With the benefit on hindsight, everything seems inevitable. India, before it became India, was anything but. The 19th century British civil servant, John Strachey, once wrote:
There is not, and never was an India possessing, according to any European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious.
And yet, we came into being. And improbably, we stayed one country, despite potential dividing lines of religions, language, caste, tribe. And we were such a success at it that this doesn’t seem an achievement at all. But take a look at the passage of history, and you have to pinch yourself to believe that we got here.
What brought us together? What kept us together? My answers to those two questions — and I know they will be unpopular answers — are luck and inertia respectively. I am skeptical that some grand ‘Idea of India’ made us or kept us what we are as a nation. As some of the participants in the Brainstorm debate pointed out, those alleged ideas of India animated mainly the elite. The elite is floundering today. (And though I am part of the elite, I will admit that some of the floundering is well deserved.) The Future of The Republic, the subject of this Brainstorm, seems unclear.
I’m grateful for all the participants for taking the time out from their busy schedules to write these thoughtful essays for us. I found them enlightening, and in case you missed any of them, here they all are again, in the order in which they appeared:
1. The Future of the Indian Republic — Amit Varma
2. If We Can Keep It — Nitin Pai
3. Democracy vs The Republic — Shruti Rajagopalan
4. We Reap What We Sow — Jayaprakash Narayan
5. The Nationalism of an Idea — Shashi Tharoor
6. Where Are You Marching To? — Amit Varma
7. Our Task is to Build the Foundations — Nitin Pai
8. My Reasons for Hope and Despair — Shruti Rajagopalan
9. Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom — Jayaprakash Narayan
10. Confused, Not Conservative — Shashi Tharoor
This Brainstorm discussion, and others that follow, will be available at some point in ebook format, and as a pdf. We will back in a few days with our next Brainstorm. Watch this space!