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Book Review - The Emergency A Personal History

Coomi Kapoor’s book The Emergency is something that I came across when I saw her interview with Madhu Trehan on Newslaundry. It was launched around the anniversary of the emergency. Let’s get the first things out of the way. This is a memoir. The prose is simple, easy to read and flows easily. This should be read more for attaining a historical perspective rather than as an exploration of the language.

Getting to the meat of the book, we are introduced to the dreaded night of the emergency, we see how the corrupt, inefficient and eternally in slumber beuracracy can move at lightning speed when need be, only this time it was moving in order to shut down the freedom of the Indian people. National leaders like JP, Morarji Desai and regional leaders have all been arrested. Newspapers shut down by cutting off electricity. People picked up at the middle of the night and shifted to jails.

The capitulation of the President, the MPs, the beurecrats before the power of the mother and her son has begun. Kapoor mentions the small acts of bravery by the few journalists but overall there was a sense of dread that enveloped the nation. This book brings out how Subramanyam Swamy executed his dramatic appearance in the parliament during the emergency. Like the title of the book says it is a personal history of how the lives Kapoor family lives have been shaken. It is tragic that the torture endured by Vijendra, Commi’s husband is because of an arrogant Ambika Soni. The more despairing fact is the voices of the truly powerless are forever lost.

It is a shame that all the active players of the emergency have not really paid for the abuses they’ve commited in those torrid times and are in positions of power.