The India story
Syed Hassan Kazim is a Delhi based journalist. He can be reached at shkazim92110[at]gmail.com.
India since 1947 by Atul Kumar Thakur (ed.), Niyogi Books/2013, pp. 340 (PB), Price: Rs 395.
Since its independence in1947, India as a nation has gone under the uncommanded changes that made it more like a large set of complex systems rather a linear entity, easy to handle with. Legendary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s line, Yeh Daagh daag ujala yeh shab guzeeda sehr/ Wo intezar tha jiska yeh who saher to nahin (The bloated daybreak, dawn night’s fangs have mangled / This is not that long looked for day for break of day)’’, poignantly depicts the many conflicts which had taken over in the Indian sub-continent at the time of partition and subsequently with the creation of two young nations with old civilizational legacy: India and Pakistan.
The dreams more shattered than fulfilled with turn of the time. Much before the grief entered collective consciousness, Manto seen its marks and chronicalised the unrelenting ugliness of xenophobia in his writings, which sadly received with acute disdain from most of the quarters. Over the decades, disillusionment has though mainstreamed but few healthy literature have shaped-up, which could deal with the plight of subcontinent with sense of attachment.
India since 1947, edited by Atul Kumar Thakur comes like a breather in such backdrop. This painstakingly worked out anthology with sharp editorial clarity exudes hope to come in terms with the modern India. Thee book contains thirty essays by remarkable intellectuals from different fields, and some by young minds discussing about the way India has evolved as a democracy since 1947.
In the beginning of the book, Ramachandra Guha in his essay titled The rise and fall of bilingual intellectuals argues that the language call Hindi or Hindustani is widely spoken nowadays more because of the Bollywoodisation of the Indian society.He also stresses that the emotional or intellectual bilingualism once ubiquitous is now present in pockets, these too in the older generation. While talking about Jinnah, Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose he describes them as thinkers of monolingual variety.
Prem Shankar Jha’s essay India: Where democracy has gone wrong delves with the wider political maneuverings. He avers that the years of Jawaharlal Nehru were undoubtedly the phase of empowerment, when the government was honest and it drew up grand plans for ending poverty and the people had faith in them, but that euphoria could not last long.
He asserts that the omission of a system for meeting the cost of running a democracy and the failure to enact provisions that would convert a bureaucracy that had been schooled over a century into believing that its function was to rule the people into its servant, were the two main reasons through which it can be ascertained did the Indian democracy go wrong.
While praising the Nehruvian model of foreign police and non-alignment former External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh in his essay,The first sixty years of India’s foreign policywrites that the Nehruvian framework has got a setback by Manmohan Singh’s way of getting much closer to America.Here he breaks the momentum from his erstwhile Congress loyalty.
He argues that Pandit Nehru’s authority and eminence ensured that the Indian point of view was heard with certain amount of respect in the world capitals as he was ideally equipped to be the foreign minister of India. Unfortunately, economically and strategically much stronger India misses those early found gains.
Shashi Tharoor in his piece –Politics and Indian middle class,searches Indian middle class has no time for activism because of compressed movement outside the narrow material confines. He laments about the money flowing at the top while the votes in the stratified society lying at the bottom.
However the recent anti-corruption movements led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kezriwal and mass protests on the wake of horrible gang rape of December 16 presented a different face of middle class. But aptly, those turnouts would be termed momentous and bounded with insecurity rather a healthy response against the chronic ills, till the participation goes natural with the youth and politics.
Jagmohan , who was the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir during the most turbulent times, shares some of his obvious and fresh takes on Kashmir, in his essay Kashmir: Past and present. While criticizing article 370, argues that it gives flame to the fire of separatism in the valley.
He laments about the rise of fundamentalism in Kashmir which somehow has become a threat for the centuries old culture rich with Sufism. He blames National Conference of making the way easier for the Jama’at-i-Islami and other radical forces in the valley. But the Kashmiri Awaamwould not accept his ideas about Kashmir and its history easily.
With Looking Back: 64 Years of Independence, Rakhshanda Jalil laments about the increasing divide between the rich and the poor:‘Chamaktaa aur Tadapta Bharat’. She recalls the persisting contradictions even after six decades of independence, India has not bridged the chasm within it.
In her known articulation, she reminds how urban India has seized to care about anything falling outside of its immediate interest. There are many recent incidences and so called revolutions on the streets of the national capital, Delhi which can be taken as examples of the facts presented by her.
In his essay, India: Underlined in Red!, Atul Kumar Thakur brings out the truth about the conflict between the state and the downtrodden tribal in India. Very aptly he points out about the way the successive governments of India have defied their own constitutional guarantee in practice to provide the Adivasis with opportunities for social and economic development.
With expertise over the theme, he comes heavily over the policies of the government in different times, which have invariably dispossessed the tribals from their traditional means of livelihood and cultural independence.
In their essay titled Putting growth in its place, noble laureate Amartya Sen and development economist Jean Dreze emphasize over the need of inclusive growth for the country. They brought the haunting socio-economic matters to the fore and shows how even after two decades of rapid growth, India still stays one of the poor countries in the world.
Two veterans, Bimal Jalan in attacking the systemic flaws and B G Verghese presenting the state of affairs in public broadcasting give India since 1947, a sublime completeness. PranNevile’sKL Saigal’s legacy recalls the great Indian singer and his way of bringing music to the masses while being the last luminary superstar of the fading gramophone era.
The essays of Udaya Narayan Singh, Anupam Mishra, Sunita Narain, Bibek Debroy, Sumana Roy, Yamini Mishra/Navanita Sinha, Ninad Sheth, Bishal Thapa, Banibrata Mahanta allow this anthology to get greater shape and give more effects to the theme. Alokita Datta, Mayuri Mukherjee, Mahima Kaul and other young writers add values and diversity to the book.
Tabish Khair’s endorsement of the book is justified-sans preoccupation the readers can sense it. As a non-fiction project, this is a terrific entry of this year. It has strong chances to be in the run for long time, both for its balanced textual and contextual merits. For reference, the editor should be known by this book, his first one!