July 31, 2022

Sixty Years of Independence: Advance Struggle for Democratic Transformation

Prakash Karat

THE country will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of independence and look back with pride at the achievement of India becoming free from colonialism on August 15, 1947. Millions of people participated in the freedom struggle, which led to the first historic milestone in the decolonisation process ushered in after the defeat of fascism in the Second World War. Tens of thousands of people sacrificed their lives in the different phases of the freedom struggle. Some of the most advanced and militant fighters for freedom joined the Communist Party and the communists played a glorious role in the national movement.

The six decades of independence have a chequered history. The struggle to become a modern, secular and economically developed nation in which all citizens have equal opportunities and avenues to progress in life has had a zigzag course. India had, in comparison with other ex-colonies, a more developed industrial bourgeoisie. At the time of independence, the capital formation by the Indian bourgeoisie, though meagre by western standards, was sufficient to make it confident to embark on a capitalist path of development, which shaped the nature of the Indian State and society in the subsequent decades.


India has the biggest and most diverse society after the Soviet Union to become a sovereign State. The bloody and bitter partition saw a million killed and over ten million people exchanged across the newly demarcated borders. Building a modern nation-state in these circumstances and in backward conditions was a daunting task. A balance sheet of post-independent India shows both positive and negative features in these endeavours. What is positive in the early years is the consolidation of national unity through the integration of the princely states; the establishment of parliamentary democracy under a republican Constitution and the foundations of a modern economy through resort to planning and the creation of a public sector even though it was under the aegis of capitalism. In the first two-three decades, the adoption of a foreign policy of non-alignment and industrialisation underpinned by a public sector helped the maintenance of independence and sovereignty.

But the class nature of the Indian State and the interests of the ruling classes worked towards circumscribing and undermining the possibilities of a democratic transformation. This became glaringly evident in the economic sphere. The failure to implement land reforms and confront head on the feudal forces was glaring. It curtailed the possibilities of creating a just economic order. Six decades after independence, this unfinished task of unshackling the agrarian structure has led to the perpetuation of an exploitative system in the countryside marked by mass poverty, malnutrition, disease and deprivation. After the impetus given to agricultural production in the 1960s and 1970s, the failure of agrarian reforms and the current neo-liberal policies have led to a prolonged agrarian crisis. This has led to a vicious cycle of landlessness, pauperisation and unemployment.

The shift towards liberalisation and privatisation by the ruling classes after the fourth decade of independence has led to a path of development which puts a premium on high rates of GDP growth while remaining immune to human misery.

As we mark sixty years of independence, the ruling classes and the political parties that represent them, are openly celebrating a growth which makes the rich, the super-rich and which boasts of creating billionaires at a rate higher than most Asian countries. Policy making is increasingly suborned to favour this thin stratum of the super-rich and their patrons –– international finance capital.

The sixtieth year of independence highlights the necessity to fight against the neo-liberal economic policies and for strengthening the mass movements and struggles of the working people to defend their rights and livelihood in the face of the imperialist driven globalisation and the domestic policies spawned by it.


The existence of a parliamentary democratic system is one of the major achievements of independent India. This is mainly due to the people and the popular struggles and democratic movements. The participation of ordinary people in the elections at all levels is marked by sustained enthusiasm. The vitality of the democratic system is due to this popular participation and support. That political democracy is being subverted by an economic order and policies which are controlled by a narrow class of big business, rural rich and international finance capital. However, much of the aspirations of the people are reflected in the democratic political system, the economic policies and the patronage of the rich and the powerful are immune from democratic change. Whether it is the Congress, or, the BJP, or, other bourgeois parties, their coming into power does not bring any significant changes in economic policies.

The ruling classes are, in the face of liberalisation, increasingly collaborating with foreign finance capital and imperialism. From this link stems most of the anti-democratic impulses. Increasingly, the instruments of State power whether it be the judiciary, the police or bureaucracy are hostile to politics and movements which challenge the existing neo-liberal wisdom and anti-people policies.  For the ordinary people apart from electoral democracy there is very little in the way of democratic rights. Increasingly they are prey to the depredations of criminals and the corrupt police-bureaucratic nexus. The Constitutional liberties and rights have no meaning in their lives. This is becoming a growing danger to the democratic system.

The last two decades have seen a concerted challenge to the secular principle of the Indian State and the values which were fostered by the freedom struggle. The rise of the BJP and the Hindutva forces culminated in their being in central government for six years. The penetration of the Hindutva forces in the institutions of the State poses a continuing menace to the secular democratic system. All through, the communal menace has grown due to the compromising attitude of Congress in the face of the communal challenge. The role of the Congress government in allowing the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the consequent widespread communal violence is a blot on the history of independent India. The 60th anniversary of Indian independence underlines the necessity to continue the struggle to roll back and isolate the communal forces.

This will be possible only when the struggle against both communalism and the anti-people liberalisation policies are carried forward side by side. Communalism and the other forms of divisive forces will continue to get sustenance from the discontents spawned by the heightened social and economic inequalities which have become a marked feature of the rampant capitalism unleashed under liberalisation. The record of independent India is shameful when it comes to the material well-being of the Indian people. To spend only 0.9 per cent of the GDP on public health expenditure; to have 50 per cent of the children below five years malnutritioned; to have horrific gender violence seen in the rapidly falling sex ratio; the elementary failure to ensure free and compulsory primary school education; and the continuing atrocities and savage discrimination of dalits. These are also part of the story of an independent India after 60 years.

Abandoning much of the vision of the freedom struggle and the Indian Constitution, the ruling classes today are becoming more enamoured of India becoming a “great power” with the help of the United States of America. Non-Alignment which had as its core, an independent foreign policy, is being bartered away with the current preoccupation of becoming a reliable ally of the United States. The BJP and the Congress in their turns in government have embarked on the dangerous policy of collaborating with US imperialism. The economy, the polity and sovereignty are being affected by this close embrace with the Bush administration, one of the most vicious and hated governments, the United States has seen in recent times. It is ironical that the current inheritors of the Congress legacy are at the forefront of dismantling whatever remains of the Nehruvian vision of an independent and self-reliant India.


The sixty years of independence have also been the story of the struggles of the Left and democratic and popular forces for expanding democracy, defending secularism and advancing towards a socio-economic transformation. The implementation of land reforms in the three states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura and the existence of the Left-led governments there, the powerful defence of democracy and secularism by the communists and Left forces, the defeat of authoritarianism and the emergency rule, the innumerable struggles waged by the working class, peasantry and other sections of the working people to defend their livelihoods and resist the liberalisation offensive have strengthened the basis for democracy and for the fight for a more equitable social and economic order.

The struggle to protect Indian independence and sovereignty, to forge an alternative path of development which provides for economic progress with social justice can be advanced only by the Left and democratic forces in the country. The CPI(M) as the biggest contingent of the Left and democratic forces, is conscious of the need for such an alternative and to carry out the arduous struggle to mobilise the millions of the working people of the country and citizens to translate this alternative into reality.