In this article…
75 years ago, India made a tryst with destiny. India got freedom from thousand years of continuous humiliation. India fought and got an opportunity to regain its civilizational ethos. Over the period of time, India made mistakes, learn, and revamp mistakes on the path of progressiveness. In spite of having political freedom, Indian leaders had a path before them full of challenges on both the social and economic fronts. These challenges were rooted in thousands of years of slavery due to the occupation of foreign invaders.
Indian centuries of humiliation
PM Modi in his maiden speech to Lok Sabha as prime minister righty spoke of India’s “1200 years of slavery”. India finds its footprint of realism in the work of Kautilya in ancient history. But post-Vedic period development induced social stratification from where “Brahmanism” and superstitions started taking positions in Indian society. People stood up against such evil practices either through the Bhakti movement or the surge of Buddhism and Jainism. The other side of the coin of these developments made Indian civilization pacifists and pushed toward idealism.
We left fighting wars. We became so weak that we have been ruled by the slaves of the tribal invaders, also called as slave dynasty. Ashoka’s renunciation of war after the Kalinga war has been overrated in India’s teaching over the year. It doesn’t mean that India didn’t witness any war after Ashoka. Consequently, foreign invaders got space in India. It also doesn’t mean that we didn’t participate in wars. We participated sometimes in the Mughal army (e.g. Man Singh) and sometimes in the army of Britishers (e.g. World wars).
India witnessed high land tax both under the Delhi sultanate as well as British India. Both destroyed the Indian education system. Islamic rule brought the dogmatism of Islamic theological academies in return. In fact, in 1194, Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed Nalanda university, then the biggest in the world. Similarly, the British adopted the Angilicist approach to use Rs 1 lakh released under charter act 1813 which aims at creating an educated middle class to sustain British rule in India. Both tried to destroy our identity through conversion. In fact, the Charter act of 1813 allowed Christine missionaries to have footprints in India.
Thus, thousands of year of slavery has harmed India in almost every sphere – social, economic, political, and cultural. M.A. Khan in ‘Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery’ writes that how the money and resources, extracted from the sweat and toil of non-Muslim subjects of India, used to be siphoned to the treasuries of the Islamic Caliphate in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo or Tashkent. Similarly, Usha Patnaik has concluded in her study that British Raj siphoned off $45 trillion from India.
Start of making after independence
Dr. Ambedkar in his last speech, “Grammar of anarchy” warned against losing independence again – “What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people”. Along with constitutional development, India started the rebuilding process through the economy. Pundit Nehru presented the first five-year plan, inspired by the Harrod-Domar model laid the foundation for industrialization. It was an attempt to offset de-industrialization done by the British. Initially, it only aimed to achieve a growth of 2.1% GDP, but it ended up with a growth reached of 3.6% of GDP.
Apart from this, pundit Nehru pushed normative values like democracy, secularism, inclusive economic growth, free press, and non-alignment in international affairs. He also focused on institutional build-up – AIIMS, IITs, BHEL, LIC, ONGC, etc. He also established a network of Kendriya Vidyalayas. On the same line, later Rajiv Gandhi established a network of Jawahar Navidaya Vidyalaya in every district. Over the years many of these institutions achieved global standards.
India went through its droughts in the 1960s. India was then dependent on foreign countries for food and grain supplies. E.g. The US food program PL-480 was one of the sources of wheat in India. But the crisis came as a blessing in disguise. India understood the misuse of this food program in the Indo-Pak war in 1965. It started working for achieving self-sufficiency in food grains. Subsequently, the Green revolution became reality over a period of time. Today India is not only capable of feeding its own people but it has the potential to feed the world amid the supply disruption due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Due to imperialism, India missed the benefits of the first industrial revolution (1760-1840) that transformed agrarian European and American societies through innovation. In fact, India was used by the British imperial power to assist their industrial revolution where she was forced to export raw materials and import finished goods. India missed the second industrial revolution too which used electric power to create mass production. India’s progress was so fast that within 25 years of independence, India has prepared itself for participating third industrial revolution by developing communication under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi assisted by Sam Pitroda.
Navigating geopolitical power matrix
However, during this development, India was fighting other obstacles simultaneously. In the geopolitical sphere, India under pundit Nehru adopted clever politics that made India to participate in world affairs with weak economic capability. It was one of the most efficient geopolitical decisions where we achieved maximum output with limited resources. But China attacked India’s surge and subsequently the Indo-China war in 1962 created thrust. This gave a sense of motivation to Pakistan for materializing her Kashmir dream. Pakistan messed with India in 1965 and 1971 and received a debacle.
Thus, continuous attacks by neighbors suggested leveling up hard power. Consequently, India established R&AW in 1968 under the leadership of Ram Nath Kao. India also tested its first nuclear capability in 1974 for balancing the power matrix in south Asia. For space development, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established in 1969 under the leadership of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. Now, India has developed an anti-satellite missile system (ASAT) that can destroy a live satellite in Low Earth Orbit.
Eventually, India refreshed its engagement with the world smartly. Israel had helped India in wars against Pakistan over a period of time without explicit conditionality. Thus, India was convinced to develop its diplomatic relation with Israel in 1992. However, India has been successful in dehyphenation of Israel and Palestine. It means India didn’t establish relations at the cost of Palestine. India’s diplomatic master skill is found in balancing the middle east and engaging with global powers like USA and Russia simultaneously.
The plethora of challenges faced so far
Since its independence, India has so far faced challenges on two fronts – inside and outside. India witnessed a series of wars against its neighbors, China and Pakistan. Subsequently, India faced drought and hunger in the 1960s. Once we came out of these challenges, we faced the footprints of militancy and separatism in Kashmir and Punjab. Consequently, Punjab witnessed bloodshed due to Khalistan militancy that was financially and materially endorsed by Pakistan. Similarly, the early-1990 witnessed the mass exodus of Kashmiri pundits in Jammu and Kashmir.
During the same period, India was also witnessing political instability after the subsequent assassination of two Indian PMs – Indira Gandhi (As revenge for the Blue star operation against Bhindrawala) followed by Rajiv Gandhi (As revenge for India’s peace treaty with Sri Lanka). In totality, it distracted India from its path of progressiveness. Consequently, India faced a balance of payment crisis in 1991. The US again tried to take advantage of a bad time by asking for landing their fighter jets in India for refueling. It was an attempt at inducing India’s indirect participation in the Gulf war.
However, India under the leadership of Narashimbha Rao assisted by Manmohan Singh liberalized its economy through reforms. Once these specks of dust got settled, India focused on capacity building and social development in the first decade of the 21st century through reforms like – the RTI act 2005, the Right to education act 2005, MGNREGA act 200, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, National Food Security Mission 2007, etc. Soon after, the world witnessed the Global financial crisis in the first decade and the COVID-19 pandemic in the second decade of the 21st century.
Regaining glory in full throttle: Challenges yet to be addressed
We are still facing challenges on multiple fronts. Poverty is the biggest enemy before us. RBI report claims that 22% of the Indian population live under the status of ‘Below poverty line (BPL). It means 22% of people are not able to earn Rs 32 per day in urban areas and Rs 23 per day in rural areas as per Tendulkar’s estimation. This situation becomes even worse in the rural areas of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand where, as high as 45% of the population live under the status of BPL.
Similarly, even after the green revolution and surplus grain, in the Global Hunger Index 2021, India ranks 101st out of the 116 countries. Apart from poverty and hunger, the unemployment rate is 7.8% in June 2022 as per CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian economy). On the law and order front, misconceptions have been building in people’s consciousness against other communities. It has created an issue of social unrest, community-led violence, mob lynching based on perception, etc.
To a certain level, the media has failed in putting people’s issues before governance. Consequently, high inflation and jobless growth created envy in the heart and minds of the people. Also, we need to do away from the baggage of the colonial mindset as PM Modi discussed in his five pledges on independence day. Outside India, Chinese aggression in the Himalayas doesn’t take a brake. India’s overall relationship with its neighbors is not as per our expectations. We need to fight against these issues in order to regain our glory.
Our glory lies in ensuring human dignity and establishing communal harmony in our society. That’s why Dalai lama says that – “India is a living example of religious harmony across the world”. The tricolor reminds us of the composite culture of India. We need to maintain this character by continuing the scientific tradition, upholding constitutionalism and peaceful co-existence. We should feel proud of what India has achieved and optimistic about the prospects of this great civilization.
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