ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Idea of Democratic India

Patriots and Partisans by Ramachandra Guha (Delhi: Allen Lane), 2012; pp xvi + 334, Rs 699

“Why is there an India at all?”, asks Ramachandra Guha. And, Naipaul: “Why does India survive?” Here the impossible “success of India’s democracy” is oriented towards making us feel wonderment and awe. This makes us feel that India has always been against power and has nothing to do with power as such – thanks to the work of democrats like Nehru who struggled against all odds and “made it happen”. Such a deep attachment develops towards “our democracy” that it seems to provide the only path for progressive social change. We should only defend it from its detractors, corruptors and its many enemies.

Among the enemies, Guha lines up first the most rabid colonialists like Churchill and Kipling who thought that Indians were not fit for self-government. Then he comes to right and left absolutists who want to replace “the democratic idea of India”. To this Guha (2012: 11) now, in his latest book Patriots and Partisans, adds a third: “ethnic separatism”, where he talks about the north-east and Kashmir; I would have thought he meant “Indian expansionism”.

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