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India's Undeclared Emergency: Constitutionalism And The Politics Of Resistance

India's Undeclared Emergency: Constitutionalism And The Politics Of Resistance

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In 1975, the Indira Gandhi government declared Emergency in India, unveiling an era of State excesses, human rights violations, the centralisation of power and the dismantling of democracy. Nearly half a century later, the phrase ‘undeclared emergency’ gathers currency as citizens and analysts struggle to define the nature of India’s present crisis.

In Undeclared Emergency, Arvind Narrain presents a devastatingly thorough examination of the nature of this emergency—a systematic attack on the rule of law that hits at the foundation of a democracy, its Constitution. This clear-eyed legal analysis of its implications also documents an ongoing history of constitutional subversion, one that predates the Narendra Modi-led NDA government—a lineage of curtailed freedoms, censorship, preventive detention laws and diluted executive accountability.

Is history repeating itself then? Not quite. This book is an account of an inaugural era in Indian history. Narrain shows that the Modi government, unlike the Congress government of 1975, draws on popular support and this raises the dangerous possibility that today’s authoritarian regime could become tomorrow’s totalitarian state.

A lament, the Undeclared Emergency is also a war cry. It charts an alternative inheritance of resistance, acts big and small from the Emergency of 1975, the current day and times long gone. Dissent, he says, is an Indian tradition.

The Second Coming is at hand, and Narrain reckons that we have a responsibility to determine what it will look like.


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Arvind Narrain / indian / nonfiction / politics /