Burden Of Democracy by Pratap Bhanu Mehta
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Indians love to exhort in the fact that India is a nation of contradictions. In fact, it is readily apparent to the outsider, the contradictions that embody the nation state called India. From the very birth of this nation, people have raised hue and cry that it won't survive at all. And they were are all, in their own way, justifiable. But India chose to beat those odds, and for extra points, settled on Democracy as its chosen mode of government.
And it was the most important choice that was ever made. Perhaps, it was, as P.B.Mehta cheekily points out, the result of the British Colony having produced too many lawyers affluent in the Western model of governments. But the choice of Democracy was not intuitive nor was it the result of a revolution as in the case of France or America. It was much a vehicle of social change as it was the result of one.
The idealism associated with State and Democracy in the beginning days of independence, was very high indeed. But now, it has devolved to a point where
There are very few people you can come across that won't fault the government for whatever issue they have, on in some manner, indirectly imply that the state should be more authoritative and have more punitive powers. And it is not surprising that recently, the Modi government is looked upon to provide exactly that kind of governance. Never mind that India survived only because BJP was kept at bay.
There are various contradictions in India's choice of government. And more to the point, there is no clear consensus on what Democracy actually means. There is the issue of Politics of Inequality, politics of caste, Identity politics, low caste mobilization, and the issue of widespread corruption.
P.B.Mehta examines all of these, claims that India needs a much stronger moral anchor for the Democracy to be better than it is today, quoting the US as an example. He deconstructs the psychology of both lower caste mobilization and also studies why there isn't actually a social reform happening every time an oppressed society is elected to power. The pointer at the fact that there is a goal of power and not equalization or of opportunity to their community, is succinct.
The exploration of the results of India's in-egalitarian society effacing it's individuals and the derivation of the micro politics of corruption based on this injustice, as an effort to prove their worth and to assert their authority, is particularly mind-blowing.
This is the smallest book on my shelf, yet the one that made me think the most. What I have mentioned here is really a miniscule amount of what is contained in the book. It is sure to make you ask uncomfortable questions and at times, merely make your jaw drop in the awe of scholarship of P.B.Mehta.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to see if he has written anything on Nationalism.
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