Sunday, February 26, 2006

Failing State, Successful Society

M J Akbar writes the following about the Best Bakery and Jessica Lal matters:

Delhi is the world’s largest glasshouse: who shall throw the first stone? But there comes a moment when you no longer care whether the glasshouse remains intact or shatters. If that glasshouse is going to protect the killers at Best Bakery or the murderer of Jessica Lal, then it is time it got shattered into smithereens. Civil society rose in both instances. It threw stone after stone in the Best Bakery matter, rousing the conscience and the best instincts of the highest judiciary. It rose again in the matter of Jessica Lal, and the Delhi High Court has taken the initiative.

Both these cases illustrate our incredibly complex India everywhere. Fareed Zakaria notes:

A famous Indian once put it eloquently, "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance."

Those words, which Indians of a certain generation know by heart, were spoken by the country's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, just after midnight, on Aug. 15, 1947, when independent India was born. What Nehru was referring to, of course, was the birth of India as an independent state. What is happening today is the birth of India as an independent society—boisterous, colorful, open, vibrant and, above all, ready for change. India is diverging from its past, but also from most other countries in Asia. It is not a quiet, controlled, quasi-authoritarian country that is slowly opening up according to plans. It is a noisy democracy that has finally empowered its people economically. In this respect India, one of the poorest countries in the world, looks strikingly similar to the world's wealthiest country, the United States of America. In both places, society has triumphed over the state.

This is perhaps the central paradox of India today. Its society is open, eager, confident and ready to take on the world. But its state—its ruling class—is far more hesitant, cautious and suspicious of the changed realities around it ...

.. and anachronistically feudal, to boot. If the Indian State continues failing our increasingly successful society, the former risks becoming irrelevant -- and eventually being swept away. This would be a 21st century liberal revolution (liberal in the classic sense!) and a majestic Indian counterpoint to 20th century's illiberal revolutions in Europe and China.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Manu sharma goes scot free because witnesses turned hostile but the best bakery folks are caught

looks like all it takes to get caught is either u have to be middle class or kill some Moslems, else u are free to do what u want

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Manu sharma goes scot free because witnesses turned hostile but the best bakery folks are caught

looks like all it takes to get caught is either u have to be middle class or kill some Moslems, else u are free to do what u want

libertarian said...

PR: excellent analysis. Cheers to the People of India - we will make it inspite of the government, not because of it. Our Bombay boy Fareed is certainly renamored of the country of his birth. Way to go!

BangaloreGuy said...

PR, Well put. Hopefully our state will learn our lessons and transform from within.

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