Just five years after India gained independence — 71 years ago today — voters across the newly-born nation cast ballots in its first ever election. Some 176 million citizens, 85% of whom could neither read nor write, were eligible to participate in the vote.
Flash forward: Since then, India’s democracy has withstood the test of time. It’s in many ways an unlikely story. The sprawling nation of more 1.3 billion people is riven by divisions of language, class, and religion. The constitution recognizes 22 separate major languages that are spoken by at least one million people. A majority Hindu nation, India also boasts the world’s second largest Muslim population. The vestiges of the hierarchical caste system continue to limit people’s educational, career, and life prospects.