6 Feb 2008, 1414 hrs IST
India is marching ahead economically. Agreed. Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh soon after his Beijing visit and gave the correct signals to the expansionist dragon. Good job done. And then we come to the news of Mr Raj Thackeray, the gadfly politician of Maharashtra who has warned North Indians and accused Amitabh Bachchan of betraying the “cause” of the state. First I thought we must ignore it completely: the more we talk about it the more pettiness swells to murky levels. But after the media picked up the issue for its nuisance value and the hate machines kicked into motion, its after-effects began getting louder and uglier. Hence the disease should be addressed. A polity that draws sustenance from a fractured society and from reductionism become more rewarding than the all-inclusive embrace; the fallout is bound to reach us in various extremist forms, divisive polity being one of them. When a narrow, shrunken vision is preferred over a national outlook and national perspective, the Raj Thackerays emerge winners. What’s the difference between a Raj making Indians fight with other Indians and a UPA government sowing the seeds of distrust and hate among Indians on the basis of religious reservations for one community and assaulting the faith icons of the other? Or for that matter, ULFA in Assam killing Hindi-speaking Indians and outfits like Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammad murdering Hindu Indians in Jammu and Kashmir? Someone shoots from guns, another uses a microphone and the third does it by abusing constitutional authority. The result is identical - India is bruised and shrunk. They are the reducers of an idea called India. Unfit to be called Indians yet they use the democratic freedom and the egalitarian values enshrined in the constitution. They reduce Shivaji to a Maharashtrian leader, nay a Maratha, and over and above a Kurmi icon. The caste and vote machine is their nation, the rest is wasteland. The industrialists have their nation shrunk in Forbes listings and Sensex manoeuvrings – they don't care who the ruler is till their ambitions find a well-oiled path to realisation. Have you ever seen an industrialist fund the removal of a corrupt and nincompoop minister? Instead, the more the corrupt, the merrier is the moneymaker. The nation hurts ultimately, but whose nation? The moneymakers' nation is somewhere else and secured! The first scandal India saw immediately after a partitioned independence was the infamous jeep scam involving Krishna Menon, our high commissioner to the UK. The jeeps were needed immediately, yesterday, as the saying goes. They reached a year after the war ended in a fiasco and after we had lost two-thirds of Kashmir to Pakistan. Even then the jeeps were unusable, but Nehru forced the government to accept them. Finally, uproar in the Parliament compelled Krishna Menon to resign. All for the money gone into political coffers. And what was the “vision” for security forces that Nehru presented? Wing Commander (retd) R V Parasnis writes: “Soon after Independence, the first commander-in-chief of the Indian armed forces, General Sir Robert Lockhart, presented a paper outlining a plan for the growth of the Indian Army to Prime Minister Nehru. “Nehru's reply: ‘We don't need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We foresee no military threats. You can scrap the army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs.’ “He didn't waste much time. On September 16, 1947, he directed that the army's then strength of 280,000 be brought down to 150,000. Even in fiscal 1950-51, when the Chinese threat had begun to loom large on the horizon, 50,000 army personnel were sent home as per his original plan to disband the armed forces. “After Independence, he once noticed a few men in uniform in a small office the army had in North Block and angrily had them evicted. “Soon after Independence, he separated the army, navy, and air force from a unified command and abolished the post of commander-in-chief of the armed forces, thus bringing down the status of the seniormost military chief. “He continued to demote the status of the three service chiefs at irregular intervals in the order of precedence in the official government protocol, a practice loyally continued by successive governments to the benefit of politicians and bureaucrats. “During the 1947-48 war with Pakistan in Kashmir, Nehru interfered with purely military decisions at will which delayed the war and changed the ultimate outcome in Pakistan's favour. He developed a precedent to violate channels and levels of communications at that time. His penchant for verbal orders to the various army commanders, of which he kept no records, violated the chain of command. “The army thereafter reversed this trend.” But at what cost? The Nehrus and Menons made India lose 125,000 sq km to the enemy. What happened to them? No politician has been ever held accountable for the national loss incurred because of his misdeeds, divisive politics and ill-governance. The more divisive and exploitative of pubic money and trust he becomes, the more votes he gets and he is hailed as a “seasoned” politician. So why blame Raj Thackeray? Those who get votes on the basis of dividing people and feel no remorse seeing youngsters burning themselves against their policies reap worse than the Raj Thackerays. It's the failure of national parties and organisations that parochialism and narrow polity with a shrunken vision is allowed to play with national integration and peoples' money. The game of de-listing, unlisting and enlisting on the basis of the colour of your thoughts divides more sharply than the buffoonery of the parochial players.
We have leaders of Yadavs, Gujjars, Jats, Brahmins, Dalits and tribals. We have champions of UP, Bihar, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and other states. If something happens to Tamils anywhere in the world, it’s the “sacred duty” of the Tamil Nadu leaders alone to feel their pain and speak up for them. When Malaysia's Hindus of Tamil origin were persecuted, the only chief minister that spoke against it was Karunanidhi, not Lalu Yadav or Nitish Kumar. They were Tamil ‘nationals', hence Tamils should support their cause, and similarly Hindi-speaking Indians get support from the 'Hindi nation' when persecuted in Assam or Maharashtra. The media houses have their nation shrunk in ad revenues and TRP ratings and anything that enhances it overshadows the broad, pan-Indian concern. Hence the daily doses of a tamasha called news gets spread with musical effects and a thousand times repeats of the same 10 second clips with special effects and an anchoring that surpasses the dramatics of a street madari – “ dekho dekho dekho-ek tamasha dekho ”. The victim is truth and objectivity, but just as the Rai Bahadurs of colonial times didn't care what Bhagat Singh was sacrificing his life for, we too love our comfort zones. When Kashmiri Hindus were persecuted and made to leave their home and hearth in the valley, no one from Bihar or Tamil Nadu raised the issue because the persecuted Pandits didn't belong to their “nation”; moreover, they were persecuted not because they were Brahmins or Jats or Dalits but because they were simply Hindus!! The shrunken political space holders forget that when Hindi-speaking Indians are attacked in Assam or Maharashtra or booed in Srinagar, it isn’t Hindi or those individuals who are the real targets, but it’s the symbol of a nationality denoted by the tricolour and the language that is assaulted. The wholesome concept of the nation being represented by any symbol is left forlorn and disowned in a secular dispensation quintessentially hateful to unifier elements which are and have to be civilisational and unambiguously Hindu or Vedic or Bharatiya - take your pick. But the governance trying to demoralise the majority and its faith in the continuum of the historical flow that gives the land and her people an identity shrinks the integrating factors and revives the old unfortunate episodes of fractured and unconnected rulers of the Aryavarta who kept their armies and arsenal limited to the protection of the shrunken ideas of a nationhood. I give you an example that should sadden those who care for the broader picture. Some friends are trying to run a most unique residential school for Himalayan tribal children based on the ideals of patriotism and equality, irrespective of religious denominations. Yet, it has become an arduous task to gather support because help comes only on the basis of caste and provincialism. The state would ask quite comfortably, why have you brought children from Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh; why not just local children? If the mantra to succeed is be local and forget the rest of the land, which exists only for passing exams and getting certificates, with what authority do we complain about children not knowing enough about the greatness and grandeur of their land? Nagas are not taught about Ganga and Badrinath because they are Hindu symbols and Ladakhis are not taught about Arunachal's bravehearts and heroes, because they are nature worshippers and hence not a common concern. And Kerala's spectacular Christian traditions are not a part of our national school curriculum because they are Christian. So on and so forth, but we keep lamenting what we see in Mumbai and Guwahati. What a hypocritical cheek we have!