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Posts Tagged ‘Jawaharlal Nehru’

India. The Plight of the Rural and Urban Poor: In a Land of Facades, Mark the first Signs of an Indian Spring

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2011

by John Pilger

When the early morning fog rises and drifting skeins from wood fires carry the sweet smell of India, the joggers arrive in Lodi Gardens. Past the tomb of Mohammed Shah, the 15th century Munghal ruler, across a landscape manicured in the 1930s by Lady Willingdon, wife of the governor-general, recently acquired trainers stride out from ample figures in smart saris and white cotton dhotis. In Delhi, the middle classes do as they do everywhere, though here there is no middle. By mid-morning, children descend like starlings. They wear pressed blazers, like those of an English prep school. There are games and art and botany classes. When shepherded out through Lady Willingdon’s elegant stone gateway, they pass a reed-thin boy, prostrate beside the traffic and his pile of peanuts, coins clenched in his hand.

When I was first sent to report India, I seldom raised my eyes to the gothic edifices and facades of the British Raj. All life was at dust and pavement level and, once the shock had eased, I learned to admire the sheer imagination and wit of people who survived the cities, let alone the countryside — the dabbawallahs (literally “person with a box”), cleaners, runners, street barbers, poets, assorted Fagans and children with their piles of peanuts. In Calcutta, as it was still known during the 1971 war with Pakistan, civil defence units in soup-plate helmets and lungis toured the streets announcing an air-raid warning practice during which, they said, “everybody must stay indoors and remain in the face-down position until the siren has ceased to operate”. Waves of mocking laughter greeted them, together with the cry: “But we have no doors to stay inside!”

When the imperial capital was transferred to Delhi early last century, New Delhi was built as a modernist showpiece, with avenues and roundabouts and a mall sweeping up to the viceroy’s house, now the president’s residence in the world’s most populous democracy. If the experience of colonialism was humiliating, this proud new metropolis would surely be enabling. On 15 August, 1947, it was the setting for Pandit Nehru’s declaration of independence “at the midnight hour”. It was also a façade behind which the majority hoped and waited, and still wait.

This notion of façade is almost haunting. You sense it in genteel Lodi Gardens and among the anglicised elites and their enduring ambiguity. In the 1990s, it became a wall erected by the beneficiaries of Shining India, which began as a slogan invented by an American advertising firm to promote the rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP-led government. Shorn of Nehru’s idealism and paternalism, it marked the end of the Congress Party’s pretence of class and caste reconciliation: in other words, social justice. Monsanto and Pizza Hut, Microsoft and Murdoch were invited to enter what had been forbidden territory to corporate predators. India would serve a new deity called “economic growth” and be hailed as a “global leader, apparently heading “in what the smart money believes is the right direction” (Newsweek).

India’s ascent to “new world power” is both true and what Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations, called “false reality”. Despite a growth rate of 6.9 per cent and prosperity for some, more Indians than ever are living in poverty than anywhere on earth, including a third of all malnourished children. Save the Children says that every year two million infants under the age of five die.

The facades are literal and surreal. Ram Suhavan and his family live 60 feet above a railway track. Their home is the inside of a hoarding which advertises, on one side, “exotic, exclusive” homes for the new “elite” and on the other, a gleaming car. This is in Pune, in Maharashtra state, which has “booming” Bombay and the nation’s highest suicide rate among indebted farmers.

Most Indians live in rural villages, dependent on the land and its rhythms of subsistence. The rise of monopoly control of seed by multinationals, forcing farmers to plant cash crops such as GM cotton, has led to a quarter of a million suicides, a conservative estimate. The environmentalist Vandana Shiva describes this as “re-colonisation”. Using the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, central and state governments have forcibly dispossessed farmers and tribal peoples in order to hand their land to speculators and mining companies. To make way for a Formula One racetrack and gated “elite” estates, land was appropriated for $6 a square metre and sold to developers for $13,450 a square metre. Across India, the communities have fought back. In Orissa State, the wholesale destruction of betel farms has spawned a resistance now in its fifth year.

What is always exciting about India is this refusal to comply with political mythology and gross injustice. In The Idea of India, wrote Sunil Kjilnani, “The future of western political theory will be decided outside the west.” For the majorities of India and the west, liberal democracy was now diminished to “the assertion of an equal right to consume [media] images”.

In Kashmir, a forgotten India barely reported abroad, a peaceful resistance as inspiring as Tahrir Square has arisen in the most militarised region on earth. As the victims of Partition, Muslim Kashmiris have known none of Nehru’s noble legacies. Thousands of dissidents have “disappeared” and torture is not uncommon. “The voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence,” wrote Arundhati Roy, “has now massed into a deafening roar. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed people have come out to reclaim their cities, their streets and mohallas. They have simply overwhelmed the heavily armed security forces by their sheer numbers, and with a remarkable display of raw courage.” An Indian Spring may be next.

John Pilger is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by John Pilger


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Kashmir problem is Nehru’s special gift to India: Advani

Posted by Admin on July 2, 2011

By Indo Asian News Service | IANS – Sun, Jun 26, 2011

New Delhi, June 26 (IANS) As India and Pakistan restored peace talks over pending issues including Kashmir, veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Sunday slammed the country’s first political family of late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru whose ‘lack of courage’ led to the Kashmir issue remaining unresolved.

In the latest entry on his blog,, the BJP leader also slammed late chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah whose ambition to be the leader of independent Kashmir also contributed to the issue.

Advani said neither the government of Nehru in New Delhi nor the government of Abdullah in Srinagar believed that Jammu and Kashmir needed to be fully integrated into the Indian union.

‘In the case of Abdullah, the problem was his ambition to become the unquestioned leader of a virtually independent Kashmir. In the case of Nehruji, it was a matter of lack of courage, firmness and foresight,’ Advani said.

He said that Article 370, which gives a special status to Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian constitution, had ’emboldened’ secessionist forces in the state to carry out their ‘poisonous propaganda that (Kashmir’s) accession to India is not final and that Kashmir, in particular, is not a part of India.’

Advani wrote that India had lost two opportunities to settle the issue once and for all with Pakistan — one in the 1947 war when Nehru ruled the country and the other in the 1971 Bangladesh war when Nerhu’s daughter Indira Gandhi was at the helm.

‘Our countrymen should know that the Kashmir problem is Nehru family’s special ‘gift’ to the nation,’ he wrote in a sarcastic vein.

‘Nehruji’s blunder was totally avoidable. The consequences of this ‘gift’ are Pakistan’s export of cross-border terrorism and religious extremism, thousands of lives of our security personnel and civilians and tens of thousands of crores of rupees spent on military and paramilitary defence.’

The BJP leader’s comments come days after India and Pakistani in foreign secretary level talks in Islamabad discussed a range of issues relating to peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir and the promotion of trade.

Advani also warned against giving any autonomy to the state because ‘the implications must be understood’.

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Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Can democracy survive in the Third World? Can it succeed?”


Table of contents:

Part I: Introduction;

Part II: Key words;

Part III: Problem aspect of this paper;

Part IV: Case study;

Part V: Conclusion.


Part I:


This paper is an attempt to understand if democracy can survive and succeed in the Third World. The methodology adopted, as well as the roadblocks attendant to this narrative are mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs. This paper takes the case of secular democracy in India as a model for Third World countries in arriving at the thesis proposition. The rationale and justification for this selection, and the pitfalls associated with it are made in Part III of this paper.

Part II:

Key words: Democracy, Third World, Secular Democracy, Christian, Protestantism, India, colonial rule, Independence, Minority, Appeasement, Muslim, Hindu Nationalism.

Part III:

Problem aspects of this paper: By far, the core problem for this paper concerns its very nature –that of having to explain the nature of democracy in Third World countries in the space given to it. The broad term ‘Third World’ encompasses several of the world’s countries, and the transition to democracy, or prospects for success or otherwise in these few dozen countries, is too generic and seamless to be described in a few hundred words. This is because if one were to bunch together all developing countries, as Third World countries are also known, the case of each is unique and is moulded by the peculiar circumstance of its history. For instance, if some South European states started having doses of democracy in stages in the 1970’s, Latin American nations saw a wave towards democratisation in the 80’s. However, there was little to suggest that there was a common, binding factor in these cases; moreover, it was a trend that was not really sustained. No clear patterns can be discerned regarding the reasons and direction towards democratisation in most Third World countries. (Haynes, 2001, pp.1- 3) Some have argued that if there is a common thread running through Third World countries, it is that of having been colonies of some or another European power, and inheriting at least some of their systems of governance. (Clapham, 1990, p. 39) [1]Yet, this position, while a truism on the surface, hides more than it reveals –the simple reason being that not all these nations were colonised by the same power, and even when some of these did come under the same colonial rule, democracy was never the necessary fruit of decolonisation in these countries. Thus, forecasting the democratic prospects of a few of these countries may not be an appropriate representation or sample of the whole. This is because of the reasons just stated, which is that there is very little in common, except of being herded into the group that is conveniently labelled a “Third World” country. [2]

These countries have been located anywhere in the globe, and their democracies, when present, either as an inheritance from their former colonial masters immediately after independence, or its adaptation at a later date have been dictated by the need of the day, and are unique. (Haynes, 2001, p. 3) Another couple of critical facts need to be underscored when talking about democracy in developing countries: first, when democracies have functioned, they have been almost certainly different from that perceived and practised in the West, and more importantly, several Third World democracies are in a process of transition, and will, in all likeliness, continue to remain so. (Forje, 1997, p. 315) Even if these and other Third World countries may have a few commonalities as regards their economies, the democratic linkage is extremely brittle. Hence, in answering the thesis question, the researcher is left with little option to go about this paper other than to take select one Third World country, and making a study of its democratic prospects. India is an obvious choice simply because of its being the world’s most populous democracy, and because this country has shown remarkable resilience in preserving its democratic system, despite the innumerable odds against it. Having said this, it needs to be reemphasised that this is not a true reflection of the state of democracy in all Third World countries, but can only be used as an exemplar. Since some benchmark has to be used in arriving at a conclusion, this example is chosen.

Part V:

Case study:

India: India is chosen because it is both a typical and untypical Third World democracy in varying degrees. It opted for democracy since independence, despite internal contradictions of the term between the main founding fathers, Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. (The Washington Times, May 31st, 2004, p. A23) [3] Nehru’s viewpoint prevailed, to the effect that in India, democracy has often meant secular democracy. This is a paradox, in that secularism implies separation of state from the Church, while in India, its sole connotation was the appeasement of the minorities, especially the Muslim community, which makes up a substantial proportion of the population. This, in the eyes of the world and to Indian politicians, was what Indian democracy was really like. Things seemed to change with the destruction of a mosque in northern India in 1992. It was perceived, at least in the West that India was on the path to abandoning its cherished secular democratic values when it was feared that this event would mark the start of aggressive Hindu nationalism, which with its supposed anti-minority ideology, would set the clock back on democracy. However, the issue needs to be seen in perspective. First, Hindu nationalism, if it did really take shape, was in retaliation to two major phenomena –the marginalisation of the majority Hindu community at the hands of successive governments led by the Congress party since independence, and two, a succession of separatist movements, led by a Muslim-majority and a Sikh-majority state,[4] that threatened to tear the very heart of India in the 1980’s. The rise of this pan-Hindu nationalism needs to be seen as a reaction to this. (Varshney, 1993) These aberrations notwithstanding, having India exist and flourish as a democracy seems to be in everyone’s interest, including America’s. Being one of the states that do not depend on the US for the sustenance of its democracy, economy or security, India is one of the Third World’s champions in advocating and practising secular democracy, a product of European enlightenment. There may have been occasional hiccups, but these are few and far between. It has moved from being a champion among anti-imperial nations at the time of its independence to being leader of the Non Aligned Movement during the Cold War to being the beacon of democracy today in a region in which this seems more an exception than a rule. It has the potential to be an economic powerhouse in the years to come, and is now in a position to seek democracy at such global institutions as the UN Security Council. (Khanna & Mohan, 2006)

Part VI: Conclusion: In drawing a conclusion, it has to be said that democracy can indeed not only survive, but also succeed in Third World countries. If a country like India, with its mind-boggling diversity and social complexities can achieve democracy, there is no reason for other countries not to follow suit. Two major points need mention, however, in assessing if other Third World countries can replicate Indian democracy. First, Third World democracies may not look like the exact twin of western democracy. This distinction needs to be both understood and conceded, for the reason that there is no one, universal type of democracy. (Forje, 1997, p. 315) Secondly, the only obstacle to democracy in Third World countries can be a lack of willingness on the part of the governments in these countries to implement the system. If India has succeeded, it has been because of its willingness more than anything else. It surmounted serious obstacles to its democratic nature on at least two major occasions since independence –the imposition of emergency under Indira Gandhi in 1975 (Carras, 1979, p. 154), and the rise of the Hindu Right some years later, again a takeoff from where the Congress had left off. (Hansen, 1999, p. 150)[5] Of these, undoubtedly, the graver threat to democracy was the earlier instance. However, these were not powerful enough to override India’s strongly rooted framework and ability to making democracy a success. If this is an example the world’s most populous democracy can set, other countries can easily take the cue. In sum, democracy can indeed survive and succeed in a Third World country, but the will and need for it has to come from within.

Written By Ravindra G Rao





Carras, M. C., 1979, Indira Gandhi: In the Crucible of Leadership, Beacon Press, Boston.

Clapham, C.,1990, Third World Politics: An Introduction, Routledge, London.

Doorenspleet, R., 2002, 3. “Development, Class and Democracy”, in Development and Democracy:  What Have We Learned and How?, Elgström, O. & Hyden, G. (Eds.) (pp. 48-61), Routledge, London.

Forje, J. W., 1997, 9. “Some Observations on Prospects of Democracy in the Contemporary World” in Prospects of Democracy: A Study of 172 Countries (pp. 315-331), Routledge, London.

Haynes, J., (Ed.), 2001, Democracy and Political Change in the “Third World”, Routledge, London.

2004. “In India, Parties Overlap; Hindu Nationalism Secularism Converge”, The Washington Times, (Washington, US), May 31, 2004, p. A23.


Khanna, P., & Mohan, C. R., 2006, “Getting India Right”, Policy Review, Vol.135, p. 43. Retrieved December 13, 2006, from Questia database:


Lakoff, S. A., 1996, History, Theory, Practice, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

Strong, J., 1885, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, The American Home Missionary Society, New York.

Varshney, A., 1993, “Contested Meanings: India’s National Identity, Hindu Nationalism, and the Politics of Anxiety”, Daedalus, Vol.122,  No.3, p.227, retrieved December 13, 2006, from Questia database:

[1] An interesting point here would be to analyse the linkage between democracy and Christianity. Some blatantly racist writers as Josiah Strong, writing in the period of American Reconstruction,  boasted that democracy found its highest actualisation in Christianity, since no other race was as superior or well-suited to respect freedom as Christianity. (Strong, 1885, pp. 171-180) While this is one extreme argument, more balanced and recent critics of democratic systems, too, nevertheless, seem to draw a relationship between the two. Some like Lakoff (1996) draw a parallel between democratisation and not Christianity per se, but more specifically, Protestantism. In particular, look at page 276 of this book, in which the main point is that “democratization of politics [came about] after bloody wars of religion led to toleration and the weakening if not the complete dissolution of ties between church and state. Political pluralism was modeled upon (and legitimated by) Protestant sectarianism.” (Lakoff, 1996, p. 276)

[2] Another link that has been made is between democracy and development. Seymour Martin Lipset, who pioneered this linkage, substantiated this position by demonstrating a trickle-down effect model of democracy and development. In this line of thinking, social conditions become the cornerstone of democracy; when social conditions of workers improved on account of democracy, there was less social conflict, since the working class had greater outlet for improvement of their creative skills, and this made extremist tendencies less enticing than development. The root of the prevention of these extreme ideologies is in the way democracy “is able to reward moderate and democratic parties and penalise extremist groups.” (Doorenspleet, 2002, p. 49)

[3] Gandhi’s idea of democracy was rooted in the Hindu ideal of Ram Rajya, or the kingdom of Lord Ram, which may be termed, in a sense, a forerunner of the Utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham, whose core ideal was the maximum happiness of maximum numbers.

Gandhi derived this ideal from a religious, spiritual perspective, by which he implied the equal respect to all religions. Nehru’s idea of democracy was secular in the real sense of the word, by which religion was to be severed totally from administration, although in practice, as mentioned elsewhere in this paper, this had a very constricted view. (The Washington Times, May 31st, 2004, p. A23)

[4] Obviously, the two states being referred to here are Kashmir and Punjab, in the heart of northern India. Kashmir, like Punjab, borders Pakistan and is claimed by the latter on the basis of its Muslim majority, because of which, so claim successive Indian governments since independence, it has been supporting separatist, Islamic terrorism to destabilise India. Although this has been the bone of contention between the two neighbours since independence, terrorism took a decisive upswing in the late 1980’s. Punjab, on the other hand, had been turned into a terrorist state since separatist Sikh militant groups made demands for a separate nation in the 1980’s.

[5] This author makes the claim that it was the Congress party Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s balancing act of appeasing both Hindus and Muslims that created the platform for the Right. On the one hand, he had the gates of the abandoned Hindu Temple at Ayodhya, which existed side by side with the mosque that was brought down in 1992, unlocked after it had remained locked since 1949. On the other, he had the legislature overturn a Supreme Court judgement in a case involving conjugal rights of a Muslim woman citing minority rights. Both these happened in the mid 1980’s, during his tenure. (Hansen, 1999, p. 150)

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