Tuesday, April 21, 2009

They've Done It Again

About two months ago I finished Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi, a thoroughly absorbing read and the best survey of post-independent India I know of. I'm not sure how he did it, but Guha seems to have managed mentioning just everything in a mere 900 pages. I first became familiar with him a few years ago when I found his This Fissured Land, An Ecological History of India while I was doing research for my own Dictionary of Flora and Fauna in the Pali Tipitaka. Anyway, in India After Gandhi, Guha mentions all the observers who have over the decades predicted that India would either fall to pieces or decline into dictatorship. And there have been many of them. Not only were they proved wrong, but they have been proved wrong yet again. Despite all the chaos, the corruption, the cronyism, the casteism, the crime and the crookedness, the Mother has held together and conducted free and fair (well, maybe not so fair in Bihar) elections for 62 years. Hundreds of millions of Indians are illiterate, but they treasure their right to vote and select the politicians who will rip them off. I mention this because the excuse the Communist Party of China always uses to suppress any political opinion other than the party line, is that if there is freedom in China the country will descend into a chaotic free-for-all and disintegrate. It isn’t true. India has remained unitary because of democracy, not in spit of it.
Have a look at these great pictures of Indians exercising their right to vote.

1 comment:

Walter said...

I inherited my genes from China but my Teacher of the Dhamma came from India. Thus I am rather interested in the development of both countries. Nowadays I have even developed a taste for Indian food, even for sour yogurt. Indians appear to accept their lot in life, even abject misrery, and efforts to improve equality are very inadequate. Perhaps it is due to the over-emphasis of the belief in "karma" in the past life as determining almost everything in this life. The fractious political scene does not help too, as programmes for the national good are locked in endless partisan debates. Freedom to vote does not equate to freedoms of the individual... freedom from oppression by the rich, from superstitious prejudices, from rampant corruption, from the lack of opportunity for education, and so on. On the other hand, the CCP in China are able to institute many social reforms to improve the livelihood of the people. Though the CCP is not democratically elected in the western sense, as long as it continues to "do more good than evil", it will continue to be acceptable to the people. The "psyche" of the people of a country, evolved through hundreds or thousands of years, influenced by their sages and great men, plays an important part in determining what is the acceptable system of government for the country. As a further note, in India, Buddhists are doing something to help the people of the "untouchable" caste.