On Friday, 40 years after Emergency was imposed in India, veteran journalist Coomi Kapoor revived its memories with the launch of her book The Emergency at Taj Mahal Hotel, Mansingh Road, in Delhi. Kapoor, Consulting Editor with The Indian Express, said the book was an effort to “fill the gaps” that exist about the period. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” she added, encapsulating the greatest learnings from the era.
Senior journalists, bureaucrats and politicians such as Ravi Shankar Prasad made up the bulk of the audience, though one also spotted cardiac surgeon Naresh Trehan and photographer Raghu Rai in the front row. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, journalists Kuldip Nayar and Swapan Dasgupta and lawyer Anil Divan were on the dais to launch the book and discuss the issue.
“What I remember about the Emergency is how institutions got diluted. Today, I find that institutions are getting diluted again,” Nayar said. Stating that he did not think Emergency can happen again, Nayar added that if it were to, “people will be on to the streets”. Divan recalled that “one of the amendments made by Mrs Gandhi to validate her election was retrospectively amending the election laws”. “So Jagmohanlal Sinha (the judge who gave the ruling invalidating the election of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi) had held that these were the electoral offences, corrupt offences which were committed, therefore, she was disqualified,” Divan said, adding that “there was a very strong move to probably move to a presidential form of government”.
“I am hoping that the journalists of today remember that the Emergency was a watershed. Those who, at that time, stood up, will always be remembered. Those who didn’t, no history would remember them,” Nayar added. To this, Dasgupta, who was moderating the discussion, said, “Those who stood up will be remembered. Those who kept quiet will be forgotten. But what about those who cheered on the Emergency?”