Modern India: The Origins of An Asian Democracy

By Judith M. Brown | Go to book overview
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Epilogue: India's Democratic Experience

India's ability to sustain democratic forms of government and politics through the second half of this century is in sharp contrast to the experience of her Asian neighbours, and of most former colonies in Africa. There have been no military bids for power, and even Mrs Gandhi's months of 'Emergency Rule' (which many thought perilously close to dictatorship) were ended by the electors' verdict in 1977. Despite phases of acute domestic strain and violence, the assassination of two Prime Ministers, and a number of armed conflicts with neighbours, she has also remained a stable, independent regional power. It is no wonder that India's democratic experience has fascinated historians and political scientists, not to speak of those western visitors who find in India so much that is familiar yet is obviously different in her political life. This book set out to examine the making of this rare political phenomenon, an Asian democracy. It has investigated its roots in the growth of institutions and new patterns of political behaviour, in the development of Indian ideas, particularly about power, authority and group identity, and in the nature of the society into which democratic forms have been welcomed, despite their alien social and cultural origins. But our study would be incomplete without some consideration of India's continuing experience of democracy since independence, some attempt to understand both its durability and its frailties, and also whether it has accomplished the tasks set for it by the end of colonial rule and the expectation of its peoples. This epilogue is only an introduction to the complexities of modern India's democratic experience. Excellent literature is available on the political system, society, and economy, and the varied experience of different states with the Indian Union: some are suggested at the end of this volume. What follows is a discussion of some important themes as signposts for readers who wish to explore more deeply the lives of a people we have followed for two centuries, from being subjects of a Muslim empire in the process of erosion by long-term change, to becoming citizens of a democratic, secular state caught up in the political and economic turbulence of the late twentieth-century world.


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