05 August, 2021

The Feudal Republic Of India

This is the age of the Ugly Indian—scrambling for power, breathing its privilege and haemorrhaging with rage when it’s thwarted. Between our colonial past and its inner logic imported into the modern state, have we invented a new feudalism?

The Feudal Republic Of India

It was in a different context that the German poet Schiller wrote, “Freedom alone is the ground of the beautiful.” But its resonances in the present context, even if applied in a literal sense, leave a troubling trace. Between Nehru’s soaring rhetoric and Ambedkar’s grammar of equality, the idea of India once seemed a beautiful one. Like a delicate watercolour, or an artist’s first sketch, awaiting the colours. Seven decades later, the canvas is smeared with the ugly pugmarks of a politician’s footwear. Ravindra Gaikwad is of course more than one man. He is a metaphor for a whole lot of things that have gone horribly wrong with India.

Freedom from colonialism was meant to be a harbinger of a real freedom at all levels, an abolition of the old order built around entitlements and privilege. And yet, all around us is a scenario brimming with those signs and elements of power. A new feudal order is upon us, in a variety of forms. The political class may exemplify it, but its grandees are no sole copyright holders. Everyone wants a piece. All...

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