Questioning ‘Intellect’ on Indian Democracy
Pratip Chattopadhyay
DEMOCRACY, POLITICS & SOCIETY IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA: ESSAYS IN MEMORY OF PROF. KALYAN BHATTACHARYA (1934-2019) by Harihar Bhattacharyya Seribaan, Kolkata, 2021, 411 pp., 700.0
March 2022, volume 46, No 3

Contemporary buzz on Indian democracy (Roy Chowdhury and Keane, 2021; Yadav, 2020;  Nielsen and Nielsen, 2019; Rudolph and Rudolph, 2014) analyses its evolving features. The book under review, written in memory of Professor Kalyan Bhattacharya (a faculty of Political Science in Vivekananda Mahavidyalay under the University of Burdwan, 1966-1994), probes into the making of the democracy discourse in India. Inspired by Professor Bhattacharya’s de-taste to a mechanical interpretation of Marxism, support to gender equality, writings on uncharted territory of Indian sociology (highlighting the evolution of Bankim Chandra’s perspective from Samya (equality) to Dharmattatva (common knowledge) and inter-religious amity in the idea of jatiyabhav (nationhood) of Bhudev Mukhopadhyay), this edited volume insightfully re-designs  interactions between state, politics and society as interactions between ‘state problematic (sovereignty), democratic problematic (liberty, equality, identity) and societal problematic (hierarchy and diversity)’ (p. 28).

Exploring the under-researched ‘methodological question of state capacity in a democracy’ (p. 17), the introduction by the editor titled ‘Democracy: More Questions, Few Answers’ argues that in India, ‘democracy-making’ and ‘state-making’ moved in parallel directions resulting in multiple interactions of democracy with ‘anti-democracy’ elements as the ‘entire space of nation state is political society which is to be civil in nature and actions’ (p. 42)—a journey which India still traverses.

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