Emergency memories: ordinary lives in an extraordinary time

Devika Bakshi


The Emergency is the benchmark for abuse of state power in India's democratic history. Even those who aren't particularly attentive to history are aware of it because it is so often invoked as a dark time in India's recent past.

Yet for those of us who did not live through it, the Emergency is largely abstract. What we know of it comes from textbooks, a few films, or the recollection of politicians and journalists who were in the eye of the storm.

We have heard about the suspension of the Constitution, rule by decree, the crushing of political opposition, the notorious forced sterilisation campaign.

But most people under the age of 40 do not have a sense of what it was like to live through that time. Was ordinary life for ordinary people around the country any different? What changes did they experience? How did people around them feel about the Emergency? What do they remember about that time?

I asked a few people to talk about their experiences. This is what they said.

Devika Bakshi

Devika Bakshi @devikabakshi