Indian historian and writer Ramachandra Guha spoke about India at 70 and the progresses the nation has made with reference to his books and researches.
“Democracy is not just about elections, it is also about freedom of movement and association. Here too India has largely been successful.”
Mentioning about the progress Kerala has made he says- “I know some of you already disagree but listen to my point. Not perfect progress, more progress. Had it not been for reformers like Narayana Guru onwards, Dalits would be even more discriminated in India. Had it not been for a series of feminists and educationalist, people would have been more discriminated in Kerala. So listen carefully to what I’m saying. Kerala has made more progress, not perfection in equality, but it has made more progress than other parts of India.”
While a great deal of discrimination continues against woman and dalits there’s also been progress.
One major example of progress is the loosening of the link between caste and occupation. Back then a sweeper’s son becomes a sweeper, and artisan’s son would be and artisans, a priest’s son would be a priest and so on. But with economic growth and social mobilization, with more democracy more can opt occupation they feel dignified and more worthwhile.
And another aspect of progress which applies to woman is the loosening of link between family and marriage. Now they can marry whoever they please comments Ramachandran.
My judgment as a historian who has seriously and carefully studied this subject is that “Woman and Dalits are still discriminated and exploited across India but woman and dalits are less unfree now that at any time in the past five thousand years. While there is a long way to go there is a substantial progress has been made since Independence.”
He also spoke about the conditions of Adivasis and how their issues are not acknowledged. They are exploited in multiple ways.
Economically we have been seriously dispossessed by the mining companies, by the commercial forestry programs by a large stance.
In my recent book ‘Democrats and Dissenters’ I have a long essay on the multiple tragedies of the Indian Adivasis. “The Adivasis have gained least and lost most from 70 years of economic development and political democracy”.
He spoke about cultural freedom too.
He posed his views about how free and democratically developed we are at 70 years of freedom.
The session ended with an interesting interactive session with the audience.