In an interview to talk about how India has fared in the 75 years since independence in August 1947, Ramachandra Guha, the foremost historian of modern India, says that today the country is a 30:70 democracy. He said, 15 years ago, when India celebrated its 60th anniversary of independence, India was a 50:50 democracy and a flawed democracy. Today he says it’s slipped significantly further.
Explaining why he believes India’s democracy has slipped so badly in the last 15 years, Guha identified three key reasons. First, the decline of institutions such as the press, parliament, the judiciary and the civil services. Second, the majoritarianism practised by the ruling party and its conscious attempts to convert India’s Muslims into second-class citizens. Third, a personality cult around Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking at a later point in the interview, Guha called the personality cult around Modi “the largest in human history”. He said ministers and Supreme Court judges compete to lavish sycophantic praise on him.
In particular, Guha was sharply critical of the fact that a cricket stadium in Ahmedabad has been named after Modi during his lifetime. “Nehru would never have countenanced that and even Indira Gandhi didn’t do this,” he said.
Guha said that with this step, Modi is now in the same league as Hitler, Mussolini, Gaddafi, Kim il Sung and Saddam Hussein. The historian said that just as the personality cult surrounding Mao has been bad for China, “the cult of Modi will be bad for India”.
In the interview, Guha said that the present treatment of India’s Muslim citizens is “an utter and total betrayal of what we said to Muslims in 1947”. He called it “terrifying”. Guha said that although discrimination against Muslims predates Narendra Modi, it has become “explicit under this regime” and “legitimate”.
This 35-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire with Ramachandra Guha is the latest in a series of select interviews to mark the 75th anniversary of Independence and explore what this anniversary means. As part of this series, Shashi Tharoor, Hamid Ansari, Romila Thapar and Swapan Dasgupta have already been interviewed. On August 20, Tamil Nadu finance minister P. Thiaga Rajan will be interviewed.