Historian Ramachandra Guha speaks on India's constitutional development and future

Writer and historian Ramachandra Guha, a distinguished global fellow at NYU Law this year, spoke at two law school events in October, one sponsored by the Hauser Global Law School Program, the other by the Center for Constitutional Transitions. Guha, whose award-winning books include India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy (2007) and The Unquiet Woods (1989), discussed the history and future of India as a democracy and global power.

In a conversation with David Malone, president of the International Development Research Center and adjunct professor at NYU Law, Guha focused on the history of India as a democracy, tracing the successes and challenges of India’s constitutional development. “Whereas our experiment with religious pluralism is a very qualified success—it’s partly successful, partly failure—our experiment with linguistic pluralism is a substantial success, and in my view, it’s Indian democracy’s greatest contribution to the practice of modern democracies,” Guha said, adding “It’s an under-appreciated achievement.”

In his second lecture, Guha argued that India's internal fault-lines will prevent India from becoming a global power in the foreseeable future. Guha identified several challenges facing India today: Continuing conflicts over linguistic, caste, and religious identity; continuing inequality in Indian society; and the abuse of India's natural environment. Guha also emphasized that India is still a relatively young experiment in democracy, noting only 65 years have passed since India declared independence from Britain.

Though Guha contended that India must play a role in international affairs, arguing that India has a moral, demographic, historical, and political right to be a member of the U.N. Security Council, he expressed disagreement with those who believe that India is still destined to be a superpower. “Because the Indian democratic experiment is so young, so reckless, so ambitious, we should not take Indian national unity, Indian democracy or Indian pluralism for granted," he said. "These are all hard won, these all have to be carefully nurtured, and these all have to be consolidated and deepened, a process which may take several decades."

Watch Video of "India's Constitutional Development: A Conversation and Debate with Ramachandra Guha" (1 h 13 min):

Watch Video of "India's Internal Fault-Lines: A Fatal Blow to its Global Ambitions?" (1 h 16 min)

Posted November 6, 2012