‘India After Gandhi’ is a powerful non-fiction narrative of India’s journey post Independence until the recent past. The book is authored by a popular writer – Ramchandra Guha, who has also penned other books, including ‘Gujarat: The making of a tragedy’, ‘A Corner of a Foreign Field’, etc.
In this book, Ramchandra Guha describes India as an “unnatural nation” because he believes that the nation is home to people of different faiths, ideologies, yet a very powerful democracy for several decades now.
‘India after Gandhi’ was first published in 2007, but the author signed off the book’s second edition in August 2016, almost a decade after the original release. The extended version of the book covers Indian history until 2014.
The book covers the different phases through which the country has gone through, after its independence, in various sections of the books. In this article, we cover the most important sections of the book, covering all its highlights.
India Achieving Independence
In this section of the book, Guha narrates the journey of decolonization and Independence of India in 1947. He covers the partition of Pakistan from India, due to which around 12 million people had to move across borders in both directions.
Around 500 princely states that were into existence during that period and not colonized by the British were convinced to join the Indian union. However, the status of one region named Kashmir was not resolved, and it remains disputed to date. Both India and Pakistan continue to claim their rights over the area even today.
Constitution & The Nehru Period
The three-year period for drafting the constitution is the longest one. After India and Pakistan achieved independence in 1947, India’s constitution was drafted between December 1946 and December 1949. However, the constitution came into effect in January 1950.
Post that, the nation held its very first general election in 1952. The Congress Party witnessed a landslide victory in the polls, and Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of Independent India.
Later, the country’s domestic political map was redrawn, and several states (provinces) were constituted based on the local, regional languages. While India was a democratic nation, its integrity looked to be under threat when several groups like the Naga tribe started seeking independence and communist governments were formed in the states of Kerala and West Bengal.
War With China And The Rise Of Indira Gandhi
In 1959, Dalai Lama escaped Tibet and came to India only to be warmly welcomed by the country. It irked the Chinese government, which handed a humiliating defeat to India in the 1962 war, which was a result of disputed borders. However, the war did not lead to any solution, as the two countries continue to have troubled relations to this day.
During this period, the country saw the rise and rise of Indira Gandhi. She became a powerful force, and she went on to become the Prime Minister of India in 1966. Her rise to power meant a big blow to Pakistan, as she led India to war with Pakistan in 1971. The outcome of the war was the liberation of Bangladesh as a separate state, which earlier used to be called ‘East Pakistan’.
Indira Gandhi’s rule has been quite controversial, as many saw democracy to be under threat when she declared the state of emergency in June 1975. As an aftermath, the party lost the 1977 elections badly, which threw the Congress Party out of power for the first time since India achieved independence.
However, the trouble for Congress was short-lived, as soon it returned to power again. Rajiv Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi, went on to become the Prime Minister of the country. Shortly after that, both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were tragically assassinated within a few years.
Economic Reform And The Issues Plaguing India
Around 1991, India underwent an acute financial crisis. However, the country took that as an opportunity for economic reform. India looked at the IT sector as a key driver of its economy, and it worked as planned for the country.
India is now seen as one of the major emerging economic powers and one of the leaders of the Asian century. However, despite all that, the country still continues to be plagued by issues like poverty, lack of quality education and healthcare infrastructure.
While all this continued to happen under Congress watch, the opposition party – Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) started to see this as an opportunity. After the Congress Party continued with its lacklustre performance for around ten years, it was dethroned by the Narendra Modi led Bhartiya Janata Party in 2014.
However, the BJP has an entirely different ideology as compared to Nehru’s powerful slogan of ‘Unity in Diversity. Guha has highlighted in strong words the beliefs of BJP, which supports ‘muscular majoritarianism.’
In the book, the author suggests that while the democracy of the country can be threatened, it cannot be revoked. It is because it has some strong points, including holding elections, permitting freedom of movement and expression.
On the other hand, he recognizes the weak points of democracy. He states that most political parties have become family firms, and most politicians come from a criminal background or are corrupt. He suggests that the country’s lawmakers are often law-breakers, as well.
Guha believes that the country, on one side, is successfully competing with other global superpowers but is still incompetent when it comes to containing religious discontent, providing basic infrastructure, etc.
Overall, the book is certainly insightful as it covers the most important aspects of India’s journey post-independence in its ~800 pages of reading.