PM Modi's remarks on Emergency bring back memories of civil rights suspension

PM Modi on Monday took a swipe at the Congress over the imposition of Emergency in 1975, calling it a "black spot" on democracy when the Constitution was "discarded".
PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi

New Delhi | Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took a swipe at the Congress over the imposition of Emergency in 1975, calling it a "black spot" on democracy when the Constitution was "discarded".

It brought back memories of the 21-month period when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered a crackdown on civil liberties.

Gandhi made the announcement of imposition of Emergency in a broadcast on All India Radio on late night on June 25, 1975, shortly after the Supreme Court granted a conditional stay to the Allahabad High Court verdict declaring her election to the Lok Sabha as null and void. The apex court asked Gandhi to stay away from parliamentary proceedings.

"The President has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about. I am sure you are all aware of the deep and widespread conspiracy, which has been brewing ever since I began to introduce certain progressive measures of benefit for the common man and woman in India," Gandhi said in her midnight address to the nation that set off a series of arrests of opposition leaders.

Gandhi had won the 1971 Lok Sabha elections handsomely, bagging 352 seats in the then 521-member Parliament. Her star was on the ascent having dealt a deadly blow to Pakistan by liberating Bangladesh in December 1971.

However, India was also in the throes of instability with the students' Navnirman agitation in Gujarat, Jayaprakash Narayan's (JP) movement in Bihar, the Railway strike spearheaded by George Fernandes in 1974, the Allahabad High Court judgment of June 12, 1975 declaring Gandhi's election to Lok Sabha from Rae Bareli as null and void.

The loss of the Congress in the Gujarat elections to a five-party coalition and the opposition rally at the Ram Lila Grounds in Delhi on June 26, 1975 further put Gandhi in a dock and was considered a trigger for imposition of Emergency.

JP also called for a nationwide movement to remove Gandhi as the prime minister amid calls from many within the Congress for her ouster.

Opposition leaders JP, L K Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Morarji Desai and scores of activists were put behind bars soon after the imposition of Emergency.

The 21-month period was also known for excesses such as forced mass sterlisations, censorship of the press, suspension of constitutional rights and centralisation of power.

According to Article 352 ,the President can proclaim an emergency if there is a grave threat to the security of the country, whether by war or external aggression or armed rebellion.

Before June 1975, a state of emergency was declared between October 1962 and January 1968 by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru during the India-China war.

The second emergency was declared by Gandhi on December 3, 1971 due to the India-Pakistan war which led to the creation of Bangladesh.

Opposition hits back at PM, claims 'undeclared emergency' existed under BJP's rule

New Delhi | Opposition leaders hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his "Emergency" remark on Monday, calling the 10 years of his government an "undeclared emergency".

Slamming Modi over his remarks, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the prime minister delivered a longer-than-usual customary address "but clearly, even after the moral and political defeat, the arrogance remains".

He said the country was hoping that Modi would say something on important issues.

"Narendra Modiji, you are giving advice to the opposition. You are reminding us of the 50-year-old Emergency, but have forgotten the last 10 years of undeclared emergency, which was ended by the people," Kharge said in a post on X.

"People have given their mandate against Modiji. Despite this, if he has become the Prime Minister, then he should work," he added.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the prime minister has shown no evidence that he has understood the true meaning of the people's verdict, "which saw him eking out only a narrow and dubious win in Varanasi".

"The non-biological PM who suffered a resounding personal, political and moral defeat in the Lok Sabha elections has just given his usual 'desh ke naam sandesh' outside the Parliament as the 18th Lok Sabha prepares to commence its tenure. He has said nothing new and as usual, resorted to diversion," Ramesh said on X.

"Let him be under no doubt: the INDIA Janbandhan will hold him to account for every minute. He stands brutally exposed," the Congress leader added.

Asked about Modi's remarks on Emergency, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav evaded a direct reply and said, "I thank the wise people of India, who voted to protect the Constitution. The people got tired waiting for achche din (good days). I hope the people will have happy days in the future."

Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mahua Moitra said the ruling BJP fell short of a majority in the recently-held Lok Sabha polls as the people of the country have realised that it is against the Constitution.

"From 303, the BJP is down to 240 seats. It is running a minority government. It kept saying '400 paar' but could not even get a simple majority.

"The only reason is that the people of the country have understood that there is the BJP on one side and the Constitution on the other. The people have chosen the Constitution," Moitra said.

She also alleged that there was an "undeclared emergency" in the country under the BJP's rule.

"I was not born during the first Emergency, but they (BJP) had been running an undeclared emergency for the last 10 years and the people of the country said it would not be allowed," the TMC leader said.

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Anil Desai said the Emergency period is long over and the government should focus on the present.

"The Emergency period has gone, but what is the situation today? No one likes recalling the Emergency.... I hope the dark days do not return," he said.

Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader N K Premachandran also said talking about the 1975 Emergency is "insignificant" at this juncture.

"It happened in 1975. Fifty years have lapsed. It is totally irrelevant. We are talking about things that are happening at present. It is insignificant talking about the 1975 Emergency at this juncture," he said.

Azad Samaj Party (Kanshi Ram) MP Chandrashekhar said the prime minister should follow his own advice.

"It would have been good if what he is saying reflected in his work. In this Parliament itself, more than 140 MPs were suspended and laws passed. Hope this government, which is not as popular, will respect the people's sentiment and not impose any law on them," he said.

"The Constitution is the foundation of this country," Chandrashekhar asserted.

In his customary remarks ahead of the commencement of the 18th Lok Sabha, Modi said the country needs a responsible opposition as people want substance, not slogans. He said people want debate, diligence and not disturbance in Parliament.

The prime minister said people expect good steps from the opposition, but it has been disappointing so far and expressed hope that it will fulfil its role and maintain decorum.

Taking a swipe at the Congress without naming it, Modi said the anniversary of Emergency falls on June 25 and termed it a black spot on India's parliamentary history, when the Constitution was discarded and the country turned into a prison.

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