Sunday, August 9, 2009

the burden of democracy - have we failed?

This 15th August, India will again be independent. This time for the 63rd year. We are the largest democracy in the world.

Radio channels organize programs asking people to air their patriotism. People, of course, express that and express their displeasure over how the govt is run. Students organize events, participate in events, win prizes and keep them in shelves. Dignitaries invited for the independence day celebrations at the red fort try desperately to get rid of sweat using the invitations early this morning in New Delhi. My mother cooks food and speaks over the phone to maximum people possible on a national holiday. The shopkeeper near our house sells national flags for a decent price on 14th August every year because people wouldn't care for them the rest days. Every year, Indian soldiers gather for parade and for the security for the local politicians. Sweets are distributed countrywide and independence of our country is celebrated. Indian independence day is just another day where business is made in the name of nationalism and patriotism than anything else. Students no longer remember independence day as the day our country was freed from the slavery of British but remember it as one of the few holidays the school celebrates giving away freebies and prizes for the competitions conducted the previous week. People fancy flag hoisting as just another occasion to show-off their power politics. I can illustrate this with one example in the colony where I live in Hyderabad.


The administration rights (i.e. maintaining records, collecting maintenance fee, implementing proposals etc) stay with the permanent residents (who own their plot) but not with tenants. This was made mandatory after a tenure of irregular activities on behalf of the committee formed by the tenants. So, the ruling committee (owners) organizes some-namesake-competitions for the independence day but distanced itself from doing so off-late quoting low funds. They distribute prizes on 15th August every year through the hands of some prominent local leader(generally the local MLA or the mayor). In the recent years, the tenants formed their own faction in the colony and organize their own flag-hositing occasion for the day and they make sure that the same prominent leader hoists the flag first.



In the entire story, I did not mention any constructive work done on the day because there isn't any. People are more bothered about what kind of eatables they are given and discuss it beforehand and 'grace' the occasion. The importance of the day is lost admist the local politics. I believe this is the case at every micro/macro level of governance. Do we recollect the loststories-in-the-historybooks of our great freedom fighters? The great sacrifices of the previous generations are trivialized in the day-day life in these times. These are the days of reality shows, t20entertainment and lalitmodi-ipls where there are instant gods like Rakhi Sawant. People are flocking home to watch Rakhi swayamvar. This is what sells these days. Nobody is bothered to watch a documentary on Kashmir or the plight-of-indiansoldier-in-assam or the-deathof-farmer-in-droughtarea. Media creates heroes every other day. Where can you find the media hysteria over terrorism and the things-todo-lists submitted to government now that was very evident after the Bombay attacks last november? The reality is media sells what people want. The newage corporate media has affected common man more bad than any good.


Coming back, have we forgotten the sacrifices of the leaders? We've emulated the British system in every possible way be it our railways, our constitution or the democracy. Putting that little differently, have the leaders sacrificed the nation by choosing democracy? After sixty two years of democracy, we're still lagging behind many countries in development. By development, I'm not imagining a computerized-wified twenty floor glass building or the numberofmillionareslist. All I care is about the people under poverty and people without education. The day India educates all girls in the country, it is real development irrespective of the number of nuclear deals we sign with developed countries, irrespective of the number of SEZs sanctioned(provided people gain from it), irrespective of the number of space projects about moon or mars it doesn't really make a difference to a poor family. And if you thought 'educating' people means the kind of literacy our government boasts about, you might want to think again. I've known plenty of people who aren't well-versed with the knowledge of a computer but went ahead to get Bachelors degree and are preparing to fool themselves by attaining a Masters degree. I'm embarassed by the quality of engineers our country is producing day-by-day. It is serious time to think about inculcating value based education for the next generations. Two days back I met few Masters students who are wondering what a thesis is! All these are going to 'serve' India by donating back or whatever. God Save India.

The issue of Kashmir dates back to the day of independence, sixty two years back. I'm not judging the past leaders by their decisions but it is rather important now to ponder over the future of kashmir hereafter. Should it remain with India or with Pakistan or stay away from both the nations? Personally, I do not care if it doesn't stay with India if they choose not to. A year after the Kashmiris came out rallying on the streets of the state demanding for an independent state, more importantly, seperating from India... azad kashmir. Popular novelist Arundhati Roy supported their voice apart from Vir Sanghvi and Swaminathan Iyer. For me, her call makes more sense today than any earlier. If the people of Kashmir want it to be seperated from India, why should we bother to 'save' it in our kitty bag. If allocating a seperate budget and a special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir for the welfare of the people doesn't guarantee their freedom with India, I wonder what else would. If an army of about half an million doesn't impress the security arrangements on part of the Indian government, wonder what else would? Do kashmiris want US army to control the land? Do they want another Iraq or an Afghanistan out of a kashmir? Afghanistan. Iraq. Kashmir. If Kashmiris hoist the pakistan flag and raise the jai-jais of pakistan and insult/blame (whatever you're comfortable with) Indian government of slavery, do you see a point in kashmir staying with India? Imagine this, if the entire budget of maintaining halfamillion army is spent on educating illiterate India and reducing poverty , our imagination should be the winner. Is spending on education and poor worthier than spending on weapons and army? Yes, I believe so. Moreover, how do you think spending millions of public money/ourmoney/taxpayersmoney on weapons/maintaining special status of kashmir gels with the secular, socialist democracy of ours? I strongly feel how Ms. Roy criticizes that a peace loving democracy maintaining an army of halfamillion in kashmir isn't a value it hoped to gain was advocated in the right way. If Indian govt.'s actions are anything to go by(suppressing the popular idea of Kashmir seperation, denying the claim at the outright, employing military against common people, imposing curfew so that people cannot agitate for the seperate campaign), the solution to kashmir dispute isn't visible in the near future. These are half-hearted measures only to delay the inevitable. India should remember that the revolt it supported thirty five years back resulted in a new country Bangladesh. Why are we shying away to work on the solution? This cannot go forever. Probably our government still believes that offence is the best form of defence. It is time to realize that the people who our government is trying to defend aren't inclined to stay with us. It is in the best of our interests that we act sooner than later and avoid further damage. A failed state isn't what we hoped for but if it is so, so be it. If India faces humiliation for letting Kashmir go, so be it. If this is humiliation, consider the situation of the slaughtered Kashmiri pandits in the valley, murdered muslims in the broad daylight in Gujrat. Cold blooded murders. men. women. children. If the India feels losing Kashmir is a defeat in hands of Pakistan(another failed nation where I'm told suicide bombers are bought for ten lakhs, beware India), consider the lives of generations altogether, a non-state. special status. killings. It is important to consider Kashmir more as a social problem rather than a political or a communal one. It is time to answer years of injustice in the valley, years of unaccountability, lack of transparency, careless addressing of the problem. And yes, my view is only from this side. Imagine the movement at the other side! Interested readers can read more about

fake encounters by Indian army and accounts of rape by the army here.
The Kashmir tinderbox - at human rights watch
Another brutal account of rapes on women by Indian army in Kashmir.


More on Kashmir issue by Arundhati Roy
What would independence mean to kashmiris?
Azadi
9 is not 11 on bombay attacks


What do you make of popular movements for seperate states like the seperate Kashmir call, liberation of Asssam (ULFA), seperate telangana, gorkhaland, kodagu, tulu nadu and purvaland? Only the call for Tulu land is based on preserving the culture whereas all the other calls are based on neglect or under-development of the regions. These are only the 'popular' movements which started on a high note with great following but haven't enjoyed the legislation yet. yet. The other separate statehood calls are bundelkhand, gondwana, rayalseema, saurastra and even bombay to name a few [source: wikipedia].What does this suggest? Decades of negligence of these regions have prompted some to take up the separate movement, while some have challenged the government about the priorities even as some have taken up weapons. We can no longer neglect the fact that extremists[naxalites/ulfa/freedom fighters(jihadis) are born out to fight years of injustice. Sadly, both the government and the extremists are supposed to fight on behalf of the people and for the welfare of the people but end up fighting with each other. And government isn't finding a way out of this. All the govt. tries to do is to destroy the extremists while the focus should be on the development. Suppression doesn't end any revolt but strengthens it. The root problem is the neglect and injustice done to the respective regions and the problems should be addressed. It is heartening to learn that the protests against the sarovar dam project have been non-violent so far given the number of people who participate and the number of varied opinions about the project. If the situation continues this way, there will be a day when people are saddened by the death of a naxalite more than the death of a policeman. death. Both lives are precious but do they deserve death? Death, the most severe punishment a human can get just for the struggle on behalf of a common man? We all should hope such day doesn't arise where we debate over the superiority of naxalite/police death and all lives strive for the success of the common man.

Independent. In-dependent. not being dependent on anybody or not to be influenced by others in anything (if one were to refer the dictionary). Keeping aside the topic of being independent for few moments, don't you think we are a burden for the great motherland, the most secular (if secular is the right word), the largest democratic (really where polls are reportedly rigged very often), socialist (where farmers land is dragged away for lowest possible prices to raise land for corporate houses and where poor literally have nobody to turn to), peace-loving (this must be the only truest feature as we'll know how our government answers terrorism) India? I really believe all the citizens who do not contribute to the nation's growth are a big burden. We are selfish groups of people who do not care about people who beg daily at our doors, we are happy to fill the pockets of police when they catch us without a driving-license and we're happy to evade taxes when we join a company by showing a constructing plot. If this is our response to the society, are we entitled to imagine/expect, i dare say, change? Coming back to being independent, are we really independent? that is the basic question we should ask ourselves and people around us. Do we really teach our children to be independent or are we independent in the first place? If you were to choose your career at arts or science, I bet you might have selected science because people who advised you didn't think art as state-of-the-art career to settle in! Career is too big a choice to make, so take the example of ordering in a restaurant. You wouldn't order what you want to eat because your friends might taunt your dish choice. I know I would end everything in choosing your career but if you cannot choose your career, how equipped are you to guide your child? I bet you are not and you shouldn't guide in the best interests of the child.

I'm not done with the range of topics dealt in this post but posting this little early and would add few more sections. do come back.

P.S: I've just met a girl who is confused about the date India became independent between 14th or 15th August. talk about patriotism and I'll show you people who will take India forward. Freedom sucks to the extent where young forget when your mother was born.

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