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The Forum > Article Comments > The wonder of Indian democracy > Comments

The wonder of Indian democracy : Comments

By Ashutosh Varshney, published 2/3/2012

Indian democracy works in practice, even though some would say it should not work in theory.

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You seem to forget that India and Indians had a sense of nation imposed upon from the outside in the form of the Raj. For over 150years, Indian identity was shaped by the constant knowledge that they lived in British India- the transition to nationalism was always marked by a desire to replace British India with an Indian India. Moreover, the institutions of the Raj, as opposed to their forebears in John Company, were more national than the Indians themselves had ever been. In dealing with the Raj, the Indians ultimately had to think in terms of nationalism, and the national good, than in strictly sectarian or regional terms.

Another compelling force for a united India was the break away of Pakistan and the sectarian violence that led to it. Congress began its life as a pan-Indian political party and included many prominent Muslims until Gandhi and his allies pushed it towards a more fanatical Hindu agenda. The acceptance of the final split must be placed at the feet of Mountbatten, but there is no denying that when the predominantly Muslim areas broke off into West and East Pakistan, it provided a powerful stimulus to the view that what was left was the real India. Perhaps Gandhi's greatest contribution to Indian Democracy was his death at the hands of a Hindu fanatic; not only did it sound a warning against fanatical sectarianism, but removed a prominent figure that had campaigned for a predominantly Hindu conception of India. Once the British had left, one can only wonder what his agenda might have been- perhaps a Hindu theocracy?

We should also be careful about saying what a democracy looks like; the Australian and American democracies are very different but no less effective or valid for those differences. India is developing its own form of democracy- reflective of an electorate of 850million and a population of 1.3billion.
Posted by bren122, Saturday, 3 March 2012 11:54:48 AM
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On so many bases Indian democracy is indeed a wonder of success, and its formula warrants study for potential application to so many troubled constituencies on this planet. Perhaps it is not only the Indian political system which may account for the relative stability and conflict-free status of this huge nation but also the nature and outlook of its people. Much deserves study here, for the stability and continued economic and social development of this second most populous nation on Earth is a guiding light to possibilities, and greatly worthy of emulation.

Could one contrast with Fiji perhaps, or PNG, or Indonesia - and more particularly with Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan? Human society has much to learn from India.

On Gandhi: brenn22's comment here is severely at odds with the portrayal of the Mahatma in the Richard Attenborough movie "Gandhi", and I therefore wonder if anyone can either confirm or refute brenn22's less than complimentary portrayal of the father of Indian independence, freedom and democracy. brenn's view troubles me greatly.

Ashutosh Varshney (our author), perhaps you might start the ball rolling by addressing brenn's post?
Posted by Saltpetre, Sunday, 4 March 2012 1:12:46 PM
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