By Pritam K. Rohila, Ph.D.
Evolution is a slow and gradual process by which organizations as well as organisms adapt to external changes or internal pressure. It may be imperceptible in the short-term and its glacial pace frustrating for some.
Revolutions, on the other hand, are attempts to bring about a sudden, dramatic, radical and fundamental change in the society, and/or its system of government. Revolutions usually start with slogans and declarations invoking high ideals such as freedom, equality, and justice. They involve strikes, demonstrations, and often also violence and bloodshed. But they rarely ever succeed in bring about all their intended transformational changes in the society. Eventually they end up making compromises with the existing system, and become at least as authoritarian and sometimes as unjust, as the regimes they replace.
Examples are the American and the French Revolution in the 18th century, and the Bolshevik and the Iranian Revolution in the early 20th century. In South Asia, the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the People’s War in Nepal 1996-2006, and Sri Lanka Civil War 1983-2002, fit the definition of revolution.
The challenge for all those, who wish for a significant change in their society, is to find a way to orchestrate the innovation without the upheaval and violence that accompanies a classic revolution. The recent Information Technology Revolution is an example. It has radically altered the society and the way the governments are run, but without the violence, chaos, and destruction that a classic revolution entails.
With its emphasis on self-governance, community building, and decentralization, and its bottom-to-top approach, the recently launched Aam Admi (Common Man) Party appears ready to bring about significant change in the Indian society. Its electoral success in Delhi has surprised many. However, it remains to be seen how long it can maintain its spirit and commitment, and how widely it is able to spread its influence, especially in the context of the corruption-ridden Indian society and its highly polarized politics.