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India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy Hardcover – 20 Apr 2007
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Large, readable history of India since independence. --.
his voluminous account...is crucial for the understanding of modern India...Guha is patient in his approach, gentle in his criticism, exasperated by what he does not like, and eclectic in drawing of evidence that supports his argument... --New Statesman
'fascinating, carefully researched history.' --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
`India after Gandhi' is well written, entertaining and packed full of references. In some places the author does appear to adopt a rather partisan position with respect to relations with Pakistan. However, he also very forcefully portrays the challenges faced by the Muslim minority in the country, whom it may be suggested have been the principal victims of the half century of Indo-Pak tension.
I have also read John Keay's `India: A History' and feel that `India After Gandhi' is a far better choice for those seeking an understanding of the country and it's people.
A worthwhile read for anyone interested in recent Indian history.
Much of the material covered within this text is difficult to find in a comparably accessible form elsewhere.
Guha pays detailed attention to metropolitan politics in Delhi, yet provides discussion of regions such as Keralan and Tamil political history. There is an emphasis on political history within Guha's study; however this interest is developed in the broadest sense. The struggles of indigenous peoples in Central India and in the North East of the subcontinent are accessibly presented. The Naga peoples of the North Eastern frontier feature prominently.
A further strength of Guha's book is his discussion of foreign affairs. As might be expected a great deal of attention is given to India/ Pakistan relations (specifically through the Kashmir question) and this is handled well. Guha is attentive too India's situation between superpowers during the Cold War. Washington-Delhi relations are amply covered, as are both Soviet and Sino- Indian affairs.
Guha closes his historical narrative with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and covers the very recent past in a series of thematic essays. These essays read rather differently to the synthesis performed so well throughout the earlier stages of this book yet contain much information about topics as diverse as communal conflict, economic liberalization and public health. Guha places these contemporary thematic discussions in a long term perspective. For those who wish to pursue these themes in greater depth a detailed bibliography is provided.
Overall, this book offers an extremely useful and readable account of post-1947 Indian history.
I wouldnt consider it a great book of analysis, but as an introduction to post independence India it is more than adequate. Many colourful characters populate this history, this most admirable being Nehru himself, unfortunately a Hindu extremist knocked off Gandhi not long after the "great adventure" of Indian independence began with the bloody fiasco of partition which itself is covered in some detail. Indira Gandhi (Nehrus daughter) and the authoress of the "emergency" in the mid seventies comes across as arrogant and authoritarian and brimming with sufficient self belief to be more than a nuisance to her country. Her off spring are more or less worse. This is one of the sadder things about post Independence India, the dynasties which ought to be regarded as a degeneration of democracy. Given recent US experience it is not something the West, especially the US, should feel to smug about. More optimistically at least, unlike neighbouring Pakistan, the army has been kept out of politics.
Its hardly suprising that communal relations and all too often violence, regional antagonisms, Kashmir and Pakistan take up a great deal of the narrative. The monstrosity of the caste system is covered, including a photo of an upper caste Hindu immolating himself in defence of his caste privileges - one wonders if those wealthy Brits recently hit by the 50% tax rate will follow his example?
I feel that the author makes too much of the fact that India survived as a democracy, the designation appears purely formal. Monied interests, corrupt politicians rule the roost - the lower castes, tribals (Dalits), rural society have not felt the trickle down effect of Indias high tech sector and have made only sporadic progress over the 60 years since the British left. Political parties seem short on principles and are often communal in nature, this of course is not something particular to India, but from reading Guhas book it is clearly something the Indian political class excels at. The author is unfortunately cool towards the exceptions to this rule such as the Communists in West Bengal and Kerala. I would have thought that the experiences of those States under Communist rule would have been given more space. Alas not.
Having said all that, it is still a very readable narrative history that kept me well and truly hooked over the 750 pages and a good introduction to the experiment that has been independent India. Other books on India after independence that I have found interesting are Tariq Ali's The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian Dynasty and P.Sainath's collection of reportage on rural India Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts.