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Prisoners of Conscience, a movie – from the years of Emergency in India in 1975

Estimated Reading Time 3 minutes

Today, the country is again seeing a repeat of the emergency – albeit, undeclared one.  The mediamen and women are crawling again, when asked to bend – as the famous saying went during that time in 1975.  Here is a flashback to that era of political prisoners, which again seem to be a reality. (Hat tip: Saptarshi Ghosh)

Now watch and read on.


June 26, 1975 is remembered as a black day for Indian democracy. On this day, 36 years back, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, declared a state of national emergency, thereby granting her extraordinary powers to rule by decree; which was promptly followed by launching a massive crackdown on civil liberties and on all political opposition.

An important historical record of this dark period in India’s post-independence political history, Anand Patwardhan’s “Prisoners of Conscience” documents the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi from June 1975 to March 1977.

During the Emergency the media was muzzled, over 100,000 people were arrested without charge and imprisoned without trial. Cases of custodial torture, beatings and death were a plenty. Repression was also unleashed on defenceles people – workers, peasants and middle class – outside of jails.

But political prisoners existed before the Emergency, and they continue to exist after it was over. Today, the common people of India witness a state of ‘undeclared emergency’ as the Indian state holds tens of thousands of political prisoners behind bars, often for years without trial, and employing an arsenal of infamous and heavily criticized draconian acts, some of the most repressive of which are the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Public Safety Act (PSA) in Jammu and Kashmir, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), the colonial era Sedition Law, et cetera.

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