India confounds most Indians. None, for instance, can even hope to read the banknotes they use daily; there are eighteen scripts embossed on each one and more linguistic constituencies are agitating to be represented. Differences of caste and creed mean that most Indians are unfamiliar with the lives of most other Indians. Imperial eminences – John Strachey, Winston Churchill, et al – weren’t the last ones to flag the impossibility of India or to predict the collapse of the entity that emerged from colonial rule in 1947, sundered and bloodied: as recently as the 1980s, Indira Gandhi was trotting out the threat of ‘Balkanisation’ to rally support.
Ramachandra Guha is, wisely, wary of reaching conclusions about India, but he is probably right when, towards the end of his elaborate exploration of her coming of age, he says:
Secessionist movements are active here and there, but there is no longer any fear that India will follow the former Yugoslavia