#Essential Reads: Emergency Chronicles looks at the turning point in Indian history

Editor | Politics

As the world once again confronts an eruption of authoritarianism, Gyan Prakash’s Emergency Chronicles takes us back to the moment of India’s independence to offer a comprehensive historical account of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency of 1975–77. Stripping away the myth that this was a sudden event brought on solely by the then prime minister’s desire to cling to power, it argues that the Emergency was as much Indira’s doing as it was the product of Indian democracy’s troubled relationship with popular politics, and a turning point in its history.

Prakash delves into the chronicles of the preceding years to reveal how the fine balance between state power and civil rights was upset by the unfulfilled promise of democratic transformation. He explains how growing unrest disturbed Indira’s regime, prompting her to turn to the law to suspend lawful rights, wounding the political system further and opening the door for caste politics and Hindu nationalism.

Historian Sunil Khilnani said: “A brilliant, gripping study of one of democratic India’s darkest moments, which also illuminates our current global crises of democracy.”

Sociologist and political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta told Arrackistan:  ‘‘This book is a unique contribution to the literature on Emergency. It deftly combines deeper reflections on the relationship between state power and democracy with beautifully written stories of the way in which the Emergency impinged on particular lives and bodies.”

Historian Yasmin Khan said: “In this lively and well-written book, Prakash makes the persuasive and important argument that the possibilities of suspending democracy are embedded in the legal and political frameworks of the Indian state, and that an awareness of this fact is essential to protecting and defending this democracy into the present day.”

About The Author:

Gyan Prakash is the Dayton-Stockton professor of history at Princeton University. He was a member of the influential Subaltern Studies Collective until its dissolution in 2006, and has been a recipient of the Guggenheim and the National Endowment of Humanities fellowships. He is the author of several books, including Bonded Histories (1990), Another Reason (1999) and the widely acclaimed Mumbai Fables (2010), which was adapted for the film Bombay Velvet (2015). Prakash lives in Princeton, New Jersey.



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