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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Where is the citizen?

25 Jul 2007, 1234 hrs IST ,

Tarun Vijay

“We wanted only a Muslim candidate for vice-presidential elections”, a daily quoted a senior Left leader on why they chose Hamid Ansari. And every other party fell in line. It was not that everybody, just by sheer divine coincidence zeroed in on a Muslim, but all of them wanted it. It has become so obvious and natural to emphasise the need and assert the demand for a Muslim or anyone other than a Hindu that none found it pertinent to ask a question, even in a feeble voice, why sir, didn't you say, we need a deserving Indian? Although personally I find all the three candidates good, people who have brought the vice-presidential election to a far superior and dignified level than the murky Presidential one, yet the reason behind the selection of “only Muslim” candidates is a disturbing one for India's secular fabric. It’s nothing but a brazen manifestation of a reactionary secular-communalism being practiced by all – without even a face-saving exception. Why has being an Indian become a matter of less significance than being a Muslim, Christian, Yadav, or a backward? This fragmentation of polity is a result of a fragmented society and weakening of a pan-national outlook. The thread that binds Indians and India together was never a political one but cultural and civilisational. That is being abused by political expediency so much that it has been strained to the limit of breaking up. So far, a strong sense of nationalism, a pride in being an Indian, and equally in our Hindu identity - i.e. a majority that has woven the nation's extreme corners into a oneness of cultural flow -- from Parashuram Kund and Rukmini's Bhishmak Nagar in Arunachal to Hanuman's Andamans, Sindhu's (Indus) Ladakh and Krishna's Dwarka to Rama's bridge of victory over the wicked in Rameshwaram -- held us together. It's our grandmother's concept of unity in diversity that has survived the vicissitudes of millenniums, and the same is now under threat from those who do not have any feeling for the past, no vision for the future but try to earn their daily bread of governance walking present times with their sullied footmark. Nobody seems interested in questioning the wisdom or discretion of politicians any more. Is it despondency or a sign of utter hopelessness or is there a storm brewing underneath which we fail to feel or understand? Do we have to blame only the neta for everything bad that's happening to us and there the matter ends? Even if we agree that the politicians are bad, bureaucracy corrupt and the police in khaki a wretched lot, what about those who vote them to power, send their children to man officialdom and the police force and yet keep on complaining? The easiest part to play is to complain, watch TV, and complain again that everything is turning into an anarchical situation. And then go to sleep. There was a time when we used to see some rebellion against the systemic flaws, against the corrupt and immoral. No more now. People may remember that at every incident of terrorist violence in Punjab and Kashmir, there would be a Delhi bandh call and even cinema houses and paanwallahs would shut their doors in anger. It showed symbolically that citizens cared for their fellow citizen's pains and problems. When terrorism became a routine matter, like an inseparable part of our body politic, people stopped reacting to it. The same is true about corruption and immorality in public life. You may try to ask a senior, seasoned politician that “why sir, is corruption not made an issue to fight an election?” The candid answer, if he is frank with you, would be, “now people don't care whether a politician is corrupt or not.” May be they have become so disillusioned by the overwhelming majority of politicians behaving in the same manner that they have given up on this front. And this is exactly the point to ponder. Why does this happen? We saw the Navnirman Andolan and JP's Total Revolution, and then the great All-Assam Students' Union's anti-infiltration movement. They all shook the nation and people hoped something positive would come about. The power engines and the inheritors of these movement were brought to power as a logical culmination of their struggle, which saw them indulging in the same corrupt practices and infighting against which they had begun their struggle.
Similarly, Ramaswamy Naicker's Self Pride movement saw a complete change in the polity and social dynamics in Tamil Nadu. Rama was insulted, Ravana became a celebrated hero, marriages were solemnized reading the red book of Periyar, and it all resulted in the great Brahmin exodus from all quarters of public life and even administration. What fruits did this social reformist movement bring ultimately? We have seen three icons of Periyar's legacy after Anna Durai's departure from the scene -- MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa. The ugly charges of corruption, family feuds, autocratic landlordism, marking their exalted selves convey nothing to feel proud about them. So Periyar's ideological heirs too failed to provide a socially responsible, administratively clean state marching towards a casteless society as was supposed to have been envisioned by the revered initiator. The nationalist movements saw an avowed position of not allowing two flags and separate constitutional provisions for Kashmir. They also began a movement to “reconstruct” the Ram temple at Ayodhya. Both stirred up the nation's soul in their respective times. And what's the result? Kashmir still has two flags, every official and politician authorised to display a flag on his car and office has a national tricolor on the left and the red one with a plough – the ‘Jammu-Kashmir flag' on the right. And the temple issue is yet to be resolved. All of this should naturally have generated disenchantment with the politicians who think promising everything in their election manifesto is good enough to get votes. No, they think nobody reads manifestos so print them for the media and the real voter would make choices on the basis of caste, ad campaigns, charisma of the leaders, road shows and emotional issues. This is a self-possessed voter, for whom it hardly matters who the ruler is, as long as his interests are taken care of. And invariably these interests are personal. So Kolkata's Kali Bari temple priests blessed the flag of the East India Company without thinking that these were foreigners, a plague to our nation. All the witnesses against Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were Indians, and they helped a colonial barbaric power against their own brothers. Dyre was a firang but his brute soldiers were Indians who fired on innocent nonviolent Indians at Jalianwala Bagh. When I interviewed Morarji Desai, which perhaps was his last, he said that Indians had hardly put up resistance even during the freedom movement which saw not more than five per cent of the Indian population actively participating. The rest was happy either to be Rai Bahadurs, Raisahibs, Khan sahibs, ICSs or just clerks – babus to the evil empire. They never had any shame about what their foreigner masters had done to their own fellow men and women -- cut their thumbs, facilitated forcible conversions, hanged thousands on trees for being patriotic to their motherland, and changed the education system to produce copycat brown sahibs. If the citizen doesn't care who the ruler is and what has he done for the nation, we get what we have and in such circumstances how can the nation expect a clean polity? Why blame the netas when their supporters or those who vote them to power belong to the same “I don't care” mindset?
This citizen spreads dirt on the roads, defiles the holy rivers, leaves plastic and other garbage at Gau Mukh -- the source of Ganga -- bribes anyone to buy tickets out of the queue and then writes letters to the editor that the government is bad, politicians don't do enough for the public. After all, who has made nice people abhor politics and who votes the Shahabuddins and apologists for a traitor like Afzal? People vote for candidates who have bought ticket from certain parties in an open-window system and politics is just another investment area for him to earn ten times or more. Yet such candidates get elected with a thumping majority. Try to browse the Internet and see how our honourable members of Parliament, women MPs included, were climbing the benches of the Central Hall just to shake hands with Bill Clinton, who had arrived while the Monica adventure's stink was still in the air. They were simply mad just for a handshake. And you expect them to be a model for the rest of the praja ? But aren't people who vote such people in to be blamed for this in the first place? This underlines a complete absence of those non-political leaders who can influence public opinion for the good of society and the nation. We have any number of religious preachers, faith healers and miracle men. Yet not a single soul is able to influence our political leadership so that the nation can feel a whiff of fresh air. Everyone is busy in his or her personal agenda -- sermons, donations, huge fiefdoms. Every politician has a religious mentor, and every religious preacher has a politician as his follower. Yet the mess that we find ourselves in refuses to end. I would rather blame the unassertive voter and the “apathetic” citizen more than the bad neta for bad politics and unresponsive governance. The patriotism of such voters is aroused only when channels bring a Kargil to our bedrooms and not when Kashmiri pundits are driven out of their homes or killers of security personnel are invited to dinner by the vote bankers. We see thousands of youngsters coming out on roads and risking their lives when their career is threatened by a new reservation policy. But never have we seen them as agitated to demand that the government should take back the land we lost to the enemies after 1947 – 1,25,000 sq km to quote government records. Or to make doctors in public and private hospitals a little more humane towards their patients. I have a beautiful story to tell about this attitude and the results it brings. It was emailed to me by a friend and is shared with readers by Thomas Strider: ''I used to know a man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II. He was a German Jew. They owned a number of large industries and estates. I asked him how many German people were true Nazis, and the answer he gave has stuck with me and guided my attitude toward fanaticism ever since. "Very few people were true Nazis," he said, "but many enjoyed the return of German pride; and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us; and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp, and the Allies destroyed my factories." These are the so-called “peaceful” people. They say, let's do what we have to do for a living. The nation's affairs are not our concern. The same people were mute spectators to the rise of Communism in Russia and the resultant massacre of over two million Russians under Stalin. The same happened in China under Mao. They provided soldiers to the British to kill their own countrymen in India. I have yet to see an heir of a Raibahadur who is ashamed of the fact that one of his forefathers was a servant in the service of the brutal foreign colonists. Rather, they display their ancestors receiving honours from the firangs who hanged our revolutionaries. And they, who think material progress alone is the aim of living, continue to have that attitude even today. Citizenship dharma demands a different material altogether. When that is realised, then alone would India regain her lost status based on knowledge i.e. vidya , strength of the brave and character.

Readers Opinion

Where is the citizen?

Raj Bhatnagar , USA , says:

This is a shame for the Indian democracy that the entire political spectrum considered a person's religion to be the primary determinant of his/her suitability for the Vice-President's position. Some people express pride in stating that Kalam (Muslim), Sonia (Christian), and Manmohan (Sikh) are ruling the nation of Hindus and consider it to be a tribute to the secular nature of Indian polity. But with the strong desire to have a Muslim and only a Muslim for a VP post seems to expose that fact that ma be, maybe, and yes, maybe, there is a conspiracy in all this to keep the Hindus out. 31 Jul, 2007 2318hrs IST

jha , rinku , says:

Brilliant! I appreciate your outlook.30 Jul, 2007 2316hrs IST

Jitendra Desai , Surat , says:

Mr Tarun Vijay is voicing the obvious frustrations of millions of decent Indians. But he could be mistaken ! Millions have "written off" the State; hence they don't participate in the so called political processes. But they are all working and working very hard to make the politicians and the State completely irrelevant to their lives. Time is not far off when the writ of the 'Darbaris' in Delhi will not run beyond the Red Fort. That will usher in the true Swaraj.30 Jul, 2007 1201hrs IST

Buddhu , Patna , says:

Where is the citizen? Wake Up, dear. Go and educate people about the beauty of seeking knowledge and things would be taken care of. Stop berating people like a school master. 29 Jul, 2007 0719hrs IST

sameer goyal , canada , says:

Thought provoking? Intelligent? This just shows how little we know about our history. Most people have liked the article without questioning the merits. The points illustrated in the article whether good or bad are a personality trait of Indians and more importantly Hindu Indians. They tend to be more docile and unchallenging. Bound in tradition and blinded by faith, they follow the preset norms without ever questioning it. From the early days, partiality and favouring your chosen few and political appointments based on preference has been prevalent in India. All through the reigns of Hindu kings and even after that. When the Mughals were attacking and looting India, Hindus were assembling in front of temples and praying in front of idols to protect them instead of putting up a resistance . This has continued till today. 125000 sq kms surrendered to the enemy never makes news because that would be confrontational. 1993 Bombay bomb blasts, 1999 Kargil attack, 1999 Kandhar hijack, 2001 parliament attack - nothing seems to bother the ordinary citizen . Maybe he has given up on the political leadership and as a result India is one of the very few soft states in the world. Today a George Fernandes can be strip searched in the USA or a Narenda Modi denied a USA visa. An Indian can be detained for over 2 weeks in Australia but hey, it does not affect you, does it?28 Jul, 2007 0657hrs IST

Tejbahadur , USA , says:

One of the most fascinating and eye opener articles for those who care for India. Thanks.28 Jul, 2007 0040hrs IST

Ashutosh Singh , Hyderabad , says:

That is the voice of a true citizen. We need to have a uniform civil code so that everybody could flow into the mainstream & make our motherland the greatest nation.27 Jul, 2007 1129hrs IST

Kamalesh Sharda , Toronto, Canada , says:

Article by Shri Tarunji is highly intelligent and a must for all politicians and thinking people. Well done Tarunji!. Thanks to TOI for having the will to allow such priceless articles by Shri Tarunji.27 Jul, 2007 0828hrs IST

Manpreet Singh Chhatwal , Sydney , says:

What an excellent peice from Tarun Viay. Thought provoking to the core so much so that certain sections even gave me goose bumps. almost revolutionary. We are a society of selfloading, matrialistic, corrupt individuals who are looking for short cuts all the time. The most we do these days is forward emails of "renowned india facts" and feel proud of this special nation (though, most of the facts in such emails relate to the ancient history of India)(india tought the world to count, india hasn't invaded any country for 1,000 years, so on and so forth...) I may be living the so called "indian dream" settled in a white collar job in a developed 'western' city - but all the morals i was tought as a child dont seem to carry any value in this (and even in india's society) society. I have an urge to come back and work in public admin in India, i have expressed this desire with a few close family and friends in India - not a single one has supported this idea, some of them even going to the extent of saying - after living in a place like Sydney, if you come back to Delhi and try and work in governance - you may become suicidal in a few months. I hope the situation is not that hopeless and that I hope and others like me will get to make a "real" contribution to the nation. Thanks for the article Manpreet 27 Jul, 2007 0729hrs IST

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