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The Emergency A searing indictment of the suspension of democracy In June 1975 a state of Emergency was declared where civil liberties were suspended and the press muzzled In the dark days that followed Coomi Kapoor then a young journalist personally experienced the full fury of the establishment Meanwhile Indira Gandhi her son Sanjay and his coterie unleashed a reign of terror that saw forced sterilizations brutal evictions in the thousands and wanton imprisonment of many including Opposition leadersThis gripping eyewitness account vividly recreates the drama the horror as well as the heroism of a few during those nineteen months when democracy was derailed

10 thoughts on “The Emergency

  1. says:

    If – like I was – you are slightly hesitant to buy a book that declares itself a personal history of the Emergency since you’d rather read an impersonal one don’t be While Kapoor does detail her extended family’s predicament in the 19 turbulent months where India faced its biggest danger as a democracy including a full chapter on the escapades of her brother in law Subramanian Swamy the bulk of the book is devoted to providing an overview of the Emergency the immediate events that lead up to it the clamping down on any dissent the sinister 5 20 point programmes and their conseuences on India’s poorest detailed profiles of Indira Sanjay and the aftermath of the event It is fashionable to compare recent events that portend bad tidings – the everyday lynchings and the Governmental silences and justifications in response to them the draconian laws passed through the Money Bill route or promulgated through ordinances – to the Big E Kapoor’s book shows the folly of such easy references – the sheer scale of the repression the hundreds of thousands of arrests the horrific slum clearance and family planning programmes the suffocating censorship of every publication – all this is hopefully beyond the ambitions of the present dispensation and its actions so far pale in comparison At the same time it also highlights the importance of always being watchful for signs of an establishment that’s dismissive of dissent and of standing up to it – institutions can often crumble when presented with the iron fist of powerKapoor does an excellent job documenting the horrors of Emergency the failure of institutions to protect democracy the bureaucracy the Supreme Court large swathes of the media and the brave and ideologically varied political opposition to it Her tone is impersonal even when documenting personal struggles This is an indispensable read – your bookshelf will be the vigilant for it I can't not link to this brilliant profile of Subrmanian Swamy

  2. says:

    Mummy meri car gayee beta meri sarkar gayeeThis hilarious line captures the end of the EmergencyBut the 21 months of Emergency weren't hilarious at all The present generation needs to know what the Emergency really was And I can not write just a sentence or even a paragraph to summarise the Emergency We need to know in sufficient detail what the Emergency meant to the people of that time Coomi Kapoor has done a brilliant job in recounting the horrors of the Emergency In true journalistic fashion she has provided a vivid account of those dark days As the tittle says A personal history it IS a personal history Her husband Virendra Kapoor was arrested beaten up and jailed simply because he had stood his ground against Ambika Soni A minister in the UPA governmentthen a close associate of Sanjay Gandhi Her brother in law Subramanian Swamy then a Jana Sangh MP was hounded by the security forces Her family members faced constant threats Countless others faced similar fates She also recounts the horrors faced by prominent Opposition leaders The torture meted out to George Fernandes' associate Snehlata Reddy and his brother Lawrence was inhuman And it wasn't just these two people that were tortured Many others who the establishment read Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi deemed a threat were rounded up and imprisoned under MISA All in the name of maintaining law and order Ms Kapoor presents a picture of terror and gloom and it most probably was The evidence suggests so That is why the Congress lost in the elections after the Emergency was lifted despite facing a fractured Opposition The loss was the culmination of people's anger against Mrs Gandhi and her son Sanjay This book is a must read for everyone especially the people who were born in the early Eighties and afterwards

  3. says:

    Emergency even after 40 years continues to be a subject of much interest Even after all these years this 21 month period is probably one of the most interesting subjects to write on and read about Coomi Kapoor's work is the latest addition in the list of books discussing that dark period in Indian history These months of emergency that lasted from June 1975 Februaury 1977 have always intrigued me as well just like many Indians One of the reason was to know how Indians survived without basic fundamental rights and with heavy press censorship The day this emergency was lifted all the truth and the lies masueraded as truth spilled out before the world This book begins by shedding light on some of the events leading up to the emergency but only in brief It is clear that the focus is emergency But that background is helpful nevertheless And then gradually the book proceeds by discussing various major aspects of this time beginning with the famous or infamous Midnight Knock and the arrests of major political leaders and journalists Many of the chapters are divided into the people or the personalities involved for instance Sanjay Gandhi George Fernandes Ramnath Goenka Jayprakash Narayan the writer herself Subramanium Swamy and of course Mrs Gandhi These were some of the key figures and it was extremely enlightening to read about each one of them and importantly what drove them to do whatever it is that they did One of the part that I found interesting was when the writer wrote about her and her family's experiences during that time It was uite scary to learn the kind of harassment one was subjected to if you were even slightly suspected of being anti govtcongress mental as well as physical The book not only provoked fear and anger but also a bit of humour Especially in the chapter which discusses the role of eccentric Subramanium Swamy In the end the author also tells us in brief about the lives of major players post emergency Some of them I learned did not end up very well This is a fine read written in a simple language which will give you an idea what this fuss is all about and why it is often referred to as the darkest period in indian democracy I recommend this book to those who do not know anything about Indian Emergency and also to those who know something but want to know

  4. says:

    The Dark Age of Indian democracy 25th June 1975 21st March 1977 was a 21 month period the Emergency In the name of national security Mother and Son showed their Nepotism holding our nation at hostageThousands of arrests Censorship in news Family planning program Beautification projects vs slum clearance etc and above all a brillante Small Car projectIt’s a must read books every India Which covers the darkest history of Indian after British rule

  5. says:

    Freedom is in peril Defend it with all your might Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru “The Emergency – A personal history” by Coomi Kapoor is a riveting account of one of the darkest most controversial time in post independent India This was the time when Mrs Indira Gandhi the late Prime Minister of India imposed a rule which gave her the authority to suspend elections revoke civil liberties crush fundamental rights and censor the press There are various accounts and opinions about it where some people believe that it was needed and lead to some positive changes in the country On the other hand there are many reports of atrocities committed by the party workers and supporters of Emergency The author calls it a Personal history as her family both her husband and brother in law Subramanian Swamy were involved in the government’s so called crackdown on not just the leaders of opposition but also students reporters and anyone who was considered a threat Those who dared to raise their voice against the government were caught and jailed without any reprieve What is even interesting is the clout that Sanjay Gandhi her son heir apparent held on her Anyone who irked him or uestioned him was either threatened with dire conseuences or thrown in jail with made up charges Under the guise of protecting the countries interest many atrocities were committed and liberties taken by Sanjay Gandhi and his cronies Under his mother’s protection he launched the Five point program that focused on family planning tree plantation slum clearance the abolition of dowry and eradication of illiteracy On paper this sounded like a version of utopia which would have lead to an India of our dreams However the way the program was implemented was not only shocking but brutal Mass sterilization drives were carried out throughout the country with targets given to the ministers leading to forced sterilization of both the young old married and unmarried men Slums were demolished without any thought of the relocation of the people who were suddenly homeless and without any voice Even controversial was the Maruti factory established by him to make his dream car which was a complete disaster but made those involved very wealthyThe book starts with a complete timeline of events that followed the Emergency making it easy to understand and stay hooked to It paints a picture of terror with a desperate and suspicious leader leading the country to a black time eventually leading to her downfall For people like me who were born after this time and are interested in India’s political history a book like this is an eye opener and makes you wonder how did they even get away with it A must read for anyone who wants to learn about this time and the players involved in starting and ending of a black chapter in India’s political history

  6. says:

    We often hear the uote from Spiderman With great power comes great responsibility I would like to add so comes corruption of people and erosion of ideologies This book is all about that It tells us the story of how the Emergency rule had turned into a weapon to ruthlessly crush anyone and anybody who opposes to settle personal vendettas and to disregard all civil liberties It was truly the dark time of Indian DemocracyIt says on the title it's a personal history but the author has managed kept most chapters focused on what was going on during the emergency The flow of the story and the division of the chapters does not affect the narration of events rather makes it compelling reading The truth is complex Dictatorial tendencies do not surface overnight This description suits Indira Gandhi's and most dictatorial rulers around the world road to implementing Emergency Mass arrests were carried out overnight Opposition leaders activists and everyone who were thought to be against Indira Gandhi were rounded up and put in jails Jails were holding prisoners beyond their capacities It's mentioned in the book that during this period the jails held prisoners than the British times The media was muzzled and subjected to censorship Not even during the British rule the newspapers and media were gagged with this extent Anybody who wouldn't follow the government's directives 20 point programmes was harassed legally or politically Freedom of expression and civil liberties were suspended overnight The accounts of political prisoners are described at length The disregard for the health of major political leaders like JP Vajpayee Gayatri Devi Vijayraje Scindhia etc were vindictive nothing sort of gory The young activists were beaten to a pulp for information on the underground activities for the activists and political leaders Coomi Kapoor goes on to tell the personal story of how she her husband and her family bore the brunt of standing up to the authorities The chapter on Subramanian Swamy author's brother in law was particularly very interesting on how he defied the government The other interesting chapters were on JP and George Fernandes It saddened me to read about the plight of Snehlata Reddy and his Lawrence Fernandes brother of George Fernandes They were treated ruthlessly and cruelly The most horrific was how Sanjay Gandhi and his coterie went around rampantly implementing Sanjay's 5 point programme It was inhuman and almost extrajudicial The 5 point programme led to mass sterilization and displacement of poor slum dwellers It's beyond my imagination that how a person with meagre wages would have felt when hisher whole world was bulldozed under the guise of beautification of the city There is a particular event where residences around Jama Masjid were being bulldozed The people appealed Rukshana Sultana a buddy of Sanjay Gandhi to save their houses She in turn demanded that she will consider the plea only if they provide her with 300 cases of sterilization This cannot be termed anything but blackmail People were treated worse than cattle herds The chapter was aptly titled as 5 point terror Sanjay Gandhi has acted worse than the rulers of middle ages in his dictatorial streak that too when he did not hold a single public officeThe book ends on the aftermath of what transpired after the elections were announced I think this was one part where I was slightly disappointed It should have tabulated the number of people died affected etc There were a number of laws passed under the emergency those were reverted back after the formation of new government a list of those laws and amendments should have been a good source of information to understand political ramifications of the then situationI belong to a generation who has little idea of the Emergency imposed in India from Jun 25 1975 to Mar 21 1977 For me it was an eyeopener I did read a chapter in India after Gandhi by Guha about it but didn't surmise the gravity of the situation The word Emergency beings often discussed on social media But having read the book I believe the word has been used too loosely and carelessly Would Holocaust be used so loosely?SuggestionsPre reading India after Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha Post reading Interview of Coomi Kapoor with Newslaundary

  7. says:

    Curiosity and Goodreads recommendation compelled me to pick up this book And I am glad I read it This book is a well researched and well documented account of 19 months of horrors unleashed on the masses It was an eye opening journey Even though the title says it's A personal history but the book actually encompasses an overall view of the Emergency period The timeline of book covers everything of how things came to such a point what happened during emergency and how it came to an end The book contains shocking revelations about the atrocities done by the then Congress government how constitutional rights human rights and principles of democracy were disregarded to serve the interests of privileged few The efforts writer made in the research are commendable Although being on such a subject the writing style was engaging

  8. says:

    45 Stars I always round up ;TLDR; An excellent read Highly recommendedThe book in itself is a majestical work But I find that the rating is comparatively low on Goodreads 387 Might not be such a bad rating once we take into account Goodreads' official legend but I wonder if I am supposed to see the lack of something that made the 125 odd members give it low ratings on an average After all I am a relatively young reader But I have resisted the temptation to bump off a starNow to the book As far as I could see there was no book that focused on the Emergency and Emergency alone that was written by a non politician May be I didn't look hard enough The book is well paced and sometimes is indistinguishable from a work of fiction with some chapters reading like they are out of a Stephen King's book This book puts a lot of things and people into perspective for the ignorant me It disillusioned me I saw with factual evidence how easy it was for a democracy to become a dictatorship The picture of democracy is never rosy as you've been led to believeThe book starts with a personal account of how the emergency came into being from the author's vantage point The first few chapters overwhelmingly focus on the story from that point but it is justified since the book says 'A personal history' right on the cover However the personal focus is by no means a handicap If anything it potrays the ground reality in a very lucid and poignant manner We see heroes and cowards often on the same page The book is full of dates too but my eyes glazed over the dates since I am not doing a scholarly analysis The fact that a politician was able to or less convince the PM of the necessity of imposition of internal emergency is chilling The stories of blank Warrant slips and terrorized ADMs reminds us that with sufficient clout and pressure it is trivial for a politician to browbeat any public servant into doing unconstitutional things From the very beginning it is clear what eventually brought Mrs Gandhi down She couldn't see beyond the sycophants The muffling of media subseuent buckling of major Newspapers including Hindustan Times and The Hindu becoming the government's puppets and Indian Express Which the author worked for putting up a gallant fight is damning evidence to the power of media The fact that there was no one in the Congress who defied the mighty Mrs Indira is almost sad If there were people they didn't do a very good jobThe author has resisted rather commendably from inflicting arguments to strike Mrs Gandhi's character She rather lays out the facts and lets the readers take their own decisions The author's husband's initial willingness to take on the govt but later after the demoralisation at the prison his inability to fight as vigorously makes us think not without a shudder what we would have done if we had been in that positionSubramanian Swamy has been given a separate chapter and rightly so In the chapter Enigmatic Empress the author tries to explore the reason as to why Indira was doing the things she did I am resisting myself from making any comments on the issue since I am neither a professional nor a historian who can draw objective conclusions However the mistreatment of thousands of leaders the abuse of MISA and DIR COFEPOSA don't really help Mrs Gandhi's image The fact that personal scores were settled with MISA is absolutely terrifying The author also gives graphic details in the chapter on Sanjay of the Sterilization Campaign and the beautification drives And the Maruti plan is a slap on the face for bureacracy Sanjay Gandhi is probably the worst politician I have read about I am not giving an outline of the Emergency story because the it deserves to be read exactly as the author intended However it does give rise to some important uestionsWhy did so many people acuiesce to the imposition of emergency?Why didn't and couldn't the bureaucrats convince the PM against this decision?How couldn't Mrs Indira see Sanjay for what he was?Why would the officials co operate? The author freuently mentions that the prisoners thought the Britishers were better in the treatment of political prisionersWhy did people co operate with the govt on jailing their fellow citizens for no apparent crime?After all the atrocities of Sterilization however did Congress manage to win a 150 seats?Why did people think it was a good idea to Vote Mrs Gandhi into constitution again?Why was nawin chawla never jailed and worst of all why did he even make chief election commissioner?You came to the end Here is a fun fact instead of a cookie Did you know that we gave Bharat Ratna to a man who advocated drinking his own urine as an alternative to those who could not afford medical care?

  9. says:

    A must read and a thought provoking personal account of how the grave Indian Emergency of 1975 murdered Democracy in its own Temple India the Largest Democracy of the WorldThe book shows How life was during those horrific twenty one months when civil liberties were curtailed the Press was censored any sort of Opposition was crushed put behind bars and charged under non bailable draconian rules institutions of democracy suspended and the Constitution was bent accordingly to please the Indira Gandhi Sanjay Gandhi and their coterie a bunch of sycophants It shows how an 'emotional blind spot' of the Iron Lady of India made Indian citizens face the horrifying Emergency Economic slowdown Mass Sterilizations and Slum Clearance Many theories advance this or that event or this or that person as the cause of Emergency Kapoor shares with us her most illuminating insight “Indira Gandhiwas listening to the dictates of her heart when she imposed Emergency — a heart filled with fear suspicion and paranoia” The framework for Emergency was made ready by the evil genius Siddhartha Shankar Ray a close associate of their coterie nearly six months before the event but the Czarina needed no outside Rasputin Her son and heir apparent Sanjay amply filled those robes The book offers compelling evidence in support of these assertionsFurther The book also shows that amid all the ruthless crushing of Opposition and draconian rules there were underground voices and people like JP Swamy Lok Sangharsha Samiti RSS who continued to struggle faced hardships along with their families lived endless nights in ill maintained stinky jail cells but Never Gave Up This attitude helped them in gaining people's support uniting against a common enemy and overthrowing of the Congress government in the upcoming elections of 1977 Three chapters in this fine volume stand out considerably They deal with the arrest and imprisonment of her husband the journalist Virendra Kapoor; the political thriller of the escape return and further escape of her brother in law Subramanian Swamy then a Jan Sangh member of the Rajya Sabha; and the ordeal of that journal of courage The Indian Express and its owner Ramnath Goenka RMG an autocratic but fierce champion of freedom in the face of impossible odds all based on her personal knowledge Overall the book is a personal history of Coomi Kapoor about the darkest 21 months of Independent India

  10. says:

    Written by a journalist from The Indian Express with Pro BJP leanings and somewhat lop sided this book still serves as a gateway to the dark and desperate times of 19 months long Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi In my opinion writers like Kuldip Nayar and Bipan Chandra have written their accounts of this period as well and are probably as objective as their other works I haven't read them though this very personal account cannot be dismissed just because of the ideological stand of the author For someone like me who was born after this whole episode was just over 1982 this book was full of surprising revelations and connections to today's political scene that I found this book revelatory as well as educational Highly recommended

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