Democracy, Nationalism, and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia

Democracy, Nationalism, and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia

Democracy, Nationalism, and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia

Democracy, Nationalism, and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia

Excerpt

This book grew out of my doctoral thesis, which was completed at the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS), University of Denver, in 1990. In it, I attempted to explore the social origins of modern South Asian politics, specifically, the circumstances leading to the emergence of "democracy" in India and chronic military rule in Pakistan, a contrast that seemed (and seems) interesting since both India and Pakistan were part of a single state until their freedom from British colonial rule in 1947.

However, it was not only theoretical reasons that motivated me to study this contrast, but personal as well. Forced to leave Pakistan in 1983 after then-president General Zia ul Haq illegally terminated my career in the Foreign Service and began to persecute my family for my criticism of him, I have endured the pain and alienation that seems to be the fate of exiles, no matter how congenial the situation in the country of their asylum. Like others in a similar predicament, I was driven to try and make sense of my circumstances by attempting to understand the broader social and political conditions that had engendered them.

Although I began by trying to determine why Pakistan had been under persistent military rule since 1958, I soon became interested in ascertaining why India had been able to sustain some form of "democracy" during the same period. My search for an answer, however, proved unsatisfactory. There were only a few comparative studies on India and Pakistan and these raised more questions than they answered. The noncomparative literature, though scholarly and instructive, turned out to offer only partial insights into the contrast as well. I was, therefore, encouraged to venture an analysis of my own based on my reading of Antonio Gramsci.

This proved a rash undertaking in a school with no "Gramscians" or "South Asianists" to guide me. Not only did I end up struggling with Gramsci's cryptic work in lonely splendor, but in seeking to "apply" it, I was forced much further back into history than I had anticipated -- into the colonial period itself. As so often seems to happen with graduate students, the end project of my labors thus bore little resemblance to the question that had motivated them.

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