It is customary for authors to dedicate their books to family or friends. It means much to individuals, perhaps little or nothing to those who read them anyway.
The volume before us is in this sense unique. It is dedicated by the editor, Professor Niraja Gopal Jayal, To Whom It May Concern. Its contents make evident that the addressee is The People of India. Its 32 essays, penned by scholars of eminence, are a focused assessment of the record of governance over the past five years. They are preceded by a comprehensive introduction by the Editor.
This is timely coming as it does while a general election is in progress. If only the humankind had achieved a level of technological advancement that would allow the book’s contents to be encapsulated and offered to every voter! Alas, this is not to be and the exercise of dispelling post-truths must therefore be undertaken more diligently.
In the last paragraph of her Introduction, Prof. Jayal draws attention to the philosophy underlying the agenda of change. The effort in the past five years has been to re-form India, to premise it on Hindutva and ‘cultural nationalism’ instead of ‘civic nationalism’ that was the basis of the freedom movement and of the Constitution that was enacted in 1950. This would negate the principles of the Constitution, abrogate fraternity, nullify equality, differentiate between citizens on basis of faith and in effect do away with Rule of Law and its realization in terms of rights, development, governance and justice.
These efforts impact on the very meaning of democracy and the idea of majority, diversity and the nature of social interaction. They are bringing into being a new political culture to which one of the essays draws attention and summarizes it in three crucial aspects: ‘a shift away from expansion of democracy to a narrow formalization of democracy, a shift away from openness, and a shift away from diversity and mutual respect for each other’s way of life and thinking.’
The essays in this book deal with most aspects of our life as a society. They also shed much light on acts of commission and omission relating to national economy. Concepts are analyzed and so are situations suggestive of deeper ailments that have entered the body politic. Together, they project a picture that should be a cause of concern to citizens.