s unity,
  • Political independence,
  • Sovereign equality ,
  • Peaceful resolution through bilateral approaches. Some important noteworthy principles include mutual commitment to the peaceful resolution of all issues through direct bilateral approaches; to build the foundations of a cooperative relationship with special focus on people to people contacts; to uphold the inviolability of the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, which is a most important CBM (Confidence Building Measure) between India and Pakistan, and a key to durable peace. India has, faithfully, observed the Simla Agreement in the conduct of its relations with Pakistan.
Analysis of Simla Agreement

Indian negotiators lacked the realisation that diplomatic treaties not backed by military power are worthless. They did not involve military leaders in security policy planning. Indira Gandhi proved herself a great war leader, but not as much as a statesman.

At Simla, India accepted Kashmir as a ‘dispute.’ We also gave equal status to Pakistan by permitting it to retain land occupied by it , in J&K; thus, sowing the seeds of Kargil like adventures in the future- all this when we held all the cards and Kashmir was not the cause of the 1971 War. Indira Gandhi got carried away by euphoria and trusted Bhutto. In the end, all we were left with, was an empty promise by Bhutto: “Aap hum per bharosa kijiye” you are requested to trust us and, later, suffered when Pakistan breached the accord by launching cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and Kargil War in 1999.

Indo Soviet Treaty of Peace

The treaty, which became a necessity for India, brought the Cold War theatre in South Asia region, also. On 9th August 1971 , Republic of India and Union of Soviet Socialists Republic signed an agreement in New Delhi , popularly called as Indo Soviet Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Both the countries signed a twenty year treaty of Peace and Friendship. With this treaty, Soviet Union assured India of its support if India faced any attack in future.

The relevance of the treaty can be judged only by the geopolitical and strategic context under which it was signed. Following the rising struggle for independence in the erstwhile East Pakistan and influx of millions of refugees from there to India, the possibility of war between New Delhi and Islamabad was looming large in Asia. Pakistan President Yahya Khan declared that if India tried to seize any part of East Pakistan, it would declared a full fledged war against it. It was backed by China and US. In this backdrop, India and USSR moved closer to ink the historic treaty to neutralize the effect of China- Pakistan-US axis.

There is no doubt that the treaty became the most important safeguard for India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, a strong deterrent to outside aggression, augmenting regional security and international peace. The treaty became a bulwark of regional security and world peace at large. Originally the treaty was signed for 20 years, but could have been extended for another 20 years in 1991. However, the August 1991 coup in Moscow changed the whole scenario and USSR got disintegrated. So, a new treaty was signed in 1993.

JP Movement

Jaya Prakash Narayan, popularly known as JP or ‘Loknayak’ was an eminent personality in India’s freedom movement. He is remembered for his active political and social activities post independence. JP stands as a reference point whenever national emergency and strength of democracy in India is discussed. Jaya Prakash was a Gandhian and staunch socialist. He analysed the socioeconomic situation in the country at that time.In his book ‘Why Socialism’, he advanced his arguments for adopting
socialism in India. He made an analysis of socio-economic conditions of India which is discussed below.
Inequality in the Society: According to him, the main cause of social distress is the rampant inequality
prevailing in the society-inequality of rank, of culture and of opportunity; a most disproportionately unequal distribution of the property and the resources needed for life. He criticized:

  • Unequal Distribution of Wealth
  • Accumulation and Concentration of Wealth

So, to bring socialism and address the anomalies in the society, JP launched a movement. Jaya Prakash Narayan Movement or ‘Bihar Movement’ was started by the studentsin Bihar in 1974, where Jaya Prakash provided perfect leadership to these students. This agitation was inspired by the students protest in Gujarat which took place early in the year 1974. Both Bihar and Gujarat were Congress
ruled states; so agitations had a visible effect on state politics as well as at the centre politics. In Gujarat, the protests started in January 1974 against increasing prices of food grains, cooking oil and other essential commodities and, also, against the rising corruption. Opposition parties joined the students protests. The protests spread widely which soon led to the imposition of President’s rule in the state and the protests demanded fresh elections. Under immense pressure of students protests and opposition parties, assembly elections were held in Gujarat in June 1975 , with the defeat of Congress.

Hearing the success stories of Gujarat students protests, students in Bihar also started the protests against rising prices, food scarcity, corruption, joblessness, etc. JP Narayan who gave up active politics and joined the social work was invited by the students of Bihar to lead the movement, on their behalf. The proposal was accepted by him but on the condition of peaceful protests which would not involve any violent activities and he, also, asked the students to carry forward the protests beyond the state. Therefore, a political flavor was mixed in the movement, with a national appeal. J P Narayan gave a call for ‘Sampooran Kranti’ (Total Revolution) against etc. the immense corruption, economic crisis, inflation,
etc. This movement, later, turned against Indira Gandhi’s government in the centre. The movement attracted wide support from different sections which included students, middle class, trader’3 and a section of intelligentsia as well. Marched towards the Parliament with a good number of people. This is said to be one of the largest political rallies ever held in the capital of India. He also received support from major opposition parties like Congress (0), Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Socialist Party, etc.

The fervor of movement, however, didn’t last long due to absence of organizational structure and it began to decline by the end of 1974. The students reversed and joined the classes again. The movement failed to attract rural and urban poor. Other reasons were also responsible for its decline as the methods used were extra-constitutional and undemocratic.

JP was, also, sometimes criticized about his ideas and about the politics of mass agitations. Indira Gandhi also believed that the movement was personal opposition to her. The movement far beyond peaceful demonstrations, processions and public rallies. The idea was to force the government to resign.

The final blow was given by Narayan on 25th June 1975 when he arranged gherao to ask for the resignation of Indira Gandhi. To bring the situation under control, Indira announced the proclamation of Emergency on the very next morning. This stunned the whole nation, and with this step, the movement was finally suppressed and all the important leaders were put behind the bars

National Emergency

A proclamation of National Emergency was issued on June 26th 1975 by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, on advice of Indira Gandhi. The authority for calling emergency was under Article 352 of the Indian Constitution.

Events that led to Emergency

Indira Gandhi emerged as an unparalleled leader after 1967 and didn’t look back. But this period also, witnessed many tensions internally in the form of tussle between the party members as well as externally in the form of rising corruption, economic and food crisis. The period also witnessed the tussle between judiciary and government. It was the era of one party dominance and opposition
thought that politics is becoming too personalized.

Government was not able to settle the grievances of the public. Rising unemployment, rampant corruption, low industrial growth and monsoon failure resulted in low productivity, food crisis,’ etc. The government also froze the salaries of employees in order to reduce expenditure. With all these prevailing conditions, there was a general dissatisfaction amongst the masses. This phase also witnessed the rise of Marxist activities as they didn’t believe in parliamentary politics. They used violent measures to overthrow the government.

Against these dissatisfactions, there emerged different protests among various groups including students, employees, farmers, intelligentsia, etc. Also, Indira Gandhi was facing the court trials in Allahabad High Court. Her election was declared null and void and Allahabad High Court barred her from contesting any election for the next six years. This created chaos in the party. Also, movement from Bihar was shifted to Delhi to overthrow the government. Jaya Prakash Narayan announced a nationwide Satyagraha for her resignation on 25th June 1975. The political mood of the country turned against the Congress

Course of Emergency

In order to get everything under control, Indira Gandhi advised the President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to
proclaim Emergency immediately . As a result, Emergency was imposed in India on 26th June 1975.

According to our Constitution, once an Emergency is declared all the powers are concentrated
in the hands of the Centre. This is against the idea of Co-operative Federalism. Also, the government could curtail the Fundamental Rights. Emergency is seen as an extra ordinary condition in which normal democratic politics cannot function. In addition to the common man, the judiciary and the media bore the maximum brunt of the excesses of the Emergency. The Constitution was subverted in the most ruthless manner possible. Indira Gandhi ensured that all proclamations and ordinances were not subjected to judicial review.

Indira Gandhi imposed all severe embargoes on media. The Fundamental Rights, that every Indian got from the Constitution, were brutally supressed. She amended the Representation of the People Act and two other laws in such a retrospective manner so as to ensure that the Supreme Court had no other option but to overturn the Allahabad High Court verdict. The fourth estate of democracy i.e., media went under censorship . Many newspapers didn’t have the courage to defy the censorship, except a few
like The Indian Express. Many opposition leaders were arrested in the period of Emergency.

Tussle with Judiciary

During crisis, judiciary is expected to act as a bulwark against the wrong done by the executive, but at the time of Emergency, judiciary disappointed the citizenry and the judgment of Supreme Court left a permanent scar on its reliability. Supreme Court judgment gave a fatal blow to freedom by holding the judgment that the Right to life does not survive during Emergency.

The Supreme Court to its shame accepted the Attorney General’s argument that if a policeman under orders of his superior was to shoot a person or even arrest a Supreme Court judge, it would be legal and no relief would be available. Certainly, this situation could not demand a peaceful opposition to Emergency to continue.

This led to so much distrust in judiciary, that parliament took the precaution of passing the 44th amendment to the Constitution (1978), which has taken away the powers of the President to suspend Article 21.

Forced Sterilization

During Emergency civil liberties were suspended. Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, had formulated a five point program to complement Mrs. Gandhi’s twenty point program. These five points included family planning, afforestation, abolition of dowry, slum clearance and removal of illiteracy. Of these, the focus was on family planning whereas Indira Gandhi’s 20 point program didn’t say a word about family planning. Reports say that police cordoned off the villages and virtually dragged the young men to surgery in some areas. Thus innocent. Indian masses in some locations were subjected to this outrageous exercise marked by vulgarity, cruelty and brutality.

The sterilizations that followed were carried out under so-called “compul-suasion,” (a combination of compulsion and persuasion), with a heavy emphasis on the former. Between June 25, 1975 and March 1977, an estimated 11 million men and women were sterilized with most of them against their will. Another 1 million women were inserted with lUDs.

The sterilizations were performed in assembly-line fashion, in hurry, and in unhygienic conditions. Also, no follow-up care was provided to them. Many men and women died from subsequent infections. Soon public anger over the forced sterilization technique resulted in riots all over the country. Indira Gandhi asked to halt the campaign thereafter in 1977. This can also be considered as one of the major reasons of her loss from the office of Prime Minister in 1977 general elections.

Jail Bharo Andolan

Jail bharo andolan, in common terms, is an instrument used to agitate/protest for a cause. Here the volunteers, willingly get arrested in order to fillup the jails. Mostly, these andolans (i.e., protests) are organized in a peaceful manner During JP movement mass protests were being led by JP Narayan against Mrs. Gandhi’s corrupt practices and autocratic government. He called for a satyagraha and rally asking for her resignation on 25th June 1975. To maintain the situation under control proclamation of Emergency took place on 26th June 1975, by president F.A. Ahmad on advice of Indira Gandhi..

This period witnessed a series of arrests. Fundamental Rights were suspended and any person opposing the government was either detained or arrested without a right to appeal. Many important leaders and media persons were arrested including JP Narayan, AB Vajpayee, LK Advani, George Fernandes, Morarji Desai, etc

Jail Bharo Andolan

Raj Narain Case

Raj Narain was a socialist who was defeated by Indira Gandhi in Rae Bareilly parliamentary constituency of UP in general election of 1971. Under ‘State of Uttar Pradesh Vs Raj Narain’ case, he filed a petition challenging the election of Indira Gandhi on the grounds that she misused the government machinery and resources to gain unfair advantage in her election campaign. On June 12th 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lai Sinha found her guilty of misuse of government machinery for election campaign. The court declared her election ‘null and void’ and barred her from contesting any election for 6 years.

Since, she was no more a MP, so she could not continue as Prime Minister as well. Therefore, Justice Sinha stayed the judgment for 20 days allowing the Congress party to elect a successor to the post of
the Prime Minister. Since she was the most dominating figure in the party, Congress party could not find her replacement.

Thereby, Mrs. Gandhi asked for ‘complete and absolute’ stay of judge by the court. The stay would permit her to vote in the Parliament in the legislative affairs as before. The court granted her the stay to allow some more time to find the successor for Prime Minister’s post. This made a huge hue and cry amongst opposition and, the opposition asked her to resign immediately. In response to this cry and buoyed by JP movement, State of Emergency was imposed to maintain the internal security of the nation. Threat to internal security was the rationale given by Mrs. Gandhi after imposition of National Emergency.

Analysis of Emergency

Emergency is the state imposed by the government/ruler of a nation under which the civil liberties, human rights, opposition to ruling party, freedom of press, constitutional rights, fundamental rights, freedom, justice and equality , come under threat and curbed. Indira Gandhi stunned the whole nation and the world by the proclamation of Emergency. It affected millions of lives and the entire country had become the storm center which grabbed the attention of whole world. With a single stroke of misuse of
constitutional provision, the largest democracy on the Earth came down to the level of dictatorship . Indian Democracy remained suspended for 21 months (1975-1977), in effect. Imposition of Emergency was the darkest phase of Indian democracy . Even Right to Life under Article 21 was suspended. It was also a dark period of judiciary which gave rise to distrust in Indian Judiciary. One of the major rights to be violated during Emergency was Habeas Corpus. With a sudden blow, ‘Azadi/freedom’, for which Indians had fought for decades, was clenched by Indira Gandhi’s government.

In May 1977, a commission of inquiry headed by justice J P Shah (retired judge of Supreme Court) was appointed by Janata government to inquire several aspects of allegations of abuse of authority, malpractices and actions taken in the wake of Emergency. The Shah Commission gave three reports on the basis of the testimonies of the witnesses. The report was accepted by the government. It was followed by the Constitutional (Forty Forth Amendment) Act, 1978 which improved constitutional provisions to check misuse of emergency provisions.

But, on the other hand, due to this darkest phase of Emergency , we came out stronger as a democracy.
Indians became more aware about their rights. Also, the era of coalition governments started after a few years. Few advantages are also attached with the coalition governments in that it suppresses the autocratic rule and monopoly of a single largest party. Emergency seems to have inculcated a consciousness of democracy amongst people.

In our times, the situation has changed, with the increased awareness in common people and emergence of social media. Politicians, today, know that if such an act is repeated, protests will be much more organized and unprecedented.

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