‘Smugglers of Truth’: The Indian diaspora, Hindu nationalism, and the Emergency (1975–77)

Edward Anderson, Patrick Clibbens

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10 Citations (Scopus)


During the Indian Emergency (1975–77) a range of opposition groups and the Indian state competed to mobilize the Indian diaspora. The Emergency therefore needs to be understood as a global event. Opposition activists travelled overseas and developed transnational networks to protest against the Emergency, by holding demonstrations in their countries of residence and smuggling pamphlets into India. They tried to influence the media and politicians outside India in an effort to pressurize Indira Gandhi into ending the Emergency. An important strand of ‘long-distance’ anti-Emergency activism involved individuals from the Hindu nationalist movement overseas, whose Indian counterparts were proscribed and imprisoned during the period. Several key Hindutva politicians in recent decades were also involved in transnational anti-Emergency activism, including Subramanian Swamy and Narendra Modi. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's role in opposing the Emergency—particularly the way in which it enabled overseas Indians to act as ‘smugglers of truth’—remains an important legitimizing narrative for Hindu nationalists. Indira Gandhi's Congress government mounted its own pro-Emergency campaigns overseas: it attacked diasporic opposition activists and closely monitored their activities through diplomatic missions. The state's recognition of the diaspora's potential influence on Indian politics, and its attempts to counter this activism, catalysed a long-term change in its attitude towards Indians overseas. It aimed to imitate more ‘successful’ diasporas and began to regard overseas Indians as a vital political and geopolitical resource. The Emergency must be reassessed as a critical event in the creation of new forms of transnational citizenship, global networks, and long-distance nationalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1729-1773
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


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