chapter  4
20 Pages


When Indira Gandhi became prime minister on 24 January 1966, no one imagined how India would be transformed under her stewardship. In twelve years, India moved from being dependent on the international community for food to becoming a food exporter. In addition, in contrast to the non-defi nitive military confl icts of the 1960s, it soundly defeated Pakistan in a war that created the new nation of Bangladesh. Meanwhile, India experienced widespread political mobilization by peasants and other disadvantaged groups – both non-violent and violent – over unfulfi lled promises of development and the need for social and political change. Following this and in a shocking departure from democracy, Indira Gandhi imposed an ‘Emergency’ in 1975, suspending civil liberties, arresting opponents, and postponing elections. In doing so, Indira Gandhi was exercising a provision in the Constitution that provided ‘Emergency powers’ under the extraordinary circumstances of a threat to the nation. This chapter is not about the Emergency – that comes in Chapter 5 – however, the political movements and monumental events described in this chapter are linked historically to the Emergency and so it appears, tangentially, in these pages as well.