5 Books on Trying Times in Indian History

Considered to be one of the most controversial periods in post-independent India, the then President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared a state of Emergency in the country on the night of June 25, 1975.

Journalists, academics and authors have over the years, penned literature about one of the most trying times in Indian history as they probed the role of Gandhi and her son Sanjay, among other details, here are 5 books that range of fiction to memoirs that deal with the subject of The Emergency.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: The 1981 iconic novel by British Indian author Salman Rushdie is a scathing criticism about Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay’s “cleansing” of the Jama Masjid slums and the excesses that marked the Emergency, told through its chief protagonist Saleem Sinai.

Rich Like Us by Nayantara Sahgal: Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece who was a fierce critic of the Emergency and of her cousin Mrs. Gandhi, is the author of the novel tells the story of two interlinked families in Delhi in the Emergency years. it follows the lives of two female protagonists, Rose and Sonali, and their fight to live in a time of political upheaval and social re-organization.

Emergency Retold by Kuldip Nayar: First published in 1977 as The Judgement, and then in 2013 under the current title, the book was written by Nayar, who himself was incarcerated for about seven weeks during The Emergency. The book is a firsthand account of the period, starting with the 1975 Allahabad high court judgment which declared Indira Gandhi’s election null and void to her decision to impose the Emergency following the June 25 strike by JP.

The Dramatic Decade by Pranab Mukherjee: The first of Mukherjee’s three-part series, the book covers the Indira Gandhi years when he was a junior cabinet minister. Mukherjee had an insider’s view of what was going on in the government but the book is a bit cryptic, perhaps due to his political position.

Indira Gandhi, the ‘Emergency’ and Indian Democracy, P.N. Dhar: Published in 2000, it is the memoir of the head of the prime minister’s secretariat during Indira Gandhi’s time in office. The book is an interesting account of the tussle between the PMO and Sanjay Gandhi, who allegedly wielded a lot of power even on the prime minister’s office.

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