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Special Content

Success Story-Volume 20

India’s Journey Post Independence

Rakesh Sinha

India’s journey after her independence is a tale of  glorious achievements. However, it is also true that many grave challenges, particularly in social, economic and cultural life, have not yet been met. The country achieved independence in the aftermath of a protracted struggle involving countless sacrifices by people across caste and religions.  The colonial master wanted to ravage and decapacitate India by plundering her wealth, deconstructing her cultural identity, and weakening her morale by the tool of the Macaulayian education policy.   So they  aggressively went about perverting and destroying the glorious legacy of widespread education network they inherited from a nation that  taught Vedic philosophy to the word when it groped in  darkness.

 A sample of what the British inherited will be an eye-opener. The first survey report of the district collectors on tJuly 1, 1836 numbered the school in village of Bengal-Bihar  to a massive 100,000.  Similarly, according to Collectors of 21 districts of Madras Presidency, the Presidency   boasted of  11,575 scholars,  1, 57,195 students, and 1094 institutions of higher learning.  To complete the task of moral and physical subjugation of India and to destroy its pride and confidence, they realized the necessity to demolish her tradition of knowledge. Addressing Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on October 20, 1931 Mahatma Gandhi described this as ‘destruction of a Beautiful Tree’.

 But the British could not conquer the spirit of India as was reflected in the resistance put up by the brave freedom fighters and millions of those who stood by them, rejecting allure of pelf and power for suffering and want.  An interesting anecdote will drive home this point. When the Allahabad-based Swarajya newspaper, advertised the post of its editor and offered as incentive glass water, two breads, and ten years rigorous imprisonment for every editorial, large number of aspirants thronged the office for the job to serve the nation.

This spirit remained undiminished after the independence. India stood firm as a rock whenever it faced external or internal challenges and made path breaking achievements in various fields while  strengthening its democracy as well. The path for such unhindered progress was undoubtedly laid by the makers of our Constitution. The Constituent assembly debates show they were a set of deliberative democrats, who wanted to ensure that democracy internalized the diversities of the Indian society and resolved the contradictions in her social, political and economic life.  The success of their efforts reflected in the growth of political activities in the country. While 54 political parties took part in  first general elections in 1952, the number swelled to  464 in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. India can claim pride of smooth democratic transition of power from bottom (Gram Sabha) to top (LokSabha) through electoral process. The expansion of democracy has three dimensions. One, participation of people and decentralization of administration through local self government. Two, people’s empowerment by introducing the measures like Right of Information (RTI). And, third, march to substantive democracy by applying right based approach. Its examples

are Right to Education,


When Indira Gandhi imposed emergency for  19 months ( 1975-77, the country  witnessed massive all-round protests, leading to her massive defeat in 1977 general elections. The message was loud and clear. Democracy can never be defeated in India. Moreover, the success of panchayati raj system is a vibrant example that shows that democracy did not travel from top to bottom but just to  the contrary..

In a span of seventy years, India has shown spectacular achievements in many fields. India launched its first satellite Aryabhatt in 1975 and now it eyes a 200 billion dollar commercial rocket market. The Mars Mission- 2013 was a notable success , being the cheapest of its  kind the world over. India also stands tall in the field of  nuclear and missile technology.  The indigenous built BrahMos cruise missile is a shining example of the ability of our scientist. India also became the 35th member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) for which China has been trying for the last one decade.

In 1951, the life expectancy was around 37 years which stood at 65 years  in 2011. Similarly, in 1951 India had only 0.399 million KM roads whereas it boasted of 4.5 million KM of roads by June 2014. Literacy rate has jumped to 74 percent from a meager 12.2 percent in 1951. In 1947, the country produced just 1362 MW electricity, and today we are generating around 3, 03,118.21 MW. However,  the  development has not been inclusive and  more than 20 percent Indian people are still below poverty line.

Poverty, ignorance, poor health parameters, social and economic disparities, which have been haunting a sizable number of people, is a blot on our development discourse. Addressing the problems of everyday life has become a major task of the government of the day. It has destabilizing potential more than anything else.

There is another side of the coin too. In India, the intellectual discourse has been dominated by a certain class whose personality and perspectives have been moulded by the colonial discourse. They have interpreted India’s social and cultural life from the Western prism and Marxist perspectives. It impacted all walks of our national life. However, the biggest impact has been felt on discourse on nationalism. Ancient India marks its unique place in the world civilization for its contributions in science to philosophy. Be it medicine or mathematics or the complex field of astronomy, chemistry and physics, contributions made during ancient India were invaluable. For instance, mathematic tradition of India goes back to Vedas. It was in India that the decimal place value system in writing and the use of ‘zero’ had flourished. Susruta’s Susruta Samhita,  is a treasure of medicinal knowledge as one of the earliest instances of plastic surgery is found in it .  However, these contributions of ancient India were ignored. Great  achievements in science and technology in ancient India were mentioned in just a few lines or  paragraphs. It entailed intensive  political, ideological and academic discourse on critical issues like , culture, nationalism and secularism. It has been a battle of contesting perspectives for their ideological hegemony as well as defining the idea of India.  Moreover, they could not destroy the potential of intrinsic civilizational values ingrained in the consciousness of the Indian people. it was invoked by   thinkers turned freedom fighters, like Bal Gangadhar Tilak , B C Pal, Maharshi Aurobindo by reinventing our past and interpreting nationalism primarily in cultural context during the colonial period. However, in post independent India much efforts were not made to reconnect nationalism to the nation cultural roots. Even the history of the freedom movement is progressively unfolding. Some of those who made ultimate sacrifices do not figure in modern history text books while some found space disproportionate to their role in the freedom movement. For instance, Udadevi, a dalit freedom fighter from Uttar Pradesh, who was  a part of Queen Hazrat Mahal’s army and  achieved martyrdom while fighting the British forces, remained uncelebrated , so is Rani Gadinliu , a freedom fighter from the North East. The beauty of a democratic and historic society is resolution of intellectual and political disputes through debate and discourse. In the last seventy years, India exhibited unique capacity for evolution of idea, institutions and leadership. The debate and conflicts have also been creating a propitious ground for consensus for  decolonization of the Indian mind. This aspiration and spirit of the masses  is also sometimes reflected in the historic verdict. The verdict of 2014 Lok Sabha elections  was a mandate for another Tryst with destiny. India began to assert herself as a civilizational nation state. That’s why the Guardian, a British newspaper, forthrightly expressed the feelings of the western mind, in its editorial , "Today, 18 May 2014, may well go down in history as the day when Britain finally left India. Narendra Modi's victory in the elections marks the end of a long era in which the structures of power did not differ greatly from those through which Britain ruled the subcontinent. India under the Congress party was in many ways a continuation of the British Raj by other means." It seems that world community too was waiting for India’s emergence as a soft power. When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed International Yoga Day at the UN General Assembly in December 2014, India received huge applause and support.  177 nations supported his proposal and June 21 has been declared as International Yoga Day. Modi proudly proclaimed  in his speech at UN general assembly, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old.”

There is need for moral interpretation of our strength and potentials to play role in the world affairs and it cannot be possible without sense of cultural unity. The phrase ‘idea of India’ is like an half empty glass, it can be full only when we will realize the idea of Indian civilization is inclusive and eternal. One of the best Indian minds and philosophers of contemporary India M S Golwalkar aptly delineates, "History has recorded that it is in this land alone that, right from the hoary times, generation after generation of thinkers and philosophers, seers and sages rose to unravel the mysteries of human nature, dived deep into the world of Spirit and discovered and perfected the science of realisation of the Great Unifying Principle."India’s tryst with destiny -2 has many hurdles and tests to confront but undying spirit of nationhood is bound to support her progressive march.


(The author teaches history at  the University of Delhi.  Views expressed are personal.)