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The idea of India

As India prepares for economic take-off, its post-independence elite is leaving the political stage. But it bequeathes a rich democratic heritage in which traditional and modern ideas compete to define Indian identity

By Sunil Khilnani   July 1997

Since its inauguration amid the intense drama, excitement and horror of 1947, the public life of independent India has presented a scene of vivid collective spectacles and formidable individual characters, of unexpected achievements and unforgivable failures. The detail and sometimes the texture of this passage of history has been evoked in a rich tradition of reportage and travel writing, of fiction and cinema, as well as a huge specialist literature. But what is it all about? What story is being told?

Imperial and post-imperial accounts, as well as nationalist ones, all had their answers to this. The post-imperial story cultivated…

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