|Palace Coup in A.P.|
I would love to give a detailed treatment. Here's my take -
A. Coup versus Revolution versus Rebellion
- First, let us understand the difference between these. A coup (more commonlyCoup d'etat) is a quick and decisive (and generally illegal) overthrow of an existing government by a small group that is in the position to do so, with or without the armed forces or military or the leading militia. Example - what is seen across African nations regularly
- Then comes the term revolution, which is used to denote a large-scale uprising of people from all walks of life, with the common aim to overthrow the existing regime, and replace it with a more acceptable one. Example - the American revolution 1776 that ousted the British Raj from what was to be the USA or the 1857 Indian Revolution against the British Raj
- A rebellion happens when there's a lot of opposition (armed, violent or otherwise) to the central authority. India has witnessed many of these post 1947, like the Naxalite rebellion (post 1979 till date), the Khalistan Andolan (rebellion) in 1980s etc.
B. What are the reasons for such uprisings?
|Egypt's Hosni Mubarak|
- Seemingly unjustified concentration of power in one family or person - Just recall what happened in the Arab Spring from Dec 2010 onwards. Most of the Arab regimes faced tremendous revolt from civilian populations as for decades, an ossified political structure had offered little devolution of power across the society. Examples - Egypt (Hosni Mubarak). An old example - the American Revolution that happened in the 13 original north American British colonies (against UK - on the primary issue of no taxation without representation - considered gross injustice by the Monarch i.e. the Parliament)
- Large-scale corruption, poverty and desperation - When a vast majority of the population cannot aspire to a better life due to paucity of opportunities, they can easily lose patience and rise against the central authority. What the Naxalites in many Indian states are doing, can easily be classified thus. This is what the early communists in today's PRC (China) did.
- Poor control of the central authority (monarchy or civil or military) over Armed Forces - When the structure of the armed forces is not well-thought, and power is not diffused sufficiently enough to make it nearly impossible to revolt as ONE entity, coups can happen. A good example is when in 2009 the BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) troops revolted against their officers and killed scores of them (some from Bangladesh Army).
C. Why has India not witnessed a national level violent coup/revolt?
- People power through universal adult franchise - We can say that a major factor that has kept the Indian system safe is the continuous process of ELECTIONS that acts as the ultimate safety valve for venting people's deep sense of frustration with powerful individuals and families. Had India not had the centrally controlled national election system (which almost seem broken in some regions during 1970s/80s before the arrival of legendary then CEC Shri T N Seshan) then for sure, regional violent revolts / rebellions would have happened. So, all credit to a very strong Election Commission of India that regularly conducts the mammoth national elections!
- The wisdom during founding years - The British had almost certainly assumed that India would balkanise post 1947. When Mountbatten rushed away to Burma leaving a tattered new Indo-Pak border open to mass violence, India could have easily disintegrated into a chaos of revolts, rebellions and coups. Thanks to this mix of factors - Mahatma Gandhi's repeated instilling of the virtues of not shedding blood, the magnanimity shown by many of Nehru's political rivals in the Congress party, the quick drafting of a solid constitution, the strengthening of the Indian civil services by Sardar Patel, the unification of India by Patel, the political neutrality of a new Indian national army, and perhaps also the sheer fatigue after decades of independence struggle - India settled down into democracy.
- Power structure of India -
|General Sharif of Pakistan|
- Civil Admin, Government and Military - The Judiciary brooks no nonsense from the Legislative. The Political Executive reigns supreme over the nominal President who heads the Indian Military. The Executive (administration) gets a constitutional guarantee of jobs (and hence many choose to do the right thing). The Legislative often rises to the occasion and legislates wonderfully to handle crises. Hence, power is amazingly distributed, often confusingly, between multiple organs. I have personally experienced this while talking to many functionaries across these "pillars". And then there is the extremely shrill and powerful Indian Media, that can tear apart any leader at its own whim and fancy. Pakistan just could not manage this crucial & delicate balance between these pillars, and the result is obvious - a Civilian government that other nations may not take seriously as the Military could simply overturn its decisions by taking over (who would know it better than India!).
- Political parties - There is no guarantee of permanent and successful existence as the people of India share no particular loyalty towards any single party. Numerous examples since 1947 bear testimony to this. Compare this to China - even the mighty People's Liberation Army (PLA) has to swear oaths of allegiance to the Communist Party of China (the only political party with any heft). In India, the Military couldn't care less! The recent elections in Bihar and national elections in 1977 proved that no one can take Indian people and their mandate for granted.
- Pluralistic society - There is perhaps no society more diverse in its regional, local, religious, cultural and individual mores than what we have in India. Everyone knows that. Caste rivalries run deep in many regions. For a foreigner travelling through India, it will seem more like many nations rolled into one. It actually is a miracle - most nations with even 10% of such diversity have failed to coalesce into a united whole (Yugoslavia, Sudan). I am not even delving into the linguistic diversity factor - enough to drive anyone crazy! Imagine a rebel leader appealing to everyone in India - the poor fellow will need a minimum of 25 permanent translators. (Yes, Gandhiji managed it as Congress was the ONLY political force worth any national heft, and let's accept, non-violent means could draw out people in their millions)
- Intelligent diffusion of power across Armed Forces - There is no single powerful head of the Armed Forces that gets any recognition in national media on a regular basis (compare this to General Sharif in Pakistan). People may not even know the names of the top 3 bosses across Army, Navy and Air Force. Also, military groupings along regional lines has a wonderful effect in creating water-tight boundaries.
I have no doubt that when the history of the world is written a thousand years from now, the modern republic of India will stand as the most resplendent example of what a diverse people could achieve. Yes, we may be poor today, but we are ONE NATION. As Patel said proudly - Kashmir se Kanyakumari tak Bharat ek rashtra hai.
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