Dozens of colonies across the globe proclaimed independence during the 1950s and 40s but only a few succeeded in achieving a smooth transition of power and thrived for years to come as a free and sovereign state.
India and Myanmar are two neighbours who got independence in 1947 and 1948 respectively. But the path they took to emancipate themselves from the clutches of Colonial powers decided their ultimate destiny. India gained independence after being subjected to almost three centuries of subjugation by the British Empire. It is true that India’s transition of power can’t really be termed as ‘bloodless’ given the grotesque episodes of partition. But after giving itself a Constitution which addressed the aspirations of different classes of people and creating institutions exclusively meant to build a democratic society, it cemented its position as the largest democracy in the world.
A few days back, India celebrated its 71st Republic Day and barring the dark period of 1975-1977, India never witnessed a totalitarian and military rule in this 71 years. The foundation of our democracy has deep roots and it is the result of a long and conscious democratic process- a path taken by our forefathers who preferred ‘ dialectic’ over ‘rhetoric’ and ‘ moderate’ means over the ‘radical’ measures.
Various series of legislations and deliberations kept on adding democratic values to our society and also primed it to accept a Constitution laced with liberal and democratic values. It is undeniable that the ‘moderate’ process to ensure our independence took time and it was a toiling and steady process but all the hardwork finally paid dividends when India successfully became a ‘Democratic Republic’ surprising the world, especially the Britishers who made the prophecy that it is just a matter of time when India will fail as a state.
Unlike Indonesia, Myanmar, China etc, India didn’t get the independence through armed ‘Juntas’; rather, it liberated itself by non-violent means. The path India took for its liberation separated it from other Asian and African colonies where the ‘armed’ revolutionaries became the major stakeholders in power-sharing during the period of transition of power and later these colonies got embroiled in a never-ending tryst with the violence and totalitarianism.
After attaining independence, India decided to adopt a ‘non-partisan’ policy when it came to side with either USSR and USA. It was a tactical and well crafted foreign policy which prevented India from becoming a puppet in the hands of either of the superpowers. It also ensured that India will not completely submit itself to communism or capitalism. It was the reluctance and opposition of MK Gandhi and others to engage and support armed revolutionaries in the struggle for independence which paved the path for India to become the world’s largest democracy.
On the contrary, Myanmar liberated itself in 1948 following an armed revolution which was aimed at overthrowing ‘Japanese’ Intruders. After the independence, just like India, it had a parliamentary and democratic government mainly under Prime Minister U Nu, but the country was riven with political division. Meanwhile, the hands of the Tatmadaw- the armed force, had been strengthened by the ruling class itself to suppress dissents and unite the country on ethnic and ideological lines. In reaction, the communist revolutionaries also captured the political space.
This proved to be the biggest mistake of the civilian government, when in 1962 Nu Wein, a military commander amongst the revolutionary ‘Juntas’ who fought for the independence in 1948, seized power through coup d’etat. Since then, Myanmar had been gasping under the totalitarianism of ‘the Tatmadaw’ forces until 2015, when a democratic government was elected after 50 years. But sadly, Myanmar is once again sliding into the hands of the military establishment. The path it took for the liberation hasn’t stopped casting its shadow on post-independent Myanmar.