In­dia’s Lib­eral Val­ues Wither

Global Asia - - BOOK REVIEWS - Re­viewed by Nayan Chanda.

From Billings, Mon­tana to Bu­dapest, lib­er­al­ism is un­der as­sault. While US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ha­rangues his ec­static base, Hun­gar­ian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Or­ban thrills his sup­port­ers with racist rants.

Like many anx­ious au­thors in the West, his­to­rian Rudrang­shu Mukher­jee (dis­clo­sure: he’s a col­league) has tried to iden­tify what went wrong. He is es­pe­cially con­cerned by the rise of ha­tred and at­tacks on lib­eral demo­cratic val­ues in In­dia, once a poster child for tol­er­ance among de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. This book is part his­tory, part con­tem­pla­tions on the rise and then ero­sion of lib­eral ideas, in­di­vid­ual free­dom and equal­ity be­fore the law; Mukher­jee of­fers a sober­ing anal­y­sis of what went wrong.

To start, the Bri­tish har­bin­gers of lib­er­al­ism in In­dia didn’t be­lieve that tra­di­tional back­ward In­dia was ready for the lib­er­al­ism of JS Mill. Then mod­ern In­dia’s founders, like Jawa­har­lal Nehru and Ma­hatma Gandhi, let col­lec­tive in­ter­ests trump in­di­vid­ual rights, prim­ing the pump for se­ri­ous equal-rights dis­tor­tions. Nehru’s own daugh­ter, Indira, de­stroyed an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary and im­par­tial bu­reau­cracy and im­posed emer­gency rule. Mukher­jee is shaken by the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of lib­eral val­ues in In­dia and the poi­sonous ef­fect spread­ing to the ed­u­cated mid­dle class, who should be its most nat­u­ral de­fend­ers. This im­pas­sioned yet schol­arly book is a wit­ness to our times.

Mukher­jee is shaken by the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of lib­eral val­ues in In­dia and the poi­sonous ef­fect.

Twi­light Falls on Lib­er­al­ismBy Rudrang­shu Mukher­jeeAleph, 2018, 173 pages, 399 ru­pees (Hard­cover)

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