When Sanjay Gandhi once wrote to his mother Indira asking about the ideological differences between the Left and the Right, the former prime minister had “cynically” replied that all that mattered was the “struggle for power” said author and senior journalist Coomi Kapoor, at a session on the Emergency titled ‘The Night of 25th June: The Emergency’ on the second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2016.
Kapoor, whose The Emergency: A Personal History was released last year, told the attentive audience that she had felt the need to write the book 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.
Kapoor said the period was marked by the state’s “arbitrary behaviour”, which allowed for “anyone to be picked up anytime”. Those who found themselves in such a predicament could not even “go to court”.
She added that the whole “blueprint of the Emergency” was written by the then West Bengal chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who also acted as Indira Gandhi’s “legal advisor”.
Foreign policy expert C Raja Mohan, who was also part of the session that included journalist Mihir Sharma and was moderated by author Salil Tripathi, said that the study of the Emergency was still relevant, 40 years after the event. This is so because the event reflected “the capacity of the state to use its power to curb dissent”. Mohan added that the Emergency showed how the state could justify a set of actions “in the name of higher causes”.
“A sense of righteousness in your cause is always dangerous. Emergency is a constant reminder on how means are important and institutions are even more important,” he said adding that the Emergency showed that “democracy is the only way you can govern this country.” “Terming Democracy as a Western imposition or a colonial legacy is doing a great disservice to ourselves,” he said.
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