ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Democracy and Violence in India and Beyond

India and Sri Lanka are the two Asian nations with a long, continuous history of regular, multiparty, elections. Interestingly, both countries have witnessed a long-standing insurgency, that of the Kashmiris in India and of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. In both countries, peace and stability in most of the nation have coexisted uneasily with struggle and strife along the borderlands. This paradox is at the heart of this essay, which uses the juxtaposition of democracy and violence in south Asia to complicate our understanding of political ideas which had their origins in (and are still frequently identified with) the west.

1 Introduction

In about a year’s time, the citizens of India will vote in their 16th general elections. The last such exercise, held in May 2009, showcased a bewildering variety of parties and politicians. Some 700 million adults were eligible to vote; about 400 million actually voted, to choose 543 Members of Parliament. The Republic of India also has 28 states, in which elections are likewise held on a five-year cycle. Altogether, many more Indians have freely chosen their political representatives than have citizens of western democracies of far greater antiquity.

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