Today’s Undeclared Emergency Isn’t the Same as 1975 — It’s Worse

Ajoy Bose and John Dayal re-launch their 1977 book on the Emergency and the plight of ordinary people at the time.

2 min read

Video Editor: Mohd Irshad
Cameraperson: Mayank Chawla

“The story of the Emergency (of 1975), is a story of human rights – one of human rights violations.”

These words by senior journalist and writer, Ajoy Bose, at the re-launch of his book ‘For Reasons of State: Delhi Under Emergency’ – co-authored with veteran human rights activist John Dayal – on Tuesday, 26 June, set the tone for the evening’s panel discussion at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

The book, first written in 1977, has been published again by Penguin Random House India, with a fresh foreword by Mark Tully, former Bureau Chief of the BBC, New Delhi. At the heart of the book lies first-hand stories of the atrocities and human rights violations that were committed during the Indira Gandhi government-imposed Emergency – brought to life by John Dayal and Ajoy Bose, who were young staff writers at The Patriot, at the time.

Apart from the authors themselves, Tuesday’s panel comprised Yashwant Sinha, former Finance Minister of India; Sir William Mark Tully, and Fali S Nariman, veteran Indian jurist.

While each panelist had his own opinion on The Emergency and its aftermath, they all agreed on one thing: we must not ever forget The Emergency of 1975 – because “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Fali S Nariman especially pointed out that the most important thing to note about 1975 – something that is being repeated today – is the fragility of India’s institutions that have allowed them to be compromised. Yashwant Sinha, taking off from where Nariman left, asserted that “1975 is NOT the same as the situation today...” Why? Because today’s “undeclared Emergency”, under the present dispensation, is far more grave and dangerous.

Sinha ironically states that of course today’s media hasn’t been silenced, unlike 1975. And there Sinha pauses – “because today’s media is allowed to say anything it likes, so long as it is not critical of the ruling government at the Centre.”

In what other way is today’s “undeclared emergency” different from that of 1975? Sinha says – while Indira Gandhi’s motive behind the Emergency was purely political, today’s scenario is not just political – it is heavily communal.

In case it isn’t clear already: why is a 1977 book being re-published today?

Because, we must never forget the past.

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