- Paperback: 960 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Latest edition (14 August 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780330505543
- ISBN-13: 978-0330505543
- ASIN: 0330505548
- Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 365 customer reviews
India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy (Old Edition) Paperback – 14 Aug 2008
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About the Author
Ramachandra Guha's books cover a wide range of themes: they include a global history of environmentalism, a biography of an anthropologist-activist, a social history of Indian cricket, and a social history of Himalayan peasants. His entire career, he says, seems in retrospect to have been an extended (and painful) preparation for the writing of India After Gandhi.
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It was a mere co-incidence that I started reading this book immediately after 'The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru'. The earlier book ends in 1945 whereas this book starts from say 1946 when the first major riot between Hindus and Muslims broke in Bengal and then slowly spread across North India till and subsequent to the partition for some more time. One book is written by an author who was involved in the freedom struggle and the other is by a historian who can (and I think he has) take a impartial view of history.
Well, this book is also a bulky book of 900 plus pages and is written in a very gripping style and generally, at no place, it looks like it is lengthy.
As stated above, the book starts at year 1946 and ends in 2007 (Recently, he released latest version which I believe is till 2017, but I do not have copy of that book). To write about 60 years of a country in one volume is no joke and the author has done the justice.
Frankly, I do not know from where to start and where to end as I myself will end up writing another long essay about the book, which is absolutely unnecessary.
The author has taken a very balanced view about the personalities as well as events, whether they are natural, man-made, whether the events are arising out of those personalities or otherwise. Partition of country, issue of Kashmir, princely States and their annexation to India, particularly of some bigger ones like Mysore and Hyderabad, friendship and mutual respect that Pandit Nehru has about Shaikh Mohammed, but still imprisoning him, declaration of emergency, India China war, militancy in Punjab, Operation Blue Star and so on.
When country was liberated, for first 10 years, the country and the leadership of Pandit Nehru faced so many problems. I have listed only few of them. Poverty, insufficient in food, virtually no industrial production, burning issues of Kashmir and other princely States, serious problems in Nagaland (when it was not Nagaland), right and left wing parties and balancing both of them at same time, People seeking States based on linguistic patterns, his tilt towards socialism but not trying to antagonise America etc etc etc. Today, there is a trend to blame Pandit Nehru for all things which he did not do, but a reading of this book makes you happy that we had such a Prime Minister. Well, he was a human being and did some errors, but considering that he had to run the country with so many challenges, I think he did remarkable job.
I would like to emphasize only on two three things out of entire book which I felt are important to talk about.
The book talks about Development in Kerala in 1950-60s and how high literacy rate and how social reforms helped Kerala in all round development in contrast to BIMARU States.
The books talks a lot on establishment of States on linguistic basis. Congress had promised it before the independence, but was not sure how will it span out, if actually implemented, post independence. However, due to pressure on Central Government, it finally yielded. Many foreign authorities had said that India will break away and many mini Indias will get created. The analogy used by them was say US or European countries, or Australia or USSR which were bound together either by language or by religion. If you break any of these, the countries will break. So, India was proved to be a solid exception that the division of States on linguistic style did not result in breaking of States in different countries. In fact, at the handsite, it proved to be boon for the prosperity of regional culture, spread of local language, literature and so on.
It talks in details about emergency period and how people fought it. A very surprising fact was that as to why Indira Gandhi suddenly lifted the emergency and declared elections, is still not known.
There is a separate chapter on Entertainment and sports.
One thing which we should remember when we are reading today that the book was written in 2007 and things have changed further.
All in all, I liked the book and I am definitely wiser (though I may not agree to all whatever said by the author) in terms of India's history after reading thee two books.
My recommendation is that all of those who are interested in history of india must read the book.
This is an extremely readable History of The Republic of India covers sweeping range topics from Politics, Language, Legislation, Religion, Castes, Secessionist movements, Economics, Wars, Corruption , Foreign policy, Agriculture, Popular Culture and more. Writing Indian history is a formidable task given its multitude of languages, religions, castes, ethnicities, political ideologies. Its had to describe the book on chronological or in a thematic order. Despite the fact the book was written 10 years ago, its still relevant and does the task of educating the reader especially Indian readers(because many don’t read Indian history after 1947). Generally people narrate the story of Republic of India from the top down(i.e. from the centre).The centre story starts with the Prime Ministership of Nehru. Nehru had a formidable task of running the state machinery which was systematically plundered for 200 years followed by a violent partition. In his 16 years in office, he had made tremendous contribution to the nation. According to the writer, if had retired in 1958 Nehru would be remembered as the Greatest Prime Minister of India. Unfortunately, his failures(especially Sino-Indian War 1962) are exploited by politicians even today to polarise voters and has tarnished his image. Nehru has shaped India as much as India shaped him. He implemented Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) Act, Liberated Goa(1961), established Five-Year Plans (inspired by the Soviets), States Reorganisation Act(1956), set the Indian Foreign policy(Non-Alignment movement) in motion. Given the fact that Nehru had to deal with Secessionist movements in Kashmir, North East, influx of refugees from partitions, poverty and broken economy, he has done a great deal of work for the nation. However he died as a broken man following India's defeat in Sino-Indian War.
Lal Bahadur Shastri, succeeded Nehru, held office for 2 years until his mysteriously death in Tashkent.
India Gandhi who succeeded Shahstri had a centralised the line of command with the Congress party in contrast to Nehru(which alienated many seniors within the Congress). She initiated the Green Revolution, Liberated Bangladesh (1971) and turn extreme left with the Nationalisation of Indian Banks. The Opposition and many congress members begin to see Indira as a leader with authoritarian bent. There was fierce opposition from leaders like Jayaprash Narayanan, Moraji Desai to Indira and Sanjay Gandhi. Between 1975 and 1977, Indira declared Emergency. Following the tumultuous period, elections were declared in 1979 and Congress party lost the election. Eccentric Moraji Desai assumed office in 1979 and Charan Singh in 1980. They terribly mismanaged the economy. According to the writer, the only good change brought by them was the new legalisation which ensured that they all not be an emergency in the future. Indira won the office in 1980. She faced difficult time post 1980. She faced Secessionist problem in Punjab demanding for Khalistan and her son Sanjay lost his life in a plan crash. Her elder son Rajiv reluctantly entered politics. Indira was assassinated in 1984 by her Sikh Bodyguards following the Operation Bluestar in Golden Temple, Punjab.
When Rajiv Gandhi assumed office in 1984, there were Anti-Sikh Riots in Delhi(following Indira Gandhi’s assassination), Bhopal gas disaster and insurgency in North-East. He initiated reforms to modernise the economy. His inexperience led him to many political blunders in Ayodha dispute, Shah Bano Case and sending Indian Peace keeping Force to Jaffna. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE in 1991.
Between 1990 and 1991, India had two prime minister V.P Singh and Chandra Sekhar. Congress won the 1991 election following Rajiv’s assassination and P.V. Narasimha Rao assumed office. In 1991, India faced bankruptcy and following the Gulf war(1991) the oil price spiked and India’s foriegn reserves were depleting. Rao appointment Dr. Manmohan Sigh as Finance Minister to initiate the economic liberalisation. Dr. Sigh dismantled the License raj, allowed FDI and made other reforms to the quasi-socialist economy.
In 1996, Congress lost the election and India had three prime minister between 1996 and 1998. In 1998, BJP come to power and Atal Bihari Vajpayee assumed office. Under Vajpayee, India made progress in economic reforms and in particular on defence front. Between 1999 and 2004, there were many tumultuous moments Indian Airline hijack, 2001 parliament attack and 2002 Gujarat riots.
In 2004, Congress led UPA(centre left) coalition won the election headed by Sonia Gandhi. Dr. Manmohan Singh assumed office and initiated reforms RTI, National Rural Employment Act.
The Story from the bottom up is different. Since 1956 there is a rise in regional political parties. CPI(M) in Kerala, DMK & AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, TMC in West Bengal, BSP & SP in Uttar Pradesh, TDP in Andra Pradesh. Increasingly the politics and voices are regional and there is a increase in the decentralisation of power in India. There were many naysayers who predicted the disintegration of India since 1947. Despite all that, India continue to thrive through complex co-ordination between diverse people in the share homeland. I think the writers 50-50 description is an apt one.
One problem with the book is that it is too bulky and cannot be read on hand. It needs an external support something like a table or reading support.Publisher could have put serious thoughts on releasing it in two volumes. I recommend this book.