India's Struggle for Independence is the first and the most reliable study of the country's epic fight for freedom. This classic work begins with the abortive revolt against the British in 1857 and culminates in India's Independence in 1947. Based on years of research as well as personal interviews with hundreds of freedom fighters, it presents a lucid and enduring view of the history of the period.
Indispensable for students and for all those who want to know our past in order to understand the present
The definitive book on the Indian struggle for freedom by some of the most authoritative historians of modern India
The story of the forging of India, the world's largest democracy, is a rich and inspiring one. This volume, a sequel to the bestselling India's Struggle for Independence, analyses the challenges India has faced and the successes it has achieved in the light of its colonial legacy and century-long struggle for freedom. This is a remarkable account of a nation on the move.
An outstanding book ... the best of its kind. It is a masterly overview of the political and economic developments in India over the last fifty years
A thorough and incisive introduction to contemporary India
This book was conceived as a sequel to our Struggle for India's Independence, (1857-1947) which was very well received, selling over 100,000 copies in English and many more in translations into Hindi and several other Indian languages. We were persuaded by David Davidar of Penguin, who had published this book, to write a companion volume covering the period from Indian independence to the end of the millennium. We did manage to finish the manuscript by end of 1999 so that it could come out in beginning of the new millennium as the first edition of this book titled India After Independence: 1947-2000.
We were persuaded to work on a second edition of this book for a number of reasons. The response the book got from the general public and especially students of history, sociology, economics, politics and contemporary affairs was very encouraging. It appeared to fill a major gap in the literature on contemporary history with several universities and management institutes adopting this work as a recommended text. This volume too was translated into Hindi and several other Indian languages. In recent years we received repeated requests from both our readers and publishers to bring out a revised edition bringing the book up to date.
Indeed, many significant developments did take place since the book was written in 1999 and needed to be incorporated in the book. The economy in the new millennium was at the verge of a breakthrough registering unprecedented rates of growth. A paradigm change in India's relationship with the outside world was being shaped not only by the major economic strides India was raking Nat also by the prolonged negotiations on a changed nuclear status no India among the nuclear powers. On the other hand Indian politics saw some unprecedented dips. The gravest threat to Indian democracy since independence was witnessed during the Gujarat killings following the Godhra tragedy in 2002. The state government, police and bureaucracy connived or remained silent spectators while thousands of Muslims were murdered or hounded and made homeless. But then other segments of India's civil society and state institutions stood up and fought. The period also saw a brazen attempt to communalize our education system at the school textbook-level with the Central government's active participation. This too was followed by nationwide protest. A change of government in 2004 put a stop to this most dangerous trend. On the whole, though the period was characterized by spectacular economic growth it also was a period when the fruits of this growth did not spread very widely (with India's ranking in the Human Development Index actually falling) and the country faced a resurgence of the communal and caste divide.
It therefore was a very agreeable push from Ravi Singh of Penguin which got as to work on revising the book. We have added three substantive chapters trying to include some of the major events from 1999-2000 till 2007. There is a new chapter on The Indian Economy in the New Millennium which highlights the multiple dimensions of the economic breakthrough that occurred in the period while emphasizing the critical challenges that still remain to be adequately addressed. Another new chapter called Communalism and the Use of State Power analyses the Gujarat events and the issue of communalization of education in the context of state power being available to the communal forces to further their agenda. The third new chapter, Land Reforms: Colonial Impact and the Legacy of the National and Peasant Movements precedes three substantive chapters discussing land reforms in India since independence. This chapter shows the critical link between the colonial impact on Indian agriculture and the position taken by the Indian national and peasant movements on the agrarian question for over half a century and the nature of land reforms post independence. A thoroughly revised and considerably expanded chapter titled Run up to the New Millennium and After analyses the main political events and the major foreign policy issues that emerged during the tumultuous years following Rajiv Gandhi's assassination which saw numerous governments representing virtually the entire mainstream political spectrum of India right up to 2007. Additions and alterations have been made to a number of other chapters such as in the chapter called The Dawn of the New Millennium Achievements, Problems and Prospects, bringing them up to date.
This work of contemporary history takes a holistic view of the political economy of Indian development since independence evaluating it in the context of the nearly two hundred years of colonial rule and a prolonged and powerful anti-imperialist mass movement which gave birth to the independent Indian Republic. We are particularly happy to be able bring this work to our readers on the sixtieth anniversary of India's independence.
The Indian national movement was undoubtedly one of the biggest mass movements modem society has ever seen. It was a movement which galvanized millions of people of all classes and ideologies into political action and brought to its knees a mighty colonial empire. Consequently, along with the British, French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions, it is of great relevance to those wishing to alter the existing political and social structure.
Various aspects of the Indian national movement, especially Gandhian political strategy, are particularly relevant to these movements in societies that broadly function within the confines of the rule of law, and are characterized by a democratic and basically civil libertarian polity. But it is also relevant to other societies. We know for a fact that even Lech Walesa consciously tried to incorporate elements of Gandhian strategy in the Solidarity Movement in Poland.
The Indian national movement, in fact, provides the only actual historical example of a semi-democratic or democratic type of political structure being successfully replaced or transformed. It is the only movement where the broadly Gramscian theoretical perspective of a war of position was successfully practised; where state power was not seized in a single historical moment of revolution, but through prolonged popular struggle on a moral, political and ideological level; where reserves of counter-hegemony were built up over the years through progressive stages; where the phases of struggle alternated with 'passive' phases.
The Indian national movement is also an example of how the constitutional space offered by the existing structure could be used without getting co-opted by it. It did not completely reject this space, as such rejection in democratic societies entails heavy costs in terms of hegemonic influence and often leads to isolation — but entered it and used it effectively in combination with non-constitutional struggle to overthrow the existing structure.
The Indian national movement is perhaps one of the best examples of the creation of an extremely wide movement with a common aim in which diverse political and ideological currents could co-exist and work — and simultaneously continue to contend for overall ideological and political hegemony over it. While intense debate on all basic issues was allowed, the diversity and tension did not weaken the cohesion and striking power of the movement; on the contrary, this diversity and atmosphere of freedom and debate became a major source of its strength.
Today, over forty years after independence, we are still close enough to the freedom struggle to feel its warmth and yet far enough to be able to analyse it coolly, and with the advantage of hindsight. Analyse it we must, for our past, present and future are inextricably linked to it. Men and women in every age and society make their own history, but they do not make it in a historical vacuum, de novo. Their efforts, however innovative, at finding solutions to their problems in the present and charting out their future, are guided and circumscribed, moulded and conditioned, by their respective histories, their inherited economic, political and ideological structures. To make myself clearer, the path that India has followed since 1947 has deep roots in the struggle for independence. The political and ideological features, which have had a decisive impact on post-independence development, are largely a legacy of the freedom struggle. It is a legacy that belongs to all the Indian people, regardless of which party or group they belong to now, for the 'party' which led this struggle from 1885 to 1947 was not then a party but a movement — all political trends from the Right to the Left were incorporated in it.
What are the outstanding features of the freedom struggle? A major aspect is the values and modem ideals on which the movement itself was based and the broad socio-economic- and political vision of its leadership (this vision was that of a democratic, civil libertarian and secular India, based on a self-reliant, egalitarian social order and an independent foreign policy).
The movement popularized democratic ideas and institutions in India. The nationalists fought for the introduction of a representative government on the basis of popular elections and demanded that elections be based on adult franchise. The Indian National Congress was organized on a democratic basis and in the form of a parliament. It not only permitted but encouraged free expression of opinion within the party and the movement; some of the most important decisions in its history were taken after heated debates and on the basis of open voting.
From the beginning, the nationalists fought against attacks by the State on the freedoms of the Press, expression and association, and made the struggle for these freedoms an integral part of the national movement. During their brief spell in power, from 1937-39, the Congress ministries greatly extended the scope of civil liberties. The defence of civil liberties was not narrowly conceived in terms of one political group, but was extended to include the defence of other groups whom views were politically and ideologically different. The early nationalists, then called Moderates, defended Tilak, the leader of the Radical Nationalists, then called Extremists, and non-violent Congressmen passionately defended revolutionary nationalists and communists alike during their trials. In 1928, the Public Safety Bill and Trade Disputes' Bill were opposed not only by Motilal Nehru but also by conservatives like Madan Mohan Malaviya and M.R. Jayakar. It was this strong civil libertarian and democratic tradition of the national movement which was reflected in the Constitution of independent India.
The freedom struggle was also a struggle for economic development. In time an economic ideology developed which was to dominate the views of independent India. The national movement accepted, with near unanimity, the need to develop India on the basis of industrialization which in turn was to be independent of foreign capital and was to rely on the indigenous capital goods sector. A crucial role was assigned to the public sector and, in the 1930s, there was a commitment to economic planning.
From the initial stages, the movement adopted a pro-poor orientation which was strengthened with the advent of Gandhi and the rise of the leftists who struggled to make the movement adopt a socialist outlook. The movement also increasingly moved towards a programme of radical agrarian reform. However, socialism did not, at any stage, become the official goal of the Indian National Congress though there was a great deal of debate around it within the national movement and the Indian National Congress during the 1930s and 1940s. For various reasons, despite the existence of a powerful leftist trend within the nationalist mainstream, the dominant vision within the Congress did not transcend the parameters of a capitalist conception of society.
The national movement was, from its early days, fully committed to secularism. Its leadership fought hard to inculcate secular values among the people and opposed the growth of communalism. And, despite the partition of India and the accompanying communal holocaust, it did succeed in enshrining secularism in the Constitution of free India. It was never inward looking. Since the days of Raja Rammohan Roy, Indian leaders had developed a broad international outlook. Over the years, they evolved a policy of opposition to imperialism on a world-wide scale and solidarity with anti-colonial movements in other parts of the world. They established the principle that Indians should hate British imperialism but not the British people. Consequently, they were supported by a large number of English men, women and political groups. They maintained close links with the progressive, anti-colonial and anti-capitalist forces of the world. A non-racist, anti-imperialist outlook, which continues to characterize Indian foreign policy, was has part of the legacy of the anti-imperialist struggle.
This volume has been written within a broad framework that the authors, their colleagues and students have evolved and are in the process of evolving through ongoing research on and study of the Indian national movement. We have in the preparation of this volume extensively used existing published and unpublished monographs, archival material, private papers, and newspapers. Our understanding also owes a great deal to our recorded interviews with over 1,500 men and women who participated in the movement from 1918 onwards. However, references to these sources have, for the ease of the reader and due to constraints of space, been kept to the minimum and, in fact, have been confined mostly to citations of quoted statements and to works readily available in a good library.
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