Freedom arrived in India on August 15, 1947. The date was chosen by the then Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, as it was the second anniversary of the Japanese surrender of Burma to Allied forces in World War II. , when Mountbatten served as Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia Command. Thus, the date chosen seems to have resonated with imperial pride rather than nationalist sentiment. However, as soon as the radio announced the date of Mountbatten, astrologers across the country began to consult their charts. Those in the holy city of Benares and several others in the south immediately announced August 15 as a date so inauspicious that India “would be better advised to tolerate the British one more day than risk eternal damnation.”
According to Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, authors of the book titled Freedom at Midnight, one astrologer in particular, Swami Madamanand, wrote to Mountbatten saying, “For the love of God, don’t give India independence on August 15 . If floods, droughts, famine and massacres ensue, it will be because free India was born on a day cursed by the stars. It couldn’t have been a day sooner, as Mountbatten was then in Karachi delivering the King’s message of independence to Pakistan. The compromise ? India would gain independence during the midnight hour between August 14 and August 15, since according to the West, a new day starts at midnight, but according to the Hindu calendar, it starts at sunrise.
It was decided to begin the celebrations on the 14th, with a special session of the Constituent Assembly, the body of representative Indians working on a new constitution. Thus, on August 15, 1947 at midnight, independent India was born when its prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, spoke in his historic speech of the country’s dream: “Long years ago we had an appointment with fate, and now comes the time when we will redeem our pledge…. At the stroke of midnight, when the world sleeps, India will awaken to life and freedom… The achievements we celebrate today are but a step, an opening of opportunity, towards great triumphs and achievements that await us. It was also an hour of darkness, with the flames of partition engulfing the land, hundreds of thousands slaughtered in sectarian savagery, and millions seeking refuge across the arbitrary lines that had vivisected their homeland.
At a time when the fires of partition were blazing across the country, Nehru thought not only of India but also of the rest of the world and said, “Peace has been said to be indivisible; the same goes for freedom, the same goes for prosperity now, and the same goes for disaster in this one world that can no longer be broken into isolated fragments. This was not entirely surprising as India had, for millennia, been engaged with the rest of the world. However, overall success in the task identified by Nehru, of “an end to poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity” has been quite limited. Although India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it declared itself a sovereign, democratic and republican state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.
The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution changed the description of India from “sovereign democratic republic” to “sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic”. At the time of independence, there was global skepticism about India’s future as a united democratic republic. Winston Churchill once said, “India is just a geographical expression. It is no more a country than the equator. Given its extraordinary mix of ethnicities, profusion of mutually incomprehensible languages, varieties of topography and climate, diversity of religions and cultural practices, it was feared that India would soon fall apart or at least not return to an authoritarian regime of a certain gentile. But India has not only survived as a democracy, it has become the fastest growing developing country, held together, in the words of its first prime minister, “by strong but invisible threads ~ She is a myth and an idea, a dream and a vision”. , and yet very real and present and pervasive.
Today, India is more than the sum of its contradictions. The triumph of India’s democratic politics is now recognized around the world. An important benefit of democratic functioning and free speech is that if bad policies are followed, a correction of those policies is easier and inevitable given public pressure and open discussion. The role of democracy in preventing famines has also received considerable attention. India has not experienced true famine since independence despite endemic hunger and malnutrition. In democratic countries, including India, everywhere in the world, democracy in the full sense of the term (that of a government of the people, by the people, for the people) has not been achieved, and there are still many gaps to fill. democracy. Nevertheless, after more than seventy-four years of largely successful democratic governance, India has earned its status as a leading democratic country and has shown quite powerfully how democracy can flourish despite a multitude of languages, religions and ethnicities.
Similar to a human development index, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research arm of the Economic Group, a UK-based private company that publishes the weekly The Economist, designed the human development index. democracy to measure the state of democracy in 167 countries and territories, of which 166 are sovereign states and 164 are UN member states. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped into five different categories, measuring pluralism, civil liberties and political culture. In addition to numerical scores and a ranking, the index classifies each country into one of four regime types: full democracies (where civil liberties and basic political freedoms are not only enforced but also respected); imperfect democracies (where basic civil liberties are respected; free and fair elections are held; but other fundamental democratic aspects such as freedom of the media, political opposition and criticism are suppressed); hybrid regimes (characterized by electoral fraud, widespread corruption, non-independent judicial systems, etc.) and authoritarian regimes (where elections are not free and fair, political pluralism does not exist, absolute monarchies or dictatorships dominate).
India ranked 46th out of 167 countries in the 2021 Democracy Index World Rankings, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit. The list was released on February 10, 2022. With the highest score of 9.75, Norway topped the 2021 Democracy Index, while India scored 6.91 to rank rank 46 on the list. Our neighbor Pakistan was placed lower in the hybrid regime with a rank of 104. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen observes: “Democracy does not serve as an automatic cure for ills like quinine acts to cure malaria. The opportunity it opens should be seized positively in order to achieve the desired effect. Indeed, the achievements of democracy depend not only on the rules and procedures that are adopted and safeguarded, but also on how opportunities are used by government in response to popular pressure.
At the beginning of the 18th century, as the British economic historian Angus Maddison has shown, India’s share of the world economy was 23%, equivalent to all of Europe combined. By the time the British left India, it had fallen to just 3%. The reason was simple: India was ruled for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise for 200 years was funded by its depredations of India. (An Age of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor). It is reassuring that India’s economic base has come a long way since 1947: its size of 203 trillion rupees does not make economic distress as visible as it did then, and it is better equipped to handle the shocks. There are also other economic achievements. But the conditions surrounding the upcoming 76th anniversary heighten reflections on what India has not achieved so far since 1947, an increase in the share of manufacturing for the massive absorption of its labor force. agricultural surplus; the eradication of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, to name but a few.