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Independent India at 60: An ‘Unnatrual Nation’

August 2007
Independent India at 60: An ‘Unnatrual Nation’

We might draw a map of India for each decade, with the conflicts then prevalent marked in various colors depending on their intensity; blue for those that dramatically advance the interests of a particular group; red for those that more aggressively, yet still non-violently, ask for a major change in the law; and black for those that seek the destruction of the Indian state by arms.

Reading these maps chronologically, one would find major variations across the decades, with red states becoming black, black areas becoming red, and blue and red areas becoming white—that being the color of those parts of India where there appears to be no major conflict at all. These maps would present a vivid kaleidoscope of changing colors. But amid all the changes the discerning viewer would also see the two things that remain constant. The first is that the shape of the map does not change through all its iterations. This is because no part of India has successfully left India. The second is that at no time do the blue, red, and black areas, taken together, anywhere approximate the extent of the white areas. Even in what were known as its "dangerous decades," much more than 50 percent of India was comfortably at peace with itself.

The press nowadays—quality and tabloid, pink and white, Indian and western—is chock-full of stories of India's economic success, reckoned to be greatly at odds with its past history of poverty and deprivation. However, the real success story of modern India lies not in the domain of economics but in that of politics. The saluting of India's "software boom" might be premature. We do not yet know whether this boom will lead to a more general prosperity among the masses. But that India is still a single nation after sixty testing years of independence, and that it is still largely democratic—these are what should compel our deeper attention.

Excerpted with the permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York.

COMING NEXT MONTH: Khabar's interview with Ramachandra Guha and a review of India After Gandhi.

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