Various countries even that have highly developed democracy, economy and knowledge-based society faced Coup D'etat, Dictatorship and/or Civil War.

India was an underdeveloped society, economy and had a history of colonial rule.

Why didn't India face any Coup D'etat/Dictatorship/Civil War?

What factors were active to save Indian democracy from any of those anomalies?

Or, is it their religion/culture/just the nature of the people?


India might have faced civil war, during the 1947 partition. It was largely through the efforts of Gandhi and other peace seekers that it didn't happen.

The influence of Gandhi and other advocates of non-violence helps explain the lack of coups or dictatorships. Basically, "strong men" were not a fixture of Indian society as they were in others.

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  • Can this non-"strong men" fixture of Indian society be considered as their philosophical advancement as compared to Westerners? – user806 Apr 24 '12 at 2:56
  • @Saqib: Quite possibly, yes. – Tom Au Apr 24 '12 at 14:49
  • Hmm... Now I should accept your answer. This is what I wanted to hear from you. – user806 Apr 24 '12 at 16:10
  • @Saqib: Thanks. Not just to get the acceptance, but to state my (and your) honest belief. – Tom Au Apr 24 '12 at 16:13
  • I am not sure you got it right about Gandhi. From what I've read his practical influence after 1945 was very small. I could be wrong here. – Felix Goldberg Dec 24 '12 at 12:39

First of all, there was a period of dictatorship in India, Indian Emergency of 26 June 1975 – 21 March 1977 and, after that, there was a minor civil war with the Sikh minority. There was also considerable religious unrest during the formation of the nation. So, I wouldn't say that Indian culture precludes these political activities.

I would say that one major reason was the nature of the world during the bulk of India's history, namely, the Cold War and India's strategic location. It was in the interest of both the US and USSR to have a stable government in India where neither side had an upper hand. Therefore, there were no significant outside influences pushing for radical changes as there was in China and other countries.

Another factor was that India was underdeveloped and there was a great desire to see economic improvement. Having a stable, mostly democratic, government with good rule of law and protection of property rights is the best way to achieve this goal. India's leadership knew this and, but for a few exceptions brought on by typical human failings as I noted above, they've headed in this direction.

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    "Having a stable, mostly democratic, government with good rule of law and protection of property rights is the best way to achieve this goal." - lol. in other countries the governments thought differently. This is not a self-evident axiom. – Anixx Apr 20 '12 at 13:05
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    Your answer has some issues. State of emergency in a democratic country can not be compared to a dictatorships of Hitler, Saddam, Stalin and so on. And, also, riots can not be compared to Civil Wars. Was the recent riot in London a Civil War? Please do your homework. Also, you didn't comment about Coup D'etats. Also, there are many underdeveloped countries like India's cousin Pakistan and Bangladesh. They were supposed to be walking to the same direction as India. But that was far from the actuality. – user806 Apr 20 '12 at 13:33
  • @Anixx - Only tyrants think that they're not self-evident. – jfrankcarr Apr 20 '12 at 14:51
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    @Saqib - It depends a lot on one's perception of the events. For example, Sikh's have a more negative view of these events than Congress Party supporters. – jfrankcarr Apr 20 '12 at 14:58
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    @jfrankcarr Any country wants economic improvement. Still in many countries there are revolutions, civil wars and dictatorships. You argue that there was no dictatorship in India because they wanted economic improvement which is nonsiential. In other countries that wanted economic improvement as well there were revolutions, civil wars, coups and so on. Sometimes the revolutions and coups improved the economic development very much. There are plenty of instances where disctatorship or absolute monarchy also led to economic prosperity as well. – Anixx Apr 20 '12 at 15:16

One reason could be the numerical size of the diversity present in thought and culture within India which keeps pulling the nation in different directions and acts as a check to the momentum any dramatic activity within the system generates. Coups, Dictatorships etc may appear to be driven by one man but they are brought about by a collective feeling within a number of people. Such a collective feeling is never allowed to gain strength in India because the inbuilt diversity prevents any one group from gaining the upper hand.

Its virtually a norm in India that whatever happens, there is always a sizeable group criticizing it, and a sizeable group praising it. The key thing here is "the size". By sheer numbers it is enough to generate its own momentum and act in opposition to the current trend. A recent anti-graft movement led by the social activist Anna Hazare is an example. Initially it appeared as if "Team Anna" had brought the government on its knees but then the movement cooled down.

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    I do not agree. China also has "in-built" diversity. See this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_China . Even so China needs to use considerable muscle power to keep its territories together . Also see Russia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_Russia . See their separatist movements: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – user806 Apr 27 '12 at 5:47
  • I personally formed a hypothesis about this topic and that hypothesis is confirmed by the answer I accepted. – user806 Apr 27 '12 at 5:56
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    I think the number of ethnic groups in China/Russia are not entirely as diverse as India. (Han Chinese (91%)). Are there places in China where the language changes if you go from your home to the market to buy groceries? There are such places in India. – user833 Apr 27 '12 at 6:00
  • Language is an active ingredient of nationalism. Localized nationalism triggers movements. Just see Balkan states. – user806 Apr 27 '12 at 6:02
  • My point is that there is just too much of this diversity in India. For every movement triggered by a group inherent diversity shows up within the group as well and starts pulling it in different directions. – user833 Apr 27 '12 at 6:05

Actually, I don't think there's ever been a very long period in Indian history where the country was united and was undergoing no civil wars.

Just since the end of the British era, there's been the Pakastani partition (a civil war/diplomatic war/war that eventually split the country in two, or three depending on how you count), the Tamil rebellion, and a more or less continuous ongoing low-level rebellion in Kashmir.

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    That thing is true for India as a geographic area, that is, the subcontinent. But it is not true for India as a republic that got its independence in 1947 from the Brits. – user806 Apr 20 '12 at 17:22

I appreciate the answer of User 833. I would like to add a point or two. Being an Indian myself - I know that for Indians there is inbuilt lethargy to move towards a revolution. We as a people are content to change slowly not abruptly.

However historically there have been revolutions not in the sense of French Revolution or the October Revolution, but a revolution nevertheless. In June 1975, the Indian PM Mrs.Gandhi used the provisions of the Constitution to declare a state of Emergency wherein Individual Freedoms and Rights were abrogated - it was a dictatorship much like Stalin - any critic would face a midnight knock and be imprisoned without recourse to a court of law - yes they were not liquidated - that is the only difference.

The imposition of emergency was preceeded by a movement by the Gandhian Jai Prakash Narayan who felt the dreams of the Constituent Assembly was being ignored amidst growing nepotism and corruption. When the emergency was lifted Indian National Congress faced a new opponent in the polls declared. Prior to 1975 India was a a land of multiparty elections. This resulted in the Anti-Congress vote being split and the Congress emerging winner in election after election. During Emergency 14 or 15 different parties united to form a new party Janata Party. There was co-operation with the left parties too - Communist Party of India fought the elections unitedly and CPI's Indrajit Gupta became the Indian Home Minister. This unity wiped out Congress Party including Indira and her son Sanjay Gandhi from North India - the Congress Party is still to recover its sway over this region.

However the experiment was a failure and the Janata Party broke up before 1980 due to internal differences.

This can be really termed a revolution in India through the ballot not bullet.

Earlier in 1967 the Dravidian Parties in the state of Madras won a resounding victory over Congress Party and till date thee State of Madras (now Tamil Nadu) has not seen a Congress Government for more than 50 years.

This is just additional information to state that India does have its non-violent revolutions, but they are far and few. Many of them like Anna Hazare's movement collapse due to their inherent internal fault lines.

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