Two Cheers for Democracy ; India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha MACMILLAN [Pound]25 (871Pp)

By Sengoopta, Chandak | The Independent (London, England), April 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Two Cheers for Democracy ; India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha MACMILLAN [Pound]25 (871Pp)


Sengoopta, Chandak, The Independent (London, England)


The world's media, once full of despairing stories headed "Can India Survive?", now gush almost continually over the coun-try's democratic culture, vibrant social life and entrepreneurial dynamism. All the authoritarianism, corruption, poverty, caste-ism, injustice, squalor and superstition for which India was once notorious seem suddenly to have vanished into thin air.

The truth, of course, is far more complex. Despite all the recent changes, India remains a land of contradictions. It possesses nuclear bombs but cannot generate enough electricity to supply its own capital; the cuisine is the finest in the world but the water can be lethal; most streets have a few religious shrines but there is rampant corruption at all levels of society; the people are the kindest and most hospitable on earth, but that has never prevented them from brutalising their own in ways that might shock Dick Cheney.

India has never been a homogeneous place but, in the 60 years since independence, some classes, sectors of the economy and regions have changed far more than others, making the nation ever more diverse. Much has been written about isolated aspects of independent India but nobody until now has attempted to write its complete history. As historical eras go, the period covered is short but its complexity mind-boggling.

The multiplicity of languages, religions, cultural traditions and customs, not to mention the byzantine twists of Indian politics, can intimidate the doughtiest scholar. We are fortunate that Ramachandra Guha, who has previously written on India's environmental history and the social history of cricket, took on the challenge. He has produced a superb, gloriously detailed book that is essential reading for anybody with any serious interest in modern India.

When, on the eve of independence, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of India's "tryst with destiny", he was well aware of the difficulties ahead. Much in Nehru's grand vision of a free, democratic and secular India was never to be realised, and although he and most of his associates were scrupulously honest, politics, business and administration descended rapidly into venality and corruption. The broad nationalist ideology that had driven Gandhi, Nehru and their generation came, moreover, to be fragmented by those ethnic, religious and regional forces that the British had identified as the biggest obstacles to Indian national unity.

Even as Nehru orated to the Constituent Assembly, millions of Hindus and Muslims were moving to and from the new Islamic state of Pakistan. This migration was anything but peaceful. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, egged on by communal organ-isations, were baying for each other's blood. The carnage was so appalling that Gandhi, instead of celebrating independence, embarked on rounds of fasting and prayer to bring his country to its senses.

Guha's laconic descriptions of the ethnic cleansing bring out the brutality but, as he points out, it was not the masses who had demanded partition. It was Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, who had insisted on it and the British who, in their hurry to leave, had rushed it through without adequate preparation or security.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Two Cheers for Democracy ; India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha MACMILLAN [Pound]25 (871Pp)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?