Timely meditations: India at the time of great change
So India must change, but India and Indians are not ready for this discontinuity. Its social and political structures, despite the disaster of partition and the democratic experiment, have changed little and very slowly. The Independence did not bring about a 'cultural revolution' and the country is still fighting the battles that it fought seventy years ago. It still remains, at its core, the impossible state - a dynastic democracy and a rich man's republic at the same time. The union of India, sustained in the face of global scepticism, was made possible by a combination of geopolitical considerations and inexhaustible patience of the Indian people, but we are in a new world now. The new geopolitical realities, shaped by an emergent China pursuing its OBOR dreams, may create different pressures than the receding British empire that shaped today's, South Asia. A different generation of Indians brought up not with the shame of subjugation and sacrifices of the national movement, may be less willing to make the adjustments that kept India together for the last seventy years.
It is important to remember that unlike the other acts of modern state-making, India hasn't actively sought to make Indians after India was made. Its founding story had been usurped by political families to their own advantage, its proud diversity has fed parochial politics and its failure to democratise opportunity has made it an opportunistic democracy. There was not a single 'ask not' moment in Independent India's history and its people had grown used to a hand-out state, so much so that they have been waiting for its government to deliver global greatness.
So, at this point, as we approach a faultline of history, Gandhi's ideas, that change would come only through the painstaking personal transformation of individual citizens, may be meaningful again. India may need to seek out again Tagore's ideas, of rediscovering India's Asian heritage yet again, just as we painfully encounter our Asian realities as China rises again. But change has to come, and India's slumbering elite and the tunnel-visioned neoliberal ideas are not going to lead on it.