India’s Wounded State

NEW DELHI – The September 7 bomb blast at the entrance to the High Court in New Delhi was a macabre finale to a summer of crisis. Previously, weeks of anti-corruption protests launched by Anna Harare, and supported by the country’s rising middle class, had brought India’s government to a virtual standstill. This was followed by an embarrassing surrender to the demand of protestors that a powerful new anti-corruption agency be established.

For some people, the protests that paralyzed large swathes of the capital were akin to a festival. Others, following the government’s retreat, grandiosely thought the events amounted to a revolution. To be sure, a large part of urban “middle India” has revolted against the tyranny of daily corruption. But will the Harare-led protests deliver real change or merely media hyperbole?

Whichever side one takes, the consequences are disturbing: Indian society, the core of Indian nationhood, is now questioning the very legitimacy of the Indian state. 

India’s nationhood resides in a non-territorial civilizational entity. The Indian state, on the other hand, is a historical variable that has periodically governed parts of the subcontinent. Following independence in 1947, a centralized Indian state emerged for the first time. For citizens, the Indian state is the great provider – mai-baap, literally “mother and father.”