• Short Summary

    Two years have passed since India declared a State of Emergency. The step was taken?

  • Description

    Two years have passed since India declared a State of Emergency. The step was taken in an attempt to curb what the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi believed was a "deep and widespread conspiracy" among opposition leaders and members to "negate the very functioning of democracy". On the 25th of June, 1975, all the major opposition parties except the Communist Party announced the start fo a civil disobedience campaign to force Mrs Gandhi's resignation, and the Emergency was declared the following day.

    SYNOPSIS: In the months before June 1975, India had been beading towards a major crisis. Mrs Gandhi had suffered serious setbacks in Congress elections and had been disqualified by the High Court from membership of either House of Parliament, and any state legislature, for a period of six years. Her opponents had also been campaigning against her with some success on the grounds of alleged electoral malpractice and corruption. The state of emergency allowed her to ignore many of the earlier restrictions, and when selected areas of Delhi were cleared and levelled for further developments few property owners were prepared to risk disputing the legality of the action.

    Officials responsible for developing shopping areas and also improving the traffic flow in Delhi found few opponents to renewed clearing operations.

    The emergency also brought about strict press censorship. Mrs Gandhi and her administration soon found they were receiving bad foreign press and organised protests which alleged American and CIA interference in foreign reports. The move met little success, many overseas newspapers withdrew their correspondents and local publications found a variety of ways of indicating editorial preference without being closed down. Radio and television too were not allowed to release material critical of the administration or likely to bring it into contempt.

    Nearly 700 of Mrs Gandhi's political rivals were rounded up and imprisoned within hours of the emergency being declared, and public gatherings and demonstrations became illegal. Those who flouted the regulations were quickly removed and detained, with a minimum of ceremony.

    This man, however, was one of many innocent bystanders whose explanations fell on deaf ears. He had been recognised as a person whose sympathies were known to lie with an opposition party. This film of his detention was intercepted by government censors in Delhi and has only been released during the last few weeks.

    The emergency is now history, but most Indians still remember their bitter struggle against the oppressive policies of the former government.

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