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A Barbarous Situation: Excerpts from Nayantara Sahgal’s letters to the Authors’ Guild of India in 1975

Excerpts from Nayantara Sahgal’s letters to the Authors’ Guild of India in 1975, protesting against the censorship and suspension of civil liberties. She resigned membership of the Executive Commiittee of the Guild when the guild refused to put on record a protest against checks on freedom of expression.

Since 26 June we have an ‘Emergency’ in this country and the government has imposed censorship and suspended civil liberties. Tens of thousands have been imprisoned without trial. I consider this a barbarous situation. I personally cannot associate myself with any organization that seeks government patronage in these conditions much less be present at any function presided over by a member of this government. I would venture to suggest that there are issues at stake in India today that the members of the executive committee would do well to think about, particularly as to how they will concern writers in future, quite apart from how they will affect the entire country.

We are not faced with a ‘political’ issue in a normal political situation. We are faced with a dictatorship which has ruthlessly demonstrated its policies and intentions. No further proof is needed of any government’s utter immorality and shamelessness. I think myself, the country is more important than the Authors’ Guild. It is in any case absolutely vital for all thinking, educated persons to declare themselves at such a time and not to fall meekly in line with the tyranny that now rules us.

The Emergency has made it clear, if any clarity were needed, what kind of government we are dealing with in its naked disregard of democratic functioning and human rights. I feel it would be totally lacking in self respect to seek any assistance from it, much less make a patron of it. The Western democracies you mention are democracies. They have not raped the decencies or destroyed hard-built institutions. There is simply no comparison between them and the present Government of India. I hope this situation will change but no change is brought about by a servile population and certainly not by an educated elite that falls in line with every excess a dictatorship commits. I am very certain that I can be no party to any of this.


Buy Nayantara Sahgal’s ‘The Political Imagination: A Personal Response to Life, Literature and Politics’ here.

the political imagination nayantara sahgal

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