The Coming Transformation of India
However, the reason to be optimistic about India is that all this is history: The country seems to be poised to reach another turning point which is no less pivotal than its moment of Independence. This optimism is rooted in a simple hope - that demography is destiny - and the observation that suddenly, there are far too frequent marches on the street, public anger and activism, and more ubiquitous formation of 'crowds' (One has to remember that this isn't normal: Most Indian cities, designed by the British, do not even have public squares, meeting places where such movements can start from). Unsophisticated, spontaneous and leaderless, this isn't a revolution: But, then, as recent events elsewhere may have illustrated, revolutions are not what we construct them to be, post fact. They tend to be far less organised, far more ad hoc - leadership in revolution is situational more often than not, and the leaders emerge from the movement itself. I shall therefore not moan about the disorganized nature of India's public activism, in its headless form, but rather see the roots of an Indian spring and the beginning of the end of its 'convenience democracy'.
There are many who see the watershed moment will arrive in 2015. That coincides with India's General Election, one that should mark the end of another generation of Indian politicians and the beginning of the first true post-independence generation. John Elliot sees this as the monumental battle for the idea of India, with battle lines clearly drawn. However, this is also the time India's demographic peak arrives, its college going population soars, and people born after the economic liberalisation starts entering the working population. In this brave new world, the grand schemes such as idea of India may be less relevant than it is today, but others, such as decline of authority (as Indians move to the cities and traditional family formations start breaking down irreversibly), growth of regional mobility and preponderance of modern consumption may seriously challenge the patron state, and try to turn over its entitlement network. This may sound like chaos, but every nation must reinvent itself periodically, and a similar moment is upon India: It is a historic opportunity, but failing to do so will be like living inside a combustion engine.
Indeed, this hope is fragile and its outcomes unknown. But it is only so because the talking classes are so disconnected. The development talk, that many Chief Ministers and Politicians are trying to own, is a symptom that what sold yesterday, identity politics, may not sell tomorrow. The language of anger, such as shooting the criminals after summary judgement, is immature and ill-advised, but showing that instead of media controlling the streets, the street talk is taking over the media. There are grave dangers to civil society from a flaring of nationalism, which is the wave Mr Modi wants to ride, but India seems to be moving away from militant nationalism rather than towards it: It is not about growing tolerance, but a direct result of ubiquitous consumer identity and dizzying growth of regional mobility. The urbanization is bringing freedom, of all kinds, political, intellectual, financial and sexual, and allowing new ideas of individual to pre-empt the grand debate about the idea of India.
However, this is the time of breaking of the entitlements: Usually, this means flourishing of extraordinary creativity and new possibilities once the life after chaos commences. This is what we will be looking for, I am looking for: This would usher India's moment, finally.