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Read the following passage and answer the questions below:

“In the history of nation-building only the Soviet experiment bears comparison with the Indian. There too, a sense of unity had to be forged between many diverse ethnic groups, religious, linguistic communities and social classes. The scale – geographic as well as demographic – was comparably massive. The raw material the state had to work with was equally unpropitious: a people divided by faith and driven by debt and disease.” — Ramachandra Guha

(a) List the commonalities that the author mentions between India and Soviet Union and give one example for each of these from India.

(b) The author does not talk about dissimilarities between the two experiments. Can you mention two dissimilarities?

(c) In retrospect which of these two experiments worked better and why?

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Solution

(a) The author draws comparison between the Soviet Union, which was a multi-ethnic society comprising many ethnic groups; different languages and religious denomination comprising Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and other social classes, and India

i. In India, we find ethnic groups that have their own set of customs, beliefs and traditions like Nagas, Kol, etc. There are a large number of ethnic and tribal groups in every state of India.

ii. India is a multilingual country where people speak different languages; it is the most diverse country in terms of languages. No language is the mother tongue of the majority of its population.

iii. India is a multi-religious country and has a number of religious denominations with Hindus as the majority.

iv. The country has a large number of social groups and classes. For example, Dalits, STs and OBCs.

v. The vast geography and demography added distinctiveness to the experiences of both the countries. India is a huge country with a continuous stretch of landmass.

Just like India, the Soviet Union also had to deal with diverse interests based on religion, language and social classes.

(b) We can identify the following dissimilarities between the experiences of both these countries in dealing with diverse interests:

i. India provided the concept of power sharing among different groups. In India, adequate forms of power sharing arrangements have provided representation to diverse interest groups and regions, and have prevented the disintegration of society. Power sharing in India has allowed different groups to live peacefully and in harmony. We may give examples of power sharing through federalism among the various groups and also among various political parties, example of reservation policy, language policy and principles of secularism. Soviet Union, on the other hand, did not provide for power sharing, with Russia exercising its domination. Russian language also served as the de facto official language of the country. Russia could exercise political and cultural domination over others. We may also give example of how Russian orthodox churches enjoyed privileged status.

ii. India provided for a multi-party representative system, establishing democratic structure for granting civil and political rights to all. The soviet system, on the other hand, was characterised by rigidity, strict bureaucratic control and authoritarianism. People did not enjoy any political rights or freedom of speech. Thus, the system failed to satisfy the political and economic aspirations of the people. The Soviet system was under the control of one party; that is, the Communist party, which did not tolerate any dissent or opposition. Moreover, it was not responsible and accountable to people. This further created resentment.

(c) It was the India experiment that worked better, as it provided for power-sharing arrangement, accommodated and gave recognition to diverse interests of the society. On the other hand, Soviet’s attempt to create a unified Slav state did not work in its favour. It led to the domination of Russian culture and established a centralised political system, resulting in the disintegration of the Soviet Union .


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