Paul R. Brass

The Politics of India Since Independence

The first edition of this book was written between 1986 and 1989. It built upon my own work of the previous 27 years on Indian politics, ethnicity and nationalism, and political economy as well as that of my colleagues who had written on these subjects during the previous three decades. The central theme of the first edition concerned the consequences of increasing efforts by the country's national leaders to centralize power, decision making, and control of economic resources in one of the most culturally diverse and socially fragmented agrarian societies in the world. These centralizing drives, intensified in the post-Nehru era, had increasingly contrary effects. The effectiveness of political organizations had eroded, ethnic, religious, caste, and other cultural and regional conflicts had heightened, and the ability of the central government to implement in the states and localities economic plans and programs designed in New Delhi had declined. These consequences suggested the existence of a systemic crisis in the Indian polity which, I argued, would not be easily resolved. I had, however, also argued that alternative paths towards such a resolution existed within Indian political and economic thought and political practices and that an alternative leadership might yet arise to seek such a resolution, basing itself on India's own traditions.
In the four years since the final revisions on the original manuscript were made, the several crises evident then intensified to that turning point signified by the Greek meaning of the term crisis. That is, the Indian polity had reached a turning point in its post-Independence history. The old political order dominated by the Congress and parties sprung from it was in decay. These parties lacked effective or popular leadership, compelling ideals, and local organization.
An alternative leadership did indeed arise in the intervening years, self-consciously basing itself on India's Hindu traditions while pursuing even more relentlessly a Western ideal model of building a strong, centralized, militarily powerful state, possessing nuclear weapons, able to bring order to the country while commanding the respect of the great nations of the contemporary world. Unlike its decaying rivals, the RSS family of organizations including the BJP and the VHP have effective leadership, dedicated party cadres, and a coherent ideology of "Hindutva" or militant Hindu nationalism. Moreover, it demonstrated an ability to mobilize large masses of the Hindu population around its subsidiary goals, principally the removal of the mosque at Ayodhya and its replacement by a temple to the Hindu god Ram. In the process, the movement led by the RSS family of organizations also deliberately contributed to the communalization and political polarization of the Hindu and Muslim populations of the northern and western parts of the country, brought to a peak by the destruction of the Babari Masjid on December 6, 1992 and its violent aftermath.

Selected Works

An Indian Political Life focuss on the role of Charan Singh in the politics of the period, while providing a broader perspective on the major issues, controveries, and developments of the time.
This collection of essays focus on the various forms of collective violence that have occurred in India during the past six decades, which include riots, pogroms, and genocide.
Explains the persistence of Hindu-Muslim rioting in India.
Case studies of collective violence in the twentieth century.
Second edition, covering Indian politics and political economy from 1947 to 1992.
Comparative and theoretical studies of ethnic groups and nationalities in India and the Soviet Union.
Comparative studies in ethnic conflict and the interaction of ethnic identity and the state.
History and analysis of the politics of language and religious movements in northern India,
The first major study of local politics in post-Independence India.
Articles and Essays
Critique of the Social Sciences in Light of the Works of Nietzsche and Foucault
Focuses on three aspects of the Bihar Famine crisis: the process of defining the situation in Bihar; the rehtoric used in labeling it and in distinguishing it from a "normal" situation; and the responses of the authorities to the crisis.
A consideration of the consequences of curfew restrictions for the populations affected by them and the human rights issues raised by extended and punitive curfew restrictions, with special attention to India.
Discusses the problems of memorialization faced by religious/ethnic communities whose members have been subjected to large-scale, traumatic violence.
Reviews of my book by Thomas Blom Hansen, A. R. Momin, and Roger Petersen, with my response.
Text of article published in the INDIAN JOURNAL OF SECULARISM, Vol. 9 No. 1 (Jan-Mar 2006)
Biographies of Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Vallabhbhai Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Ram Manohar Lohia in the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Text of article published in the ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY (October 30, 2004).
Text of article published in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 27 (No. 3) May 2004, pp. 353-375.
Chapter 1 in Ravinder Kaur (ed.), Religion, Violence and Political Mobilisation in South Asia (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005), pp. 46-68.
Analysis of the 1984 parliamentary election results in Uttar Pradesh
Text of article published in The American Political Science Review, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Dec., 1968), 1174-1191.
Text of article published in Modern Asian Studies, XVIII, No. 1 (February, 1984), 89-118.
Transcript of a discussion with Asghar Ali Engineer at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, Washington, D. C., held on January 12, 2004
Analysis of the killings and destruction in the Indian state of Gujarat after February 27, 2002.
Analysis of Foucault's ideas concerning power, knowledge, governing, and governance.
Conference papers
Prepared for the Panel on “Corruption as Practice and Discourse in India” at the Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin, Madison, October 19-22, 2006
Prepared for the Hiroshima Peace Institute Conference on Comparative Research into Genocide and Mass Violence, Hiroshima, Japan, March 22-26, 2004)
Methodology and ideology in the analysis of forms of collective violence