Book Review: Maya Tudor, The Promise of Power: The Origins of Democracy in India and Autocracy in Pakistan

Published date01 December 2014
Date01 December 2014
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews 249
Studies in Indian Politics, 2, 2 (2014): 243–257
people in them to establish contact with opposite side and ‘publicly articulate their histories of suffering
for territory’ (p. 239).
One other aspect that makes the book compelling reading material is the engagement of authors in
weaving the borderland stories based on their intense field work. Hausner and Sharma, and Rosalind
Evans examine the concept of border; in the case of the former, illegal migration between India and
Nepal is accepted more readily in comparison to the latter, the Lhotshampas or the ‘transborder people’
find it difficult to politically belong in Bhutan. The Lhotshampas share the Nepali language and cultural
practices with the Nepali-speaking in India and Nepal. For long the Lhotshampas have resisted the
‘one nation, one people policy’ of Bhutan on their identity and cultural practices.
Borders are part of a colonial product that impacts the postcolonial politics of everyday lives of
citizens. Van Schendal asserts that states in northern South Asia are unique as a result of uncertain
sovereignty and ‘apprehensive territoriality’ across borders. Reinforcing territoriality is part of state
effect and borders remain fundamentally problematic yet vulnerable that triggers special policies and
varied responses from people. This aspect is reflected in case studies that authors have examined in
various chapters.
The book provides excellent empirical and comparative research that offers interesting perspective
on Border areas, their people, and the impact of state-making. The book contributes immensely to the
literature on borders and borderlands and the ethnographic work provides interesting insight into
the communities where scholars did their field research.
Nasreen Chowdhory
Department of Political Science, Delhi University
Maya Tudor, The Promise of Power: The Origins of Democracy in India and Autocracy in Pakistan. New Delhi:
Cambridge University Press. 2013. xvi + 239 pages. ` 595.
DOI: 10.1177/2321023014551881
Maya Tudor’s book illustrates both the value and the dangers in comparative history. The book is
driven by a clear comparative question: Why is it that India and Pakistan, which emerged from colonial
rule with ‘broadly similar state institutions’, subsequently ‘embarked upon markedly different demo-
cratic trajectories immediately upon their twin independences’? While India became a model of
‘democratic stability’, Pakistan’s ‘autocratic instability’ was already clearly in evidence by the 1950s
(pp. 1–2). What accounts for this difference?
Tudor’s answer to this question is straightforward and developed with laser-like focus throughout a
book that does not dwell on ambiguities—and whose clarity in developing its arguments is simultane-
ously its greatest strength and weakness. The key to the comparison, as Tudor sees it, lies in the sharply
differing character of the Congress party and the Muslim League as the institutions that were bearers
of the national movements that produced the two independent countries.
To be sure, the contrast between the Congress, with its long pre-independence development and
popular depth, and the Muslim League, which developed as a popular party only in the last years before
partition, has long been a staple for writings comparing the politics of India and Pakistan after 1947.

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