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India After Gandhi: The History of the…

India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Ramachandra Guha

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6181723,504 (4.32)23
Title:India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy
Authors:Ramachandra Guha
Info:Harper Perennial (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 944 pages
Collections:Your library

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India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha (2007)



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My own view – speaking as a historian rather than citizen – is that as long as Pakistan exists there will be Hindu fundamentalists in India. In times of stability, or when the political leadership is firm, they will be marginal or on the defensive. In times of change, or when the political leadership is irresolute, they will be influential and assertive.

This sweeping history was a revelation. I feel as if I was simultaneously dazzled and lost. My chief response was a desire to read more both by Nehru as well as about him. I pondered concepts like communalism all week and made comparisons with other places, other history. Nehru apparently once confessed to Andre Malraux that his greatest challenge was creating and maintaining a secular state in a religious country. It was interesting how in the Nixon biography I recently read much was made about how Nixon felt Nehru and Indira Gandhi looked down upon him, a grocer's son. Little of that surfaced here--which is appropriate when considering the grand grievances of Nixon.

People have been predicating the doom of India since its Independence, some are now predicating that half of the nation is becoming California, the other half Chad. The resilient Indian embrace of democracy is the most encouraging, especially as across the world the institution appears to be falling from fashion. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
I’ve been wanting to learn more about history for a long time now, and I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and start reading more history books. I started off with a book I’ve owned for about eight years now, but never got around to reading. I think I’ve been avoiding non-fiction because it takes me much longer to read and comprehend it, but I guess I should stop judging my reading by total number of books read.

India After Gandhi is a post-independence history of India; a subject I didn’t know a lot about, despite spending the first seventeen years of my life there. In school, our history books pretty much stopped at independence. It starts off with the Partition and the formation of the Indian government, and goes until 2007 (when the book was written), although the final two decades are not covered with the same level of historical detail (due to the events being too contemporary.)

The book is extremely comprehensive, Guha clearly did a lot of research – the bibliography is humongous. It covered the process of transitioning from British rule (highlighting administrative problems like integrating over 550 kingdoms into India, setting up free and fair elections for a largely illiterate electorate, and settling millions of refugees from Partition), subsequent politics, economic policy, social movements, and there’s even a chapter on popular entertainments. I learned a lot, I’m certainly a long way away from knowing all that I want to know about Indian history, but I feel like I have a solid foundation on which to build on, and I wouldn’t have thought one book would have been able to do that. It also gave me the historical context to understand several things I’d been confused about when I lived in India (like the history of the political parties and how they came to have the positions they did, and how the Indian states came to be organized in their current configuration.)

Guha does an admirable job of approaching things from a historian’s point of view, you can see that he has his own opinions as an Indian citizen, but he makes it pretty obvious that they are his own opinions when they crop up. I’m sure there are biases in what he chose to talk about and how he presented it, but those are unavoidable. My only complaint on that front was that Guha chooses to emphasize India’s successes, but doesn’t spend as much time talking about India’s failures. It’s not like he doesn’t acknowledge them, but because he doesn’t give them as much detail, they come across as relatively unimportant. For example, at one point he mentions that an election would be the first “free and fair” election in Kashmir, but all the talk of previous elections in the book so far had been about the heroic efforts of India’s Election Commission to set up elections that actually worked, so how did the Kashmir elections end up unfair?

Overall, I thought that this was a great book, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about India. It did make me very sad, though – seeing India start out with such well-intentioned and smart leaders and devolve into the mess that it is now. ( )
1 vote kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
Greatest book on post-independence India.
Extremely well researched, covers every major incident that took place since 1947 till 2007 (the year the book has been published) that shaped the current India :-). Pity that even now (@2011) none of this part of our curriculum and this post-independence period is neglected from the academic teach. ( )
  _RSK | Jan 26, 2016 |
The history of India has been confusing, and he does a marvellous job of covering the events during the tumultuous years since we became an independent country.

The tragedy of having the Nehru-Gandhi at the helm comes through clearly, even though he does not castigate them.

I would love to see an updated edition ( )
  RajivC | Jul 4, 2015 |
truly this is a magisterial work . guha starts with partition, a scar which will ever remain in the face of this nation to the integration of princely states , the great stewardship of leaders like nehru , patel , ambedkar , emergence of dynasty and caste politics,mandal and masjid politics ,strengthening of fundamentalists(both Hindu and Muslim) and the recent positioning of India as a growing economic and multi ethnic democracy in the world . development of science and technology,state of health and education , judicial activism, environmentalism deserves separate chapters devoted to them. for those people who think that history of India means Indus valley civilization, kings and their eccentricities and its fight against colonialism this book is a must read. ( )
  bookish85 | Aug 10, 2013 |
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India is a pluralist society that creates magic with democracy, rule of law and individual freedom, community relations and [cultural] diversity. What a place to be an intellectual! I wouldn't mind being born ten times to rediscover India. - Robert Blackwell, departing U.S. ambassador, in 2003
Nobody could be more conscious than I am of the pitfalls which lie in the path of the man who wants to discover the truth about contemporary India. - Nirad Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, 1950
For Ira, Sasha, and Suja
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060198818, Hardcover)

Amagisterial account of the pains, the struggles, the humiliations, and the glories of the world's largest and least likely democracy, Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi is a breathtaking chronicle of the brutal conflicts that have rocked a giant nation and the extraordinary factors that have held it together. An intricately researched and elegantly written epic history peopled with larger-than-life characters, it is the work of a major scholar at the peak of his abilities.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:26 -0400)

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Born in privation and civil war, divided by caste, class, language and religion, independent India emerged, somehow, as a united and democratic country. This remarkable book tells the full story--the pain and the struggle, the humiliations and the glories--of the world's largest and least likely democracy. Social historian Guha writes of the protests and conflicts that have peppered the history of free India, but also of the factors and processes that have kept the country together (and kept it democratic), defying numerous prophets of doom who believed that it would break up or come under autocratic rule. This story of modern India is peopled with extraordinary characters: Guha gives fresh insights on the lives and public careers of the long-serving prime ministers, but also writes with feeling and sensitivity about the major provincial leaders and other lesser known (though not necessarily less important) Indians--peasants, tribals, women, workers and musicians.--From publisher description.… (more)

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