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

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What Eventually Emerged from the Emergency?

A Reply to Gyan Prakash

The reviewer of Gyan Prakash’s book Emergency Chronicles: Indira Gandhi and Democracy’s Turning Point replies to the author’s disagreements with his review, “A Road Map of Change in Democracy” (EPW, 22 June 2019).

In an interview during the Emergency, Indira Gandhi was asked what she thought would be her place in history. “I am not interested in my place in history,” she is said to have replied. Questions about history can be a trap, Gandhi no doubt surmised. On other occasions she did not hesitate to show her interest in the subject, and to remind her audience who her father and grandfather were, thereby providing one way to place her in history.

Similarly, how we choose to place in history the event that was “the Emergency” is significant, of course. More than 40 years have elapsed, and a vast literature exists on the subject. Furthermore, we have today a situation that in some respects parallels the Emergency, with abuses of power occurring not in secret as in 1975–77, but in a blaze of glory. The major media now censor themselves, and withhold or euphemise anti-government news. Meanwhile, government advertising, a crucial source of revenue for private media, are withheld from select news organs, as if the ruling party owned the government, just as during the Emergency. Such examples can be multiplied. Gandhi’s Emergency at least had the cover of law, and its suspension after 19 months restored the rights that had been abrogated. Soon thereafter the ruling party was turfed out of office. By contrast, today, there is a targeted suspension of rights that is informal but public, and may continue indefinitely, from the look of it, especially with the electoral verdict of May 2019.

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Updated On : 5th Aug, 2019
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