Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Ramachandra Guha on Pluralism in China & India

What is 'Pluralism'? Essentially it means the peaceful but separate co-existence, as in a salad bowl, not a melting pot, within a unitary polity, of different ''user defined' ethnic, linguistic, occupational or confessional groups. If these groups are defined by statute or a formal power-sharing agreement, then what we have is consociationalism.
However, for large societies with multiple overlapping identity categories, it is unlikely that any statutory provision or agreement of this sort could be achieved and sustained for any length of time save by a dynamics of elite accommodation so extensive and all consuming as to constitute what is in effect a separate Governing class engaged in Rotten Borough Politics. In this case, Pluralism re-emerges only in the form of an elite discourse matching reified notions of social collectives to, what are conjectured to be, the empirical facts of the case.
1) Such Plurarilism could be said to arise on the basis of communities occupying different geographical or ecological niches & thus not competing directly with each other or creating a Social Gradient for Tardean imitation or Girardian confilict.
Here, according to the elite's theory, Pluralism is imperilled if a geographical area becomes attractive to immigrants from other areas or else is found to possess some natural resource yielding a rent, thus sparking rivalry  between groups, or else if an ecological niche is contested or comes to be seen as either exploitative or repugnant.
In the last case, for the Muslim League, the Hindus were identified with exploitative Banias (businessmen) who, Jinnah said, were able to buy out Muslim businesses when the proprietor died because Muslim inheritance law (except that of Jinnah's own natal Khoja or Bohra sects which followed Hindu custom) broke up the Estate thus imposing a check on the continuity of the underlying business. Iqbal, though mentioning the Muslim belief that the Bania was sucking their blood, laid greater emphasis on his conviction that Islam provided a firmer foundation for Socialism. He believed Nehru was bound to fail because the Caste Hindus would rebel against him.
Burma also acted to reduce Pluralism of this type,  which the British Civil Servant, Furnivall, had delineated, by getting rid of minorities involved in trade and finance on the avowed basis of a Socialist belief in the essentially parasitic nature of such activities.
Within India, it is notable that, in Bihar, Hindu Debtors of Afghan usurers used the opportunity of Partition to get rid of that particular ecological niche in exactly the same way that Muslim majority areas got rid of their Hindu bania and zamindar (landlord) class. Interestingly, the Pakistanis imposed a ban on Hindu scavengers (i.e. the guys who did the dirty work) fleeing the new country along with the farmers, businessmen and professionals who competed with dominant Muslim castes.
Generally speaking, in India, dominant localized castes or ethnicities have been able to either get rid of 'niche' Pluralism or else to extract a rent from it for the indigenous, localized, power elite. In non-niche activities, obviously,  the dominant group drives out the weaker by fair or foul means till a sort of Kaldor equilibrium is achieved and minority participation yields, at the margin, as much external benefit to the majority as private benefit to the person from the minority.
Similarly, 'repugnancy market'  niches have either been eliminated or forced to pay a rent- sometimes by increasing the underlying nuisance or criminality in question.
2) Alternatively, the elite may cognize Pluralism as arising from different communities coming under different legal, normative or other jurisdictions- e.g. the Ottoman 'Millat' systems- which might also be based on extra-territorial Power, either of a foreign State, or a Religious Pontiff, or that of Organized Crime.  This type of Pluralism can be camouflaged by Coalition Politics or else can exist on the basis of a Pragmatic Sanction by the National Security State.
3) There can also be an theory of Pluralism on the basis of an Elite valorisation of Diversity or Pluritropic collective meta-preference underpinned perhaps by an Economic ideology or theory that such policies yield a sort of Tiebout manorial rent- this is a route to stealing a march on rival Polities and getting wealthier as a community.
4)  Finally, there can be a demotic Pluralism supposedly arising on a purely Ethical basis and gaining a sort of sullen acquiescence from the Masses by dint of continual chiding by soi-disant Great Men valorized by the bien pensant intelligentsia- i.e. lies and hypocrisy spouted by thinly disguised racial chauvinists or paid apologists for the regime.

Which last brings us to Ramachandra Guha- perhaps the most vapid and widely read contemporary Indian historian- who has published an essay in Caravan Magazine on a recent Conference he attended in China focused on fostering Diversity and Pluralism and only committing genocide on Minorities when there's really nothing good on TV and, anyway, the troops need the exercise.

He makes a number of claims which, I imagine, might not be a catalogue of wishful thinking peculiar to himself but  actually quite wide-spread amongst the moronic Magazine (as opposed to Blog) reading public. I think it is worthwhile to list these claims and examine whether they bear any relation to Reality and if not, why not.

Regarding China, Guha writes
1)  'In the early years of Communist rule, there was no political diversity, since China was ruled by a single Party.'
Guha's statement makes sense if, in Politics, you begin with something undifferentiated which then shows variation  and, in the absence of repression, gives rise to diversity. In the case of China, Guha believes the Chinese Communist Party was homogeneous at the point when it eliminated all rivals and established its hegemony. Is this true? The answer, put simply, is no. All sorts of disparate elements had united under the banner of the Communist Party, more especially because of the severe strains put on China by Warlordism and Famine and, of course, Japanese aggression such that people had to pick sides from a narrowing menu. Thus the Communist Party, at its moment of triumph was more diverse than it subsequently became. Evolution is just as much about canalisation as it is about capacitance diversity. Even multi-party systems see canalisation and convergence on long standing issues while diversity may flourish in new areas of interest- arising out of technological changes or demographic shifts or a variation in Globalising forces. Even in these areas, cananlisation and convergence operate to thin out phenotypal diversity.
2)  'But (in the early years of Communist rule in China) even talk of cultural diversity was not encouraged. Regardless of one’s ethnic or linguistic background, all citizens were commanded to commit themselves to the strengthening of the Chinese state and the construction of an economic basis for socialism.'
If Guha is right, then the first thing the Chinese would have done when they, with the acquiescence of Nehru, claimed sovereignty over Tibet, would have been to demand that the Tibetans hand over resources to the Center and also eliminate their own bourgeoisie. This did not happen. The Chinese subsidized Tibet and enriched its middle class who used the money to, for example, send their kids to English Medium Schools and Colleges in Darjeeling and Calcutta. Similarly, in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, the new regime rather aimed to conciliate than to crush and to take delight in diversity- thus sending a signal to Ulan Bator & Pynongyang- rather than seek to impose uniformity. Sinkiang however posed a double threat- its economy had been integrated into the Soviet sphere but an Islamic and Pan Turkic threat potential in the region could destabilize both Communist giants. In other words, heavy handed Chinese policies were double-edged in that they were pushing out the Soviets but also unleashing Red Terror.  Land Reform affecting Waqfs (Land held by Religious Trusts) wasn't necessarily unpopular so it was really massive Government sponsored Han immigration which presented an existential threat to the Uighurs. Ultimately, when China broke with the Soviets, in 1962, a hundred thousand Uighurs fled along with Soviet personnel.
However, where no strategic interest was at stake, China in the 50's was anxious to appear Pluralist. Minority areas were exempt from Collectivization- save where it had the political objective of crushing their spirit of Independence and destroying their capacity to rebel- just as, at a later time, they were exempt from the One Child policy.
 In 1958, the right to leave the Collective was taken away from the Han Chinese.  To sweeten the blow, fantastic claims of impending mass plenty were circulated. Under the slogan 'to eat meat is glorious', farm animals were slaughtered and for a brief while peasants ate so much rich food in the new Communal canteens that they suffered indigestion. Had Mao's 'great leap forward' succeeded- i.e. if it really had been possible for the Han Chinese majority to grow ten times as much food on the same piece of ground while simultaneously producing millions of metric tonnes of high grade steel in their backyard furnaces, then perhaps the minorities could have been pampered to very surfeit. It was not to be. The failure of Magical Socialism meant that scapegoats had to be found- Rightists, 'Class enemies', feudal elements and, of course, the Minorities who were seen as being governed by precisely these elements and also as being too immature and under-developed to ever rid themselves of these evils. Thus only massive Han immigration could help them rise above their mental bondage.
No doubt, very harsh measures were taken against Minorities  in the Sixties and Seventies. But, by then, the whole country was a prison camp and so, contra Guha, it was a reversal of the early policy of which Wikipedeia has this to say-
Chinese Communist understanding of minorities had been heavily influenced by the Soviet models of Joseph Stalin. The Soviet's definition of minorities did not map cleanly onto this Chinese historical understanding. Stalinist thinking about minorities was that a nation was made up of those with a common language, historical culture, and territory. Each nation of these people then had the theoretical right to secede from a proposed federated government.[7] This differed from the previous way of thinking mainly in that instead of defining all those under imperial rule as Chinese, the nation (as defined as a space upon which power is projected) and ethnicity (the identity of the governed) were now separate; being under central rule no longer automatically meant being defined as Chinese. The Stalinist model as applied to China gave rise to the autonomous regions in China; these areas were thought to be their own nations that had theoretical autonomy from the central government.[8]
To determine how many of these nations existed within China after the revolution of 1949, a team of social scientists were assembled to enumerate the various ethnic nations. The problem that they immediately ran into was that there were many areas of China in which villages in one valley considered themselves to have a separate identity and culture from those one valley over.[11] According each village the status of nation would be absurd and would lead to the nonsensical result of filling the National People's Congress with delegates all representing individual villages. In response, the social scientists attempted to construct coherent groupings of minorities using language as the main criterion for differentiation. This led to a result in which villages that had very different cultural practices and histories were lumped under the same ethnic name. The Zhuang is one such example; the ethnic group largely served as a catch-all collection of various hill villages in Guangxi province.[12]
The actual census taking of who was and was not a minority further eroded the neat differentiating lines the social scientists had drawn up. Individual ethnic status was often awarded based on family tree histories. If one had a father (other mother, for ethnic groups that were considered matrilineal) that had a surname considered to belong to a particular ethnic group, then one was awarded the coveted minority status. This had the result that villages that had previously thought of themselves as homogenous and essentially Han were now divided between those with ethnic identity and those without.[13]
The team of social scientists that assembled the list of all the ethnic groups also described what they considered to be the key differentiating attributes between each group, including dress, music, and language. The center then used this list of attributes to select representatives of each group to perform on television and radio in an attempt to reinforce the government's narrative of China as a multi-ethnic state.[14] Particularly popular were more exoticised practices of minority groups - the claim of multi-ethnicity would not look strong if the minorities performed essentially the same rituals and songs as the Han. Many of those labeled as specific minorities were thus presented with images and representations of "their people" in the media that bore no relationship to the music, clothing, and other practices they themselves enacted in their own daily lives.
However, as China opened up and reformed post-1979, many Han acquired enough money to begin to travel. One of the favorite travel experiences of the wealthy was visits to minority areas, to see the purportedly exotic rituals of the minority peoples.[15][16] Responding to this interest, many minority entrepreneurs, despite themselves perhaps never having grown up practicing the dances, rituals, or songs themselves, began to cater to these tourists by performing acts similar to what was on the media. In this way, the groups of people named Zhuang or other named minorities have begun to have more in common with their fellow co-ethnics, as they have adopted similar self-conceptions in response to the economic demand of consumers for their performances.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was a shift in official conceptions of minorities in China: rather than defining them as "nationalities", they became "ethnic groups". The difference between "nationality" and "ethnicity", as Uradyn Erden-Bulag describes it, is that the former treats the minorities of China as societies with "a fully functional division of labor", history, and territory, while the latter treats minorities as a "category" and focuses on their maintenance of boundaries and their self-definition in relation to the majority group. These changes are reflected in uses of the term minzu and its translations. The official journal Minzu Tuanjie changed its English name from Nationality Unity to Ethnic Unity in 1995. Similarly, the Central University for Nationalities changed its name to Minzu University of China. Scholars began to prefer the term zuqun (族群) overminzu.[17]
The Wikipedia article is misleading on several counts. In 1949, China rejected the Soviet Model and opted for a 'unitary state with multiple Nationalities'- thus secession was never on the menu and, moreover, the irredentist aspirations of a Nationality were inherited by the Unitary State- thus giving China a claim over the territory of its neighbors which could not otherwise arise. Furthermore, tight control of Education, and the fact that all Higher Education was only in Chinese, meant that there was a disconnect between ideological protestations and the reality of two-tier assimilation endowing second class status even on minorities well within China's borders. The Manchus, however, tended to do better than average educationally and economically but the price paid was forgetting their own language.
 Potentially seditious nationalities- Uyghurs and Tibetans- on the other hand, were brutally treated, every effort being made to crush their spirit and bring every facet of their life under surveillance and official control. Finally, between 1968 and 1975, the culminating years of the Cultural Revolution, the very notion of minority status or differentiated nationality was rejected and traditional languages, scripts, customs,costumes, music, even medical practices, were banned as 'reactionary'. Henceforth, there would be no pretense of pampering the Minorities- they were to be dominated and 're-educated' if not butchered outright.
Guha, however, has a different take on what happened. Nobody's spirit was crushed. No genocide occurred. Not at all. It was just their new Masters were not properly encouraging of the Minorities, gushing praise and patting them on the back if they  managed to tie their own shoe-laces and giving them a big gold star for drawing a nice picture of a cat in Trigonometry class.
Thus, Guha tells us
3) 'The discouragement of minority aspirations led willy-nilly to a deepening of Han hegemony. This created discontent, especially among the Uyghurs and Tibetans, peoples with sophisticated written cultures and a proud sense of their religious heritage.' 
Hitler's discouragement of Jewish and Gypsy aspirations led willy-nilly to a deepening of S.S hegemony in the Concentration Camps. This created discontent, especially amongst the Jews being gassed in Belsen because they were people with a sophisticated written culture and a proud sense of their religious heritage.  

Guha writes-'In the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, both Tibet and Xinjiang witnessed violent clashes between local people and security forces. Now, some scholars, and even some party officials, had begun reflecting on the costs of imposing cultural uniformity on an extremely diverse nation.
The Fuzhou conference was held in a building guarded by a statue of Confucius, a thinker once berated by Mao but now making an impressive comeback in China. The meeting had some 25 participants. There were four Germans, and one Indian. The rest were all Chinese. They included university professors, party officials, and NGO workers. About half were Han in origin, but—given the theme of the conference—ethnic minorities such as the Tibetans, the Yi, and the Mongols were also represented.
In other words, no previously independent or autonomous ethnicity in China experienced Oppression, Genocide or had been rendered powerless or a cowed minority within its own homeland such that, as a matter of official policy, immigrant Han Chinese enjoyed wealth and privilege while the indigenous people suffered poverty and degradation. Still, those minorities were so resentful that their cultural aspirations were not being fulfilled that they created violent mayhem during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese Army and Police were totally at a loss. They went to give some nice teddy bears and sweeties to those violent minorities but received a terrible thrashing. What, oh what, are we going to do? Minorities are so angry and continually beating us and setting fire to things. How to placate them? Answer- let some German (!) N.G.O organize a Conference and invite Guha and some 10 people from minorities and another 10 from the Han majority and really discuss this matter and work out a solution. After all, we should show some consideration and humane feeling for those poor fellows in the Secret Police and Army who are constantly being raped and killed and pitilessly set alight by those Minorities who are so angry that everybody is not learning Uyghur or Tibetan while they themselves are having to learn Chinese and English and Maths and so on so as to get ahead in the world. It is a matter of great sensitivity.
Now let us turn to Guha's central thesis-
‘Diversity’ is a social condition; ‘pluralism’ is a political programme. China is almost as diverse as India, but infinitely less plural. For in India, the diversity of languages, religions, and political ideologies has been encouraged since the birth of the nation-state. India is a multi-party democracy based on universal adult franchise. The Indian Constitution does not privilege a single religion. And it encourages each province to administer itself in the language of its choice.
Firstly, let us look at what it means to say 'Diversity is a social condition'- what meaning is being given to the word 'Social' in this sentence? Is it that there is nothing in the way people interact with each others which militates for canalisation- i.e. there is no homogenizing force, like Tarde's 'law of imitation', at work in Social processes - and that, on the contrary, people just go on becoming more and more different from each other? If so, something very sinister is going on under the rubric of Globalisation. A few months ago I found myself dancing in a silly way and adopting 'Gangnam style' as a catchphrase. Why? It's because I've recently bought a Korean 3D tv and tablet computer. Globalised Capitalism is brainwashing me through secret electromagnetic waves emanating from my TV and tablet.  This is Cultural RAPE! I should be singing Tyagaraja's kirtis not 'Gangnam style' & 'Ato fato Gentleman'. Where oh where is the Mahatma Gandhi or Pundit Nehru to protect me from being deflowered by them evil Koreans and their Satanic technology? How is my Diversity to be preserved? Who will defend the Pluralism I represent?
Guha, no doubt, knows the answer- but he won't tell us. In fact there is a whole lot of things he is meanly keeping to himself.
An ordinary bloke like me thinks to himself- 'Even if Platonic as opposed to Revealed  Preferences really are Pluritropic and tend to infinite Diversity is it really the case that individuals face no Schelling type co-ordination problems? Was David Lewis on Conventions totally wrong? In the Economic realm,  can it really be that no externalities arise or public good provision is required or mechanism design becomes necessary such that the essence of Social interaction tends to reduce and canalise Diversity? If so, Minorities are themselves not stable. Within a couple of generations, the only minority would be Ann Rand's individual and Mrs. Thatcher's dictum 'no such thing as Society' would bear the unmistakable ring of Gospel Truth.
Is Guha, a guy with a PhD, writing in June 2013, really making such a claim? Why? Is he a closet Randian cross-dressing randi pretending to be a nice Nehruvian bien pensant Uncle?
Even if this is so, Guha has either to commit to a 'Great Man' theory of Capitalist praxeology or else he has to explain how there can there be any Economics, any Politics, any non-empty domain of the Social, if there is indeed nothing militating for the canalisation of Preference Diversity such that it has the Goldilocks property of being 'not too little, not too much'? Has Guha discovered some mistake in the mathematics of Graciella Chichilnisky? Has he really uncovered some alternative to the theories of Darwin and Baldwin and Hamilton and Price and John Maynard Smith explaining how things co-evolve? If so, Modesty be damned, he should tell us rather than leaving us blindly groping in the dark.
What about Guha's dictum that 'pluralism is a political program'. Does it, in fact, mean anything? In this context- no. The Chinese Communist Party could have gone either way on Linguistic pluralism. Indeed, remembering their relationship with the Panchen Lama & Prince Shianouk, even Political Pluralism of a theocratic or monarchical type was not beyond the scope of that supremely pragmatic Nation.
We know for a fact that they can do Econo-Legal Regime pluralism- the case of Hong Kong- and it is entirely possible that they could have embraced 'Browderism' back in 1950 and permitted at least the cosmetic appearance of multi-partyism on the then contemporary Mexican model. Thus we see 'pluralism'- whether Economic or Linguistic or whatever- is not a program but a political instrumentality.

What about Guha's notion that 'China is almost as diverse as India'. That must be true, surely? Let's see. 92% of the Chinese population is Han Chinese. There is a lot of diversity in spoken language- some drift based, some cladistic- but the written language, as solving a co-ordination problem, has not suffered this infirmity for over two and a half millenia. Thus we can say that the Han Chinese are a group closed under written communication. What about India?  Even an extreme Hindutva type would have to accept that at best 30 % of the current population is sufficiently 'Sanskritized' to even potentially have a similar type of closure property. In other words one Han Chinese can communicate everything in his mental universe to another on the opposite end of the country without straying outside the boundaries of the common written language and stock of associations save with respect the subject of the communication. Thus if 2 Han Chinese are talking about Pentecostal Christianity or Quantum Mechanics then they are going out of their common language only with respect to that specific subject. A Punjabi Hindu communicating with a Tamil Hindu, on the other hand, will constantly find himself going outside the Sanskritic circle, even on issues arising from a common orthopraxy, because he is appealing to genealogically Islamic ideas, practices and institutions, long assimilated by his people to which the Tamil has no similar unproblematic access. My own, no doubt ludicrous, attempt to engage with Ibn Arabi's concept of 'barzakh' in Ghalib's poetry constantly throws this unpleasant fact in my ugly Hindutva face. What keeps me going is that my alterity is not Islam but that North Indian Hindu, like Tufta, for whom Ghalib has tenderness.

Anyway, for what it's worth,  my own unscholarly estimate is that, loosely speaking, Han China has 90 percent hermeneutic circle closure- 'Hindu' India, maybe 30 per cent.

So what? History shows us that State Formation and Secular Politics have little to do with cultural or ethnic homogeneity- the appearance of which arises spontaneously as a solution to underlying co-ordination problems for the realm of the 'Social'- and everything to do with coalition stability and mechanism design. Even on the abstract plane- questions such as 'what is the optimal currency area?' and, going forward, 'what is the external economy optimizing golden path' tend to trump Romantic notions of an Organic Community or 'Moral Economy' or 'Symbolic Ecology'.
The answer, for Guha, turns out to be that though 'Diversity as a Social Condition' does not have any importance, still it contributes something dramatic to the backdrop of what is truly important, nay magical!, which is how the actions of Great Men totally change History coz they just are so goddam special that's all.

Guha writes- Indian pluralism is a modern phenomenon, forged in the crucible of colonialism. There was no ‘Indian nation’ until the British came. It was they who unified the territory that the Republic now claims and controls. The unity the rulers brought about was artificial, and accidental—until the national movement gave the people of what was now ‘British India’ a common political and (in time) moral purpose.
Indian pluralism, such as it is, is the product of the hard work and conscious choices of many individuals and many organisations. I suppose if one had to single out one of each, it would be Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the Indian National Congress. Gandhi began expanding his horizons early. His best friend in school was a Muslim. As a young law student in London he mostly hung about with heterodox Christians. When he came back to India he acquired a Jain scholar as his preceptor. blah blah blah
Is Guha utterly mad? He says that some force from outside can artificially draw lines on the map and rule over it in a manner that 'unifies it'. So much so, that, quite spontaneously, individuals and organizations can arise who turn that artificiality into something not artificial at all. In other words, any artificial creation can turn into a 'proper', not artificial, Nation State. All that is needed is some yeasting agent which does not have to be deliberately introduced but is just freely floating about in the air. Once it gets embedded, it 'works hard' and makes 'conscious choices'- and, it so happens, one choice it can make is called 'pluralism'. If it opts for that choice then the now no longer artificial Nation State created by some foreigner will turn out to be 'Plural'. Otherwise, it won't.
Does Indian history confirm this view? Did the British conquer or otherwise acquire dominance over territory in the Indian sub-continent entirely 'against the grain', so to speak, of existing collectives? Or, was it rather the case, that their expansion was almost entirely subject to Market and Meta-Market (i.e. mechanism design) type kinetics and potentialities? Was British Imperialism a project created by some British King or Great Man? Is that its genealogy?
Let us look at the evidence. The British were in India for over a hundred years as traders before something surprising happened- Clive abandons the Clerk's quill for the Conquistador's sword and scores a succession of amazing victories- which the British power elite had neither planned nor were prepared to commit resources to till it became a fait accompli and the money power of the 'Nabobs' became a 'tail that wags the dog'.
Why speak of India as encountering Western Colonialism? That virus was engineered in Desi laboratories and, once unleashed from its test-tube, the first systematic protest against its evils is evidenced in the writings and speeches of British patriots like Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Richard Sheridan, who, with matchless eloquence if not Analytical rigor, expose the double threat it posed to both Britain and India.
Guha writes as though a Commercial Enterprise of a deeply corrupt and rent seeking type could create a Nation State entirely by its predatory dealings and greed driven Sociopathy. Do the facts support this belief?
Did John Company exercise a hegemony utterly independent of existing collectives? Was there ever, in the history of its operations in India, a signal nomological break such that we can say- this is something wholly foreign and imposed by the canon and bayonet? The answer is- no and no. Firstly, John Company had to respect existing customary and religious laws and administer that Law in their own courts till such a time that a critical mass was achieved and the project of Codification increased, not decreased, their legitimacy and salience. Secondly, the Brits had to adopt and adapt the vernacular languages and knowledge systems in all matters where something new was not being created. Thirdly, after formal annexation to Empire,  Servants of the Crown had to continually re-draw those 'lines on the map' in accordance with the interests and sentiments of dominant classes in each region. 
Even the yeast that supposedly floats around freely in the air which has the magic property of turning any arbitrary collection of people and territory into a 'proper' Nation State- even that yeast, it turns out, is something the British had to foster and seek to regulate. 
Guha tells us that Gandhi had a lot of friends from outside his own sub-caste and community. So did Jinnah. Gandhian yeasting drove Jinnah and Iqbal and so on in one direction and Jinnah and Iqbal's yeasting drove the Indian National Congress the other way. It oughtn't to have mattered if the State had retained its solvency and therefore salience as the obligatory passage point of every interessement strategy. But, the War had virtually bankrupted Britain. It had also bankrupted the political potential of the bien pensant National bourgeoisie. 
Field Marshall Wavell, as Viceroy, tells Whitehall bluntly that it was no longer a case of 'Top-Down' conspiracy- easily settled by arresting a few seditionary lawyers- but, rather, the beginnings of a full-scale  'Bottom-Up' insurrection which can't be checked and must inevitably flush the British out of India. He proposes an evacuation of the White population starting from the South and East and towards the North West for ultimate rescue by the Navy or else an overland journey to the ports of the Levant.
Guha tells us a different story. Why? Clearly he is a far better soldier and military strategist than Wavell who was an arrant coward. Indeed, it is widely known, that the British army does not engage in combat- they prefer to play with dolls. Wavell, because he burst into tears most often, was promoted to high office. Guha knows the inside story. When he visits England, the S.A.S all go and hide under the Queen Mother's bed. They refuse to come out till he has left the country.
But, Guha is full of such surprises. He tells us- 'Life in the diaspora gave Gandhi an understanding of the social and cultural heterogeneity of India that he would never have acquired had he worked in Rajkot or even in Bombay.' In other words, South Africa was more heterogenous than India. Now, if Gandhi had merged his political campaign in South Africa with those of the Chinese, the Coloureds, the Zulus, the Xhosa, the Trade Unions and so on, then Guha would have a point. But Gandhi explicitly says that his Satyagraha did not merge with the similar agitation of the Chinese. He makes no mention of the leader of the Coloureds and forged no close contact, despite geographical proximity, with Christianized Africans engaged in a similar enterprise. Even within the Gujerati community, his strange views proved polarizing. A leading Muslim merchant writes to Jinnah asking him to come over and help the Muslims. Gandhi's plan will pauperize them while giving the Hindu hawkers an advantage. Later, in India, when Gandhi meets Jinnah he stresses the latter's religious identity. He'd have been better off staying in Rajkot where his behavior at least had the excuse of being fostered by small town mentality, not to say rustic imbecility. Yet, the myth of the Mahatma depended crucially on the notion that he'd achieved something tremendous in South Africa and could do the same in India. Gokhale, it is true, knew different. He warned that there was less to Gandhi's achievement than was claimed and that negotiation ought not to be entrusted to him. But, Gokhale died. Why does Guha pretend that a Gandhi who remained in Rajkot could have become the leader of the Congress? What could he possibly have achieved there, or claim to have achieved there, which could endow him with charisma? As for the issue of heterogeneity- the fact is, the only thing which wrung concessions out of Smuts was the revolt of the working class Indians. Yes, Gandhi placed himself at the head of this moment- but if he hadn't done so, some other Indian lawyer or para-legal would have been happy to oblige. Since the I.N.C and individual capitalists like Dorabji Tata were happy to provide support and funds, they could claim credit for the victory of the workers. Gokhale and C.F. Andrews would have a template for interessement over similar agitations in India with a view to gradualist legislative and parliamentary reform without any need for Khilafat or Khaddar or other such nonsense. In that case, India gets Universal Suffrage and full Provincial Autonomy in 1930. No big drama, Muslims see that they get undivided Bengal and Punjab- the two jewels in the Crown and suddenly Partition is against their interests. Dalits see that things like Temple Entry actually change their status- they are not a 'concession' based on the Saintliness of the Mahatma which they have to earn again and again by giving up customary items in their diet and 'Sanskritizing' themselves. Ambedkar's talents aren't wasted- he's put in charge of the Monetary Policy Committee. There is no split between him and the pragmatic leaders like the young Jagjivan Ram.

 But perhaps we have strayed too far down the road of counterfactuals. Returning to Guha's article we find he writes- When Gandhi finally came back home and joined politics, he pushed the Congress towards an open recognition and avowal of this diversity. The party units were reorganised on linguistic lines. The party committed itself to the maintenance of religious harmony and to making women and low castes equal citizens in (and of) the nation.
Is Guha seriously suggesting that Gandhi didn't jump on any existing bandwagon- be it Khilafat or Swaraj? What has that to do with 'open recognition and avowal of diversity?' Was there anyone at all in India who did not understand that men are different from women, Hindus have a different Religion from Muslims, Tamils don't speak the same language as Kashmiris? Perhaps, they knew it but thought it was some terrible secret they had to keep. Then Gandhi comes back from South Africa and says 'Guess what guys? Women don't have the same kind of pee pee as us men. It used to be a deadly secret, but now, thanks to Satyagraha, we can at last openly recognize and avow that there is diversity in the matter of pee pees. Similarly, them Tamils aren't actually gargling or clearing their throats- they are speaking a different language. We  can openly avow that now, because Satyagraha is so splendid.' Did Gandhi really turn up from South Africa with these sorts of insights? Was he really the motive force in reorganizing the party on 'linguistic lines' (which did not actually happen in many parts of India)? Was there any contemporary party which did not pay lip service to minority protection and womens' rights and so on? In any case, is there any evidence that the outcome would have been different if any Party had written something different in its manifesto? Did elite politics, or bien pensant discussion really shape anything? Take the Modi-Lee agreement- arguably it pushes Japan down the militaristic path, thus contributing to the fall of the British Empire in Burma and India. But, did elite politics and bien pensant intellectuals- or pseudo-intellectuals, like Nehru- have any say in it whatsoever? No. Nehru's misgivings went for nothing. Churchill's protests won him obloquy. When money talks, even the most bloated wind-bags find themselves abruptly punctured.
Guha's view of Indian pluralism
Guha  makes three claims 
1) that Indian 'pluralism' was something 'hard fought' and that Gandhi should get the lion's share of credit 
2) that Universal Suffrage wasn't inevitable and Nehru pushed it through. 
3) that linguistic pluralism was a precondition of India’s unity and survival. 
Let us look at the facts
1) Did any indigenous Indian force have the power to suppress Pluralism more than has actually happened? Could Nehru, or anybody else, really have imposed Hindi on non-Hindi states? Think about it for a second. Suppose the Govt. imposes the language and people protest. The Police and then the Army are sent in. Why should they not seize power for themselves? The Politicians would be marginalized. Sooner or later the Generals will take over. Even if the P.M is completely stupid and tries this option, the political class as a whole will revolt. Why? Popular unrest  means power goes to the Police, who can extract a rent previously accruing to politicians- but the Police, too, are nervous that the Army will step in. Once that happens, the Police lose even their existing rents and, like the Politicians, get marginalized. But the Army knows it can't rule the whole country by force- its recruitment is too narrowly based and rebel areas can be supplied by Sea- so it will have to depend on the Navy. But why should the Navy accept a subordinate role? It can get a fiscal advantage by controlling maritime trade and gain a countervailing power to extract rents.
Such considerations mean the whole thing is a non-starter. Support will melt away from a P.M who tries any monkey-tricks. So, the truth is, the battle for securing Pluralism was not 'hard fought'. There was no battle- just some disorganized retreat in the face of demand for linguistic states and 'bhumiputra' reservations and even ethnic cleansing of non-dominants. The truth is, Mahatma Gandhi made no unique contribution- save that of endorsing Khilafat as being something even a Kaffir should morally support thus legitimizing the notion that a Plural state is 'dar ul harb' according to some higher Moral Law.
2) Ceylon got universal suffrage in 1931 because Sidney Webb put in strong minority protection and in any case the elite were Loyalist. Could India really have continued with restricted franchise even after the main reason for it- viz. avoiding Partition- had disappeared? Is Guha serious? There may have nut-jobs who wanted restrictive franchise. They would have been laughed out of office and then beaten and chased out of the country if they tried such a monkey-trick. Guha does not get that India is Democratic because that gives the existing power-elite the legitimacy to raise taxes. The moment democracy is suspended, though a 'rent' can be extracted, it is not sustainable. Everybody will prefer to bribe for a short term purpose rather than pay the tax to stay legal. If India could export enough teak or oil or just rely on Aid, then okay one could put off elections for a few years. But, after that, the house of cards will collapse.

3) Linguistic pluralism was a battle won before Independence, though the integration of Princely states only became possible with the departure of the Brits. After that, the Govt. conceded, not promoted, Linguistic States created so 'outsiders' didn't take sarkari jobs from the sons of the soil. Nothing at all to do with what Nehru thought or some Professor said. Guha does not seem to understand that if China is a single party state it is because that Party became an Army which conquered the country and killed off all opposition. Even once in power, it still kills anyone, including its own members, who pose a challenge. Minority aspirations have a lot to do with not being killed and rendered even further subservient to the newly established ethnic Han immigrant majority or dominant class in their own ancestral homeland.
There were and are plenty of Parties in India which have no truck with Pluralism even at the National level. My own Iyer Liberation Front demands the immediate reconquest of Ireland- our ancestral home- and like everybody buying me a Guinness with Jameson chaser and singing Val Doonican songs. Except Subramaniyam Swamy. Just fucking kill him. And don't forget to murli Mahohar Joshi while you're at it. 
With such an obviously sensible program, why, you may ask, is the Iyer Liberation Front, like other similar anti-Pluralist outfits, languishing in the doldrums? The answer is we don't have the strength, the cohesiveness, and are in any case too cowardly and corrupt, to enforce our will. 
It would be a different matter if we could hit upon an 'incentive compatible' coalition that would burgeon and grow till strong enough to take over the country. But, by then, it would be Pluricentric and convergent to pretty much the same trajectory as what obtains.
What, finally, is the point of Guha's article? Does he really believe what he himself writes? Can he really so systematically confuse the causes of Powerlessness with the effects of Public Policy?
Perhaps, there is some inscrutable Mandarin purpose or esoteric Qingtan 'Pure Conversation' aspect to his essay which we are simply too stupid to grasp. Or, perhaps, the truth is simpler. The Emperor is not merely and quite deliberately naked but also frenziedly masturbating and spunking copiously in our faces precisely because we continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that his limbs are in fact decorously sheathed in Professorial tweeds and it is with a tobacco pipe in his hands, not a turgid penis, that he gesticulates at us delinquents cowering in the back row of that Gandhi-Nehru Lecture Hall which, indeed, is vaster than the World and more deadly than Death.

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