Democracy and Dictatorship in South Asia: Dominant Classes and Political Outcomes in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

Democracy and Dictatorship in South Asia: Dominant Classes and Political Outcomes in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

Democracy and Dictatorship in South Asia: Dominant Classes and Political Outcomes in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

Democracy and Dictatorship in South Asia: Dominant Classes and Political Outcomes in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

Synopsis

In reaction to British imperialism during the 19th and 20th centuries, Indian Muslims and Hindus imagined and invented their separate and distinct religious communities and communal nationalisms. These were institutionalized in the subcontinent's political systems by the British government in collaboration with Indian politicians. Stern argues that this production of communalism has been crucial in structuring the composition and organization of South Asia's politically dominant classes, and that they, in turn, have been crucial in determining parliamentary democracy's growth or atrophy on the subcontinent. In what became India, the overwhelmingly Hindu National Congress formed a coalition of professionals and landed peasants, later joined by industrialists, that was friendly to the development of parliamentary democracy. In its western provinces, Pakistan's legacy from British government was a ruling coalition of landlords and civilian and military bureaucrats that has continued to impede the development of parliamentary democracy. Until 1971, this coalition equated parliamentary democracy with the loss of their dominance to Pakistan's Bengali majority. Only among them, in Pakistan's eastern province, now Bangladesh, was there a politically dominant coalition of classes that was friendly to the development of parliamentary democracy. It had the ironic effect in Pakistan of entrenching the west's anti-democratic coalition. Dogged by the legacies of twenty-four years as Pakistan's subordinate province, disorganization among its dominant classes and a vanished rural base, the development of parliamentary democracy in Bangladesh has been slow and uneven.

Excerpt

Torn from cloth of the same civilization, the societies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are more like one another than they are like those of any other countries. They share the same cultural and historical heritages of Islamized Hinduism and Hinduized Islam. Most Pakistanis and the vast majority of Bangladeshis belong to ethnolinguistic groups that are also Indian. Also, and crucial to this study, India is the larger part and Pakistan and Bangladesh the smaller parts of what was until 1947 the same British Indian empire—for a century at least, and for two centuries in parts of the subcontinent.

Yet over the past fifty years of independent statehood, parliamentary democracy has been developing in India, whereas in Pakistan it has never been more man a masquerade and its players in Bangladesh have yet to understand it as other man a zero-sum game. Why? This book is my effort to suggest some answers. It is largely a work of synthetic scholarship. Much of the data in it is known or readily knowable. Only their combination into a coherent argument is original to this synthesis. Like most attempts to answer complex questions, mine takes the form of a proposition, an argument. The answers it provides are certainly not definitive. But they are, I think, substantial. My argument is about history; or rather, histories. It structures this study and integrates its parts into a whole. In this introduction, and particularly for my readers who are not South Asia specialists, I present that proposition within its broad historical contexts of British India and of independent Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi statehood. Along the way, I have signposted particular events that are germane to my argument. So, this chapter will, I hope, both introduce my argument and put in context the particular histories in the chapters that follow.

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