Emergency 1975: Chilling Documents Which Encapsulate The Indian Emergency

 Remember, remember not the Fifth of November but our own gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see of no reason why this censored out season should ever be forgot. 

[25th June marks the 40th Anniversary of Indira Gandhi's declaration of an internal Emergency. What happened at Turkman Gate? How many countless lives were lost and destroyed by forced sterilisation? Who ultimately was the figurehead running India then?  The deeply censored and scarcely talked about event has been (largely) clouded under a veil. Until now.] 

The human mind breaks down vital information and events into simple associations. These are displayed most clearly when we examine how we treat the past, and events we might not have necessarily lived through. The Swastika stands as a symbol of World War II and Nazi oppression, while Mahatma Gandhi came to symbolise India’s freedom struggle through non-violence. Even for the most recent events such as 26/11, the most enduring symbol for anyone would remain that of Ajmal Kasab holding a gun in his hand as he walked through the CST station. What then, would be the symbol for Indian democracy’s darkest periods?

We set out on this quest to find the answer to this question, traversing through photos which came to define that period as well as the personal accounts of those who lived through the Emergency. While these are useful to paint a picture of the period, one of the most striking symbols illustrate the most dangerous tool used by -bureaucracy.

I. When Sterilisation Determined Your Survival

John Dayal, the veteran journalist whose comprehensive coverage has helped the film-makers of “When Trains Ran On Time” in understanding the Emergency and whose book helps one understand the brutality of Turkman Gate Massacre, released four documents from the period. These include a few official orders and an official press statement which point to the callousness of the administration and the brutal force with which the sterilisation program was enforced. It’s hard to imagine any present government, which would retain or even regain power after such inhuman programs and announcements.

Click on the Images to view the Entire document

A. Press Note On Special Camp in Kasturba Hospital which was inaugurated on December 26th, 1975


India, Indira Gandhi, Emergency 1975, Entrepreneurs



B.  Press Note On The Application Of Incentives To Sterilization


A Narration Of The ‘Benefits’ The Sterilisation Program Will Ensure




C. Office Order On Measures To Be Taken To Ensure That Officers Comply With Sterilization Laws




D. Request Of Sterilization Certificate Made To All Civil Line Municipal Corporation’s Eligible Employees



II. A Letter Which Hinted At The Impending Emergency 6 Months Down The Line

Siddharth Shankar Ray, the Chief Minister of West Bengal during the Emergency, is often called the main architect of the Emergency. He is said to have been the guiding force behind Indira Gandhi’s decisions leading upto the Emergency and had even drafted the letter to the President for the proclamation of the Emergency. The letter dated 8th January 1975 reveals that Gandhi might have been advised about five months before its ultimate proclamation.

India, Indira Gandhi, Emergency 1975,

Text reproduction below from Outlook

Dear Indira,

We just finished the meeting at Barooah’s. I wanted to tell you something very urgently but you are at some state dinner. I am therefore sending you this hurried note.
Nothing had been done—no list prepared, nothing whatsoever. Some people here do not realise the seriousness of the situation in the country. But Barooah and Rajni were helpful and Ghokale will have a draft ordinance ready by tonight. We have decided on the guidelines and we are meeting again at 9 am (ugh!) at Ghokale’s tomorrow so that he can come to you with something.

I told Om to do another thing and I would want you to order Bhramananda Reddy to do this immediately. (x) A secret telex message should go at once to every chief minister (Congress) directing him to prepare a list of all prominent Anand Marg and RSS members in his state. He need not be told of any ordinance but he should have this list ready. The idea is to swing into action immediately after the ordinance is ready–and it has to be ready in 24 hours time from now. I hope the President will be readily available to sign the ordinance. Also, a special cabinet meeting should be called either tomorrow evening or night or very early in the morning the day after (this is in case the ordinance takes more than 24 hours to be finalised).

At tomorrow’s meeting you insist on the ordinance being ready by the evening. Also please ring up Bhramananda Reddy tonight and tell him about ‘x’ prepage (sounds like a file noting!)
In case you want to talk to me I shall be at home—SR

III. A Wikileaks Expose Reveals The US Knew More About India Under The Emergency Than The Indian Public

A Wikileaks expose revealed the US cables dated 6th September 1976 which mention three words- ‘Sanjay Gandhi Shot’. A further scroll down reveals the text reproduced below, revealing that the United States had more knowledge about the state of India than the Indian public.

India, Indira Gandhi, Emergency 1975, Wikileaks, Sanjay Gandhi

Text Source: Wikileaks Image By Furqan Jawed

Words: Devang Pathak

Want to read more riveting stories from the period? Click on any of the images below to be directed to more from our Emergency Series. 

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