Monday 15 August 2022

An idea of India

Whatever your opinion of the politics or policies of independent India’s first crop of leaders, the ones who had fought for independence, you would have to concede this: against all odds, they brought together an unwieldy mix of peoples and ethnicities, languages and cultures, aspirations and enmities, and made it work.

For there was no India as a country before the Raj, not any more than an Africa or a Europe is a country. Over the millennia, foragers, hunters, warriors, traders, seekers, and refugees, came and melded in. Kings fought each other, as is their wont, territories ebbed and flowed, as did the hold of various religions, with no single one of them ever controlling the entire subcontinent.

And these extraordinary leaders, they realised the wisdom of unifying against a common foe, their occupier, they worked to bring people together, and they dreamt up a nation.

Their only failure — and I do not mean to point a finger at any individual, but to that crop of leaders as a whole — I think, was in ultimately not being able to hold together in that unity the people of what we now know as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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