Press During Emergency

Topics: India, Indira Gandhi, Indian National Congress Pages: 39 (12711 words) Published: July 28, 2013
The promulgation of Emergency and Press Censorship on June 26, 1975 constituted the darkest chapter in press history in free India. The period had its immediate and long term repercussions for the press. In fact, in the past decade, dark shades of press censorship were indeed hovering over the country. And more dangerously, new forms of have been invented in the changed scenario of globalisation. It was the censorship of 1975, which showed how the press at large became a tool in government hands. News was moulded purely to serve the party in power and its leader and the ministry of information and broadcasting became a virtual caricature of the Hitlerian German Information Minister Dr. Goebbels set up. It is true that in Delhi some papers and editors donned the mask of crusaders, only to later on become government tom-tommers. Here are some examples as the Shah Commission of Enquiry pointed out: The guidelines issued by the Chief Censor even exceeded the scope of the Rule 48 of the Defence and Internal Security of India Rules insofar as they prevented editors leaving editorial columns blank or filling them with quotations from great works of literature or from national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, or Rabindranath Tagore. The I&B ministry did not attempt to find out whether these guidelines were within the scope of Defence and Internal Security of India Rules or not. Parliament and court proceedings were also subject to censorship. Not merely publication of court judgments was censored, but directions were also given as to how judgments should be published. In practice, censorship was utilised for suppressing news unfavourable to the government, to play up news favourable to the government and to suppress news unfavourable to the supporters of the Congress Party. From the early 1970s onwards, wide-spread discontent shook India: large sections of the population came out in demonstrations against rising prises, fall in the supply of essential commodities, unemployment, and more importantly, corruption in government administration. These protests reached a crescendo in two states – Gujarat and Bihar – in 1974, with students leading the agitations and giving them an organized shape. The Gujarat state government ruled by Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party was forced to resign that year. In fresh elections to the Gujarat legislature in early June, 1975, the Congress was trounced and the opposition parties formed the new government in that state. Indira realized that she was losing her grip, and was threatened by a political crisis. The threat became imminent when on June 12, 1975, the Allahabad high court of the state of Uttar Pradesh (from where Indira Gandhi won in the parliamentary election in 1971), declared her election invalid on two corruption charges in the conduct of her poll campaign at that time. She was accused of violating the Indian law by first, using an officer of her government to make campaign arrangements, and secondly, by using other state officers to put up speaker’s stands in her constituency and supply electricity to her amplifying equipment. The high court judgment debarred her from holding the office of prime minister, but granted a stay of the order for 20 days – to allow her party to choose another leader (since the Congress party still enjoyed a majority in the Indian parliament). Instead of resigning - as she should have following the court judgment - Indira Gandhi flexed her muscles, preparing for a confrontation with her opponents. The Opposition parties had decided to hold rallies and demonstrations demanding her resignation. In order to preempt them, Indira Gandhi declared an Emergency on June 26 on the ground that `a grave emergency exists whereby the security of India is threatened by internal disturbances’. She did this in accordance with provisions under Part XVIII of the Indian Constitution which allow for the imposition of Emergency and suspension of fundamental rights...
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