Lesson from 1975

June 27, 2007

It was 32 years ago that Emergency (June 25, 1975- March 21, 1977) was proclaimed. It symbolised arrogance of power. Though Indira Gandhi declared in her first address to the nation thereafter that there was no need to panic, it was panic that the Emergency unleashed on thousands of people. To this date the question that remains unanswered is: how did our democratic order collapse so meekly? To paraphrase a quote, how did Indians, when asked to bend, crawl so easily? The lesson from 1975 is that democracy cannot succeed without constant vigil on the part of the citizenry.

BS Ramakrishna in The Hindu (Letters to the Editor), Friday, July 01, 2005

Related Link:
CHURUMURI POLL: Was Emergency good for us?


12 Responses to “Lesson from 1975”

  1. Mysorean Says:

    Absolutely. Democracy is defined by “by the people, for the people, of the people”. The problem is that this saying has been abused so much that people have forgotten the spirit it conveys!

  2. rk Says:

    true adi. the D-word has lost its meaning.

    i remember this bal thackeray cartoon showing Sanjay Gandhi with a pair of huge scissors walking like a giant with a frown behind a puny middle class guy who is running covering the obvious. that cartoon and the much famous abu’s cartoon (showing prez fakruddhin ahmed in the bathroom) tells the whole EMERGENCY STORY in a brilliant way!

  3. Democracy the way its practiced in India today is its bane. Add corruption and power as additives you have an explosive drink which was the phenomenon called emergency – Ms Gandhi was the first to practice…

    Due to media exposure no political party would like to use that option but they have back doors allways…

  4. Chitra Says:

    Democracy is a tricky thing! Very tricky!

    BTW, weren’t you on Bangalore Mirror for some hobbies of yours? They even had a pic of yours?

    PS: Thank you for your very kind words! I am flattered. Thanks for the blogroll too. Will reciprocate soon!

  5. rk Says:


    Welcome to RwB.

    To quote RnDr.Miroslav Kolar: “Democracy by definition means the government by people. That means that all the people should be able to have their say in one way another in everything that affects their lives. Dictionaries usually say that this right can either be exercised directly (by every member of a community having the possibility to enter personally, without mediators, his position on a particular issue into the decision making process – modern technology is able to provide this possibility for increasingly larger and larger communities), or through representatives (members of legislative bodies). This second arrangement is then called Representative Democracy.

    Representative democracy would be fine if the representatives would really make all their decisions only after consulting their constituencies. In the least, after having a clear idea about the views of their constituents on a particular issue, and trying to accommodate these views as best as possible (or postpone the decisions until an overwhelming majority of the constituents would be happy with them).

    Unfortunately, a vast majority of countries that call themselves Representative Democracies are not true democracies according to the above definition. Most of them are actually just Elected Dictatorships. People can vote usually only once every four or five years. They do not vote on any issues. They just elect their so called representatives who then until the next elections have no obligations by law and little incentives to base their decisions on individual issues on the wishes on their electorate. They hardly ever bother to consult them on their stands on various issues. Therefore, legislative bodies composed of such “representatives” act in a very dictatorial manner between the elections. The only country that is quite close to the definition of Democracy is Switzerland (more or less since 1291).”


    Yes, it was yours truly who was featured in the Bangalore Mirror earlier this month.

    You have a superb blog. Continue the great work.


  6. Prasanna Sastry Says:

    I think “danDam dashaguNam” the emergency came as a boon as per me wherein all the non congress parties came together to fight Mrs.Gandhi who had no opponent.

    This came in for a 2 party system which Dr.APJ has been talking of.

    This emegency resulted in a kind of National Integration and convergence of Media, common man, Employees Unions etc..

    Voters were more aware of the might of Ballot papers and how it could change the govts.

    Thus paved way for the 1st Non Cong Govt .

  7. pArijAta Says:

    RK, I agree with Dr.Miroslav totally. Democracy is a sham.

    Benevolent monarchy is more apt for our country. Again, that has its drawbacks, but IMO it is much, much better than democracy as it is practised in our country.

  8. One great thing to emerge out of the Emergency was a brave, vibrant, passionate, bold, fearless brand of journalism.

    I’m sure you’d agree with me on that …



  9. Pradeep Says:

    I just remember the anxious face of my father. He told me lots of big politicians have been arrested. I couldn’t understand much.

    The declaration of Emergency is recalled in many ways, one of them is as a pointer to the personality of Mrs Gandhi (as she was referred to.) Not all persons, when boxed into a corner, behave prudently and rationally. She was one who didn’t. She panicked and lost all sense of proportion when politically she was cornered in the days before June 25.

    Undoubtedly it’s a huge black mark on Indira Gandhi’s political career. None other than she was responsible for everything that happened during that time. For that she was penalised by the people, in a way she would never have forgotten.

    But on the other side, we also got to see how our country could benefit from discipline. Buses and trains ran on time, there was no shirking of work in government offices.

    Of course, the means which resulted in this was condemnible.

    The two years after that also exposed the lack of maturity of our political class. Nothing illustrated that better than the resounding manner in which she stormed back. Unbelievable it was.

    One thing I liked about Indira Gandhi was that she got the nation moving. She may have been corrupt, whatever, but the nation progressed. No comparisons with today, because that was a different era.

  10. bachodi Says:

    KurigaLu saar KurigaLu

  11. praneshachar Says:

    Democratic Republic has been redefined by indian politicians
    by the politicians for the politicians of the politicians
    emergency 1975 has brought the first non congress
    govt into power and so far the best govt I have come across at centre but short lived
    rest is history indiragandhi coming back to power till NDA came to power it was again congress so now it is anybodys guess and two party system should emerge otherwise it is not good for the country as small players can rule and ruin

  12. Aram Says:

    Prasanna’s comments corroborate my pet theory that even the vilest evil brings its own rewards. The law of unintended consequences

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