Author: Meghnad Desai
Editor(s): David Page
Publisher: Roli Books
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8174364250
The second book in the Cross-border Talks series examines why India is a democracy while Pakistan is not.
Meghnad Desai identifies the revolutionary decision of the Constituent Assembly to adopt universal adult franchise as the key to the survival of democracy in India. The overwhelming desire of the leaders of the independence movement, many of whom were educated in England, was for a Westminster-style democracy. The adoption of this model led to demands for inclusion from lower and backward castes and Dalits, and today Indian democracy is a heady and vigorous mix of ethnic and immigrant groups, class cleavages as well as rural/urban and North/South divisions.
Aitzaz Ahsan argues that at Partition, while India had a strong middle class and political structure and a subordinated civil and military bureaucracy, in Pakistan it was the opposite. It inherited a strong feudal class, an insignificant bourgeoisie and an entrenched civil and military bureaucracy. These vested interests have never relinquished their control over the country, and have in the process choked the spirit of democracy there.
The Key to its (Indian democracy’s) survival has been its inclusiveness. The Revolutionary decision of the Constituent Assembly to adopt universal adult franchise has helped Indian society to unleash the demands for inclusion from lower and backward castes and dalits, and from marginalized groups everywhere in the country. Given the failure of successive governments to tackle root and branch reform of Hindu social structures, indeed the consequent valorization of caste differences, political democracy has offered an alternative outlet for the ritually lower social groups to assert their strength.
Having come into being through a constitutional, rather than a revolutionary process, Pakistan had retained the structure of the colonial state from its inception. Lacking an indigenous bourgeoisie, dominated by a feudal elite totally dependent upon the colonial bureaucracy, deprived of well-structured, programme-oriented and duly, encadred political parties, and without a judiciary which would jealously protect civil authority and the citizen’s rights, Pakistan saw a gradual choking of the democratic spirit from its early days. First the civil and military bureaucracy and then the fundamentalists filled the vacuum. But the spirit of democracy remains.
Why is India a Democracy?
Why Pakistan is not a democracy