Christophe Jaffrelot is Avantha Chair and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King’s India Institute, teaches South Asian politics and history at Sciences Po in Paris, and is an Overseas Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His work has covered a huge range of South Asian political science subjects, from the role caste mobilisation plays in India to the growth of Hindu nationalism to the influence of Islamic fundamentalism on Pakistani politics.

In his new book, India’s First Dictatorship; The Emergency, 1975–1977, co-authored with Pratinav Anil, Jaffrelot looks back at one of the most significant periods of Indian political history – and yet one that has not received sufficient scholarly scrutiny. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s two-year Emergency is today generally seen as a blip of authoritarianism in India’s democratic past, as well as the crucible in which the reputations of many of the country’s current and recent leaders were forged.

The book, however, seeks to nuance our understanding of the Emergency, pointing out how differently it played out across the country, both in mofussil India as well as in the South, how it actually received plenty of support from different sections of society and how...

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