India Of My Dreams Essay By Indira Gandhi University

In India, "the Emergency" refers to a 21-month period from 1975 to 1977 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had a state of emergency declared across the country. Officially issued by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution because of the prevailing "internal disturbance", the Emergency was in effect from 25 June 1975 until its withdrawal on 21 March 1977. The order bestowed upon the Prime Minister the authority to rule by decree, allowing elections to be suspended and civil liberties to be curbed. For much of the Emergency, most of Gandhi's political opponents were imprisoned and the press was censored. Several other human rights violations were reported from the time, including a forced mass-sterilization campaign spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi, the Prime Minister's son. The Emergency is one of the most controversial periods of independent India's history.[1] Documents that have surfaced over the past few years indicate that Indira Gandhi had planned to impose the emergency only temporarily for some time until the violence that was erupting in the country had subsided.[2]

Prelude[edit]

Rise of Indira Gandhi[edit]

"Indira is India, India is Indira."

—Congress president D. K. Barooah, c. 1974[3]

Between 1967 and 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to obtain near-absolute control over the government and the Indian National Congress party, as well as a huge majority in Parliament. The first was achieved by concentrating the central government's power within the Prime Minister's Secretariat, rather than the Cabinet, whose elected members she saw as a threat and distrusted. For this she relied on her principal secretary, P. N. Haksar, a central figure in Indira's inner circle of advisors. Further, Haksar promoted the idea of a "committed bureaucracy" that required hitherto-impartial government officials to be "committed" to the ideology of the ruling party of the day.

Within the Congress, Indira ruthlessly outmanoeuvred her rivals, forcing the party to split in 1969—into the Congress (O) (comprising the old-guard known as the "Syndicate") and her Congress (R). A majority of the All-India Congress Committee and Congress MPs sided with the prime minister. Indira's party was of a different breed from the Congress of old, which had been a robust institution with traditions of internal democracy. In the Congress (R), on the other hand, members quickly realised that their progress within the ranks depended solely on their loyalty to Indira Gandhi and her family, and ostentatious displays of sycophancy became routine. In the coming years, Indira's influence was such that she could install hand-picked loyalists as chief ministers of states, rather than their being elected by the Congress legislative party.

Indira's ascent was backed by her charismatic appeal among the masses that was aided by her government's near-radical leftward turns. These included the July 1969 nationalisation of several major banks and the September 1970 abolition of the privy purse; these changes were often done suddenly, via ordinance, to the shock of her opponents. Subsequently, unlike the Syndicate and other opponents, Indira was seen as "standing for socialism in economics and secularism in matters of religion, as being pro-poor and for the development of the nation as a whole."[4] The prime minister was especially adored by the disadvantaged sections—the poor, Dalits, women and minorities.[citation needed] For them, she was their Indira Amma, a personification of Mother India.[citation needed]

In the 1971 general elections, the people rallied behind Indira's populist slogan of Garibi Hatao! (get rid of poverty!) to award her a huge majority (352 seats out of 518). "By the margin of its victory," historian Ramachandra Guha later wrote, Congress (R) came to be known as the real Congress, "requiring no qualifying suffix."[4] In December 1971, under her proactive war leadership, India routed arch-enemy Pakistan in a war that led to the independence of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. Awarded the Bharat Ratna the next month, she was at her greatest peak; for her biographer Inder Malhotra, "The Economist's description of her as the 'Empress of India' seemed apt." Even opposition leaders, who routinely accused her of being a dictator and of fostering a personality cult, referred to her as Durga, a Hindu goddess.[5][6][7]

Increasing government control of the judiciary[edit]

In the Golaknath case, the Supreme Court said that the Constitution could not be amended by Parliament if the changes affect basic issues such as fundamental rights. To nullify this judgement, Parliament dominated by the Indira Gandhi Congress, passed the 24th Amendment in 1971. Similarly, after the government lost a Supreme Court case for withdrawing the privy purse given to erstwhile princes, Parliament passed the 26th Amendment. This gave constitutional validity to the government's abolition of the privy purse and nullified the Supreme Court's order.

This judiciary–executive battle would continue in the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case, where the 24th Amendment was called into question. With a wafer-thin majority of 7 to 6, the bench of the Supreme Court restricted Parliament's amendment power by stating it could not be used to alter the "basic structure" of the Constitution. Subsequently, Prime Minister Gandhi made A. N. Ray—the senior most judge amongst those in the minority in Kesavananda Bharati—Chief Justice of India. Ray superseded three judges more senior to him—J. M. Shelat, K.S. Hegde and Grover—all members of the majority in Kesavananda Bharati. Indira Gandhi's tendency to control the judiciary met with severe criticism, both from the press and political opponents such as Jayaprakash Narayan ("JP").

Political and civic unrest[edit]

During 1973–75, political unrest against the Indira Gandhi government increased across the country. (This led some Congress party leaders to demand for a move towards a presidential system, with a more powerful directly elected executive.) The most significant of the initial such movement was the Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat, between December 1973 and March 1974. Student unrest against the state's education minister ultimately forced the central government to dissolve the state legislature, leading to the resignation of the chief minister, Chimanbhai Patel, and the imposition of President's rule. After the re-elections in June 1975, Gandhi's party was defeated by the Janata alliance, formed by parties opposed to the ruling Congress party. Meanwhile there were assassination attempts on public leaders as well as the assassination of the railway minister L.N.Mishra by a bomb. All of these indicated a growing law and order problem in the entire country, which Mrs. Gandhi's advisors warned her of for months.

In March–April 1974, a student agitation by the Bihar Chatra Sangharsh Samiti received the support of Gandhian socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, referred to as JP, against the Bihar government. In April 1974, in Patna, JP called for "total revolution," asking students, peasants, and labour unions to non-violently transform Indian society. He also demanded the dissolution of the state government, but this was not accepted by Centre. A month later, the railway-employees union, the largest union in the country, went on a nationwide railways strike. This strike was brutally suppressed by the Indira Gandhi government, which arrested thousands of employees and drove their families out of their quarters.[8]

Raj Narain verdict[edit]

See also: State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain

Raj Narain, who had been defeated in the 1971 parliamentary election by Indira Gandhi, lodged cases of election fraud and use of state machinery for election purposes against her in the Allahabad High Court. Shanti Bhushan fought the case for Narain. Indira Gandhi was also cross-examined in the High Court which was the first such instance for an Indian Prime Minister.[9]

On 12 June 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court found the prime minister guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign. The court declared her election null and void and unseated her from her seat in the Lok Sabha. The court also banned her from contesting any election for an additional six years. Serious charges such as bribing voters and election malpractices were dropped and she was held responsible for misusing government machinery, and found guilty on charges such as using the state police to build a dais, availing the services of a government officer, Yashpal Kapoor, during the elections before he had resigned from his position, and use of electricity from the state electricity department.[10]

Because the court unseated her on comparatively frivolous charges, while she was acquitted on more serious charges, The Times described it as "firing the Prime Minister for a traffic ticket".[citation needed] Her supporters organized mass pro-Indira demonstrations in the streets of Delhi close to the Prime Minister's residence.[11] The persistent efforts of Narain were praised worldwide as it took over four years for Justice Sinha to pass judgement against the prime minister.[citation needed]

Indira Gandhi challenged the High Court's decision in the Supreme Court. Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, on 24 June 1975, upheld the High Court judgement and ordered all privileges Gandhi received as an MP be stopped, and that she be debarred from voting. However, she was allowed to continue as Prime Minister pending the resolution of her appeal. JP Narayan and Morarji Desai called for daily anti-government protests. The next day, JP organised a large rally in Delhi, where he said that a police officer must reject the orders of government if the order is immoral and unethical as this was Mahatma Gandhi's motto during the freedom struggle. Such a statement was taken as a sign of inciting rebellion in the country. Later that day, Indira Gandhi requested a compliant President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to issue a proclamation of a state of emergency. Within three hours, the electricity to all major newspapers was cut and the political opposition arrested. The proposal was sent without discussion with the Union Cabinet, who only learnt of it and ratified it the next morning.[12][13]

Proclamation of the Emergency[edit]

The Government cited threats to national security, as a war with Pakistan had recently been concluded. Due to the war and additional challenges of drought and the 1973 oil crisis, the economy was in poor condition. The Government claimed that the strikes and protests had paralysed the government and hurt the economy of the country greatly. In the face of massive political opposition, desertion and disorder across the country and the party, Gandhi stuck to the advice of a few loyalists and her younger son Sanjay Gandhi, whose own power had grown considerably over the last few years to become an "extra-constitutional authority". Siddhartha Shankar Ray, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, proposed to the prime minister to impose an "internal emergency". He drafted a letter for the President to issue the proclamation on the basis of information Indira had received that "there is an imminent danger to the security of India being threatened by internal disturbances". He showed how democratic freedom could be suspended while remaining within the ambit of the Constitution.[14]

After a quick question regarding a procedural matter, President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared a state of internal emergency upon the prime minister's advice on the night of 25 June 1975, just a few minutes before the clock struck midnight.

As the constitution requires, Mrs. Gandhi advised and President Ahmed approved the continuation of Emergency over every six-month period until her decision to hold elections in 1977.

Administration[edit]

Indira Gandhi devised a '20-point' economic programme to increase agricultural and industrial production, improve public services and fight poverty and illiteracy, through "the discipline of the graveyard".[15] In addition to the official twenty points, Sanjay Gandhi declared his own five-point programme promoting literacy, family planning, tree planting, the eradication of casteism and the abolition of dowry. Later during the Emergency, the two projects merged into a twenty-five point programme.[16]

Arrests[edit]

Invoking article 352 of the Indian Constitution, Gandhi granted herself extraordinary powers and launched a massive crackdown on civil liberties and political opposition. The Government used police forces across the country to place thousands of protestors and strike leaders under preventive detention. Vijayaraje Scindia, Jayaprakash Narayan, Raj Narain, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Jivatram Kripalani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Arun Jaitley,[17] Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Gayatri Devi, the dowager queen of Jaipur[18] and other protest leaders were immediately arrested. Organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jamaat-e-Islami along with some political parties were banned. Numerous Communist leaders were arrested along with many others involved with their party. Congress leaders who dissented the Emergency declaration and amendment to the constitution such as Mohan Dharia and Chandra Shekhar resigned their government and party positions and were arrested and placed under detention,[19][20]

In Tamil Nadu, the M. Karunanidhi government was dissolved and the leaders of the DMK were incarcerated. In particular, Karunanidhi's son M. K. Stalin, was arrested under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. At least nine High Courts pronounced that even after the declaration of an emergency, a person could challenge his detention. The Supreme Court, now under the Indira Gandhi-appointed Chief Justice A. N. Ray, overruled all of them, upholding the state's plea for power to detain a person without the necessity of informing him of the grounds for his arrest, or to suspend his personal liberties, or to deprive him of his right to life, in an absolute manner (the habeas corpus case').[21][22] Many political workers who were not arrested in the first wave, went 'underground' continuing organising protests.[23]

Laws, human rights and elections[edit]

Elections for the Parliament and state governments were postponed. Gandhi and her parliamentary majorities could rewrite the nation's laws, since her Congress party had the required mandate to do so – a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. And when she felt the existing laws were 'too slow', she got the President to issue 'Ordinances' – a law-making power in times of urgency, invoked sparingly – completely bypassing the Parliament, allowing her to rule by decree. Also, she had little trouble amending the Constitution that exonerated her from any culpability in her election-fraud case, imposing President's Rule in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, where anti-Indira parties ruled (state legislatures were thereby dissolved and suspended indefinitely), and jailing thousands of opponents. The 42nd Amendment, which brought about extensive changes to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, is one of the lasting legacies of the Emergency. In the conclusion of his Making of India's Constitution, Justice Khanna writes:

If the Indian constitution is our heritage bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, no less are we, the people of India, the trustees and custodians of the values which pulsate within its provisions! A constitution is not a parchment of paper, it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, its only keepers are the people. Imbecility of men, history teaches us, always invites the impudence of power."[24]

A fallout of the Emergency era was the Supreme Court laid down that, although the Constitution is amenable to amendments (as abused by Indira Gandhi), changes that tinker with its basic structure[25] cannot be made by the Parliament. (see Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala)[26]

In the Rajan case, P. Rajan of the Regional Engineering College, Calicut, was arrested by the police in Kerala on 1 March 1976,[27] tortured in custody until he died and then his body was disposed of and was never recovered. The facts of this incident came out owing to a habeas corpus suit filed in the Kerala High Court.[28][29]

Forced sterilization[edit]

Main article: Compulsory sterilization § India

In September 1976, Sanjay Gandhi initiated a widespread compulsory sterilization programme to limit population growth. The exact extent of Sanjay Gandhi's role in the implementation of the programme is disputed, with some writers[30][31][32][33] holding Gandhi directly responsible for his authoritarianism, and other writers[34] blaming the officials who implemented the programme rather than Gandhi himself. Rukhsana Sultana was a socialite known for being one of Sanjay Gandhi's close associates and she gained a lot of notoriety in leading Sanjay Gandhi's sterilisation campaign in Muslim areas of old Delhi.[35][36][37] The campaign primarily involved getting males to undergo vasectomy. Quotas were set up that enthusiastic supporters and government officials worked hard to achieve. There were allegations of coercion of unwilling candidates too.[38] In 1976–1977, the programme led to 8.3 million sterilisations, most of them forced, up from 2.7 million the previous year. The bad publicity led every government since 1977 to stress that family planning is entirely voluntary.[39]

  • Kartar, a cobbler, was taken to a Block Development Officer (BDO) by six policemen, where he was asked how many children he had. He was forcefully taken for sterilisation in a jeep. En route, the police forced a man on the bicycle into the jeep because he was not sterilised. Kartar had an infection and pain because of the procedure and could not work for months.[40]
  • Shahu Ghalake, a peasant from Barsi in Maharashtra, was taken for sterilization. After mentioning that he was already sterilised, he was beaten. A sterilisation procedure was undertaken on him for a second time.[40]
  • Hawa Singh, a young widower, from Pipli was taken from the bus against his will and sterilised. The infection took his life.[40]
  • Harijan, a 70-year-old with no teeth and bad eyesight, was sterilized forcefully.[40]
  • Uttawar, a village 80 kilometers south of Delhi, woke up to the police loudspeakers at 03:00. Police gathered 400 men at the bus stop. In the process of finding more villagers, police broke into homes and looted. Total of 800 forced sterilisations were done.[40]
  • In Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, on 18 October 1976, police picked up 17 people, nine Hindu and eight Muslims out of which two were over 75 and two under 18. Hundreds of Hindus and Muslims surrounded the police station demanding to free captives. The police refused to release them and used tear gas shells. Crowd retaliated by throwing stones and to control the situation, the police fired on the crowd. 30 people died as a result.[40]

Criticism against the Government[edit]

Criticism and accusations of the Emergency-era may be grouped as:

  • Detention of people by police without charge or notification of families
  • Abuse and torture of detainees and political prisoners
  • Use of public and private media institutions, like the national television network Doordarshan, for government propaganda
  • During the Emergency, Sanjay Gandhi asked the popular singer Kishore Kumar to sing for a Congress party rally in Bombay, but he refused.[41] As a result, Information and broadcasting minister Vidya Charan Shukla put an unofficial ban on playing Kishore Kumar songs on state broadcasters All India Radio and Doordarshan from 4 May 1976 till the end of Emergency.[42][43]
  • Forced sterilization.
  • Destruction of the slum and low-income housing in the Turkmen Gate and Jama Masjid area of old Delhi.
  • Large-scale and illegal enactment of laws (including modifications to the Constitution).

The Emergency years were the biggest challenge to India's commitment to democracy, which proved vulnerable to the manipulation of powerful leaders and hegemonic Parliamentary majorities.

Resistance movements[edit]

[edit]

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was seen close to opposition leaders, and with its large organisational base was seen as having the potential of organising protests against the Government, was also banned.[44] Police clamped down on the organisation and thousands of its workers were imprisoned.[45] The RSS defied the ban and thousands participated in Satyagraha (peaceful protests) against the ban and against the curtailment of fundamental rights. Later, when there was no letup, the volunteers of the RSS formed underground movements for the restoration of democracy. Literature that was censored in the media was clandestinely published and distributed on a large scale and funds were collected for the movement. Networks were established between leaders of different political parties in the jail and outside for the co-ordination of the movement.[46]

The Economist described the movement as "the only non-left revolutionary force in the world". It said that the movement was "dominated by tens of thousands of RSS cadres, though more and more young recruits are coming". Talking about its objectives it said "its platform at the moment has only one plank: to bring democracy back to India".[47]

However, the claims of RSS leaders have been contested by some political observers like political scientist Professor DL Sheth, who is Honorary Senior Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. He goes on to say these organisations have never borne the brunt Indira's oppressive regime. He argues that the RSS projects itself as the champion of anti-Emergency struggle because it was a lifeline for them. This is the only thing they have to celebrate. [1] In an article which appeared in the Hindu daily in 2000, Dr. Subrahmanian Swamy, who is currently an MP in the Upper House of Indian Parliament, representing the BJP, and who is known to have waged a war against Indira's autocracy, had alleged that several Sangh leaders were hobnobbing with Indira. He added that the Sangh, at the instance of Vajpayee, even went farther to sign a peace accord with Indira Gandhi.[2]

Sikh opposition[edit]

With the leaders of all opposition parties and other outspoken critics of her government arrested and behind bars, the entire country was in a state of shock. Shortly after the declaration of the Emergency, the Sikh leadership convened meetings in Amritsar where they resolved to oppose the "fascist tendency of the Congress".[48] The first mass protest in the country, known as the "Campaign to Save Democracy" was organised by the Akali Dal and launched in Amritsar, 9 July. A statement to the press recalled the historic Sikh struggle for freedom under the Mughals, then under the British, and voiced concern that what had been fought for and achieved was being lost. The police were out in force for the demonstration and arrested the protestors, including the Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) leaders.

"The question before us is not whether Indira Gandhi should continue to be prime minister or not. The point is whether democracy in this country is to survive or not."[49]

According to Amnesty International, 140,000 people had been arrested without trial during the twenty months of Gandhi's Emergency. Jasjit Singh Grewal estimates that 40,000 of them came from India's two percent Sikh minority.[50]

Elections of 1977[edit]

Main article: Indian general election, 1977

On 18 January 1977, Gandhi called fresh elections for March and released all political prisoners though the Emergency officially ended on 23 March 1977. The opposition Janata movement's campaign warned Indians that the elections might be their last chance to choose between "democracy and dictatorship."

In the Lok Sabha elections, held in March, Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay both lost their Lok Sabha seats, as did all the Congress Candidates in Northern states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Many Congress Party loyalists deserted Mrs. Gandhi. The Congress was reduced to just 153 seats, 92 of which were from four of the southern states. The Janata Party's 298 seats and its allies' 47 seats (of a total 542) gave it a massive majority. Morarji Desai became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India.

Voters in the electorally largest state of Uttar Pradesh, historically a Congress stronghold, turned against Gandhi and her party failed to win a single seat in the state. Dhanagare says the structural reasons behind the discontent against the Government included the emergence of a strong and united opposition, disunity and weariness inside Congress, an effective underground opposition, and the ineffectiveness of Gandhi's control of the mass media, which had lost much credibility. The structural factors allowed voters to express their grievances, notably their resentment of the emergency and its authoritarian and repressive policies. One grievance often mentioned as the 'nasbandi' (vasectomy) campaign in rural areas. The middle classes also emphasised the curbing of freedom throughout the state and India.[51] Meanwhile, Congress hit an all-time low in West Bengal because of the poor discipline and factionalism among Congress activists as well as the numerous defections that weakened the party.[52] Opponents emphasised the issues of corruption in Congress and appealed to a deep desire by the voters for fresh leadership.[53]

The tribunal[edit]

The efforts of the Janata administration to get government officials and Congress politicians tried for Emergency-era abuses and crimes were largely unsuccessful due to a disorganised, over-complex and politically motivated process of litigation. The Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution of India, put in place shortly after the outset of the Emergency and which among other things prohibited judicial reviews of states of emergencies and actions taken during them, also likely played a role in this lack of success. Although special tribunals were organised and scores of senior Congress Party and government officials arrested and charged, including Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, police were unable to submit sufficient evidence for most cases, and only a few low-level officials were convicted of any abuses.

The people lost interest in the hearings owing to their continuous fumbling and complex nature, and the economic and social needs of the country grew more important to them.[citation needed]

Legacy[edit]

The Emergency lasted 21 months, and its legacy remains intensely controversial. A few days after the Emergency was imposed, the Bombay edition of The Times of India carried an obituary that read

D.E.M O'Cracy, beloved husband of T Ruth, loving father of L.I.Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on June 26.[54][55]

A few days later censorship was imposed on newspapers. The Delhi edition of the Indian Express on 28 June, carried a blank editorial, while the Financial Express reproduced in large type Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Where the mind is without fear".[56]

However, the Emergency also received support from several sections. It was endorsed by social reformer Vinoba Bhave (who called it Anushasan parva, a time for discipline), industrialist J. R. D. Tata, writer Khushwant Singh, and Indira Gandhi's close friend and Orissa Chief MinisterNandini Satpathy. However, Tata and Satpathy later regretted that they spoke in favour of the Emergency.[57][58] Others have argued that Gandhi's Twenty Point Programme increased agricultural production, manufacturing activity, exports and foreign reserves.[citation needed] Communal Hindu–Muslim riots, which had resurfaced in the 1960s and 1970s, also reduced in intensity.[citation needed]

In the book JP Movement and the Emergency, historian Bipan Chandra wrote, "Sanjay Gandhi and his cronies like Bansi Lal, Minister of Defence at the time, were keen on postponing elections and prolonging the emergency by several years ... In October–November 1976, an effort was made to change the basic civil libertarian structure of the Indian Constitution through the 42nd amendment to it. ... The most important changes were designed to strengthen the executive at the cost of the judiciary, and thus disturb the carefully crafted system of Constitutional checks and balance between the three organs of the government."[59]

In culture[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Writer Rahi Masoom Raza criticised the Emergency through his novel Qatra bi Aarzoo.[60]
  • Shashi Tharoor portrays the Emergency allegorically in his The Great Indian Novel(1989), describing it as "The Siege". He also authored a satirical play on the Emergency, Twenty-Two Months in the Life of a Dog, that was published in his The Five-Dollar Smile and Other Stories.
  • A Fine Balance and Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry take place during the Emergency and highlight many of the abuses that occurred during that period, largely through the lens of India's small but culturally influential Parsi minority.
  • Booker Prize-winner Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, has the protagonist, Saleem Sinai, in India during the Emergency. His home in a low income area, called the "magician's ghetto", is destroyed as part of the national beautification program. He is forcibly sterilised as part of the vasectomy program. The principal antagonist of the book is "the Widow" (a likeness that Indira Gandhi successfully sued Rushdie for). There was one line in the book that repeated an old Indian rumour that Indira Gandhi's son didn't like his mother because he suspected her of causing the death of his father. As this was a rumour; there was no substantiation to be found.[61]
  • India: A Wounded Civilization, a book by V S Naipaul is also oriented around Emergency.[62]
  • The Plunge An English novel by Sanjeev Tare is their own story told by four youths studying at Kalidas College in Nagpur. They tell the reader what they went through during those politically turbulent times.
  • The Malayalam novel Delhi Gadhakal (Tales from Delhi) by M. Mukundan highlights many abuses that occurred during the Emergency including forced sterilization of men and the destruction of houses and shops owned by Muslims in Turkmen Gate.
  • Brutus, You!, a book by Chanakya Sen is based on internal politics of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi during the period of Emergency.
  • Vasansi Jirnani, a play by Torit Mitra is inspired by Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden and effects of emergency.
  • The Tamil novel Marukkozhunthu Mangai (Girl with Fragrant Chinese Mugwort ) by Ra. Su. Nallaperumal which is based on the history of Pallavas & People's rising in Kanchi during 725 A.D explains how the widow Queen and the Princess kill the freedom of the people. Most of the incidents described in the novel resemble the emergency period. Even the name of the characters in the novel are similar to Mrs Gandhi and her family.
  • The Malayalam autobiographical diary by political activist R.C. Unnithan penned while the author was imprisoned as a political prisoner during emergency under MISA for sixteen months at Poojappura state prison in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, gives a personal account of his travails during the dark days of Indian democracy.
  • The Tamil Novel Karisal'' (Black Soil) by Ponneelan deals with the Social political changes during the period
  • The Tamil Novel Ashwamedam by Ramachandra Vaidhanath deals with the political movements during the period
  • In 2001's Life of Pi, Pi's father decides to sell the zoo and move his family to Canada, around the same time of the Emergency.

Film[edit]

  • Gulzar's Aandhi (1975) was banned, because the film was supposedly based on Indira Gandhi.[63]
  • Amrit Nahata's film Kissa Kursi Ka (1977) a bold spoof on the Emergency, where Shabana Azmi plays 'Janata' (the public) a mute, dumb protagonist, was subsequently banned and reportedly, all its prints were burned by Sanjay Gandhi and his associates at his Maruti factory in Gurgaon.[64]
  • Yamagola a 1977 Telugu film (Hindi re-make Lok Parlok) spoofs the emergency issues.
  • I. S. Johar's 1978 Bollywood Film Nasbandi is a sarcasm on the sterilization drive of the Government of India, where each one of the characters is trying to find sterilization cases. The film was banned after its release due to its portrayal of the Indira Gandhi government.
  • Although Satyajit Ray's 1980 film Hirak Rajar Deshe was a children's comedy, it was a satire on the Emergency.
  • The 1985 Malayalam filmYathra directed by Balu Mahendra has the human rights violations by the police during the Emergency as its main plotline.
  • 1988 Malayalam film Piravi is about a father searching for his son Rajan, who had been arrested by the police (and allegedly killed in custody).
  • The 2005 Hindi film Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is set against the backdrop of the Emergency. The film, directed by Sudhir Mishra, also tries to portray the growth of the Naxalite movement during the Emergency era. The movie tells the story of three youngsters in the 1970s, when India was undergoing massive social and political changes.
  • The 2012 Marathi film Shala discusses the issues related to the Emergency.
  • The critically acclaimed 2012 film adaptation, Life of Pi, uses the Emergency as the backdrop of which Pi's father decides to sell the zoo and move his family to Canada.
  • Midnight's Children, a 2012 adaptation of Rushdie's novel, created widespread controversy due to the negative portrayal of Indira Gandhi and other leaders. The film was not shown at the International Film Festival of India and was banned from further screening at the International Film Festival of Kerala where it was premièred in India.
  • Indu Sarkar, 2017 Hindi political thriller film about the emergency, directed by Madhur Bhandarkar.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^"India in 1975: Democracy in Eclipse", ND Palmer – Asian Survey, vol 16 no 5. Opening lines.
  2. ^Shankar Jha, Prem (25 June 2017). "Forty Two Years After the Emergency, India's Democracy is Once Again in Danger". The Wire. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  3. ^Guha, p. 467
  4. ^ abGuha, p. 439
  5. ^Malhotra, p. 141
  6. ^Hellmann-Rajanayagam, Dagmar (2013). "The Pioneers: Durga Amma, The Only Man In The Cabinet". In Derichs, Claudia; Thompson, Mark R. Dynasties and Female Political Leaders in Asia: Gender, Power and Pedigree. ISBN 978-3-643-90320-4. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  7. ^Puri, Balraj (1993). "Indian Muslims since Partition,". Economic and Political Weekly. 28 (40): 2141–2149. JSTOR 4400229. 
  8. ^Doshi, Vidhi (9 March 2017). "Indira Jaising: 'In India, you can't even dream of equal justice. Not at all'". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  9. ^"Justice Sinha, who set aside Indira Gandhi's election, dies at 87". The Indian Express. 22 March 2008. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  10. ^Kuldip Singh (1995-04-11). "OBITUARY: Morarji Desai". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  11. ^Katherine Frank (2001). Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi. HarperCollins. pp. 372–373. ISBN 0-00-255646-4. 
  12. ^"Indian Emergency of 1975-77". Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  13. ^"The Rise of Indira Gandhi". Library of Congress Country Studies. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  14. ^NAYAR, KULDIP (25 June 2000). Yes, Prime MinisterArchived 11 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. The Indian Express.
  15. ^Jaitely, Arun (5 November 2007) – "A tale of three Emergencies: real reason always different", The Indian Express
  16. ^Tarlo, Emma (2001). Unsettling memories : narratives of the emergency in Delhi. University of California Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-520-23122-8. Retrieved 28 June 2016. 
  17. ^Today, India. "Arun Jaitley: From Prison to Parliament". 
  18. ^Malgonkar, Manohar (1987). The Last Maharani of Gwalior: An Autobiography By Manohar Malgonkar. pp. 233, 242–244. ISBN 9780887066597. 
  19. ^Austin, Granville (1999). Working a Democratic Constitution - A History of the Indian Experience. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 320. ISBN 019565610-5. 
  20. ^Narasimha Rao, the Best Prime Minister? by Janak Raj Jai - 1996 - Page 101
  21. ^Pratap Bhanu Mehta, "The Rise of Judicial Sovereignty," Journal of Democracy (2007) 18#2 pp. 70–83
  22. ^The habeas corpus judgment was overturned by the 44th amendment to the Constitution
  23. ^NCERT Text Book For Political Science on Emergency (p.112)
  24. ^H. R. Khanna. Making of India's Constitution. Eastern Book Co, Lucknow, 1981. ISBN 978-81-7012-108-4. 
  25. ^V. Venkatesan, Revisiting a verdict Frontline (vol. 29 – Issue 01 :: 14–27 Jan 2012)
  26. ^"The case that saved Indian democracy". The Hindu (24 April 2013). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  27. ^PUCL Archives, Oct 1981, Rajan.
  28. ^Rediff.com, Report dated 26 June 2000.
  29. ^"Fresh probe in Rajan case sought ". The Hindu, 25 January 2011.
  30. ^Vinay Lal. "Indira Gandhi". Retrieved 1 August 2013.  
  31. ^Subodh Ghildiyal (29 December 2010). "Cong blames Sanjay Gandhi for Emergency 'excesses'". Retrieved 1 August 2013.  
  32. ^Kumkum Chadha (4 January 2011). "Sanjay's men and women". Retrieved 1 August 2013.  
  33. ^"Sanjay Gandhi worked in an authoritarian manner: Congress book". 28 December 2010. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  34. ^India: The Years of Indira Gandhi. Brill Academic Pub. 1988. 
  35. ^"Those were the days". 
  36. ^"Emergency Duty". 
  37. ^"THE NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES".

In A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth writes with affection of a placid India's first general election in 1951, and the egalitarian spirit it momentarily bestowed on an electorate deeply riven by class and caste: "the great washed and unwashed public, sceptical and gullible", but all "endowed with universal adult suffrage". India's 16th general election this month, held against a background of economic jolts and titanic corruption scandals, and tainted by the nastiest campaign yet, announces a new turbulent phase for the country – arguably, the most sinister since its independence from British rule in 1947. Back then, it would have been inconceivable that a figure such as Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist chief minister of Gujarat accused, along with his closest aides, of complicity in crimes ranging from an anti-Muslim pogrom in his state in 2002 to extrajudicial killings, and barred from entering the US, may occupy India's highest political office.

Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation inspired by the fascist movements of Europe, whose founder's belief that Nazi Germany had manifested "race pride at its highest" by purging the Jews is by no means unexceptional among the votaries of Hindutva, or "Hinduness". In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The outfit, traditionally dominated by upper-caste Hindus, has led many vicious assaults on minorities. A notorious executioner of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 crowed that he had slashed open with his sword the womb of a heavily pregnant woman and extracted her foetus. Modi himself described the relief camps housing tens of thousands of displaced Muslims as "child-breeding centres".

Such rhetoric has helped Modi sweep one election after another in Gujarat. A senior American diplomat described him, in cables disclosed by WikiLeaks, as an "insular, distrustful person" who "reigns by fear and intimidation"; his neo-Hindu devotees on Facebook and Twitter continue to render the air mephitic with hate and malice, populating the paranoid world of both have-nots and haves with fresh enemies – "terrorists", "jihadis", "Pakistani agents", "pseudo-secularists", "sickulars", "socialists" and "commies". Modi's own electoral strategy as prime ministerial candidate, however, has been more polished, despite his appeals, both dog-whistled and overt, to Hindu solidarity against menacing aliens and outsiders, such as the Italian-born leader of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, Bangladeshi "infiltrators" and those who eat the holy cow.

Modi exhorts his largely young supporters – more than two-thirds of India's population is under the age of 35 – to join a revolution that will destroy the corrupt old political order and uproot its moral and ideological foundations while buttressing the essential framework, the market economy, of a glorious New India. In an apparently ungovernable country, where many revere the author of Mein Kampf for his tremendous will to power and organisation, he has shrewdly deployed the idioms of management, national security and civilisational glory.

Boasting of his 56-inch chest, Modi has replaced Mahatma Gandhi, the icon of non-violence, with Vivekananda, the 19th-century Hindu revivalist who was obsessed with making Indians a "manly" nation. Vivekananda's garlanded statue or portrait is as ubiquitous in Modi's public appearances as his dandyish pastel waistcoats. But Modi is never less convincing than when he presents himself as a humble tea-vendor, the son-of-the-soil challenger to the Congress's haughty dynasts. His record as chief minister is predominantly distinguished by the transfer – through privatisation or outright gifts – of national resources to the country's biggest corporations. His closest allies – India's biggest businessmen – have accordingly enlisted their mainstream media outlets into the cult of Modi as decisive administrator; dissenting journalists have been removed or silenced.

Not long after India's first full-scale pogrom in 2002, leading corporate bosses, ranging from the suave Ratan Tata to Mukesh Ambani, the owner of a 27-storey residence, began to pave Modi's ascent to respectability and power. The stars of Bollywood fell (literally) at the feet of Modi. In recent months, liberal-minded columnists and journalists have joined their logrolling rightwing compatriots in certifying Modi as a "moderate" developmentalist. The Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati, who insists that he intellectually fathered India's economic reforms in 1991, and Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound, have volunteered passionate exonerations of the man they consider India's saviour.

Bhagwati, once a fervent supporter of outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh, has even publicly applied for an advisory position with Modi's government. It may be because the nearly double-digit economic growth of recent years that Ivy League economists like him – India's own version of Chile's Chicago Boys and Russia's Harvard Boys – instigated and championed turns out to have been based primarily on extraction of natural resources, cheap labour and foreign capital inflows rather than high productivity and innovation, or indeed the brick-and-mortar ventures that fuelled China's rise as a manufacturing powerhouse. "The bulk of India's aggregate growth," the World Bank's chief economist Kaushik Basu warns, "is occurring through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder." Thus, it has left largely undisturbed the country's shameful ratios – 43% of all Indian children below the age of five are undernourished, and 48% stunted; nearly half of Indian women of childbearing age are anaemic, and more than half of all Indians still defecate in the open.

Absurdly uneven and jobless economic growth has led to what Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze call "islands of California in a sea of sub-Saharan Africa". The failure to generate stable employment – 1m new jobs are required every month – for an increasingly urban and atomised population, or to allay the severe inequalities of opportunity as well as income, created, well before the recent economic setbacks, a large simmering reservoir of rage and frustration. Many Indians, neglected by the state, which spends less proportionately on health and education than Malawi, and spurned by private industry, which prefers cheap contract labour, invest their hopes in notions of free enterprise and individual initiative. However, old and new hierarchies of class, caste and education restrict most of them to the ranks of the unwashed. As the Wall Street Journal admitted, India is not "overflowing with Horatio Alger stories". Balram Halwai, the entrepreneur from rural India in Aravind Adiga's Man Booker-winning novel The White Tiger, who finds in murder and theft the quickest route to business success and self-confidence in the metropolis, and Mumbai's social-Darwinist slum-dwellers in Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers point to an intensified dialectic in India today: cruel exclusion and even more brutal self-empowerment.

Such extensive moral squalor may bewilder those who expected India to conform, however gradually and imperfectly, to a western ideal of liberal democracy and capitalism. But those scandalised by the lure of an indigenised fascism in the country billed as the "world's largest democracy" should know: this was not the work of a day, or of a few "extremists". It has been in the making for years. "Democracy in India," BR Ambedkar, the main framer of India's constitution, warned in the 1950s, "is only a top dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic." Ambedkar saw democracy in India as a promise of justice and dignity to the country's despised and impoverished millions, which could only be realised through intense political struggle. For more than two decades that possibility has faced a pincer movement: a form of global capitalism that can only enrich a small minority and a xenophobic nationalism that handily identifies fresh scapegoats for large-scale socio-economic failure and frustration.

In many ways, Modi and his rabble – tycoons, neo-Hindu techies, and outright fanatics – are perfect mascots for the changes that have transformed India since the early 1990s: the liberalisation of the country's economy, and the destruction by Modi's compatriots of the 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya. Long before the killings in Gujarat, Indian security forces enjoyed what amounted to a licence to kill, torture and rape in the border regions of Kashmir and the north-east; a similar infrastructure of repression was installed in central India after forest-dwelling tribal peoples revolted against the nexus of mining corporations and the state. The government's plan to spy on internet and phone connections makes the NSA's surveillance look highly responsible. Muslims have been imprisoned for years without trial on the flimsiest suspicion of "terrorism"; one of them, a Kashmiri, who had only circumstantial evidence against him, was rushed to the gallows last year, denied even the customary last meeting with his kin, in order to satisfy, as the supreme court put it, "the collective conscience of the people".

"People who were not born then," Robert Musil wrote in The Man Without Qualities of the period before another apparently abrupt collapse of liberal values, "will find it difficult to believe, but the fact is that even then time was moving faster than a cavalry camel … But in those days, no one knew what it was moving towards. Nor could anyone quite distinguish between what was above and what was below, between what was moving forward and what backward." One symptom of this widespread confusion in Musil's novel is the Viennese elite's weird ambivalence about the crimes of a brutal murderer called Moosbrugger. Certainly, figuring out what was above and what was below is harder for the parachuting foreign journalists who alighted upon a new idea of India as an economic "powerhouse" and the many "rising" Indians in a generation born after economic liberalisation in 1991, who are seduced by Modi's promise of the utopia of consumerism – one in which skyscrapers, expressways, bullet trains and shopping malls proliferate (and from which such eyesores as the poor are excluded).

People who were born before 1991, and did not know what time was moving towards, might be forgiven for feeling nostalgia for the simpler days of postcolonial idealism and hopefulness – those that Seth evokes in A Suitable Boy. Set in the 1950s, the novel brims with optimism about the world's most audacious experiment in democracy, endorsing the Nehruvian "idea of India" that seems flexible enough to accommodate formerly untouchable Hindus (Dalits) and Muslims as well as the middle-class intelligentsia. The novel's affable anglophone characters radiate the assumption that the sectarian passions that blighted India during its partition in 1947 will be defused, secular progress through science and reason will eventually manifest itself, and an enlightened leadership will usher a near-destitute people into active citizenship and economic prosperity.

India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, appears in the novel as an effective one-man buffer against Hindu chauvinism. "The thought of India as a Hindu state, with its minorities treated as second-class citizens, sickened him." In Nehru's own vision, grand projects such as big dams and factories would bring India's superstitious masses out of their benighted rural habitats and propel them into first-world affluence and rationality. The Harrow- and Cambridge-educated Indian leader had inherited from British colonials at least part of their civilising mission, turning it into a national project to catch up with the industrialised west. "I was eager and anxious," Nehru wrote of India, "to change her outlook and appearance and give her the garb of modernity." Even the "uninteresting" peasant, whose "limited outlook" induced in him a "feeling of overwhelming pity and a sense of ever-impending tragedy" was to be present at what he called India's "tryst with destiny".

That long attempt by India's ruling class to give the country the "garb of modernity" has produced, in its sixth decade, effects entirely unanticipated by Nehru or anyone else: intense politicisation and fierce contests for power together with violence, fragmentation and chaos, and a concomitant longing for authoritarian control. Modi's image as an exponent of discipline and order is built on both the successes and failures of the ancien regime. He offers top-down modernisation, but without modernity: bullet trains without the culture of criticism, managerial efficiency without the guarantee of equal rights. And this streamlined design for a new India immediately entices those well-off Indians who have long regarded democracy as a nuisance, recoiled from the destitute masses, and idolised technocratic, if despotic, "doers" like the first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.

But then the Nehruvian assumption that economic growth plotted and supervised by a wise technocracy would also bring about social change was also profoundly undemocratic and self-serving. Seth's novel, along with much anglophone literature, seems, in retrospect, to have uncritically reproduced the establishment ideology of English-speaking and overwhelmingly upper-caste Hindus who gained most from state-planned economic growth: the Indian middle class employed in the public sector, civil servants, scientists and monopolist industrialists. This ruling class's rhetoric of socialism disguised its nearly complete monopoly of power. As DR Nagaraj, one of postcolonial India's finest minds, pointed out, "the institutions of capitalism, science and technology were taken over by the upper castes". Even today, businessmen, bureaucrats, scientists, writers in English, academics, thinktankers, newspaper editors, columnists and TV anchors are disproportionately drawn from among the Hindu upper-castes. And, as Sen has often lamented, their "breathtakingly conservative" outlook is to be blamed for the meagre investment in health and education – essential requirements for an equitable society as well as sustained economic growth – that put India behind even disaster-prone China in human development indexes, and now makes it trail Bangladesh.

Dynastic politics froze the Congress party into a network of patronage, delaying the empowerment of the underprivileged Indians who routinely gave it landslide victories. Nehru may have thought of political power as a function of moral responsibility. But his insecure daughter, Indira Gandhi, consumed by Nixon-calibre paranoia, turned politics into a game of self-aggrandisement, arresting opposition leaders and suspending fundamental rights in 1975 during a nationwide "state of emergency". She supported Sikh fundamentalists in Punjab (who eventually turned against her) and rigged elections in Muslim-majority Kashmir. In the 1980s, the Congress party, facing a fragmenting voter base, cynically resorted to stoking Hindu nationalism. After Indira Gandhi's assassination by her bodyguards in 1984, Congress politicians led lynch mobs against Sikhs, killing more than 3,000 civilians. Three months later, her son Rajiv Gandhi won elections with a landslide. Then, in another eerie prefiguring of Modi's methods, Gandhi, a former pilot obsessed with computers, tried to combine technocratic rule with soft Hindutva.

The Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), a political offshoot of the RSS that Nehru had successfully banished into the political wilderness, turned out to be much better at this kind of thing. In 1990, its leader LK Advani rode a "chariot" (actually a rigged-up Toyota flatbed truck) across India in a Hindu supremacist campaign against the mosque in Ayodhya. The wildfire of anti-Muslim violence across the country reaped immediate electoral dividends. (In old photos, Modi appears atop the chariot as Advani's hawk-eyed understudy). Another BJP chieftain ventured to hoist the Indian tricolour in insurgent Kashmir. (Again, the bearded man photographed helping his doddery senior taunt curfew-bound Kashmiris turns out to be the young Modi.) Following a few more massacres, the BJP was in power in 1998, conducting nuclear tests and fast-tracking the programme of economic liberalisation started by the Congress after a severe financial crisis in 1991.

The Hindu nationalists had a ready consumer base for their blend of chauvinism and marketisation. With India's politics and economy reaching an impasse, which forced many of their relatives to emmigrate to the US, and the Congress facing decline, many powerful Indians were seeking fresh political representatives and a new self-legitimising ideology in the late 1980s and 90s. This quest was fulfilled by, first, both the post-cold war dogma of free markets and then an openly rightwing political party that was prepared to go further than the Congress in developing close relations with the US (and Israel, which, once shunned, is now India's second-biggest arms supplier after Russia). You can only marvel today at the swiftness with which the old illusions of an over-regulated economy were replaced by the fantasies of an unregulated one.

According to the new wisdom – new to India, if already worn out and discredited in Latin America – all governments needed to do was get out of the way of buoyant and autonomous entrepreneurs and stop subsidising the poor and the lazy (in a risible self-contradiction these Indian promoters of minimalist governance also clamoured for a big militarised state apparatus to fight and intimidate neighbours and stifle domestic insurgencies). The long complex experience of strong European as well as east Asian economies – active state intervention in markets and support to strategic industries, long periods of economic nationalism, investments in health and education – was elided in a new triumphalist global history of free markets. Its promise of instant and widespread affluence seemed to have been manufactured especially for gormless journalists and columnists. Still, in the last decade, neoliberalism became the common sense of many Indians who were merely aspiring as well as those who had already made it – the only elite ideology after Nehruvian nation-building to have achieved a high degree of pan-Indian consent, if not total hegemony. The old official rhetoric of egalitarian and shared futures gave way to the media's celebrations of private wealth-creation – embodied today by Ambani's 27-storey private residence in a city where a majority lives in slums – and a proliferation of Ayn Randian cliches about ambition, willpower and striving.

Nehru's programme of national self-strengthening had included, along with such ideals as secularism, socialism and non-alignment, a deep-rooted suspicion of American foreign policy and economic doctrines. In a stunning coup, India's postcolonial project was taken over, as Octavio Paz once wrote of the Mexican revolution, "by a capitalist class made in the image and likeness of US capitalism and dependent upon it". A new book by Anita Raghavan, The Billionaire's Apprentice: The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund, reveals how well-placed men such as Rajat Gupta, the investment banker recently convicted for insider trading in New York, expedited close links between American and Indian political and business leaders.

India's upper-caste elite transcended party lines in their impassioned courting of likely American partners. In 2008, an American diplomat in Delhi was given an exclusive preview by a Congress party factotum of two chests containing $25m in cash – money to bribe members of parliament into voting for a nuclear deal with the US. Visiting the White House later that year, Singh blurted out to George W Bush, probably resigned by then to being the most despised American president in history, that "the people of India love you deeply". In a conversation disclosed by WikiLeaks, Arun Jaitley, a senior leader of the BJP who is tipped to be finance minister in Modi's government, urged American diplomats in Delhi to see his party's anti-Muslim rhetoric as "opportunistic", a mere "talking point" and to take more seriously his own professional and emotional links with the US.

A transnational elite of rightwing Indians based in the US helped circulate an impression of an irresistibly "emerging giant" – the title of a book by Arvind Panagariya, a New-York-based economist and another aspiring adviser to Modi. Very quickly, the delusional notion that India was, as Foreign Affairs proclaimed on its cover in 2006, a "roaring capitalist success-story" assumed an extraordinary persuasive power. In India itself, a handful of corporate acquisitions – such as Tata's of Jaguar and Corus – stoked exorbitant fantasies of an imminent "Global Indian Takeover" (the title of a regular feature once in India's leading business daily, the Economic Times). Rent-seekers in a shadow intellectual economy – thinktank-sailors, bloggers and Twitterbots – as well as academics perched on corporate-endowed chairs recited the mantra of privatisation and deregulation in tune. Nostrums from the Reagan-Thatcher era – the primary source of ideological self-indoctrination for many Americanised Indians – about "labour flexibility" were endlessly regurgitated, even though a vast majority of the workforce in India – more than 90% – toils in the unorganised or "informal" sector. Bhagwati, for instance, hailed Bangladesh for its superb labour relations a few months before the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Dhaka; he also speculated that the poor "celebrate" inequality, and, with Marie Antoinette-ish serenity, advised malnourished families to consume "more milk and fruits". Confronted with the World Health Organisation's extensive evidence about malnutrition in India, Panagariya, ardent patron of the emerging giant, argued that Indian children are genetically underweight.

This pitiless American free-marketeering wasn't the only extraordinary mutation of Indian political and economic discourse. By 1993, when A Suitable Boy was published, the single-party democracy it describes had long been under siege from low-caste groups and a rising Hindu-nationalist middle class. (Sunil Khilnani's The Idea of India, the most eloquent defence and elaboration of India's foundational ideology, now seems another posthumous tribute to it.) India after Indira Gandhi increasingly failed to respect the Nehruvian elite's coordinates of progress and order. Indian democracy, it turned out, had seemed stable only because political participation was severely limited, and upper-caste Hindus effectively ran the country. The arrival of low-caste Hindus in mass politics in the 1980s, with their representatives demanding their own share of the spoils of power, put the first strains on the old patrimonial system. Upper-caste panic initially helped swell the ranks of the BJP, but even greater shifts caused by accelerating economic growth after 1991 have fragmented even relatively recent political formations based on caste and religion.

Rapid urbanisation and decline of agriculture created a large mass of the working poor exposed to ruthless exploitation in the unorganised sector. Connected to their homes in the hinterland through the flow of remittances, investment, culture and ideas, these migrants from rural areas were steadily politically awakened with the help of print literacy, electronic media, job mobility and, most importantly, mobile phones (subscribers grew from 45 million in 2002 to almost a billion in 2012). The Congress, though instrumentally social-welfarist while in power, failed to respond to this electorally consequential blurring of rural and urban borderlines, and the heightened desires for recognition and dignity as well as for rapid inclusion into global modernity. Even the BJP, which had fed on upper-caste paranoia, had been struggling under its ageing leaders to respond to an increasingly demanding mass of voters after its initial success in the 1990s, until Modi reinvented himself as a messiah of development, and quickly found enlarged constituencies – among haves as well as have-nots – for his blend of xenophobia and populism.

A wave of political disaffection has also deposited democratic social movements and dedicated individuals across the country. Groups both within and outside the government, such as those that successfully lobbied for the groundbreaking Right to Information Act, are outlining the possibilities of what John Keane calls "monitory democracy". India's many activist networks – for the rights of women, Dalits, peasants and indigenous communities – or issue-based campaigns, such as those against big dams and nuclear power plants, steer clear of timeworn ideas of national security, economic development, technocratic management, whether articulated by the Nehruvians or the neo-Hindus. In a major environment referendum last year, residents of small tribal hamlets in a remote part of eastern India voted to reject bauxite mining in their habitats. Growing demands across India for autonomy and bottom-up governance confirm that Modi is merely offering old – and soured – lassi in new bottles with his version of top-down modernisation.

Modi, however, has opportunely timed his attempt to occupy the commanding heights of the Indian state vacated by the Congress. The structural problems of India's globalised economy have dramatically slowed its growth since 2011, terminating the euphoria over the Global Indian Takeover. Corruption scandals involving the sale of billions of dollars' worth of national resources such as mines, forests, land, water and telecom spectrums have revealed that crony capitalism and rent-seeking were the real engines of India's economy. The beneficiaries of the phenomenon identified by Arundhati Roy as "gush-up" have soared into a transnational oligarchy, putting the bulk of their investments abroad and snapping up, together with Chinese and Russian plutocrats, real estate in London, New York and Singapore. Meanwhile, those made to wait unconscionably long for "trickle-down" – people with dramatically raised but mostly unfulfillable aspirations – have become vulnerable to demagogues promising national regeneration. It is this tiger of unfocused fury, spawned by global capitalism in the "underdeveloped" world, that Modi has sought to ride from Gujarat to New Delhi.

"Even in the darkest of times," Hannah Arendt once wrote, "we have the right to expect some illumination." The most prominent Indian institutions and individuals have rarely obliged, even as the darkness of the country's atrocity-rich borderlands moved into the heartland. Some of the most respected commentators, who are often eloquent in their defence of the right to free speech of famous writers, maintained a careful silence about the government's routine strangling of the internet and mobile networks in Kashmir. Even the liberal newspaper the Hindu prominently featured a journalist who retailed, as an investigation in Caravan revealed, false accusations of terrorism against innocent citizens. (The virtues of intelligence, courage and integrity are manifested more commonly in small periodicals such as Caravan and Economic and Political Weekly, or independent websites such as Kafila.org and Scroll.in.) The owners of the country's largest English-language newspaper, the Times of India, which has lurched from tedium to decadence within a few years, have innovated a revenue-stream called "paid news". Unctuously lobbing softballs at Modi, the prophets of electronic media seem, on other occasions, to have copied their paranoid inquisitorial style from Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Santosh Desai, one of contemporary India's most astute observers, correctly points out that the "intolerance that one sees from a large section of society is in some way a product of a 'televisionised' India. The pent-up feelings of resentment and entitlement have rushed out and get both tacit and explicit support from television."

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