The boycott of Simon Commission by Indian negotiators sounded the death knell of the British Raj in India. (Cartoonist – David Low (1891-1963) Published – Evening Standard, 11 Feb 1928). Click for larger image.
Rock & A Hard Place
Between 1916, when Lokmanya BG Tilak, declared ‘Swaraj is my birthright’ to Atlee’s announcement of British withdrawal, in February 1946, in a short thirty years, the greatest empire in world history had been humbled.
In less than 70 years, they are back.
While we discuss, argue, shout, scream, talk, negotiate
Anglo-American forces today control Af-Pak region. The Indian Government and the people of India see Pakistan, an Anglo-American agent, as its prime rival – instead of the Anglo-American patrons as the root cause.
In the last 20 years, India has lowered guard considerably – and unless, this direction is reversed swiftly, the Indian Nation maybe in peril.
In the last 12 years
It has become common in Indian media to promote colonial ‘contribution’ in the building of modern India.
With memory dim, for India’s Y2K generation, Indian poverty after colonialism, the food and clothing shortages are only stories. The context forgotten, India’s Y2K generation is being shoe-horned into blindness, by a shouting brigade.
Led by the ‘intellectuals’ like ‘Lord’ Meghnad Desai, Amartya Sen, or Indian origin journalists with global-Western media like Sadanand Dhume, or hoax journalism like Andy Mukherjee or lazy writers in the mould of Krittivas Mukherjee, aided by Indo-Western academics like Jagdish Bhagwati, Rafiq Zakaria, etc.
Within India itself, this shouting brigade has a large following, too many to name or count.
To illustrate this point,
The ritual murder of Pakistani polity by the Pakistani army. (Democracy in Pakistan By Olle Johansson, Sweden; courtesy – blackcommentator.com.). Click for larger image.
India has a constitution; Pakistan has editions. These are the various Pakistani constitutions: 1935 (secular), 1956 (federal), 1962 (dictatorial), 1973 (parliamentary), 1979 (Islamic), 1999 (presidential), 2008 (parliamentary). Why do they keep changing and searching? Muslims keep trying to hammer in Islamic bits into a set of laws that is actually quite complete. This is the Government of India Act of 1935, gifted to us by the British. (via What ails Kashmir? The Sunni idea of ‘azadi’ – Columns – livemint.com).
Birth of a Nation
To this school of commentariat, Indian Constituent Assembly counts for nothing.
The Constituent Assembly, which included at least 50% of the Indian political leadership and their work over 25,000 man-hours, amount to nothing. Or the Indian contribution to the making of the Government of India Act of 1935, itself.
In a short period of less than 30 months, India wrote and implemented its constitution. It has been been a rather pliable constitution getting amended a number of times – and yet has been upheld and respected by all the extensions of the State. Britain enacted The Government of India Act, first in 1919 and then in 1935. Some Indians have claimed the Indian Constitution is nothing original – but based on The Government of India Act, 1935, by the British Raj.
The wonder is not any document. It is in making it work.
What matters to Indians are not declarations of belief – but hard, real actions. In the words of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, ‘what counts is conduct, not belief’. American declaration of independence talked of ‘all men are created equal’ and promptly became the biggest importer of slaves in the history of the world.
For how long will our glitterati, chatterati, papparazzi, intelligentsia, cognoscenti, continue with this bilge.
Just the two of us!
At this stage it maybe worthwhile to revisit the record of Republican Democracy.
In the last 250 years, just 6 countries succeeded with Republican democracy without a significant breakdown in the first 50 years. Of the six, Sri Lanka (pop. 200 lakhs) Switzerland (pop. 80 lakhs), Israel (pop. 75 lakhs) and Singapore (pop. 50 lakhs) are tiny countries to generate any valuable data, models, norms or precedents. In any other day, age and society, the republican-democracy model would have been laughed off – and not studied by millions.
America became one of the first successful republican democracies – from 1789, when George Washington became the first elected President of USA. 70 years later, the strains were showing – North versus South. America was on the verge of Civil War – the main cause of which was the desire of the Southern states to remain independent (due to tariff issues) or at best as a loose confederation – not a federal union (actually slavery was a side issue).
The reason why India’s Republican Democracy works is because Indian genius has made it work. It is the commitment to make the system work, which is why the system is working.
Though some may cavil about how well (?) it works!
Meeting of minds
In the period between 1916 to 1946, India developed a national consensus and agenda.
On many subjects there was no political or even popular leadership. For instance, in 1944, Indian businessmen, in the middle of WWII, met and started work on an industrial policy for independent India. Or the huge protests by the entire Indian nation against the Red Fort Trials of the INA.
Of greater significance was the meeting that Gandhiji called in November 1947. This meeting was to happen in February of 1948. On January 30th, 1948, Gandhiji was assassinated. But Gandhiji’s co-workers went ahead and organized the meeting at Sevagram, Wardha, between March 11-March 14 1948 (alternate date (PDF) is March 13-15, 1948).
Gandhi is Gone: Who Will Guide Us Now? edited by Gopalkrishna Gandhi. (is a) remarkable book (that) is a record of introspection amongst Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Vinoba Bhave, J B Kripalani, Jayaprakash Narayan and others, at Sevagram in March 1948.
They had been charged by the Mahatma to consider the type of institutions India would need for its development and what should be the role and structure of the Congress party. Nations are ill-served when their institutions fail to evolve to fit their needs. The questions the Mahatma had posed in 1948 have become burning issues again.
via Who will lead us now? Institutions waiting for leaders who will bring them back from the brink and win citizens’ trust – The Economic Times.
Much was discussed – and powerful figures like Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayen decided to work from within and and outside the system. With no constitution, without a Parliament, without elections, India was being governed by a British administrator, at Indian request, to provide continuum, from the Raj to a sovereign India. From these discussions was born the Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan movement – and Jaya Prakash Narayen’s Sarvodaya movement.
Without the power of the State, these movements worked on the power of suasion – and were powerful movements till the Bombay High generation took over the country, in 1975.
This ‘gift of the British’ to us Indians is a public document.
If it’s value is so apparent, why have others not been able to take advantage of it. The same British, gave the same document to the Pakistan also. So, this claim that Indian Constitution, Indian democracy, even the British nation are a British ‘gift, is not only incorrect and illogical. Immaterial too!
This a claim not even worth examining, since this Government of India Act, 1935, has been in public domain for more than 75 years. Pakistan had all the rights to it. Apart from India – and to how many other colonies in the world, I have never counted..
Why could Pakistan do nothing with it.
In fact Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly dragged this Constitution-making exercise till October 1956.
Is Pakistan A Free State? Cartoon by Zahoor in Daily Times, Pakistan | Click for image.
Cut back to 1956 Pakistan
Remember that 1956 was the year of India’s 2nd general election.
Also the year when Pakistan became a republic – and the first constitution of Pakistan was adopted.
Governor General Sahibzada Sayyid Iskander Ali Mirza (a Shia Muslim from Bengal, direct descendant of Mir Jaffer) became the first President of the Pakistani Republic.
Two years later, in October 1958, President Iskander Mirza staged a coup d’état and dismissed the constitution. Shortly afterwards General Ayub Khan deposed Iskandar and declared himself president. These shenanigans started the tradition of Army rule in Pakistan.
To an emerging Pakistan, after a 9 year struggle to write a constitution, two years later, the Army declared that the Constitution was worthless piece of paper. Another Constitution was written in 1962, and then a third.
And a few more after that.
For a realistic assessment of the British ‘capability’ to govern, let us look at British misrule in Britain itself.
How could super-power Britain spiral down to bankruptcy, in less than 70 years, after WWII. If their ideas of governance and administration were so good, why could they not save themselves from this slide in fortunes? British ‘capabilities’ in areas of technology, industrial management, academia stands naked and exposed.
It is the British mindset itself that may need examination to understand this decline!
British Loss of Power
1916 – April 16. BG Tilak declares Swaraj is my birthright; forms Home Rule League at the Bombay Provincial Conference held at Belgaum.
1927 – Indian polity refuses to negotiate with Simon Commission.
1930 – Bhagat Singh displays disinterest in the legal outcome of his trial.
1944 – India’s leading industrialists come together (Bombay Club) and make an economic-plan document for an India which was yet to be born; for a government that was yet to be formed.
1946 – Naval Ratings raise the Indian Flag of independence.
1947 – Britain out of India
Managing the Indian State
The Indian State today, like its Desert Bloc’s cousins, is getting entangled in my marriage, in my sex life, in my monetary affairs, in my disputes with my neighbors, in my housing layout, in my sewage, in my garbage.
Why? Get out of my life.
Instead, we the people must set a clear agenda for the government. And the Top-3 items on are