What if Indira Gandhi had not declared emergency in India?

Justice Shah has said in his report: ‘There is no reason to think that if the democratic conventions were followed, the whole political upsurge would in the normal course have not subsided.’ But in her anxiety to continue in power, Mrs Gandhi brought about instead a situation which directly contributed to her continuance in power and also generated forces which sacrificed the interests of many to serve the ambitions of a few.

Nonetheless, had the Emergency not been imposed, the fallibility of the press, public servants and the judiciary would not have been proved. Newspapermen, in the words of L.K. Advani, began to crawl when they were asked to bend. The anxiety to survive at any cost became the key concern of public servants. Most of the judiciary was so afraid that it would reject habeas corpus petitions against detention without trial. The high priests at the SC, with the exception of Justice H.R. Khanna, upheld the Emergency and the suspension of fundamental rights.

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The imposition of the Emergency exposed the timidity of Indian society once again. Its moral hypocrisy was reinforced . There was no awareness of what was wrong, nor was there a desire to act according to what was right. The dividing line between right and wrong, moral and immoral, ceased to exist. And the nation is still paying for it.

Did the Emergency help the JP movement? Yes, in the sense that Mrs Gandhi’s authoritarian rule wiped out the Congress, as was proved in the polls of 1977. But Jayaprakash Narayan’s stir was independent of her functioning. His was a fight for a revival of values. At his first meeting in 1973 at Patna, two years before the Emergency, he gave a call to the youth to fight against all that was dishonest in society. He moved to Gujarat in 1974 to initiate the Nav Nirman agitation, and won in the assembly polls. Eventually, he would have taken up state after state and demolished the vested interests, whether they were in Indira Gandhi’s camp or that of others.

The JP movement did not provoke Indira Gandhi to impose the Emergency. Nor was the Emergency meant to suppress the JP’s growing popularity. Both were independent developments. What was common between the two was their failure. Both exposed the deficiencies of our society People did not have the courage to respond to the call to fight the fear, which Mrs Gandhi had created. Nor did they stand up when JP gave the call for ‘parivartan’ (change). People quickly defeated her when elections were held.

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