Q. Post- Independence, integration and unification of India demonstrated to be a long process plagued with challenges. In this context, examine the early challenges that India faced as a newly independent country.
- Write about the prevailing conditions after independence in the introduction.
- Mention how it created challenges for India- both external and internal.
- Conclude by mentioning India’s democratic credentials which helped India to survive as a nation.
15th August 1947 marked the end of colonial rule in India and the country found itself standing on the threshold of a new era wherein the task was to build a strong nation. While India found itself independent from the British, it was still to find independence from social, economic and political problems that hindered India’s growth story. The problems that India faced right after independence can be divided into three phases:
Phase 1 ( 1947- 1967): The problems that India faced after independence in this phase were as follows:
- Communal Violence: Partition was marked with large scale communal violence.
- The Refugee Problem: The partition of India gave way to the refugee problem. By mid-1948 about 5.5 million non-Muslims had moved into India and a very large number of Muslims had left India for Pakistan.
- Origin of the Kashmir Problem: Kashmir was strategically important for both India and Pakistan, however, the famous movement lead by Sheik Abdullah wanted integration with India. The Maharaja, on the other hand, feared democracy in India and communalism in Pakistan, thus hoping to stay independent.
- Foundation of the Indian Democracy: The first general elections in India which were held in 1952 was a landmark event in the history of the state which marked the establishment of the Indian democracy.
- Linguistic Reorganization: Boundaries of the British Indian provinces had been drawn and redrawn in a haphazard manner without any thought to cultural and linguistic cohesion. Most provinces were multilingual and multicultural and after independence, many former princely states were absorbed into them. There was a demand for linguistically homogeneous provinces.
- The Indus Water Dispute: The dispute started in 1960. The dispute arose because Indus and its tributaries flow through both India and Pakistan.
- Mass poverty: At the time of Independence, the incidence of poverty in India was about 80% or about 250 million. Famines and hunger pushed India to take external help for its food security.
- Illiteracy: When India gained Independence, its population numbered about 340 million. The literacy level then was just 12% or about 41 million.
- Low economic capacity: Stagnant agriculture and poor industrial base. In 1947, agriculture accounted for 54% of India’s GDP. At the time of independence, 60% of India’s population depended on agriculture for a living.
Phase 2 ( 1967-1977): The problems that India faced after independence in this phase were as follows:
- Linguistic reorganization: Boundaries of the British Indian provinces had been drawn and redrawn in a haphazard manner without any thought to cultural and linguistic cohesion. Continued demand for linguistically homogeneous provinces led to emergence of secessionist trends.
- The Elections of 1967: In 1967 elections were held in February. The most important feature of the elections of 1967 was the coming together of the opposition parties.
- Naxal Movement: The Naxalite Movement was a revolutionary movement that was started by the Naxalbari in Bengal which immediately expanded to other regions.
- JP Movement: From 1973 there was a sharp recession, growing unemployment, rampant inflation and scarcity of basic food. The oil crisis of the mid 70’s had also contributed to the crisis and all of these developments together led to riots and large-scale unrest and strikes and erosion of support for the Congress from the poor and the middle class.
- Emergency: National Emergency of 1975 as the government’s response to the JP Movement is considered as dark phases of Indian democracy. It curtailed the fundamental rights of the citizens and shook the foundations of Indian democratic credentials.
- Hostile neighbours: India had to face consequent wars with Pakistan (1965, 1971) and China(1962) during the early phases of its independence. This not only hindered India’s growth and created regional instability.
Phase 3 ( 1977- 1984): The problems that India faced after independence in this phase were as follows:
- Secessionist movements: Punjab’s Khalistan movement of the 1980s, Insurgency in the North-East, and the Naxal Movement in central-eastern India (1960s) were the biggest internal security challenges to India.
- Punjab Crisis: During the 80’s the separatist movement in Punjab constituted the greatest threat to the unity and integrity of India.. From 1980, the Akali Dal under the leadership of Harcharan Singh Longowal decided to choose the path of confrontation. He installed in the Golden temple and began to preach his separatist message.
- Operation Blue Star: In June 1984, Mrs Gandhi and her advisors decided to take some drastic action against the militants in the Golden temple. On 3rd June the Indian army led by General K S Brar surrounded the golden temple and on 5th June they were entered. Many temple employees and devotees died in the crossfire.
Indian democracy is a heterogeneous model with a vast socio-religious and cultural diversity. It was predicted by western political analysts that the Indian model of democracy would not last long. However, it was due to India’s strong commitment to its constitutional principles that led India to not only survive as a nation but also to emerge as the leader of the newly independent countries.