Gyan Prakash: “Emergency Chronicles: Indira Gandhi and Democracy’s Turning Point”

April 16, 2019 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Princeton Public Library, Newsroom - 2nd floor
65 Witherspoon St Princeton
NJ 08542

Gyan Prakash, author and professor of history at Princeton University, discusses “Emergency Chronicles: Indira Gandhi and Democracy’s Turning Point” his comprehensive account of India in the mid-1970s after Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency. The book details the suspension of constitutional rights, the coercion and intimidation of Gandhi’s political rivals, and the harrowing months that followed. Drawing on archival records, private papers and letters, published sources, film and literary materials, and interviews with victims and perpetrators, Prakash traces the Emergency’s origins to the moment of India’s independence in 1947, revealing how the unfulfilled promise of democratic transformation upset the fine balance between state power and civil rights. He vividly depicts the unfolding of a political crisis that culminated in widespread popular unrest, which Gandhi sought to crush by paradoxically using the law to suspend lawful rights. Her failure to preserve the existing political order had lasting and unforeseen repercussions, opening the door for caste politics and Hindu nationalism. Placing the Emergency within the broader global history of democracy, the book offers lessons for today as the world once again confronts the dangers of rising authoritarianism and populist nationalism.

Prakash is also the author of “Mumbai Fables: A History of an Enchanted City,” “Bonded Histories: Genealogies of Labor Servitude in Colonial India,” and “Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India.”