Bangalore International Centrehad arranged a Talk on his Book “Battles Half Won: India’s Improbable Democracy” by Prof. Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences at Brown Universityon 18thJanuary, 2014 at 6.30 PM. Dr.RamachandraGuha, Eminent Historian and Writer chaired and moderated the discussion. This was arranged in collaboration with Takshashila Institution.
Through a lucid talk, aided by a power point presentation,Prof. Ashutosh Varshney analysed the evolution of Indian democracy since 1947 and the challenges this has created. He stressed the fact that the diversity and aspirations within the country could be sustained only through a democratic process nurtured by an enlightened leadership. The process was all the more difficult because of the overwhelming odds against it – illiteracy, ignorance, crippling poverty and a feudal economy.Other countries in the sub-continent like Pakistan and Indonesia could not sustain democracy and collapsed. India did not; democracy not only survived but also thrived. Prof. Varshney lauded the sagacity of Mahatma Gandhi for having clearly delinked the concept of nationhood from both religion and language. Even though Bapu’s concept of democracy had distinct ambivalences, the idea of a strong nationhood did serve as a pillar of Indian democracy. The Constitution of India, with its strong mandate on institutionalising elections, primacy of Constitutional rights and duties and the rights of the minorities further consolidated the process. Prof. Varshneyalso highlighted the critical role played by the Judiciary, the Election Commission, and the CAGin recent years in strengthening democracy in India. He cautioned that there have been failures inseveral areas earlier, and there would be failures in future also.At the same time, one can take pride in the fact that democracy has taken roots within the country and is evolving its own mechanism, slow at time, to deal with aberrations.
There was a lively interaction with theaudience after the discussion. This was an occasion when one could do with a much bigger auditorium, such was the rush.