Democracy/Governance / 12.01.2008

Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realize that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic. This is what Dr. B. R. Ambedkar said after the departure of the British from India in 1947. The point for us, as it was for Dr. Ambedkar, is not to be dogmatically pro- or anti-democracy but to note the facts and deal creatively with the reality. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for the different trajectories of governance in the two countries – India dealt with the reality a lot more creatively than was the case in Pakistan. Think of the approach to the reorganization of states as one example. Of course, there were other important differences and we shall elaborate on them as we go along. We will also...

Democracy/Governance / 04.01.2008

It is important to record the fact (without prejudging it at this stage) that China has postponed till 2020 the date of direct elections (under universal suffrage) to the legislature in Hong Kong. We will take this into consideration when we develop our thesis on governance in developing societies. It is also of interest to record that the British ruled Hong Kong for 150 years without it occurring to them how wonderful it was to be governed through the exercise of universal suffrage. It was only guaranteed in the Basic Law that was established when Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997. So it was a parting gift that China has refused to accept. And this refusal is quite enough to trigger a lot of thinking and rethinking. Let us think before we rush to judgment. But lest we be misunderstood, let us also reiterate that...

Democracy/Governance / 01.01.2008

These notes are intended to record our thoughts about two aspects of governance that, in our view, need serious reflection by analysts of developing societies in general and of South Asia in particular. We intend, with the help of contributors, to build on these notes throughout the year. First, we have been reiterating our view that the ethos of South Asian societies is still monarchical. By this we mean that both the rulers and the majority of the ruled continue to view the world in a monarchical perspective and act in accordance with it. The latest dynastic succession in Pakistan provides proof of this assertion yet again and does not need elaboration at this point. But even a cursory examination of the situations in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will bear out our point. What we intend to do is to examine the implications of this reality for...