In one stroke democracy was subverted, the Constitution was mutilated, Parliament became a rubber stamp, media and judiciary stood gagged
Emergency — Indian Democracy’s Darkest Hour; A Surya Prakash; Megh Nirghosh Media; Pp 220; Rs : Rs 295
Every year torrid and sweltering June brings back horrid memories of the darkest hour of the Indian democracy which struck the nation during the night hours on June 25. Even after 43 years the memories of chilling terror that came in its fold keep ringing bells in our minds, as if cautioning us against the terrible woes that can befall a nation when democracy is snuffed out.
Senior journalist A Surya Prakash, who is currently serving as chairman of the Prasar Bharati, in his book, The Emergency—Indian Democracy’s Darkest Hour, very lucidly recounts the horrors of the Emergency days bringing alive all incidents that brought shame and disgrace to the nation.
Drawing largely from his professional experience as a journalist with Indian Express during those days and the testimonies recorded in the Shah Commission report the book provides a telling insight into the happenings.
One of the most interesting chapters, The Drama in the Prime Minister’s House, gives shocking details about how the entire government structure was spiked and all senior functionaries were kept in the dark. It underlines glaringly that Union Home Minister Brahmananda Reddy had no role to play in the decision the Prime Minister was taking to impose an internal emergency on the ground that law and order had broken down. Instead of the Union Home Minister briefing the Prime Minister on law and order situation, he was being briefed by the Prime Minister!
The mockery of it was highlighted in the fact that the letter the Union Home Minister wrote to the President, along with the draft proclamation of the Emergency for the President’s assent, was “on a plain sheet of paper. It was not on a letterhead of the Home Minister of India”.
As Indira Gandhi had kept his entire Cabinet in the dark, K Balachandran, secretary to the President, said, the Prime Minister had informed the President that she had not consulted the Cabinet due to the shortage of time, so she quoted the Transaction of Business rules to bypass the Cabinet. Balanchandra told the President that it would “constitutionally be impermissible” for him to sign such a proclamation. He told the President that he must act on the advice of the council of Ministers. The letter from the Prime Minister made it clear that the Union Cabinet had not considered the issue. But RK Dhawan from the PMO visited the President and got the proclamation signed. “Next day a revised letter was received from the Prime Minister”. The unconstitutional conduct of President Fakharuddin Ali Ahmed has been starkly brought about in the book.