Namit Arora On India’s troubled relationship with democratic values

Namit Arora in The Baffler:

SOMETIME AFTER MIDNIGHT ON JUNE 25, 1975, over six hundred political leaders, social activists, and trade unionists in India were rudely awakened by knocks on their doors. By dawn, they had been placed behind bars for inciting “internal disturbance.” In parallel, the government shut off electricity to newspaper offices, blocking their next day’s editions.

“The President has proclaimed the Emergency,” Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announced in a surprise broadcast the next morning on All India Radio. “This is nothing to panic about.” The previous night, she had made a bleary-eyed President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed trigger the Emergency provision in Article 352 of India’s constitution, which allowed her to postpone elections and suspend most fundamental rights, including those to speech, assembly, association, and movement. With the stroke of a pen, Gandhi had effectively dismantled India’s democratic infrastructure, concentrating dictatorial power in herself. Total press censorship was imposed, and foreign journalists who did not toe the line were summarily expelled, including stringers with the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the Daily Telegraph. On June 28, someone snuck a clever obituary into the Bombay edition of The Times of India: “D’Ocracy—D.E.M., beloved husband of T. Ruth, loving father of L.I. Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope, and Justice, expired on 26th June.”

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