A Hindu holy man speaks with a street vendor in Allahabad, August 2017.
Jitendra Prakesh / Reuters

“The greatest political venture since that originated in Philadelphia in 1787.” That is how the renowned American historian Granville Austin described the framing of India’s Constitution in his seminal 1966 book. Between 1946 and 1949, over 300 elected representatives of India’s 548 princely states met over 11 sessions under the auspices of a Constituent Assembly. Against a backdrop of grinding poverty, in a starkly diverse nation steeped in religious division and great feudal obduracy, they enshrined an “Idea of India,” elucidated in Sunil Khilnani’s 1999 book of that name. The idea was based on unity in diversity, in the country’s constitution, the world’s

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