Thursday 7 September 2023

Khilnani's khretinism

Some years ago, Sunil Khilnani told a bunch of stupid Germans that- 

The idea of devising a self-governing representative political order for India – one through which its people could live in freedom – was, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a possibility nearly inconceivable.

Not really. It was obvious, from about 1880 onward, that cities and towns worked better if there were a Municipal Council with some elected representatives from various different classes of people. Even Princes understood this and started fostering 'Praja Sabhas' of various kinds. The fact is, if there is free entry and exit, raising taxation on the basis of increased representation is how you get to a better 'Tiebout model' and grow relative to your competitors. 

What was conceivable, but stupid, was to think India as a whole could protect itself from external or internal threats without the aid of the British military. As for whether British bureaucrats and judges and businessmen could be replaced by Indians, the answer was- 'Sure. But only to a limited extent because minority protection was beyond the power of either Islam or those not of that sect. The fact is, Indians trusted the Brits more than they trusted each other. Tragically, some Indians- e.g. Ahmadiyas- could not trust people of the religion they professed because they were considered 'kaffirs'. 

For the space in which Indian intellectuals found themselves was defined by a denial of politics.

Fuck off! The Brits were always on the look out for trustworthy 'men of substance' they could co-opt.  Getting rich was a big help in this matter. But a good engineer or a reliable Revenue official who could be appointed Diwan of a bankrupt native state, or a smart, and hard working lawyer, would end up with a title like Rao Bahadur or even a Knighthood and a seat on a Provincial or Imperial Legislative council. From 1862 to 1892 there were about 45 Indian members in total of the Imperial Council. After that the number increased and Indians had more of a say in things. The reason progress in this matter was slow was because Indians didn't want to tax themselves even if this meant there would be a 'virtuous circle' of rising productivity and economic rent. The corollary of 'no taxation without representation' is little representation for people who won't pay taxes. No doubt, one can boycott certain goods so as to reduce the indirect tax revenue, but then the State can always make cuts in Education and Social Services and spend more on police men and Jails. 

This denial was an effect of two fierce and mutually reinforcing factors: British colonialism and the nature of the Indian social order. 

No. All that mattered was that India could not defend itself against foreign navies while no one knew what the outcome of internal wars might be. The lesson of 1857 was clear to all. The alternative to British Rule was War Lordism and/or 'Social banditry'. - 

Colonial subjection rested on a refusal to grant selfhood to Indians, in either collective or personal form:

Rubbish! Indians were welcome to have a self. Indeed, this privilege was even accorded to animals. One reason for this is because it is impossible to deny selfhood to anything. 

There were plenty of Princely States in India. There were also 'Presidencies' and directly ruled areas. But they had distinct identities. I suppose Khilnani means they were not self-ruling. This is because they were unable to defend or administer themselves because of internal divisions of an obvious sort. Any entity which could defend itself was not directly administered though it might be a Protectorate or a 'Trucial State'. Also, if a territory could not pay for British rule, it would not get it unless it had some strategic value.  

Indians did not constitute a nation, nor were they in any proper sense individuals.

Only in the sense that this was true of Irish or Czech people.  

What defined them was in the first instance their racial difference,

No. America had a 'one drop rule'. India did not. True, there was a distinction in law between 'European British subjects' and natives. The former could elect for a half European jury in criminal cases. But Europeans were few and far between in most parts of India and had little desire to settle there. Indeed, that is why it was convenient for Indians to rely on the British Umpire. They hadn't raised up their own kinfolk- the Eurasians- to lord it over the pure-blooded native. Thus, India has no 'Burgher' caste like that of Sri Lanka. All in all, so long as India could pay Britain to protect it, the Brits would stay. Sadly, the Americans refused to refinance the Empire and so India had to become independent. The fear provoked by the Muslim League proved sufficient to cause the Hindus to hang together and thus India had to become what it remains to this day- viz. a Hindu country with secessionist margins. 

followed by their divisive communal identities – the many religions and still more castes of the subcontinent, attributes that resisted the demands of both nationhood and individuality.

Khilnani knows that lots of high caste Hindus went to jail because they were nationalists. But, in 1857, people of different castes and religions had not only united against the British but had also united against any those who were against the British- if that paid better. 

This suggests that what matters is money and physical security. Khilnani thinks perceptions are more important. 

India, seen as a collection of mutually threatening communal identities, could not achieve any “national representation”.

If so, there could have been no Viceroy of India. Clearly India had a representation in Law, Politics, Literature, etc.  

From the colonial administrator John Strachey’s declaration in 1885 (the year of the foundation of the Indian National Congress) that “there is not, and never was an India, nor even any country of India possessing according to European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious; no nation, no ‘people of India’”,

A.O Hume, William Wedderburn, Joseph Cotton etc. were colonial administrators just like Strachey. They formed the Indian National Congress to represent India. Strachey was more partial to the Muslim League. He was a big supporter of Aligarh University. 

to Churchill’s remark some 50 years later that “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator” (1931),

The Tory party disagreed with Churchill and passed the 1935 Government of India Act 

the British consistently denied the possibility of a collective Indian self or nationhood.

Khilnani is lying. The Brits accepted that India was a nation. That's why there was an Indian Civil Service and an Indian Army and a Government of India. Incidentally India was a founder member of the League of Nations. The Americans gave India's lack of self-government as their excuse for not joining. The problem was that the Indians had fought loyally for their King Emperor. Who was to say they didn't prefer things to remain as they were for fear something worse befall? 

In the British view, this collection of disparate communities could only be pacified and given stable form in the colonial order. That order professed liberal principles and claimed to bestow peace and the rule of law. Yet the rule of law, when exercised in despotic manner, was vulnerable to self-contradiction.

No. It kept minorities safe. That is what Indians objected to.  

Over time, the British established a restricted arena of government and set the scale and terms of Indian participation in it.

No. Over time Indians paid the Brits to provide more and more Public Goods. No doubt, some Indians would have preferred to take over the Government but some other Indians wanted that outcome like a hole in the head.  

Although British imperial ideology held aloft a principle of the development of self-government, especially for the white settler colonies, that principle was circumscribed in India.

Because India was divided by Religion and, in any case, it wasn't till the Great War that Indians realised that a purely Indian army could defend the country. Gandhi's big demand was that the Brits hand over the Army to the INC. Ultimately, the Muslim League could split the country because there were enough Muslim officers and soldiers to make Pakistan defensible. 

Armies matter. Khilnani's stupid lies do not. 

Narrow circles of “representative government” were created (beginning at the municipal level, then gradually expanding to the provinces), based on the view that electorates should be divided along community lines,

Because the Muslims insisted and then other groups got in on the act. To be fair Hindu and Sikh minorities, too, wanted this. The sad truth is that Imperialism can protect minorities. Nationalism can't.  

in order to protect smaller and weaker communities. Into this circle were admitted a small educated class of Indians

Education did not matter in the slightest. Money mattered. Birth mattered. Loyalty during the Mutiny mattered a great deal. College degrees did not matter in the slightest.   

– expansion was promised, but at velocities controlled by the British. The British thus retained control over the rhythms of Indian life, in what has been called the “waiting room” theory of history. But the imperialists were not the only problem. Indeed, they were simply exploiting the indigenous social and religious divisions of India, divisions that themselves seemed equally to preclude the possibility of politics.

Hindus could have clung together and done sensible things. But why bother? If we go down that road, some lowly chai-wallah will run things and guys with phoren degrees in useless shite will have their nose put out of joint. 

The caste order systematically segmented groups and linked them together in a codified, hierarchical division of labour.

No, it didn't. The thing was purely notional.  

It was designed to resist the intervention of the state and state-made law,

in which case it failed three thousand years ago.  

and it treated politics as extraneous. Religious differences, especially between Hindus and Muslims, similarly impeded imagining  a politics for India

Fuck off! Anybody could and can imagine any stupid shit. Hindus and Muslims could unite by forming conga-lines of buggery in the streets. Pussy cats could marry puppy dogs and their children could become Actuarial Scientists. Meanwhile, all the hard work could be done by leprechauns. 

– how could these religious divisions be united into a common political subject able to rule itself?

Easily. The Khilafat-Congress combine was about getting the Europeans out of Turkey and the MENA. Anti-Imperialism was the needful common platform. The Indians should have offered the Americans the opportunity to finance industrial expansion featuring big big contract for leading Corporations, while the Bolsheviks and the Japanese should have been offered cooperation for defence industry joint-ventures. The Muslims would have been happy because they'd be helping liberate their fellow Muslims from Indonesia to Morocco. The Hindus would have been happy making money or getting jobs as accountants for those who made money. The zamindars and Princes would have been happy to sell land to peasants and invest in the new industries. The thing was a win win. 

Then Gandhi unilaterally surrendered and everything came crashing down. What mattered was who got the clerical jobs and Government contracts. A segmentary society became more segmentary and factionalized. The British Umpire became more necessary than ever. The problem was that a lot of Indian politics only made sense in the context of the continued existence of that Umpire. But, by 1946, it was clear that Brits could not afford to delay their exist. It then transpired that only Religion mattered. Buddhist Burma had already split off. Muslim majority areas followed suit ten years later. Were Hindus capable of acting cohesively to defend themselves? The answer was yes. Hindus are just the same as other people- Jews included. 

Thus, before Indians could even contemplate self-rule, they faced a prior task: to formulate who the subjects of such rule might be – to identify a subject capable of any politics at all.

No. They needed some reason to believe they could defend themselves. The Great War showed that Indian troops were just like German or Australian or Turkish troops. Still, Gandhi made it clear that the Hindu INC would only accept Independence if it got control of the Army. Otherwise, he himself would do stupid shit and then go to jail along with his sheeple.  

This in turn, required the creation of a representative form:

No. Indians would have been cool with a Napoleon like Emperor. But where could such a creature be found? 

of a collective idea or entity in whose name rights could be claimed, actions performed – and to which others could feel allegiance.

This is nonsense. Rights can only be claimed if there is a remedy which some suitable person or agency is obliged to provide under a bond of law. Indians had rights in British courts. They could have gained political rights more rapidly but the Muslim League successfully objected to the INC being seen as representative of all Indians. It was a Hindu party- as Gandhi conceded in 1939.  

This task has proved one of the great obstacles to the emergence of democracy in post-colonial territories everywhere – from Nigeria, through Algeria, to Indonesia.

No. The obstacle in those three countries was the military taking power because the civilians did stupid shit.  

And for Indians, there were few resources to draw upon when considering large-scale collective identity.

Yet the INC existed from 1885 onward. It did not lack resources. Indeed, even before it was set up, there was money for an Indian lobbying group in London.  

Limited potentialities existed, for example, in the traditional idioms of kingship

Which were the same as those in Europe. The plain fact is India wasn't that much behind most European nations which were under an Imperial yoke. Indeed, Indians were better off than Russians because they never had serfdom or conscription.  

– and it is striking how few Indians recurred to kingly idioms.

No it isn't. The fact is India had plenty of Kings. The directly ruled areas wanted what Ireland was getting. BTW 'Surrender-not Bannerjee' did suggest that he himself might make a nice King.  

Although Indian intellectuals searched the vocabularies of both traditional and modern politics for appropriate terms,

Fuck off! Many of them were barristers. They knew what was happening in Ireland.  

the readiest term available – the “nation” – was, in the Indian context, as much beset by problems as it promised any solutions.

'Rashtra' was fine. The Indian President is the 'Rashtrapati'.  

For India seemed to lack all the ingredients required by Western definitions of the nation.

The two ingredients are people and territory. India had both.  

Still, by the early twentieth century, an argument over nationhood had developed.

Among shitheads- perhaps. Nobody else cared. The fact is 'nation' just meant a bunch of people living in the same territory. There was a French nation which included some people who didn't speak French but spoke Breton or Corsican or whatever. This didn't matter. In Britain, four nations were distinguished. English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish. Ireland was one nation but was partitioned on the basis of Religion just like India.  

Some upper-caste Hindus accepted the diagnosis that India’s internal diversities and particularisms were disabling, and wished to efface these.

No. They wanted to get rid of stupid caste based rules. Essentially, there was 'wasteful competition' between endogamous communities such that each adopted more onerous codes of conduct and restricted their own economic freedom.  

Impressed by the prowess of European nationalisms, these thinkers saw homogeneity as the only possible basis for nationhood and hoped that a common religious identity would be the glue. As the Hindu nationalist party manifestos of the 1990s were later to put it, “one nation, one people, one culture”.

Khilnani said 'religion'. The manifesto he quotes makes no mention of any such thing.  

The importance of Western ideas in shaping this religious nationalism is important to underline.

Why? It is bleeding obvious that every country was imitating the successful Western countries back then.  

The ideologue of Hindutva, the ideology of today’s Hindu nationalists, V. D. Savakar, was a non-believing Brahmin from western India, an admirer and translator of Mazzini, who founded a secret society modelled on Young Italy (its members, planning to assassinate the Viceroy, learned bomb-making from a Russian revolutionary in Paris).

There were plenty of such societies by then.  

Aurobindo Ghose, educated at King’s College, Cambridge,

he and his brother joined a society called the 'Lotus and Dagger' in the 1890s in England. Nothing came of it. 

returned to rediscover and propagate what he saw as his spiritual traditions.

Whose else were they?  

Meanwhile, Swami Vivekananda, similarly steeped in European thought, urged upon his young Indian followers the “three Bs”: beef, biceps and the Bhagavad Gita.

By then Vivekananda was steeped in Hindu thought. He is reported to have encouraged beef eating but denied it. Still, it is true that some Hindus eat beef and Vivekananda was aware of this. 

Adherents of this perspective saw democracy in a pragmatic light: it would be a means to ensure the permanent dominance of a Hindu majority.

as opposed to a Muslim minority which, as Gandhi said, might be better at fighting

Meanwhile other thinkers were working to indigenize notions of democracy.

If they were writing in vernacular languages, the thing had already been done. The plain fact is my ancestral City- Madras- gave women the vote 25 years before France. India's first general election was held in 1920. Elections have been held since on a broadening franchise and with increased voter participation. The plain fact is, India was more democratic in the Thirties than most of Europe. 

The attempt to find local roots for democracy was not unique to early 20th-century Hindus. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, thinkers advanced claims that democracy was not an invention of the Enlightenment,

which held any such notion in horror. A Despot might be Enlightened. The masses could never be so.  

but had its roots in – variously – ancient French, German, or English customs and practices. In the Indian case, an eruption of new works found democratic antecedents in Hindu and also Buddhist village communities with their own councils and deliberative assemblies (panchayats, as well as sabhas, sanghas) – an attempt at indigenization which continues to have its contemporary adepts. The notion of a unified, homogenous Hindu community was located in an idealized village community.

No. What had unified and was unifying Hindus was Brahmins and Shramans- Priests and Monks and itinerant Godmen and Godwomen of various descriptions. The idealized village community was autarkic.  

Almost immediately, this pastoral vision was challenged by lower-caste movements – movements that testified to the caste divisions and conflicts among Hindus. The leaders of the lower-caste movements shared none of the high castes’ romanticism about village life. Instead they looked to central power, the colonial state, for protection from the upper castes, as well as advancement through quota policies and separate castebased electorates – where the lower castes (and religious communities) could vote for their own candidates. To some lower-caste intellectuals, such as B. R. Ambedkar, democracy, understood as universal suffrage in electorates that were not divided, in fact undermined their hopes for remedy against historical injustice. Religious minorities also saw democracy as a threat. As early as the 1880s, Muslim intellectuals were concluding that it was impossible to devise a democratic representative order that incorporated both Hindus and Muslims. In a united India, with a central state, Muslims would be a permanent minority. Men like the educationist Syed Ahmad Khan, and later the poet Mohammed Iqbal and the politician Mohammad Ali Jinnah, read Western liberals like John Stuart Mill closely.

No they didn't. Mill was very clear that darkies are as stupid as shit. He and his daddy had worked for the East India Company. Jinnah and Iqbal started off as Nationalists. They became separatists for different reasons. Iqbal's dad had been attracted by the Ahmadiya movement which, quite naturally, Iqbal wanted to ban. But this could only be done by an Islamic polity. Anyway, the big problem was that any concessions the Hindus might make today would be snatched away the moment they got control of the Army. Equally, the Muslims might promise not to harm Hindu minorities, but they would not keep their word. What mattered was whether politicians would get control of strong and cohesive armies. If they didn't, they wouldn't let the British leave because their own throats would be swiftly slit by War-lords or Social bandits.  

They were troubled by arguments such those advanced by Mill in his Considerations on Representative Government. “Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities,” Mill had written, “each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much stronger than jealousy of the government” (Chapter 16).

Mill was saying that if you have different nationalities under an Autocrat then the guy can use troops from one place to fuck over the people of another place- e.g. Hungarian regiments fucking over Italians while Hungary was fucked over by Italian regiments. What Mill didn't predict was that the Hapsburgs would make quite good progress towards free and representative institutions. But this was obvious by the time Jinnah and Iqbal became barristers. 

Still, the important point Mill- fool though he was- was making is that what matters is the Army. A nation may have free institutions if it has a kick ass army which thinks the civilians are doing sensible things. But, as happened in Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar etc, when civilians fuck up and invite in the Army, free institutions go out of the window. 

How then to constitute a collective subject in the face of such antipathies, and how to find appropriate forms of self-rule?

Join the INC. Simples.  

These problems preoccupied in different ways three of twentieth-century India’s major intellectual figures, Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru.

Nonsense! There was a readymade template- viz. Ireland. Tagore stood to lose estates in East Pakistan- indeed his eldest brother had grumbled a lot about the Pabna Rebellion- and thus was against Nationalism. Gandhi was financed by Gujarati and Marwari businessmen and industrialists and looked out for their interests. Still, he was sensible enough to insist that the Brits hand over the army to the INC before running away. Nehru and Iqbal were ready to grasp the nettle of Partition for the sake of Socialism. Ludicrously, Iqbal thought the Hindus would resist Socialism, while the Mullahs would welcome it. He was as thick as shit. Nehru was sensible. He saw that so long as the Government didn't try to take land from the kulak- soldiers were sons of kulaks- the Army would have no objection to a Socialist pattern to Society. After all, they weren't businessmen.  

I want to say a little bit about the responses each man came up with – and in all three cases I shall need to simplify from considerable complexity.

Khilnani is simple. He can only tell stupid lies.  

Tagore’s engagement with Western ideas of the self, freedom and politics led him to devise a social philosophy that stands as an alternative to liberalism in its European definitions.

Fuck off! Tagore keeps saying to his own people that the Muslims will rob them and cut their throats if the Brits run away. Stop this 'swadeshi' or 'swaraj' nonsense. There will be tears before bed-time. 

On the other hand, Tagore- like Vivekananda- would tell the Hindus to unite and build up their muscles. Tagore had no objection to a Hindu Hitler keeping the Muslims in check as the Brits had done at the time of the Permanent Settlement- which is how come his family became very rich.  

Unlike many other non-Western reactions to liberalism and its practices, Tagore’s redefinition was not based on a culturalist or nativist rejection of liberalism’s premises. Indeed, he shared liberalism’s universalist ambition, as well as both its critical attitude toward inherited authority and its commitment to experiment and revision when it came to the choice of political and ethical ends.

Nonsense! Tagore was appalled by the way things were going. But, being a sensible man who understood the finances of his own Estate, he knew that time was running out for the landlords. Thus he concentrated on Shantiniketan.  

But he rejected Western liberal understandings of the nation as homogeneous. To Tagore, India’s apparent “backwardness in politics”, its absence of a clearly defined national essence and of a state, was in fact its strength.

Very true! Being as poor as shit is in fact your greatest wealth. Similarly, not having any bollocks is the source of your true virility. As for brains, who needs them? If you have a long beard, even Einstein might think you are smart.  

It had allowed India to avoid the instabilities of European politics

Tagore was not a fool. He knew that if Germany had defeated England in the Great War, India would have become as unstable as fuck.  

– a politics based on constant negotiation between rivals, and in which numbers become the court of appeal. In such systems, Tagore argued, “government has to pass law after law to keep the warring, heterogeneous elements somehow patched together” – as if unity could be achieved “by enacting a law that all shall be one” (“The Message of Indian History”, 1902).

Tagore was a bit more radical when he wrote that vacuous shite. Still, he was sensible enough to see that reversing the partition of Bengal would not assure Hindu supremacy. The reverse was the case.  

Instead of following the nationalist impulse to avoid danger by removing foreign elements, Indians needed to articulate into an alternative political principle their historical capacity to absorb and order.

Fuck had they absorbed? Fuck had they ordered? Tagore knew where his family's wealth came from. He also knew why it would disappear. This is because he had spent a big portion of his life actually collecting rents.  

External elements could be “bound together by a basic idea” – the idea of India as a space of diverse self-descriptions.

This is also the idea of Disneyland or the Galactic Empire of the Giant Spaghetti monster. It is wholly vacuous.  

Tagore authored what would eventually become India’s de facto motto, “unity in/ through diversity”,

why not 'wealth through poverty' or 'celibacy through sodomy'?  

an idea that would later be articulated by Nehru in The Discovery of India, a book Nehru wrote just before he took charge of the Indian state.

and Partitioned it. As Premier, he watched impotently as the Muslim population of Delhi fell from 33 percent to just five. Still, he did act with alacrity to pass a law barring Muslim refugees from coming back.  

In many ways, Tagore’s view of India was a poetic fiction, an aspiration.

It was nonsense- unless maybe it was some higher type of mysticism.  

It certainly was not an account of empirical, sociological reality. But his writings were read by the elite,

when they were adolescents- maybe.  

his songs sung by the masses in many parts of India,

many Bengali parts of India- maybe. 

and his fiction managed to carve a deep trace both in Indian public life and on the imagination of independent Indian state.

Nonsense! Tagore's 'Ghare Bhaire' ends with Muslims killing and robbing rich Hindus. Independent India didn't need to imagine this. Plenty of refugees came streaming across the border to describe the thing in graphic detail.  

Mahatma Gandhi, the figure who towered over Indian intellectual and political life in the first half of the twentieth century, also engaged with liberal premises and shared Tagore’s ambition to work out an alternative universalism. Gandhi’s arguments are often viewed as primarily religious and as anti-political. On the contrary: he had a radical idea of politics –

politics is about raising money. But don't take power unless you have a kick-ass army. Otherwise your throat will be slit so some other guy can take charge.  

one that extended well beyond the domain of state institutions and practices. He helped to politicise identities, by challenging Indians to conceive of themselves not – as held by the British, or by the orders of caste and religion – as fixed and immutable, but as containing a significant element of contingency, a potential space for self-reflection and  self-transformation, and therefore for freedom, outside the imposed identities of state and society.

Very true! You can be a flying goat which spins cotton while training to be an Actuary.  

For Gandhi, the State itself was anti-political – since it was founded upon violence and imposed order on what were seen as unruly identities of caste, tribe, region, religion. These, seen as rivals to the state, had to be subdued. So Indian self-rule did not involve capturing and using the instruments of the state, nor even devising a representative political order.

It involved raising money and giving it to Gandhi so he could piss it against the wall. Seriously, Gandhi was always desperate for money. Non-Violence means having to pay for stuff with money. Sadly, in Gandhi's case, it also meant doing stupid shit which is why his Ashrams were money-pits. Most Sadhu Mahatmas manage to pile up a lot of cash thanks to the industrious inmates of their Ashrams. Not Gandhi. His acolytes were useless tossers.  

Instead, it involved a process of self-transformation – as he traced out in his autobiography. Because self-rule was an internal, personal condition, not one manifest in the accountancy of numbers, democracy as practised in the West, with its majorities and minorities, held no lessons for India. “The essence of democracy,” he asserted, “did not lie in numerical strength, but in the spirit behind even one person. Every man could represent a whole democracy”

Gandhi was saying he himself was that man. That's why everybody should give him money and then watch him piss it away.  

( Gandhi’s first mass political campaign – the 1920 Khilafat movement – demonstrated both the power and the limitation of his conception. Orchestrating Hindus and Muslims into a united movement, he insisted (as Faisal Devji has argued) that religious alliance was founded not on bargaining and on the conditionalities of contract – as in liberal theories of interest – but on friendship and assistance between those who otherwise had cause to fear one another.

The nutter said Hindus had a religious duty to die for the Caliph. He was lying. No Hindu actually did anything so stupid. Still, many Hindus thought the Muslims were very stupid and thought maybe the cunning Bania had pulled the wool over their eyes. He hadn't. Sad.  

However, this period of religious unity was short-lived, and Gandhi’s future efforts to recreate it were to founder. Gandhi’s approach to the problem of caste inequality was also based on reform through persuasion and personal example. In his ashrams, he sought to create small communities of mixed religions and caste, built on notions of trust and personal friendship.

And giving Gandhi money which he would promptly piss away.  

Although his broader movements to abolish Untouchability made an impression among upper-caste Hindus, his efforts inspired scepticism among the lower castes themselves, as well as among India’s Muslims. Ultimately, the more modernist and classical liberals – men like the leader of India’s “Untouchables”, Ambedkar, and the Indian Muslim leader Jinnah, both broke with Gandhi – disbelieving in the possibility of representing difference and conflict with a common political order.

No. Both understood that Gandhi would anoint a high caste Hindu as his successor- it was Nehru. Jinnah would get nothing because he wore a suit. Ambedkar would get nothing because he wore a less expensive suit. Nehru would get everything because he wore a khadi cap.  

In Jinnah’s case, the ultimate result was the Partition of India.

Which was inevitable. Bengal and Punjab had to be partitioned. Neither Congress nor the League had any interest in keeping minorities safe in either place.  

Nor did Gandhi’s anti-statist, small-scale and personal conception of politics have much purchase on the idea of a democratic Indian state – the conception that the Constitution set out to elaborate.

Gandhi was irrelevant. Congress adopted the Nehru report. True, in 1937, Congress Ministries did give khaddar and nai talim (Basic Education) a try but they were both utterly useless.  

But Gandhi’s politicisation of the self, his insistence that identity was not trapped by religious or caste allegiance, as well as his paternalist sense of the need to attend  to the general welfare of all Indians: these were a crucial part of the intellectual inheritance of those whose extensive deliberations resulted in the 1950 Constitution. 

Which was boring, stupid, shit. Burma got out a more Socialist Constitution two years earlier.  

Nehru is the link between the ideas of Tagore and Gandhi and their effective translation into the habits of an independent Indian state.

Only in the sense that Hitler was the link between the ideas of Goethe and Walt Disney.  

Nehru was in command of the Indian state for the first seventeen years after independence and faced most directly the dual task of devising within the structure of a modern state a representative form that could give unity while also expressing difference.

Nonsense! What Nehru devised was the Planning Commission to concentrate power in his own hands.  

Before he became Prime Minister, however, he, like Gandhi, used autobiography to develop his ideas of personal and national selfhood.

No. He published some quite well-written shite to make money and thus keep his independence from greasy fellows like Dalmia who had tried to buy him after his Daddy died.  

More conventional nationalist autobiographies (of which there are many Indian examples) trace the author’s path towards an integrated, heroic self, ready to do battle against colonial rulers.

Queueing up, in an orderly fashion, to go to jail is not 'doing battle'. At best, it is sulking. At worst, it is a way to get away from the wife and kids.  

But we find in neither Gandhi’s nor Nehru’s autobiographical writings a fully achieved personality. Instead, a fragile and provisional self is revealed – a self which for both men is the site of political struggle.

No. What is revealed is a robust political self. Reading 'Experiments' you know Gandhi will do stupid shit and then go to jail before getting released on health grounds and then biding his time till he can do even more stupid shit. Reading the 'Autobiography' and 'Discovery', you realize Nehru is ambitious but quite sensible. He may want to do stupid shit but won't want to lose office as a result so he will be cautious.  

Nehru particularly liked to portray himself as a product, not of cultural fusion, but of tension, for the various elements he identified within himself – Kashmiri, Brahmin, Persian/Mughal, English, scientific, emotional, Indian and internationalist – conflicted more often than they agreed.

That's because he wanted people to buy his books so he could get money. Nehru understood that narratives need a bit of tension. They can't be vacuous bollocks unless, like Tagore, you have a long beard and are the hereditary leader of a Religious Sect.  

As he put it, “I became a battleground, where forces struggled for mastery.”

In other words, he was an interesting chap. Would he become a Stalinist? Or would he abruptly decide that Viceroy knows best? The answer was neither. This was an ambitious fellow who understood that putting in Jail time when he really had nothing better to do was a good career move. 

Importantly, he did not see the idea of the nation, or of nationalism, as a means of reconciling once and for all these interior conflicts.

Yes he did. For him, the INC represented India and his job was to persuade it to go down a Secular, Socialist, road- one where religion would play no part.  

Nationalism, recent academic theorists insist, is the global diffusion of a standardised, modular form devised in the West – whether in the Gallic version of a community of common citizenship, or the volkisch idea of a shared ethnic or cultural origin.

Academic theorist means 'stupid shithead who teaches worthless shite to cretins'. European notions of nationalism have changed because of the EU. But no where else do you see anything similar.  

Some historians argue that Indian nationalism is a “derivative” form, a local instantiation of a universal model.

There is no universal model. China and Egypt and India have existed for thousands of years. England hasn't. America is much more recent.  

In fact I think a quite different reading is possible, which would show that distinctive ideas of the individual and collective self are worked out by some Indian intellectuals. For instance, Nehru’s understanding of the link between culture and power avoided the liberal presumption that individuals could transcend their cultural inheritance, and remake themselves however they – or their state – saw fit.

There was never any such 'liberal presumption'. Mill & Morley would have been laughed at if they suggested that the typical English Liberal MP was 'transcending' being an English gentleman- more particularly if he was Jewish.  

Equally, though, he steered away from the perception of cultures as self-enclosed wholes,

nobody had any such perception. There was always some guy at the University or in the Foreign Office who could jabber away in Japanese or Yoruba or whatever.  

as hermetic communities of language or belief – a view that itself sustains two different positions: on the one hand, the conservative idea of the state as an instrument at the community’s disposal,

that is not the conservative view at all. Winston Churchill wasn't saying that Queen Elizabeth would come round and mop the floors of the Community Rec Center.  

and on the oth-er the more benign view of the state as a curator of cultural exhibits,

That's a fucking museum, dude. It isn't the State. Rishi Sunak isn't actually running the British Museum. 

responsible for preserving communities. Rather, cultures as he saw it were overlapping forms of activity that had commerce with one another, mutually altering and reshaping each other.

Cultures are not a form of activity. Cultural activities- sure. But not cultures.  

This, Nehru insisted, was one of the most vivid insights to be gleaned from a study of India’s history.

Nehru never said anything quite so silly.  

India was a society neither of liberal individuals nor of exclusive communities or nationalities, but of interconnected and historically accreted differences – as he had put in his image of India as being “like some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie have been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously”.

The same could be said of Egypt or China. India was ancient like them. It wasn't like America which is why Nehru himself wasn't trying to emulate George Washington.  

As Indian independence approached, the pressure on Nehru and his counterparts to turn their ideas into a trustworthy representative order escalated.

There was no such pressure. The Brits had held three Round Table Conferences to no avail. This meant, when they wanted to get out, they had to do so on any terms they could get. The Hindus held out for unitary India with zero minority protection shorn off Muslim majority regions. That's what they got.  

The challenge, articulated by Jinnah, of how to protect Muslim identities in the face of the majoritarian threat posed by universal suffrage in undivided electorates, would in the end defeat the Congress Party and its conception of nationalism.

Not really. Most Hindus lived in Hindu majority areas. They didn't give a shit about Sindhi or East Bengali Hindus.  

And it was against this background of Partition that Indians set about trying to re-formulate the terms of a representative political order that would be trustworthy to its diverse peoples.

This is nonsense. Hindus got what they wanted. Muslims were stripped of reserved seats and Dalit Muslims lost affirmative action previously granted by the 1935 Act.  

The 1950 Constitution is perhaps the most elaborate expression of India’s democratic self-conception. It is best seen not as a strong ideological statement of a logically consistent world-view, but rather as a force field that tries to stabilize a range of contradictory considerations.

No. It is majoritarian. The Bench thought it meant something. The First Amendment proved it didn't mean shit.  

The Constitution was the product of three years of collective deliberations – over 7,500 amendments were proposed, 2,500 were moved, and a document of almost 400 articles emerged – one of the longest of its kind.

Because Hindus like talking.  

This Constitution had not been won by the masses in an act of collective self-creation:

No Constitution has any such property 

indeed, it bore little trace of the imaginative concerns of ordinary Indians.

Because they weren't lawyers. 

Rather, it was a gift of a small set of India’s elites.

To themselves. They were mainly lawyers.  

Its drafters were chosen by indirect election on a narrow 14% franchise, from electorates set by the British. Upper-caste and Brahminic elites of the Congress Party dominated – mostly lawyers, virtually all male. There was no organized Muslim presence. Still, the document attempted to address the difficulties of creating a democratic representative order amidst India’s diversity. The Constitution recognized as the primary form of political representation the vote.

No. People who got the most votes became 'political representatives'.  

As individual citizens, Indians were accorded fundamental civil and political rights, including the franchise for all adults – creating a single, undivided electorate of around 200 million people. But if universal suffrage recognized the first-order diversity of interests among in dividual Indians,

It didn't. Universal suffrage recognizes no fucking diversity. One guy has a vote same as a very different guy.  

there were, both in the Constitution and in its early years of practical enactment, also several instruments designed to recognize their differences as defined by group allegiances.

No. There were reserved seats but only Hindu Dalits could stand in constituencies reserved for S.Cs.  

One might call these instruments a system of second-order diversity.

Only if one were lying. Second order diversity means diverse types of diversity. In this case there was none. Either you were of the right ancestry to stand in a reserved seat or you were not. This is first order diversity- based on only one criteria viz. birth. There was no second type of diversity based on education or gender or anything else. 

These political mechanisms were designed to organize India’s uneven social diversity into a coherent representative form:

No. They were designed to ensure that a certain proportion of legislators would belong to SC & ST communities. Coherence was not a criteria. No 'organization' was involved.  

to offer minorities protections from majoritarian will,

if the Constitution can be amended or suspended or abrogated, it has no power to protect anybody or anything.  

to give the ex-Untouchables (who came to be known as Dalits) remedies against uppercaste oppression,

No. Remedies were created later. 

and to recognize the presence and dynamism of a mass of cultural, linguistic and individual identities:

No. The Constitution did not recognize anything or anyone. It merely clarifies which languages have a particular legal status for particular purposes.  

instead of trying to build structural barriers and walls of separation,

It is the job of the Constitution to build or reinforce structural barriers between branches of Government. Khilnani is a khretin.  

it chose provisional and inherently political methods – flexible, but always open to contest and liable to be unstable.

No. It chose statutory methods which were inflexible and not open to contest- e.g. it created the Electoral Commission which is a permanent constitutional body. Khilnani is utterly ignorant. 

Three second-order forms of representing diversity should be particularly noticed. The Constitution-makers – fearful of further partitions along ethnic or religious lines – had initially wanted to see the federal principle as simply an administrative tool to distribute powers between centre and region.

There is no 'federal principle'. The Constitution is explicitly unitary. There is no dual sovereignty on the US model. 

They feared that aligning the claims of linguistic and cultural identities with territory would threaten further division of the country. But in fact when, in the 1950s, demands were made for such alignment – in the form of linguistic states – Nehru conceded them. And, contrary to initial fears, this served to stabilize and integrate the Union.

Because the Union decides what is or isn't a State or Union Territory or whatever.  

The point is that regional identities were not seen as requiring absorption within an encompassing Indian one.

Yet that is what happened. The distinction between subject and protected subject disappeared. Everybody was just an Indian citizen even if they had previously been subjects of a particular Prince.  

And indeed the Constitution enabled the state to recognize new identities, to accede to claims of various cultural groups for their own regional states and governments.

No. This was an inherent right. The Constitution neither added nor subtracted from it.  

More generally, on the issue of language – a subject that has vexed nationalisms everywhere – the Constitution and its subsequent managers achieved a sustaining compromise. Instead of adopting a “national language” (and there were strong pressures for Hindi to be so adopted) the decision was taken to defer any such choice and to create a category of “official languages” – in which public business could be done. Alongside Hindi and English, India has a “schedule” or list of around another 22 nationally recognized languages – a list that has expanded over the past six decades at virtually no political cost. The status of English and Hindi, meanwhile has been subject to parliamentary review every 10 years – which has allowed their continued use and acceptance on pragmatic grounds without giving them a permanent and irrevocable status.

The only point worthy of note was that Hindi in Devanagari was made the official language of the Union. This was hilarious.  

The result has been a remarkable diversion of the energies of linguistic nationalism. Second, the Constitution rejected the divided electorates favoured by the British to protect religious groups. Now, in order reassure the minority religions, especially Muslims  (who even after Partition formed some 12% of India’s population), that elected majorities could not legislate in defiance of minority wishes, the Constitution gave religious minorities the option to be governed by their own customary civil laws – a situation of legal plurality was created.

This already existed. The plain fact is, the Constitution was promulgated so as to make it easier for judges and lawyers to do their job and so as to reassure investors and property owners. It was not some sort of Utopian document or a roadmap for India's future.  

And while the document declared the ultimate ambition of a unified civil law code, fulfilling that ambition was indefinitely deferred – left to the vagaries of politics. Nehru, given his views about the mutable, transactional nature of cultures, had hoped and expected that these protections would change and that individuals and their communities would in time opt for a common civil code. Here, his optimism proved misplaced. In later decades Hindu nationalists were able to use such special provisions as fodder for their attacks, while conservative Muslim clerics have found in them a means to control their flock.

So, the plain fact is the Constitution had no particular importance. True the Indians took too long debating it- but Indians are a talkative people. It was up to political parties to write manifestos, get elected, and then implement those manifestoes. This might require amending the Constitution- but ignoring it worked just as well.  

Finally, and most crucially, the Constitution abolished the millennial caste order, delegitimating it with the stroke of a pen.

No it didn't. Pen's have no such magic power. There was equality before the law before and after the Constitution was promulgated.  

Henceforth, the decennial national Census ceased to record any caste data, denying the caste system official recognition.

save for the SC and ST. 

And yet, the social reality of caste was simultaneously acknowledged – in order to help erase its effects. A legislative policy of “Reservations”, positive discrimination, was established for those lowest in the caste order, as well as for India’s large tribal populations.

this already existed 

This policy assigned “reserved” seats in the legislatures, as well as quotas in state employment and education. Such measures too were seen as temporary expedients, to be periodically reviewed and ultimately dispensed with. By such constitutional means, the fundamental markers of identity – language, caste and religion – were granted a degree of fluidity and revisibility.

They already had this under the 1935 Act or by reason of previous legislation or administrative practices.  Why not say the Constitution recognized that some Indians have vaginas and therefore should be considered to be women, not men? After all, the Constitution mentions gender and thus must have invented it or recognized for the first time in Indian history that such a thing might exist.

This provisionalism rendered language, caste, region and religion into primarily political rather than cultural categories – a major shift in their character.

But this 'provisionalism' had existed in previous legislation e.g. 1935 Act, 1909 Act etc.  

The techniques of compromise and deferral instanced the refusal to anchor Indian identity in any single trait or set of traits.

only to the same extent that American or Chinese identity is not anchored.  

The tactic of temporising in response to calls for decisive definitions of a uniform Indian identity – for instance from advocates of Hindi as the national language, or Hindu reformers who wished to abolish multiple legal codes in favour of a common one – has been seen as a potential weakness both from the perspective of Western theories of nationalism (theories that guided the thinking of Hindu nationalists) as well as from liberal theory.

The Constitution simply wasn't important. What mattered was who would the elections. Burma got rid of its Constitution soon enough.  

In fact, it was one of the more creative and enabling aspects of the nationalist imagination installed after 1947. It inscribed as a constitutional habit the practices that had made the Congress Party successful as a national movement –  practices that were themselves informed by the ideas and arguments of the major intellectual figures of the movement.

Sheer nonsense! Every country- except Israel- adopted a written constitution on gaining Independence. Some scrapped the thing or ignored it. India amended the fuck out of it. Nobody cared. 

The American Constitution matters a lot because it has 'dual sovereignty'. States Rights are real. The Indian Constitution does not matter because there is no dual sovereignty. A State may do what it likes if the Centre has no strong incentive to take it to task. Like the Supreme Court, the Constitution can be ignored.  

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