Sunday, August 14, 2011

Independence Reassessment

Conventionally, the nation celebrates today the ushering in of another year of independence. Hindsight reveals a big difference in spiritual sense between the mood of people on August 15, 1947 when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, lowered the Union Jack over the ramparts of Red Fort and hoisted the Tricolour in its place, and 63 years later when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoisted the same flag at the same venue on 15th August 2011. On the day when Nehru for the first time hoisted the Tricolour, the large Delhi crowds sat or stood on the spacious Red Fort grounds and sang with him in great gusto "Jana Gana Mana …. Those crowds had hopes bubbling in their mind and the glow of impending happiness in their eyes. They were poor and ordinary people of India who believed that with the dawn of independence they would be pulled out of the morass of misery, poverty and wretchedness. Today 63 years after that eventful day, the third generation since the day of independence looks at the fanfare in their televisions as pastime and the drama enacted by those whom they returned to power and not necessarily an event of immense historical past and prospective future. That is how ordinary Indians have gradually lost faith in much that the rhetoric of our first generation of leaders promised and enunciated. Today we are four times the numbers in 1947 but with nearly 30 per cent of us below poverty line. And big sharks are eating away the food which the government provides to the BPL populace on subsidized rates to alleviate their misery. The shark would bite one to death trying to snatch the ill-gotten wealth from its mouth. Today 63 years later, we have the largest number of street beggars in the world, excluding nearly 50 million mendicants roaming the streets as sadhus. We have innumerable spiritual icons sitting like deities on their celestial thrones. The rich and powerful few feign to be their protégés while miserable millions pay them obeisance like sinners and culprits. At the end of the day these icons turn out to be gangsters, mafia leaders, rapists and money launders. In the commercial hub of India, namely Mumbai, 14 per cent people are born, live and die under roofless slums along the streets. More than half of our female population is illiterate; more than 50 per cent or our rural population defecates in open and pollute the environment; 30 percent of travelers in Indian railways sit or sleep like wretched canine in the toilets or on the floor in corridors or the small luggage space in the compartments. Our farmers commit suicide being unable to repay the loans to money-lenders or the banks. And about scams the less said the better.

But this is not the entire picture. There is the other side. We are a nuclear power but pledged not to use the dirty device, even if an entire community is extirpated from its homeland, or the Parliament and the state assembly are attacked by external elements. We keep the count of slaps inflicted by our enemy on our cheek but refuse to react under the rolled gold principle of ahimsa parmo dharma. We have the world's wealthiest creamy class of society that has stashed all its wealth in Swiss banks so as to make India number one country of the world with exported cash. Those running the government are partisans to tax evasion and theft of national assets. How will they allow Lokpal Bill to have the jurisdiction of making them accountable? We have multiplied our universities, professional institutions, colleges and schools several hundred times than their number in 1947. It is a different matter that our rate of educated unemployed is the highest in the world, and the crime among the youth between 18 and 30, too, is the highest in the world. It is true that our growth rate has jumped from bare 3 per cent in 1940s and 50s to 9 per accent in 2011, but we have not a glass of unadulterated milk or a bottle of uncontaminated water. Remember what Winston Churchill had said in a parliamentary debate on the Bill for Transfer of Power to India in 1947 as member of opposition. He said," Gentlemen, those to whom u want to transfer power are men of straw, they will kill a fellow countryman for just a bottle of water." We abused, humiliated and castigated Churchill for demeaning us and we remain true to our salt.

We need to do some introspection and soul-searching. Has the Westminister type of democracy suited us and will it have the potential to deliver the goods that we want to be delivered? Is fake and superimposed multiculturalism a gospel truth to be adhered to despite the havoc it is bringing to the Indian nation? Will we continue to use religion as instrument of state oppression and discrimination just to remain in power by whipping up sentimentality? Will the green terror get minimized, neutralized or render important by sensitizing it to color terror syndrome? Apart from economic difficulties, we are beset with a host of social and political problems; ethnic, regional, sub-regional, identity, tribalism and mass hysterics. Neither the constitution answers these issues adequately and equitably nor does our leadership have the innovative faculty to rise up to the need of the hours. Dynamism has got submerged under greed for material affluence and power, which in a heterogeneous society like India can come easily through immorality and turpitude. The bruised and battered nation cannot wait too long to see its house restored to order. A majority rule is no rule unless it has the resilience of carrying the opposition or the minority with it by building national consensus through persuasion and through patient and sympathetic handling.

The nation cannot accept re-incarnation of democratic autocrats and liberal conventionalists. No political party, howsoever steeped in history and legend, can thrive on the antics of pot calling the kettle black. So long as a ruling party in this country does not consider the opposition its equal, its days in power are limited. We are still far away from the niceties of a true secular democracy howsoever we may lionize ourselves. Farsi couplet when translated runs as this: A puritanical person told a harlot that she drinks and had abandoned virtue and relegated to vice. The harlot said she was what she is but was the questioner precisely what he poses to be?

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