ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Emergency

A Watershed in India’s Politics

Emergency Chronicles: Indira Gandhi and Democracy’s Turning Point by Gyan Prakash, New Delhi: Penguin, 2018; pp 439, 400.


Although historians conceive their research as having a public use, large sections of the Indian public itself do not necessarily engage with their writing except perhaps to denounce one or other scholar every now and again.1 This remains true in an age when historical arguments are increasingly prominent in social movements and in electoral battles. Witness, for example, the extent to which assessments of the Congress party’s historical record figure in campaign speeches. Meanwhile, popular culture has taken a historical turn in Indian cinema, for example, if only to bring it closer to the genre of the mythological.

Whatever the future has in store, at present history in India circulates principally to mobilise consent and consolidate opposition against naysayers of one kind or another. If so, inconvenient truths are more liable to be bracketed than explored or weighed. Acknowledging the mechanisms of popular consent, and the limits revealed by these mechanisms, would therefore be important in critical history writing.

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Updated On : 31st May, 2019
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