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Divided By Democracy

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Aitzaz Ahsan, Meghnad Desai
Roli Books (22 May 2006)

Divided by Democracy, the second book in the Cross-border Talks series examines why India is a democracy while Pakistan is not.

Meghnad Desai identifies the revolutionary decision of the Constituent Assembly to adopt universal adult franchise as the key to the survival of democracy in India. The overwhelming desire of the leaders of the independence movement, many of whom were educated in England, was for a Westminster-style democracy. The adoption of this model led to demands for inclusion from lower and backward castes and Dalits, and today Indian democracy is a heady and vigorous mix of ethnic and immigrant groups, class cleavages as well as rural/urban and North/South divisions.

Aitzaz Ahsan argues that at Partition, while India had a strong middle class and political structure and a subordinated civil and military bureaucracy, in Pakistan it was the opposite. It inherited a strong feudal class, an insignificant bourgeoisie and an entrenched civil and military bureaucracy. These vested interests have never relinquished their control over the country, and have in the process choked the spirit of democracy there.

  • Meghnad Desai is an emeritus professor of economics at LSE and is an active member of the British Labour Party.
  • Aitzaz Ahsan is a member of the Pakistan People's Party and has served as minister of law, justice, interior and education in the federal government between 1988 and 1993. He is a senior advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.  

Book launch - Monday 22 May

Divided by Democracy will be launched at an event at LSE on Monday 22 May Click here| for more details. Co-authors Aitzaz Ahsan, a senator of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and Professor Lord Meghnad Desai, an emeritus professor of LSE, will discuss the topics raised in the book. This event promises to be a lively discussion of the comparative experience of India and Pakistan with democratic institutions and democratic culture.

Divided by Democracy is at 5.30pm in the Staff Dining Room (SDR), fifth floor, Old Building. For further information contact Gordon Wright: email j.g.wright@lse.ac.uk| or phone 020 7955 7583. 

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