Books: Indira Isn't India

THE NEW INDIA by Ved Mehta Viking; 174 pages; $10

The remarkably high quality of India's first generation of leadership long obscured a simple fact: the nature of that nation's democracy depends largely on what the leadership cares to impose. It has the power to foster democratic institutions; it also has the capacity for tyranny.

India's reputation as "the world's largest democracy" perished abruptly on June 26, 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the imperious daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, imposed a "state of emergency," curtailed civil liberties and imprisoned tens of thousands of people, including hundreds of her political opponents. But if Indian...

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