India at 60
India at 60
Free Spaces, September 2007
Sixty years in the life of a people

Sixty years in the life of a nation and its people is both a benchmark – a significant anniversary – as well as a quotidian number, sixty years. Concerned with issues of freedom and democracy, creativity and diversity, law and governance, Communalism Combat decided to mark the occasion by evaluating the creative
space and the public sphere as we evolved from independence, battered by partition, into a nation that embraced constitutional governance and electoral democracy.

This period has also straddled decades of political evolution, even fragmentation, from elephantine political parties to caste representation and blatant communal consolidation. State and bureaucratic controls have made room for the private interest puppeteer; the mantra that works today is control of the marketplace. The people of India have faded into a blurred distance as the media cleverly constructs the myth of a mass readership, or viewership, never mind exacting details like actual numbers.

India, we are told, is on the threshold of a spectacular take-off. Mumbai is being showcased as what the future may bring. Why would we want to be the proverbial sour grapes and deny ourselves, fellow Indians and India a spot in the global sun? Taking stock of a young nation’s coming of age, looking closely at how we see our own people, walking down the streets of central Mumbai or travelling in a state transport bus through rural Bihar or Maharashtra, a niggling worry creeps in. Watching our films, scanning our newspapers or tracking our national debates only sharpens the growing sense of unease. Our public spaces have changed in character to reflect the ghettoisation of our minds and intimidation of the spirit. Violence and hatred stalk unfettered here.

Through the range of special features in this 14th anniversary issue, CC has tried to put forward a unique evaluation of six decades of lived democracy in India. We thank our contributors, friends of CC, for their help in shaping this issue. We will, through this year, continue with special features on the theme, expanding our scope to include articles from our neighbours in South Asia.

India, to us at CC, is a unique example of diversity, of peoples, languages and faiths. Interchanges between people of such diversity have themselves been unique and varied, spanning the course of centuries. The pluralism of India’s people and even its rulers in the past stemmed from a pragmatic acceptance of this lived reality. However, sharp caste and class divisions have always impinged, often brutally, on this landscape.

Our own experiment with constitutional democracy, a government of the people, for the people and by the people, has always presented an especially grave challenge. Our tryst with destiny is now six decades old and for the sake of our young we need to face the future with a degree of candour. A celebration of the right to vote, electoral democracy, must necessarily be tempered with a debate on the ability of an honest and popular candidate to fairly contest, and win, an election. Our appreciation of an independent judiciary must be matched with extensive analyses and debates on judicial trends with regard to human rights, gender and mass crimes. Our embracing of the global space must be accompanied by a commitment to basic professional ethics and values whether in the field of medicine, education, law, business or governance.

As we take stock of, and celebrate, sixty years of Indian democracy and nationhood, we must have the courage to face up to our flaws and failings, to acknowledge and address the steady and systematic exclusion of large sections of our people. Only then can we step forward to become a mature democracy and a truly responsible nation.

– Editors

Archived from Communalism Combat, August-September 2007, Anniversary Issue (14th), Year 14    No.125, Editorial