India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy

My thoughts and review of the book by Ramachandra Guha

Karthik Muthuswamy
2 min readDec 23, 2023

When I decided to read this 800-page history book, I wanted to know all about the contemporary history of India. I learned a great deal and I’m grateful to be able to learn so much (70 years of history!) from one book that synthesizes hundreds of primary and secondary research works. As the author notes, there isn’t much mainstream literature about independent India’s history. I don’t have memories of learning it in school.

I highly recommend the book without reservations! Having said that, the book didn’t include some aspects that I wished to learn about. While it ambitiously gives an encyclopedic account of the socio-political history of India, I didn’t learn much about culture, arts, sports, etc. A big portion of the book is about the conflicts in Kashmir and Northeast Indian states. While they are significant to understanding politics, such depth was missing in other regional contexts. A third of the book is from the Nehru’s period, the first 17 years since the partition which took much “more space” than the following 50 years. The perspective was “more Indian” in many parts of the book.

I’m a millennial and it was sad to read that the 1980s marked the end of ideology in Indian politics. In previous election campaigns, they talked about democracy, socialism, secularism, nonalignment, and abolition of poverty. In the 1980’s election campaign, parties’ rhetoric had focussed on what other parties could not do.

Despite all the complexity, I was happy to read about India surviving and thriving as a multi-lingual and multi-religious country, without many parallels, 75 years after the much-desired independence and undesired partition.

--

--