THE ORDEAL OF NATIONHOOD: A Social Study of India Since Independence, 1947-1970 by Krishan Bhatia

THE ORDEAL OF NATIONHOOD: A Social Study of India Since Independence, 1947-1970

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The post-independence struggle for development of a subcontinent is romanticized but barely analyzed in this journalistic commentary on nearly a generation of freedom from the British. Politics is Bhatia's chief interest; his centerpiece describes the Congress Party's decline into individualistic opportunism, mediocrity, and corruption, without characterizing its actual policies. There are more or less doting portraits of Nehru, charismatic but indifferent to detail, of Shastri and Desai, of Indira Gandhi, who ""not suffering her father's vacillation. . . also lacks his vision."" Parties to the left and right of the Congress, the Communists and Socialists and the Jana Singh and Swatantra are dismissed for having failed to jell. Among other social developments, Bhatia records the elevation of the legislators and newer entrepreneurs and the snail's-pace erosion of the caste system. Economic problems are discussed only in passing; Bhatia is more concerned about the softness of the Army and the loss of British tradition. He reviews India's buffeting from hot and cold diplomatic periods of Soviet cold war policy, but seems to miss the same tendencies in American attitudes (especially the 1966 armtwisting before U.S. grain was released to allay famine). So too Britain's hand in the creation of Pakistan and her post-independence foreign policy are entirely overlooked. The ""much to justify hope"" . . . ""much to despair"" . . . and ""difficult to determine which side will outweigh the other"" epilogue sums up the book's surface treatment of a topic too big for Bhatia to digest. From, e.g. Bettelheim's scholarly India Independent (1968) and Nossiter's informal, politically astute Reporter in a Soft State (1970) both specialists and general readers can learn a good deal more.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1971
Publisher: Atheneum