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

by Ramachandra Guha

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9612121,991 (4.3)26
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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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
As a wide ranging history of post-Independence India, even at 900 pages Guha can't do full justice to the scope. However, he does as much as could possibly do in covering the scope, and it's well written and absorbing. ( )
  arosoff | Jul 11, 2021 |
Majestic would be an understatement for this book.
Beautiful and logical flow of narration , at least till 1990s.
I would love to believe that this book is fairly unbiased.
I would advice everyone to read this book and get acquainted with the paradox i.e. India. ( )
  __echo__ | May 11, 2021 |
A massive work, well deserving of the "magisterial" tag given by the Financial Times review. The great blessing is that it doesn't try to be cryptic, doesn't use over-long sentences with multiple negatives, and deals with each incident or milestone in a few, elegantly phrased, paragraphs. Thus, you never lose hope that you will be able to read through to the end, as you are guided by a series of easy stages. A bonus is the penultimate chapter on the arts and sports. The treatment is even-handed and objective throughout, and you have the assurance that all the evidence has been weighed and a sober overall assessment made. Best of all, the author ends on an optimistic note, which sounds all the more reassuring because of the wide range and depth of the information accessed. ( )
  Dilip-Kumar | Nov 23, 2020 |
This is a massive work, covering the immensity of India between 1947 and 2015 or 16. When I realized how much territory Dr. Guha had to cover, I was dubious, but this history of India since just before independence manages to elucidate i broad strokes what happened, how it happened and sometimes, why it happened. For example, I understand much better than before the evolution of the impasse over Kashmir, the reasons for India's turn from essentially a centrally planned economy to a more mainstream capitalist one, and how and why Congress lost its hold on power and the BJP came to succeed Congress. Guha carefully explains how the situation of the Congress in 1950, say, differs from that of the BJP in 2015 and indeed, today in the wake of its most recent electoral victory. I have visited India several times and am fascinated by its diversity and history but my understanding of the country has been improved by reading this history. ( )
1 vote nmele | Jan 2, 2020 |
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 |
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Epigraph
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
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For Ira, Sasha, and Suja
lights on my coast
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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.

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