This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.
(5) The Second Emergency (1971 — 75)
Earlier, we talked about how the Congress party managed to convert a one month war into a five year emergency starting in 1962. However, Indira / India Gandhi realized she could do much better, turning a two week war with Pakistan into five years of Emergency. Well, clearly the plan was to have an emergency that stretched forever; it is just that she lost out in her 1977 gamble.
The war came and went in just 2 weeks of December. But the Emergency that was declared on December 3, 1971 continued. But India / Indira Gandhi decided to make us surrender our Fundamental Rights in Nov-Dec, 1974, almost three full years after Pakistan surrendered in Dec, 1971.
The purpose of this action in 1974 was of course to protect the nation during the war of 1971, just in case Pakistan managed to get their time machine working.
So these rights just had to go:
So, Article 14 of the Constitution which grants Right to Equality under the law … gone!
So, Article 22 of the Constitution which gives protection from arrest and detentions … gone!
And of course Article 21 of the Constitution which grants “Right to Life”, including the Right not to be executed without a trial … clean bowled!
And in case you forgot, the rights under Article 19 (Free speech) were automatically retired hurt to the pavilion the moment Emergency was declared in 1971. It saved them the trouble of having to issue a separate declaration removing the freedom of speech.
No equality under law, no protection from arrest and detention, no free speech and no right to a trial before getting executed by the state. Remember that this was the situation before the infamous Emergency of June 1975 began. This was the prevailing legal situation when India / Indira Gandhi ji realized that this was still too much freedom and it was time to crack the whip.
(6) The Third Emergency (1975 — 77)
This was supposed to be the final fall of the guillotine on freedom in India. As bad as the already existing emergency of 1971 was, Indira / India Gandhi decided to impose another even more stringent emergency in June 1975.
Things moved swiftly:
Remember the earlier order of 1974 destroying the protection of Articles 14, 21 and 22? That was too soft, because those orders applied only to individuals arrested under certain laws related to national security. The 1975 order was “unconditional”, i.e., the protections under Article 14, 21 and 22 were no longer available to anyone no matter which law he/she happened to have been arrested under.
And for good measure, the government decided to amend the already draconian MISA act to add a new Section 16-A, which said that the government no longer needed to even disclose the grounds on which someone has been arrested.
But even that was not enough. Remember the First Amendment of 1951 which created a new Ninth Schedule in the Constitution? The magic power of the Ninth Schedule created by Nehru was that any law placed in there would be immune from all judicial review. This family jewel that had been handed down from father to daughter was now pressed into service.
India / Indira Gandhi then moved the 39th Amendment (1975) to the Constitution. The MISA Act was now placed within the Ninth Schedule, making it immune to all legal challenge. In fact, the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” in the 39th Amendment makes for absolutely captivating reading.
That’s right : The President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Speaker are holders of “high offices” and because they hold “high offices”, they are not answerable to courts for anything done while in office in the exercise of their powers. Reads like a death warrant of democracy, doesn’t it?
The last few loopholes of freedom left in the country were plugged by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 which by far is the most infamous of all. It is generally well known that this Act gave Parliament unrestrained power to amend the Constitution on any whim or fancy. It also protected these Constitutional Amendments from being challenged in courts. But one of the lesser known and more amusing parts of the 42nd Amendment is the following :
Indeed, members of legislatures would no longer be disqualified by courts on the basis of holding “offices of profit”. Only Parliament can decide what is an “office of profit”. While taking over political power, no fascist organization ever forgets to make sure that their members are turning a profit at the expense of the people. It’s not just about power. It is also always about money.
This article has already gone on long enough, so I will briefly summarize my objectives here:
You know, court poet historians today will tell you that the Emergency of 1975 was some kind of a one-time mistake that the Congress and Indira Gandhi made. As if the Congress was driving down the highway of freedom, but suddenly made one wrong turn.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It was a planned and very systematic offensive that began right with the Preventive Detention Act of February 1950. The Emergency of June 1975 was merely the culmination of a twenty five year war effort. It became a Waterloo for them.
Further, many independent nations of Asia and Africa that were born in the wave of decolonization after World War 2 succumbed to fascist takeovers within a few decades. They were poor nations just like us. The Congress party thought they could do the same with India. To the eternal credit of the Indian people, we resisted successfully. That’s where our liberty came from.
When the British were building North Block in Lutyens’ Delhi back in the 1930s, they inscribed on a high doorway these words full of contempt:
“Liberty will not descend to a people. A people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.”
Don’t let any court poet historian tell you that our liberties descended from above, as a gift either from the British or from the Gandhis. We the people lifted ourselves up to our liberty that we have today.