Why is understanding this historical event central to understanding Yann Martel's Life of Pi?
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"Life of Pi is set against the tumultuous period of Indian history known as the Emergency. In 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was found guilty of charges related to her 1971 election campaign and was ordered to resign. Instead—and in response to a rising tide of strikes and protests that were paralyzing the government—Gandhi declared a state of emergency, suspending constitutional rights and giving herself the power to rule by decree. The Emergency lasted for eighteen months and was officially ended in March 1977 when Gandhi called for a new round of elections. The historical legacy of the Emergency has been highly controversial: while civil liberties in this emerging democracy were severely curtailed and Gandhi’s political opponents found themselves jailed, abused, and tortured, India’s economy experienced a much-needed stabilization and growth. In Life of Pi, Piscine (Pi) Molitor Patel’s father, a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India, grows nervous about the current political situation. Speculating that Gandhi might try to take over his zoo and faced with depressing economic conditions, Pi’s father decides to sell off his zoo animals and move his family to Canada, thus setting the main action of the novel into motion."
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