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The Dilemma of an Indian Liberal

The Dilemma of an Indian Liberal

‘I became a liberal because I believed in the virtues of openness, mutual respect, and a concern for others. Liberalism offered me an ethically responsible order of human progress without necessarily involving the state.’

Gurcharan Das has been a lifelong and passionate champion of both economic and political freedom. ‘For over two centuries,’ he writes, ‘liberal democracies and free markets spread around the world to become the only sensible way to organize public life.’ After years of the stifling ‘license raj’, he watched and celebrated India’s long-delayed move towards a liberal order in the 1990s, as market reform and a maturing democratic process began to yield remarkable results, bringing prosperity and dignity to the many millions who had been denied both for decades. He recorded this progress in his classic study, India Unbound. But after three decades, that light seems to be fading. As in the rest of the world, liberalism is in retreat in India as well. Society is hopelessly polarized and populists are on the march. The debate appears to be about economic freedom versus political freedom—as if it is a given that the two cannot coexist. The liberal today is on a lonely road.

In order to elucidate the dilemma of the Indian liberal, Gurcharan Das recounts his own professional and intellectual journey: how and why he became a liberal. While telling his story, he also narrates the story of a nation struggling—still— to become a successful liberal democracy—the late promise and its seeming betrayal, but also the possibility of course correction.

Written with conviction, insight and scholarship—and with immense clarity— this is an urgent and illuminating book. It is a book that every Indian invested in the future of the country should read.

Submitted by shashi on Mon, 04/08/2024 - 14:55