History Has Accelerated In India
History does not travel at an even pace. Sometimes, in some countries, events happen in a few years which drastically change the political and social scenario that had previously remained unchanged for centuries.
For instance, the French Revolution of 1789 destroyed the feudal system which had lasted in France for centuries. The Russian Revolution of 1917 destroyed Tsarist rule and introduced a totally new political and social system in Russia. The First World War (1914-18) destroyed many monarchies and carved out many new countries, while the Second World War (1939-45) resulted in establishing two superpowers in the world.
In India the pace of history has accelerated lately. Events are now happening at a mind-boggling pace, which could hardly have been conceived of earlier. Indeed it can be said that presently India is the main centre of world historical developments.
The Indian Constitution of 1950 introduced parliamentary democracy in India, but Indian politics till now was largely run on the basis of caste and religious vote banks, craftily manipulated by our power- and pelf-seeking politicians. The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which came to power in the Centre in 2014, and has been ruling ever since, had polarised Indian society on religious basis. Since Hindus – which the BJP claims to represent – are about 80% of the Indian population, the BJP kept winning in the parliamentary and many state assembly elections, and it seemed that its victories will continue in the future, like an ‘Ashwamedh’ horse conquering the whole country.
For instance, in the state of West Bengal, which was for long a bastion of secularism, of late society had become increasingly polarised on religious lines, and the BJP – which had earlier hardly any presence in the state – won 18 out of the 42 seats in the 2019 parliamentary elections. Since Hindus are about 70% of the population in the state (Muslims being about 28%), many people had speculated that BJP will win a majority in the forthcoming state assembly elections scheduled for April, and will come to power in the state.
But this apple-cart is likely to be upset due to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, which has cut through the barriers of caste and religion and united the people (as explained in the above articles). No doubt the farmers gathered presently on the Delhi borders are mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western UP, but the demand which they are fighting for i.e. remunerative prices for their produce, is common to all farmers in India, including those in West Bengal. About 350,000 to 400,000 farmers have committed suicide in India over the last 25 years as they had fallen into huge debts since they were not getting remunerative prices for their produce.
Till now, farmers – forming the majority in almost all Indian states – played a negligible role as a bloc in Indian politics. They were divided on caste and communal basis. But now they have arisen as a huge force as the farmers agitation has united them (see my articles that are linked to above).
So while earlier BJP had been winning elections not only in the Centre but also in state after state, the likelihood is that it will henceforth lose in state after state, and also in the parliamentary elections due in 2024, since the farmers’ agitation is strongly anti-BJP, which is perceived as a party that intends to hand over the agricultural sector of the Indian economy to the big international and national corporates, leaving the farmers at their mercy.
Also, the huge rise in fuel and food prices and the downturn in the Indian economy resulting in record and rising unemployment will definitely damage the BJP in future elections.
Events are moving fast in India, and the people are displaying their creativity in various ways. For example, the agitating farmers have created an umbrella organisation called the Kisan Ekta Morcha (Farmers United Front) consisting of over 40 farmers organisations in India. This is reminiscent of the declaration by the Third Estate in the Estates General in 1789 that it is the French National Assembly, or the creation of soviets in Russia in 1905 and again in 1917.
Now, more historical events are bound to occur in India soon. The sleeping giant (which term Napoleon is attributed to have used for China, but which is applicable to India today too) is awakening after his long slumber, and has just begun the Long March towards setting up a political and social order that builds up India as a powerful, highly developed nation, with its people enjoying a high standard of living and with decent lives.
It can be predicted that in a few years’ time, India will be totally transformed beyond imagination.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.