What is happening in India

Justice Markandey Katju-

Few people in India or abroad are able to understand what is happening in India, particularly after the recent violence in Delhi. So let me express my own view.

India ( and in that term I include Pakistan and Bangladesh ) is passing through a transitional period in its history, from feudal agricultural society, to modern industrial society. At present it is not entirely feudal nor entirely modern, but stuck somewhere in between. Though there was a limited degree of industrialization in India after 1947, it was not full industrialization, as in Western countries ( or even anywhere near that of China ). Feudal remnants in the form of casteism, communalism, religious bigotry, superstitions, etc are still powerful and well entrenched in Indian society today.

A transitional period is always a very painful period in history, full of turbulence and strife ( see my articles ‘Situation worse than Mahabharat’s end ahead of India’ published in outlookindia.com, ‘Recent agitation in India—A sign of the coming storm’ published in nayadaur.tv, and ‘The Transitional Era in India’ published in my blog Satyam Bruyat ).

If we read a history of Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries when Europe was passing through its transition from feudal to modern society, we find that this period was full of turbulence, turmoil, wars, revolutions, chaotic conditions, intellectual ferment, etc. It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe. India is presently going through this fire, we are going through a very painful period in our history, which I guess will last another 15-20 years or so.

For what is a transitional period ? It is a period when the old society is being totally uprooted and torn apart, when old values are being challenged and destroyed, but new values are yet to be created. Can such a historical transition be achieved peacefully ? One wishes it could be so, but historical experience shows otherwise. The vested interests in the old order always put up a fierce resistance to any fundamental change in the political and social order, as that would endanger their interests, and so this change can only be achieved by some kind of revolution.

Many people have asked me when and how such a revolution will come about in India, who will be its leaders, etc. My reply is that no one can say. One can never be rigid about historical forms. But this much can be said with certainty : some kind of revolution is inevitable in India because everything has collapsed here. All our state institutions have become hollow and empty shells, while on the other hand the Indian economy is sinking and the people’s distress is growing ( see my article ‘Why celebrate Republic Day when our Constitution has become a scarecrow’ published in theweek.in ). Nature does not like a vacuum, and chaos cannot continue forever. So some alternative to the present political and social system is bound to emerge.

Presently we have parliamentary democracy in our country, but this runs largely on the basis of caste and communal vote banks. Casteism and communalism are feudal forces which must be destroyed if India is to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them. So we have to have an alternative ( see my article ‘ Parliamentary democracy has failed. India needs a dictatorship ‘ published in dailyo.in ).

What will be that alternative system has to be thought out by intellectuals, and for this they have to use their creativity.

Intellectuals are the eyes of society, and without intellectuals a society is blind.

I am expressing some of my own ideas here.

The test of every political system or act is one, and only one : does it raise the standard of living of the people ? Does it give them better lives ? My articles ‘ India needs modern minded revolution to become a first world nation ‘ published in theweek.in, and ‘ Eight steps to a revolution that can clean up the mess India is in ‘ published in dailyo.in have tried to give some guidance to the Indian intellectual youth.

As I have mentioned in these articles, before an actual revolution there has to be an intellectual revolution. For instance, before the French Revolution of 1789 there were several decades of intellectual struggles by great thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau and the other thinkers of the Enlightenment, who attacked the feudal system, religious bigotry, etc. This intellectual revolution is needed to change the mindsets of the masses which are presently steeped in feudal ideas and feudal practices.

So the present stage in Indian history is the pre-revolutionary stage, i.e, the stage of the intellectual revolution. All patriotic, modern minded intellectuals must contribute to it. In particular, they must attack the poison of communalism which has gripped India, and which is being promoted and fostered by our medieval minded rulers.

All forces which divide our people and spread religious or caste hatred must be strongly combated, for only a mighty united people’s struggle can lead to the revolution which will transform India into a prosperous, highly developed and highly industrialized country, and get rid of the scourge of massive poverty, record and rising unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for our masses, atrocities and discrimination against minorities and dalits, widespread corruption, farmers distress etc which have bedeviled Indian society for long.


[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own].