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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 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 leaders. This 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.


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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 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 leaders. This 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.

30 review for The Emergency: A Personal History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Siddharth

    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 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 consequences 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 power. Kapoor 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 more vigilant for it. * I can't not link to this brilliant profile of Subrmanian Swamy: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reporta...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sailen Dutta

    "Mummy meri car gayee, beta meri sarkar gayee." This hilarious line captures the end of the Emergency. But 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 journalist "Mummy meri car gayee, beta meri sarkar gayee." This hilarious line captures the end of the Emergency. But 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 government),then 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. 5 out of 5

    Shruti

    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 basi 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 masqueraded 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 quite scary to learn the kind of harassment one was subjected to if you were even slightly suspected of being anti-govt/congress, 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 more.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Praveen

    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 hostage. Thousands of arrests , Censorship in news ,Family planning program , Beautification projects vs slum clearance etc and above all a brillante Small Car project. It’s a must read books every India. Which covers the darkest history of Indian after British rule. 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 hostage. Thousands of arrests , Censorship in news ,Family planning program , Beautification projects vs slum clearance etc and above all a brillante Small Car project. It’s a must read books every India. Which covers the darkest history of Indian after British rule.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Girl from Mumbai

    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 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 more interesting is the clout that Sanjay Gandhi, her son, & heir apparent held on her. Anyone who irked him or questioned him was either threatened with dire consequences 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 more controversial was the Maruti factory established by him to make his dream car which was a complete disaster but made those involved very wealthy. The 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 more about this time and the players involved in starting and ending of a black chapter in India’s political history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dhaval

    We often hear the quote 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 Democracy. It says on the title it's a personal history, but the author has We often hear the quote 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 Democracy. It 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 more 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 his/her 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 office. The 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 situation. I 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?). Suggestions: Pre-reading - India after Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha Post-reading - Interview of Coomi Kapoor with Newslaundary

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shriyansh Raj Mishra

    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. 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. 4 out of 5

    Muthu Raj

    4.5 Stars (I always round up ;)) TLDR; An excellent read. Highly recommended. The book in itself is a majestical work. But I find that the rating is comparatively low on Goodreads. 3.87 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 star. Now, to t 4.5 Stars (I always round up ;)) TLDR; An excellent read. Highly recommended. The book in itself is a majestical work. But I find that the rating is comparatively low on Goodreads. 3.87 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 star. Now, 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 believe. The 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 more 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, subsequent 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 job. The 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 position. Subramanian 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 questions. Why did so many people acquiesce 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 frequently mentions that the prisoners thought the Britishers were better in the treatment of political prisioners. Why 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. 4 out of 5

    Adarsh

    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 World. The 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 Indi 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 World. The 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 Gandhi...was 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 assertions. Further, 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. 5 out of 5

    Rupinder

    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 a 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ramesh Naidu

    It is remarkable that what potentially was the most dangerous tipping point for the world's largest democracy seems to have been completely forgotten. Worse yet, when I talked with people who lived through it , they seem to have rosy memories and actually beleive that it was beneficial for the country . This book is a gripping personal history with vivid details of the victims , the perpetrators and the unsung heroes who actually managed to save a country. It is a must read for everybody who gre It is remarkable that what potentially was the most dangerous tipping point for the world's largest democracy seems to have been completely forgotten. Worse yet, when I talked with people who lived through it , they seem to have rosy memories and actually beleive that it was beneficial for the country . This book is a gripping personal history with vivid details of the victims , the perpetrators and the unsung heroes who actually managed to save a country. It is a must read for everybody who grew up in a democracy , and a definite must read for those who seem to believe that a dictatorship would be more beneficial

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kanishka Sirdesai

    A very chilling portrayal of dark days where the world's largest democracy was thwarted to favor an old woman and her deranged son. It is ironical that many characters behind this calamity are still active in public life. A truly haunting read! A very chilling portrayal of dark days where the world's largest democracy was thwarted to favor an old woman and her deranged son. It is ironical that many characters behind this calamity are still active in public life. A truly haunting read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aniruddh Sudharshan

    Hi! what are you doing. See book. Take. Read. Pass on to others.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Yash Vijayvargiya

    One of the most personal and engaging take on done to death 'Emergency Genre' from the famous Indian Express Columnist. It is as snoopy as her columns. :D One of the most personal and engaging take on done to death 'Emergency Genre' from the famous Indian Express Columnist. It is as snoopy as her columns. :D

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yeshvendra Pratap Singh

    "Twenty-fifth of June Nineteen Seventy-Five was a sweltering day, made more uncomfortable by the frequent power breakdowns at the Indian Express office at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi's Fleet street." The first line of the book, also marks the first day of the 21 month long Emergency, intelligently pointing out power breakdown on the street where India's major national dailies are published; indicating it's initiation itself with stringent media censorship followed by curb on the freedom of spe "Twenty-fifth of June Nineteen Seventy-Five was a sweltering day, made more uncomfortable by the frequent power breakdowns at the Indian Express office at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi's Fleet street." The first line of the book, also marks the first day of the 21 month long Emergency, intelligently pointing out power breakdown on the street where India's major national dailies are published; indicating it's initiation itself with stringent media censorship followed by curb on the freedom of speech and expression and ultimately the fundamental rights, altogether. According to Kapoor, she has penned down a personal history specially with the youth of the country in mind. As is said, memory is an unreliable tool; and forty years are long enough to forget. "I wrote this book because I felt, there was a need for a younger generation to know what the Emergency was all about, because they didn't really know. I mean they are very vague about what the emergency was all about...they don't realise what a traumatic time it was, how Indira Gandhi stifled the media, went with a heavy hand against the judiciary and arrested all her political opponents", Kapoor told PTI. Speaking at other events, she said that she had felt the need to write the book also because every effort has been made to erase all memories of the Emergency. “This is a period that has been blacked out from our history books. Successive governments after the Emergency had wanted to wipe out that period. Even copies of the report on the state’s excesses by the Shah Commission were destroyed and removed from libraries,” she said at the Jaipur Literature Festival, 2016. The unique vantage point as a journalist with the Indian Express, one of the few newspapers with the likes of The Statesman which didn't lose their ground throughout the duration of the Twenty One Months, makes her retelling of everyday events during the Emergency highly readable, topped up with her chatty style of writing, as many followers of her current weekly column, Insider Track on the Indian Express must be aware of. The more popular idea about the Emergency is that Indira went in for it mainly because of the Allahabad High Court judgement which went against her, making her position vulnerable as the PM. Coomi Kapoor has emphasised on a different angle here, putting up Siddhartha Shankar Ray's letters which go on to show that she was contemplating introducing an emergency in January itself and was just looking for the right opportunity. JP's movement acted as a good excuse as it was not even at its height at that moment. The only other probable explanation which could have triggered her was the assassination of LN Mishra, the then Minister of Railways. Other than that, Kapoor seems to agree with Ramachandran Guha's view that dictatorial tendencies always made up a good part of her world view and she was always vary of the established political structure of the country based on the idea of democracy. As the title suggests, it is indeed a personal history of the author. As she narrates in the chapter Black Diwali, her husband Virendra Kapoor was put behind bars just because he spoke against Ambika Soni, a rising star in the Indian Youth Congress. Subramanian Swamy, her brother-in-law, then a Jana Sangh MP, was too on the run, disguising as a Sikh, and finally succeeding in fleeing to America, working there to make the International audience aware of the atrocities being committed under the state of emergency proclaimed in India. She herself and even her other family members faced constant threats and people generally avoided coming in contact with her, just being cautious not to appear as confiding with someone even remotely against the government. The book has been structured intelligently, starting with an all encompassing timeline of events that followed the Emergency, beginning with Indira Gandhi getting re-elected as the PM in March 1971, and ending with Morarji Desai becoming the fifth Prime Minister of India in March 1977. Precedes that is an engaging Foreword given by none other than the current Finance Minister of India, and the then Youth leader from ABVP, the student wing of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and also the President of Delhi University's Student Union (DUSU). He goes on to describe his personal experience of the Emergency, how he tried organising a protest by gathering ABVP activists, and the subsequent arrests, calling it the darkest periods of independent India. He himself was imprisoned for 19 months and throws light on the detrimental condition of the inmates and the others during that period. As the first chapter mentions, intolerance had reached such heights that Swaran Singh, the then Defence Minister was removed just for politely questioning the 2nd Emergency in the 15 minute Cabinet Meeting the next morning, when an external one was already in place. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed owed Indira enormous debt of gratitude for installing him as the President to question her actions and gave in readily. Arrests were made in a haphazard way under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and the condition in the jails was appalling, over-crowded, lacking sanitation. with people dying of illnesses. Corruption was its height, even behind the bars. The elites were in a much better condition even here. Going into each and every detail, Kapoor successfully brings out the atrocities committed in the name of maintaining the stability of the country throughout her book. The author also successfully manages to keep the flow of narration smooth and thrilling enough throughout the length of the book to keep the reader going. Though, at times the flood of the names of different actors involved in a particular event became a bit intimidating, they could be safely ignored without losing the essence of the text. Working at the Indian express, she elaborately brings out the role of the newspaper in fighting against the horrors of the emergency unabashedly, throwing light not only the struggle of Ramnath Goenka to keep it running even after all of government's effort to bring it down but also Kuldip Nayar, the then Editor of the Express News Service, who himself was arrested for his fearless work on several grounds. In the chapter Enigmatic Empress, on lines close to that of P. N. Dhar, the Principal Secretary to Indira, brings out the fact that she was influenced in her decisions by Sanjay Gandhi (a.k.a palace guard) who had a stronghold on her and at times even went against her own precepts to keep the son happy. Kapoor has here successfully documented how the flow of information was maintained through various underground channels, with diverse plans being made and put into action just under the nose of security forces. The government’s Twenty Point Programme was an interesting way to declare that one had disassociated himself/herself from oppositional activities and was no longer a harm which made numerous personalities give up at last and concede to the government's wishes making it achieve the final purpose. In chapter 13, Firebrand Fernandes, Kapoor starts with describing him as the romantic symbol of resistance to the Emergency. He was a master if disguise and all through the months of his escape, was successfully mobilising the masses against the so called dictatorship of Indira Gandhi. In their frantic hunt for him, the police acted with incredible ruthlessness and cruelty with two if the main victims being the actress, Snehlata Reddy and Fernandes' brother Lawrence. Snehlata died soon after being released from illness and Lawrence was left in a requiring both physical and mental rehabilitation. Kapoor has drawn a picture of terror and imminent gloom - also supporting it with real evidences. As what the chapter 14 deals with, fresh elections were finally announced on 23rd January. Though, varied reasons can be attributed to it, it is believed that it was mainly because Indira had been assured by her intelligence sources of a landslide victory. Talks of a merger started between the opposition parties and were confirmed after JP's stand that he would disassociate himself from the elections otherwise. Then came what Kapoor terms as the 'J bomb' when Jagjivan Ram resigned from the Congress, ultimately joining the opposition. The Janata Party won and with it won the institution of democracy. Emergency laws were repealed. And as Kapoor puts it, "The nightmare was finally over." The Epilogue brings the book to a close followed by short descriptions of the events of the following years, the short-lived success of the Janata government, and the fate of different people involved. Notes citing various sources and an elaborate index end the book. Also noticeable is the black and white photograph of Indira Gandhi and Sanjay which very well brings out right emotions after their defeat and gives a distinct appeal to the book with the combination of the colours, yellow and black. The only criticism can be the lack of any comment on the economical condition of the state at that time but then again, being termed as the personal history of the author, it can ignored. Kapoor has very well succeeded in other terms and brings out picture clear enough to make even a layman understand the events and repercussions of the Emergency, highlighted from the perspective of a journalist. Though, we didn't get hear the ruling party's part, that wasn't even meant to be the case following the approach of the text. So, all in all, I would definitely recommend it anyone interested in understanding the history of contemporary India and even the present day politics, alive with the fear of the current PM Narendra Modi's dictatorial tendencies in the context of what we already have to learn from our recent past.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sajith Kumar

    India is admittedly the world’s largest democracy. We use to take pride in it, often made all the more magnificent when compared to other nations comparable in wealth to India. We proved to the world that democracy is not a rich man’s fad. This country’s dedication to democracy is all the more remarkable, considering the prodigious variety of languages, religions, castes and ethnicities. It is no secret that Western democracies are generally single-language, single-religion establishments. Even India is admittedly the world’s largest democracy. We use to take pride in it, often made all the more magnificent when compared to other nations comparable in wealth to India. We proved to the world that democracy is not a rich man’s fad. This country’s dedication to democracy is all the more remarkable, considering the prodigious variety of languages, religions, castes and ethnicities. It is no secret that Western democracies are generally single-language, single-religion establishments. Even though Indians have thus a lot to be proud of, they shouldn’t lose sight of the moment in history, forty years ago, when the nation teetered precariously on the edge of falling into the doomed depths of dictatorship under Indira Gandhi’s tenure as prime minister. Indira Gandhi is notorious for bringing the country to the threshold of bankruptcy by indulging in unabashed populist measures by exercising government control in all business enterprise and saturating the system with nepotism and corruption. When her chair was threatened by a court verdict, she declared a state of Emergency and assumed autocratic powers. She suspended civil rights, clamped censorship on the media, incarcerated people who protested and ruled with an iron fist. Surprisingly, she could call the shots without much demur from any corner. Coomi Kapoor, a political journalist for 40 years and the consulting editor of the Indian Express, tells the story of the nineteen months of Emergency, which will forever be a blot on the nation’s political history. Indira Gandhi won a landslide victory in 1971, trouncing her opponents from the split-away faction of Congress. Close on its heels came India’s spectacular victory against Pakistan in the Bangladesh war. Indira’s star was on the ascendant. Even opposition leaders praised her, Vajpayee once likening her to goddess Durga! It just felt that Indira can’t lose an election. But at the same time, she wanted to pep up her popularity further, by bringing in more stringent socialist agenda and economically irresponsible measures in the country’s finances. Privy Purse was abolished and outrageous amounts were earmarked for projects in the public sector that were funneled into the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats. Within two years of her victory, Indira’s hold on the country became tenuous. A veteran freedom fighter and socialist leader, Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), returned to active politics from social work to fight against corruption and degeneration he observed everywhere in India. His protest movement amassed massive public support. Stung by the huge rallies convened by JP and his growing stature, Indira and her son Sanjay decided to put an end to democracy for the time being and impose dictatorial rule. On June 12, 1975, Justice Jagmohan Lal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court declared Indira’s electoral victory from Rae Bareilly null and void, finding gross violation of electoral procedures and misusing government machinery for her propaganda. She appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to issue a comprehensive stay order. One June 24, Justice V R Krishna Iyer permitted Indira to continue as prime minister, but restrained her from voting in parliament and drawing the salary of an MP. A few days back, the ruling Congress was voted out of power in the Gujarat assembly. On June 25, JP exhorted total revolution in the country at a gigantic rally in Delhi. This was the proverbial last straw. Unwilling to consider stepping down even for a minute, her coterie decided to declare an Internal Emergency in the country, without even informing the cabinet. Coomie Kapoor has neatly summarized the sequence and establishes that the ruling caucus had long been preparing to enforce something of the sort. The author lived through the horrors of Emergency, where her own husband was detained under the draconian Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Defence of India Rules (DIR) which allowed the police to place in custody suspects without judicial review. Indira and her heir apparent Sanjay gagged the media by imposing crippling censorship of the content. The guidelines of news censoring itself couldn’t be made public. Even parliamentary proceedings were cleared only after it passed through the censor. V C Shukla, one of Indira’s protégés who controlled the broadcasting ministry appointed police officers to select the news for publishing. Even then, Indian Express stood rooted to its principles, while The Hindu and the Times of India literally ate out of the government’s hands. L K Advani’s famous remark that the Press crawled when they were only asked to bend refers to these spineless newspapers. Political detainees had a tough time ahead. They were not disclosed the reason of their arrest. Third degree torture was the norm to make them talk. Even when courts allowed bail to them, the released persons were immediately rearrested under some other pretense. Indira never showed any remorse for her repressive tactics in silencing the media. Some of the Supreme Court judges also danced to her tune. In a 4-1 majority verdict, it suspended civil rights including the right to life, in April 1976. Justice H R Khanna, the lone dissenter, lost his promotion as the Chief Justice of India as a result. Government’s stranglehold on the media was multifaceted. While it bullied those who protested, official advertisements were lavished on the tame. Censors kept a tab on all topics, and didn’t even permit frequent reports of crime appearing in newspapers, so as to prevent the people from reaching the conclusion that crime was surging. Government media sang only the eulogies of the mother and son. All India Radio was jokingly referred to as All Indira Radio. A number of films were produced on them by the Films Division of Information and Broadcasting Ministry. V C Shukla extended his control to commercial films as well. Actresses reported of his unwelcome advances for granting favourable decisions. Singer Kishore Kumar at first refused to toe the official line. His songs were banished from radio and TV till he capitulated. Many MPs were behind bars, which smoothed the government’s way in parliament. Question Hour, Calling Attention motions and parliamentary business initiated by private members were dispensed with. Representation of the People Act was amended retrospectively to prevent the courts from unseating the prime minister. This annulled the verdict of Allahabad High Court which ruled against her. The 42nd constitution amendment granted Lok Sabha the power to extend its term as it wished, without holding fresh elections. It is curious to observe the antecedents of a few people and organizations which vociferously trumpet civil rights now, when in fact they were licking the feet of the regime during Emergency. M F Husain portrayed Indira as goddess Durga astride a tiger. This was the height of sycophancy, but court painters in the Middle Ages would have done the same. The Communist Party of India (CPI) sided with the government and shared power with the Congress in some states. Quite probably, they might’ve been operating under instructions from the erstwhile Soviet Union, judging from their lack of compunction in voting into law a slew of measures that tightened the noose around the neck of democracy. D K Barooah, the Congress president, brought out slogans that showed total submission to Indira and her family. His refrain “Indira, teri subah ki jai/ Indira, teri shaam ki jai/ tere kaam ki jai, tere naam ki jai” (Indira, we salute your morning, your evening, your great works and your name) was an instant hit among unthinking Congress workers. The RSS was banned and many of its cadres kept the flame of dissidence alive in the country, but its supreme leader Balasaheb Deoras negotiated with the regime while in jail. Even though advertisements were also scrutinized, a few escaped the censor’s notice and came out. Kapoor mentions an obituary note in an English paper as “D’O Cracy, DEM beloved husband of T. Ruth, loving father of L. I. Bertie, brother of faith, hope and justice, expired on 26th June”! The date chosen was the date of declaration of Emergency. Quite unlike other works on Emergency, this book brings out the terrible events through the eyes of a journalist author. The first seven chapters, forming a half of the book narrates the author’s own experiences while the latter half presents character sketches of Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan and also the blatant misuse of power and public money in sanctioning loans on flimsy grounds to Sanjay’s indigenous small car project. Another topic of active coverage is Sanjay’s 5-point program that included sterilization. A total of 10.7 million people were forcibly sterilized to fill the quotas Sanjay Gandhi had set. Those who were thus sterilized often included unmarried men. The book is neatly structured and impartial. It includes a collection of photographs of the major actors, a section on Notes and a good Index. Arun Jaitley has penned the Foreword to the book. The book is highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Akash Patel

    In what is a personal first hand experience of dark times of the emergency, Coomi presents an account which is horrifying. Even to someone who knows the excesses of that period, the details in this book will shake to the core. Her writing style is extremely fluid and book is divided into various chapters for convenience. But from all of this emerges an in-depth understanding of how Indira and Sanjay ran india like a kingdom with no regards for aw, rules or legal requirements. We can also draw imp In what is a personal first hand experience of dark times of the emergency, Coomi presents an account which is horrifying. Even to someone who knows the excesses of that period, the details in this book will shake to the core. Her writing style is extremely fluid and book is divided into various chapters for convenience. But from all of this emerges an in-depth understanding of how Indira and Sanjay ran india like a kingdom with no regards for aw, rules or legal requirements. We can also draw important lessons from functioning of Indira govt about emerging dictatorial tendencies in a democracy. A wannabe dictator invariably quotes national interests to justify his actions. Too much nationalism is a prerequisite for authoritarian state. Apart from this, extreme paranoia; placing loyal, even if inept, persons in powerful positions; sidelining those with differences of opinion; presenting self as only Messiah etc are sure shot indicators for authoritative leader. Overall, a must read to go through the experiences of masses and leaders and loyalists and rebels in those times.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Arun Aggarwal

    A rare fast read for a non fiction.

  19. 4 out of 5

    hemant mathur

    Best book on emergency era, simply unputdownable first hand narrative. I finished Coomi Kapoor's book over a single weekend. Her book is well researched and authoritative work on emergency. Best part is its written with an average reader in mind and book is neatly structured into chapters thus making it an easy and informative read (this is a rare quality when you compare with some other authors who makes a cacophony of chronology and personalities). Coomi's work let me form a definitive option Best book on emergency era, simply unputdownable first hand narrative. I finished Coomi Kapoor's book over a single weekend. Her book is well researched and authoritative work on emergency. Best part is its written with an average reader in mind and book is neatly structured into chapters thus making it an easy and informative read (this is a rare quality when you compare with some other authors who makes a cacophony of chronology and personalities). Coomi's work let me form a definitive option of the emergency era. What adds weight to her narrative is she worked for Ramnath Goenka’s Indian Express, the only newspaper that stood against government propaganda when giants like Times of India and HT crawled when asked to bend. It’s unfortunate that successive governments did nothing to financially compensate Indian Express for its losses to uphold democracy while other newspapers that made money at the cost of truth are still ruling the roost. Some stories were so heart wrenching like that of mam chand, a poor magazine vendor at CP, who was jailed not for political views, but for arguing with Sanjay’s minion Arjan Das who ran a puncture shop. Mam chand later died due to prison atrocities and the poor family lost their sole breadwinner. Actress Snehlata Reddy also paid a price with her life. Youth congress and Sanjay’s team did not hesitate to settle personal scores. There was rampant corruption at high places. I now understand why Khushwant singh (a crony of Gandhi family who later switched loyalties) stated that everything rotten in India can be traced back to Indra. Indra was megalomaniac but a good administrator; It is also well established that Indra lied at many instances to save a situation. And there are too many mystery deaths of people who fell out of her favor. The book illustrates on important personalities like JP, firebrand Fernandes, Babuji and Subramanian Swamy Saddest part is perpetrators of emergency were never brought to justice. Everything was pinned to Indra and Sanjay. Unlike Nazi germany where each member of patry who committed atrocities was systematically hunted down over next few decades, here in India, butchers of emergency flourished!! Like ruthless Navin Chawla who enjoyed a successful career and post retirement was nominated by UPA to election commission. Political prisoners suffered lifelong metal and physical ailments due to emergency atrocities... In the end, Coomi logically concluded the story with update on all emergency personalities. A must buy. The Emergency: A Personal History

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sunil Sreenivasan

    I belong to the generation that was born after 1980. For me, prior to reading this book, the only knowledge I had about the emergency was restricted to information such as Dates when emergency was declared, what is an emergency etc. What I did not know was the extent of atrocities committed during the period. I knew the emergency was dark period for Indian Democracy, but details as to why it was so eluded me or rather I had not strived to find out more about it. Therefore, when this book on emer I belong to the generation that was born after 1980. For me, prior to reading this book, the only knowledge I had about the emergency was restricted to information such as Dates when emergency was declared, what is an emergency etc. What I did not know was the extent of atrocities committed during the period. I knew the emergency was dark period for Indian Democracy, but details as to why it was so eluded me or rather I had not strived to find out more about it. Therefore, when this book on emergency was released, I made a note to myself to read it before the end of the year. This book is a Personal History of the writer through the Emergency Period. Therefore, it is a narrative on what happened during that period as seen through the eyes of the writer. While reading this book, I travelled with the writer through the emergency years and immersed myself in the events and emotions experienced by the writer. I was appalled on how crooked politicians used the emergency to their advantage and crushed the rights of ordinary citizens. Some of the politicians mentioned in the book will forever be despised by me no matter how much revered they are now post their death. Sycophancy and greed probably reached its pinnacle during the emergency period. Towards the end of the book, when the writer describes how the emergency wound up and there is hope in the air, I too revelled in the same. Even after so many years I could feel connected to a time and an event which happened before my birth and I thank the writer for the same. This book though made me think and has kindled an interest in me to find out more about our countries political past. This is not going to be the only book I read on emergency, that’s for sure. I will probably also read Kushwant Singhs collection on the same. That would give me some perspective since many have accused KS on siding with the emergency. After reading the book, I requested my parents and other relatives to tell me about their experience during the emergency, as they lived through it during their youth. Their answers have only added to my inquisitiveness to find out more. So grab a copy of this book if you belong to my generation and after. If not grab a copy of this book anyways, to remind ourselves that we live in a vibrant democracy and whoever takes the country for a ride, under the false notion of their invincibility, will eventually pay the price for it. For the people of India maybe slow to react but when they do the corrupt and the arrogant shall fall.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sujay Malik

    A lot has been said about the imposition of The Emergency in our country. And this is even more relevant in the times when 'intolerance' debates are becoming food and drink of plethora of media houses (some pseudo media as I like to call them). That's precisely why reading this book is even more relevant. Relevant because we need to put our heads down, ignore the histrionics and jingoism around us and ponder over what could happen if leaders are power hungry and mindset is of subverting the enti A lot has been said about the imposition of The Emergency in our country. And this is even more relevant in the times when 'intolerance' debates are becoming food and drink of plethora of media houses (some pseudo media as I like to call them). That's precisely why reading this book is even more relevant. Relevant because we need to put our heads down, ignore the histrionics and jingoism around us and ponder over what could happen if leaders are power hungry and mindset is of subverting the entire constitutional framework which can lead to absolute anarchy and dismissal of fundamental rights. Coomi Kapoor brings forth snippets and stories of The Emergency and it's precedence and aftermath. How muffled and muzzled human existence could be made to become is clearly manifested in the book. And it's a stark reminder of how we must, as a Nation avoid transcending those lines again. History is important, not just because it tells us what happened but also what mustn't happen again. And we need to be careful especially with what transpires daily on our idiot boxes today. The narrative of the book is detailed, sometimes too detailed but that is not a criticism. It may delay your reading bit for awhile but it is worth it. Coomi Kapoor has recounted the horrors of this time with great dexterity and finesse. One does feel that a slight bias creeps into the writing every once in a while and political leanings are evident but with a topic like this it is impracticable to be completely neutral. This book is definitely recommended. It does not beat about the bush at all. It sees the situation, and hits it head on. It is informative, enlightening and coherent. Read this one for its relevance and insight.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Roopesh Mathur

    This book is a very well written, concise and personal story of a dark chapter in Indian history, when the country came perilously close to becoming a North Korea. The author personally experienced the deprivation and terror and provides a first hand, albeit biased view of the period. The figures of Ramnath Goenka, JP, Subramanian Swamy and George Fernandes stand tall, who suffered much but did not yield. Interestingly, the Opposition did not as much win; and was handed the victory by the people This book is a very well written, concise and personal story of a dark chapter in Indian history, when the country came perilously close to becoming a North Korea. The author personally experienced the deprivation and terror and provides a first hand, albeit biased view of the period. The figures of Ramnath Goenka, JP, Subramanian Swamy and George Fernandes stand tall, who suffered much but did not yield. Interestingly, the Opposition did not as much win; and was handed the victory by the people of India. Indeed, they fell apart pretty quickly due to their overambitiousness and greed for power and the people of India brought back Indira in just three years. The other thing that is interesting in the book is that most of the people on the other side are still around and did not face much punishment for their deeds. I did feel that the author did not take a very long view of the Emergency and did not dig very deep on it's roots and future consequences, such as authoritarian and dynastic tendencies in Indian politics (and elsewhere too!). A historian who is detached and can do his own research would have done a much more thorough job here. I think when someone has gone through a terrible experience first hand and wants to get their story out, objectivity takes a hit. The conditions that gave rise to the Emergency are still there today: the tendency to elevate flawed people into gods and then pull them down from the pedestal, admiration for authoritarian figures who can tame the chaos and cravenness in the face of intimidation and threats. Hence I would recommend everyone read this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tejas

    This is a must read book especially to those born in the 80s and later in India. Coomi Kapoor chronicles through personal experience what has just been kept as a footnote in history textbooks, India's darkest 19 months during the Emergency. An insecure Prime Minister and her delusional son ran riot and held a nation hostage to their whims and fancies. Just like Nazi Germany, there were the courtiers, who encouraged it and merry settling their own personal feuds as innocent people were put in jai This is a must read book especially to those born in the 80s and later in India. Coomi Kapoor chronicles through personal experience what has just been kept as a footnote in history textbooks, India's darkest 19 months during the Emergency. An insecure Prime Minister and her delusional son ran riot and held a nation hostage to their whims and fancies. Just like Nazi Germany, there were the courtiers, who encouraged it and merry settling their own personal feuds as innocent people were put in jail even for being at a certain place at a particular time. All these atrocities were not even recorded with the media muzzled, leave some brave reporters from the Indian Express and the underground press. Most of the mainstream media crawled in front of Mrs Gandhi and Sanjay. Sanjay Gandhi, the megalomaniac who went around as a law unto himself, demolishing a whole locality to make Delhi look "beautiful" and controlling population by forcibly sterilizing young men and women. He made his mother dance to his dictatorial tunes through which mother and son undermined every institution in the country. The corruption in public life we see in India today has to be a direct descendant of the kind of politics that Indira and Sanjay imbibed in the polity. The shocking part in all of this is, that the yes men and women under Sanjay, who threw their weight around because of their connections, have become the "leaders" of the present dispensation of the Congress in India. It is a sad reflection of our democracy where the sins of Emergency were forgotten and even forgiven.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mahua

    "The Emergency" is a tale of the emergency period in India. The torture, harassment that the Indians went through in those 21 months is very explicitly put up. Gandhi family/Congress had ensured such scars to the Indian society that the anguish still stays among people who had been witness to the Emergency period. Sanjay Gandhi, a spoilt brat made things worse. While his agenda like family planning, beautification were good thoughts . But good thoughts are of no good if not complemented with goo "The Emergency" is a tale of the emergency period in India. The torture, harassment that the Indians went through in those 21 months is very explicitly put up. Gandhi family/Congress had ensured such scars to the Indian society that the anguish still stays among people who had been witness to the Emergency period. Sanjay Gandhi, a spoilt brat made things worse. While his agenda like family planning, beautification were good thoughts . But good thoughts are of no good if not complemented with good execution. And Sanjay Gandhi's lack of ability to execute made things difficult for Congress/Indira Gandhi and the foundation for election results of 1977 were laid. Even Maruti was a good plan but needed a structure to yield results. In a nutshell, Sanjay Gandhi lacked maturity both as a business man and a politician. All he had was arrogance, high handedness and most importantly blind love of his mother. We should be thankful to people like Ramnath Goenka, JP, George Fernandes, etc. who fought the battle in spite of all the odds. Had it not been for them, India perhaps would have become Kingdom of Gandhi Clan. The book is very well structured and facts articulated have been supported with the source. The sufferings have been so well portrayed that you can visualise the scenes and almost feel the pain the victims went through. Anyone who is interested in Indian history must read this book. It was a good read for me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashok Sridharan

    Authored by veteran journalist Coomi Kapoor, The Emergency: A Personal History recounts the chain of events from the imposition of the emergency in June 1975 and ending with the defeat of the Indira Gandhi led Congress party in the national elections of 1980. Its a chilling reminder of a terrifying period when, India descended into a fascist dictatorship reminiscent of Soviet Union during the Brezhnev years. Opposition leaders were jailed, civil rights were suspended, the press was gagged and dis Authored by veteran journalist Coomi Kapoor, The Emergency: A Personal History recounts the chain of events from the imposition of the emergency in June 1975 and ending with the defeat of the Indira Gandhi led Congress party in the national elections of 1980. Its a chilling reminder of a terrifying period when, India descended into a fascist dictatorship reminiscent of Soviet Union during the Brezhnev years. Opposition leaders were jailed, civil rights were suspended, the press was gagged and dissidence was crushed under the iron heels of authority. More than a million men were forcibly sterilised and those who were close to absconding political opponents were unlawfully jailed and brutally tortured. What makes this book extraordinary is Coomi Kapoor's brilliant narration of events during that nightmarish period. Not even for a moment is the narration less than gripping. Mrs. Kapoor keeps you hooked on from beginning to end. For Indians who are unaware of the excesses committed during the emergency, this book is a must read. The emergency is a period that ought never to be forgotten.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Deepa

    This is a must-read book for all those who would want to know about the horrendous 21 odd months – the dark period of India post the British Rule- the Emergency! For many people especially youngsters of this age, it would be shocking and at the same time educational to understand about the period when – India the largest Democracy had a period called Emergency. A shocking period of more than a year and half where India had a Government of the people, by the people and for the people - which susp This is a must-read book for all those who would want to know about the horrendous 21 odd months – the dark period of India post the British Rule- the Emergency! For many people especially youngsters of this age, it would be shocking and at the same time educational to understand about the period when – India the largest Democracy had a period called Emergency. A shocking period of more than a year and half where India had a Government of the people, by the people and for the people - which suspended the institution called Democracy and imposed a life of fear, terror and hatred amongst the people. The incidents of the slum clearance, the mass sterilization schemes and the countless vendetta incidents of Sanjay Ghandi was dreadful to read- I cannot imagine how one could have passed that phase in life. Indira was certainly an Iron lady who had the audacity to torment the citizens of India to this extent due to her greed for power and the influence of her “emotional blind spot” – Sanjay Gandhi Well written for a personal history and a must read for all who want to know about the darkest period India went through (without foreigners ruling us)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nithin

    What will be the outcome when nepotism and cynicism drove the nation ? I was unable to contemplate the frailty of democracy during that era whenever my dad used to speak about emergency.This personal account and subject was indeed helpful to retrieve the happenings, A definite buy book for this generation whom consider politics and history as forbidden subject. The book totally deals with cynical ambitions of two despicable personalities whom fought the battle such unfair and how opposition lead What will be the outcome when nepotism and cynicism drove the nation ? I was unable to contemplate the frailty of democracy during that era whenever my dad used to speak about emergency.This personal account and subject was indeed helpful to retrieve the happenings, A definite buy book for this generation whom consider politics and history as forbidden subject. The book totally deals with cynical ambitions of two despicable personalities whom fought the battle such unfair and how opposition leaders were treated like convicts instead of battling them in a healthy manner.I believed Dr.Subramania swamy as the real hero of emergency by far but has now shifted my admiration to George Fernandez the real face of rebel through his resistance over all odds by Mrs.Indra Gandhi. The book is totally biased and its so apparent because the chronicles of the author during the emergency should have placed her in this camp my only complaint is that I couldn't be consistent with the names no matter how meticulous I try to remember they slips away !!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Smrthi Harits

    The author tells the story of the dark days of Indian democracy interwoven with her personal experience of those days. For people from my generation, the emergency is a distant past who's account we have never heard of since it makes no appearance in history text books or in main stream media narrative. The book gives a detailed description of all the excesses committed during the Emergency by Indira and Sanjay Gandhi. Suspension of fundamental rights, press censorship, arrest of opposition lead The author tells the story of the dark days of Indian democracy interwoven with her personal experience of those days. For people from my generation, the emergency is a distant past who's account we have never heard of since it makes no appearance in history text books or in main stream media narrative. The book gives a detailed description of all the excesses committed during the Emergency by Indira and Sanjay Gandhi. Suspension of fundamental rights, press censorship, arrest of opposition leaders, forced sterilizations, slum clearances are but a few instances of the dictatorial measures that were taken during the Emergency. The book is an easy and good first read for those who know nothing but want to know about the emergency.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Abhijit

    The Emergency of 1975 was unlike anything that India had seen before, save perhaps for the plundering rule of the British Empire. Mass arrests of even those on the fringe of opposition politics, negation of fundamental rights and freedom of expression, blatant extortion, torture of the incarcerated and excesses to enforce family planning and slum removal jump out page after page of this thoroughly researched book.   What makes this book extraordinary is Coomi Kapoor's brilliant narration of event The Emergency of 1975 was unlike anything that India had seen before, save perhaps for the plundering rule of the British Empire. Mass arrests of even those on the fringe of opposition politics, negation of fundamental rights and freedom of expression, blatant extortion, torture of the incarcerated and excesses to enforce family planning and slum removal jump out page after page of this thoroughly researched book.   What makes this book extraordinary is Coomi Kapoor's brilliant narration of events during that nightmarish period. Not even for a moment is the narration less than gripping. For Indians unaware of the excesses committed during the emergency, this book is a must read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Himanshu

    The Emergency years by Coomi Kapoor stands true to its name. I started this book with trepidation that it may be carrying too much of her personal details which may not interest me but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book is a very good blend of personal experiences and the social scene of that time. For all those born in 80s or later, this book is a must read as it throws ample light on what exactly Emergency was all about. After reading this book what surprises me to no end is the The Emergency years by Coomi Kapoor stands true to its name. I started this book with trepidation that it may be carrying too much of her personal details which may not interest me but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book is a very good blend of personal experiences and the social scene of that time. For all those born in 80s or later, this book is a must read as it throws ample light on what exactly Emergency was all about. After reading this book what surprises me to no end is the sheer idiocy of us Indians who easily forgot and forgave the perpetrators of this assault on Democracy. A page turner for sure

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