I think that it would be wrong to ask whether 50 years of India's Independence are an achievement or a failure. It would be better to see things as evolving. It's not an either-or question. My idea of the history of India is slightly contrary to the Indian idea.

India is a country that, in the north, outside Rajasthan, was ravaged and intellectually destroyed to a large extent by the invasions that began in about AD 1000 by forces and religions that India had no means of understanding.

The invasions are in all the schoolbooks. But I don't think that people understand that every invasion, every war, every campaign, was accompanied by slaughter, a slaughter always of the most talented people in the country. So these wars, apart from everything else led to a tremendous intellectual depletion of the country.

I think that in the British period, and in the 50 years after the British period, there has been a kind of regrouping or recovery, a very slow revival of energy and intellect. This isn't an idea that goes with the vision of the grandeur of old India and all that sort of rubbish. That idea is a great simplification and it occurs because it is intellectually, philosophically easier for Indians to manage.

What they cannot manage, and what they have not yet come to terms with, is that ravaging of all the north of India by various conquerors. That was ruined not by the act of nature, but by the hand of man. It is so painful that few Indians have begun to deal with it. It is much easier to deal with British imperialism. That is a familiar topic, in India and Britain. What is much less familiar is the ravaging of India before the British.

What happened from AD 1000 onwards, really, is such a wound that it is almost impossible to face. Certain wounds are so bad that they can't be written about. You deal with that kind of pain by hiding from it. You retreat from reality. I do not think, for example, that the Incas of Peru or the native people of Mexico have ever got over their defeat by the Spaniards. In both places the head was cut off. I think the pre-British ravaging of India was as bad as that.

In the place of knowledge of history, you have various fantasies about the village republic and the Old Glory. There is one big fantasy that Indians have always found solace in: about India having the capacity for absorbing its conquerors. This is not so. India was laid low by its conquerors.

I feel the past 150 years have been years of every kind of growth. I see the British period and what has continued after that as one period. In that time, there has been a very slow intellectual recruitment. I think every Indian should make the pilgrimage to the site of the capital of the Vijayanagar empire, just to see what the invasion of India led to. They will see a totally destroyed town. Religious wars are like that. People who see that might understand what the centuries of slaughter and plunder meant. War isn't a game. When you lost that kind of war, your town was destroyed, the people who built the towns were destroyed. You are left with a headless population.

That's where modern India starts from. The Vijayanagar capital was destroyed in 1565. It is only now that the surrounding region has begun to revive. A great chance has been given to India to start up again, and I feel it has started up again. The questions about whether 50 years of India since Independence have been a failure or an achievement are not the questions to ask. In fact, I think India is developing quite marvelously, people thought — even Mr Nehru thought — that development and new institutions in a place like Bihar, for instance, would immediately lead to beauty. But it doesn't happen like that. When a country as ravaged as India, with all its layers of cruelty, begins to extend justice to people lower down, it's a very messy business. It's not beautiful, it's extremely messy. And that's what you have now, all these small politicians with small reputations and small parties. But this is part of growth, this is part of development. You must remember that these people, and the people they represent, have never had rights before.

When the oppressed have the power to assert themselves, they will behave badly. It will need a couple of generations of security, and knowledge of institutions, and the knowledge that you can trust institutions — it will take at least a couple of generations before people in that situation begin to behave well. People in India have known only tyranny. The very idea of liberty is a new idea. The rulers were tyrants. The tyrants were foreigners. And they were proud of being foreign. There's a story that anybody could run and pull a bell and the emperor would appear at his window and give justice. This is a child's idea of history — the slave's idea of the ruler's mercy. When the people at the bottom discover that they hold justice in their own hands, the earth moves a little. You have to expect these earth movements in India. It will be like this for a hundred years. But it is the only way. It's painful and messy and primitive and petty, but it’s better that it should begin. It has to begin. If we were to rule people according to what we think fit, that takes us back to the past when people had no voices. With self-awareness all else follows. People begin to make new demands on their leaders, their fellows, on themselves.

They ask for more in everything. They have a higher idea of human possibilities. They are not content with what they did before or what their fathers did before. They want to move. That is marvellous. That is as it should be. I think that within every kind of disorder now in India there is a larger positive movement. But the future will be fairly chaotic. Politics will have to be at the level of the people now. People like Nehru were colonial — style politicians. They were to a large extent created and protected by the colonial order. They did not begin with the people. Politicians now have to begin with the people. They cannot be too far above the level of the people. They are very much part of the people. It is important that self-criticism does not stop. The mind has to work, the mind has to be active, there has to be an exercise of the mind. I think it's almost a definition of a living country that it looks at itself, analyses itself at all times. Only countries that have ceased to live can say it's all wonderful.

Question 142

According to the passage, India's current situation is


At several places in the paragraph, the author refers to India's current position as 'primitive' and 'messy'. Option c) is the correct answer. Both 'bleak' and 'horrific' are not applicable in this context.

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