It’s June 26. It was on this day 32 years ago that Indira Gandhi‘s government clamped the Emergency on the country. The excesses are well known: the suspension of democratic rights, media censorship, the forced sterilisations, etcetera. There can be little question it was/is the darkest period of the Indian Republic—when, in L.K. Advani‘s famous words, the media crawled when it was only asked to bend; when the high and mighty gladly played along with Sanjay Gandhi‘s goons.
But here’s a contrarian question to address: Is Indian democracy better off today because of the Emergency? Are we now more aware of our rights, and therefore more alert to any effort to circumscribe them? Are the judiciary and media more watchful because of the 1975 experience? Are our political parties and politicians more wary of exhibiting an authoritarian streak because of the fear of a backlash? Simply put, would we be as strong a democracy as we are today without having gone through those 22 months?
Related link: Where were you?