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Divided We Proudly Stand – The Puzzles of India's Improbable Democracy

Divided We Proudly Stand – The Puzzles of India's Improbable Democracy

Battles Half Won: India's Improbable Democracy by Ashutosh Varshney
"Battles Half Won: India's Improbable Democracy" (2013) by Ashutosh Varshney.

India's tumultuous democracy remains resilient in the face of poverty, identity tensions and issues of governance. With general elections imminent, new challenges abound; from shifting regional and international environments, to the entry of new political actors, an increasingly vigilant media, and a sense shared by many that a defining moment in India's future is upon us. Join us as we consider the strategies India has used to strengthen its democratic character in the past, and how it might chart a new path forward through an ever-changing political landscape.

Ashutosh Varshney is Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences at Brown University, where he also directs the Brown-India Initiative. Previously, he taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His books include Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India; Democracy, Development and the Countryside: Urban-Rural Struggles in India; India in the Era of Economic Reforms; Midnight's Diaspora; Collective Violence in Indonesia; and Battles Half Won: India's Improbable Democracy. His academic articles have appeared in the leading journals of political science and development. His honors include the Guggenheim, Carnegie, Luebbert and Lerner awards. He is a contributing editor for Indian Express, and his guest columns have appeared in many other newspapers, including the Financial Times. He served on the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Task Force on Millennium Development Goals, and has also served as adviser to the World Bank and United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Siddharth Varadarajan is a journalist and former Editor of The Hindu. He has also worked at the Times of India. A trained economist, he taught at New York University for several years before returning to India to work as a journalist. In 2009, he was a Poynter Media Fellow at Yale University and in 2010 he won the Ramnath Goenka award for print journalism. A leading commentator on national and international issues, he is the author of a book on the 2002 Gujarat riots, Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy.

Battles Half Won: India's Improbable Democracy
In this lively collection of essays, Ashutosh Varshney analyses the deepening of Indian democracy since 1947 and the challenges this has created. The overview traces the forging and consolidation of India's improbable democracy. Other essays examine themes ranging from Hindu nationalism, caste politics and ethnic conflict to the north–south economic divergence and politics of economic reforms. The book offers original insights on several key questions: how federalism has handled linguistic diversity thus far, and why governance and regional underdevelopment will drive the formation of new states now; how coalition making induces ideological moderation in the politics of the BJP; how the political empowerment of the Dalits has not ensured their economic transformation; how the social revolution in the south led to its overtaking the north; and how the 1991 economic reforms succeeded because they affected elite, not mass, politics. Lucid and erudite, Battles Half Won brilliantly portrays the successes and failures of India's experience in a new, comparative perspective, enriching our understanding of the idea of democracy.

This event is the second in our series of discussions on the Indian elections, for which we will host a range of speakers across disciplines and perspectives to provide a nuanced and balanced platform for information on the world's largest election. The first programme we hosted under this series was "The Foundations and Future of Identity Politics" with Dr. Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University, Dr. Dipankar Gupta, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre of Political Affairs and Critical Theory, Shiv Nadar University, and Kumar Ketkar, Chief Editor, Dainik Divya Marathi.

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Event Details

8 January 2014
6:30pm - 8:00pm

Hall of Harmony, Nehru Centre, Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai

Priority for Asia Society Members. RSVP required to: [email protected]