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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Liberation for Bharat

Times of India
Monday August 14, 2009

Tarun Vijay
In 1947 an India of the elite, rich and English-speaking got freedom and started enjoying the fruits of a truncated independence achieved at the cost of an unprecedented massacre. Farmers, tribals, the scheduled castes and poor Indians of all denominations remained outside the zone of a progress so passionately touted by our Prime Ministers and leaders.

The result of that progress is this: 2009 has been declared drought-hit, the disabled have to demand through demonstrations a place in the Right to Education Act, rivers are drying, farmland is fast shrinking giving space to malls and multiplexes, small and marginal farmers are either committing suicide or sending their children to other more beneficial and stable vocations. Primary education in villages has yet to get proper attention and in most hill areas potable water is still brought home from a distance source which can be, in some cases, two to three kilometres away. In politics, a caste-conscious regime rules — scheduled castes and tribes are treated as showpieces or their leadership gets too corrupt and self-obsessed forgetting the cause of the social segment they represent. At the ground level, our interaction with tribals and scheduled castes remains formal, untouchability hasn't gone out of our minds.

It's Bharat that needs freedom from the Indian colonialists who decide, sign files, devastate huge chunks of land for big dams and power projects and do not care a hoot about the rehabilitation of the evacuees. It's India that doesn't hesitate to start projects killing the Ganga up in the hills making it trickle where it used to roar like a lion enchanting the entire region.

It's Bharat that travels sleeper class in unreserved coaches and sees every day new schemes for the affluent elite, yet keeps on working, happier with an NREGS and giving votes in the biggest numbers thus protecting the honour of our democracy. Bharat tills the farms, sees the water level going down every year, weaves the mats for schools, works a coolie to the nation and yet always gets the slap, the hurt and the punch of all that's decided by those who never had a feel for the underprivileged except when they seek votes.

Bharat is the voter, India the ruler.

Three days before August 15, I was in Chamaseri, a village five kilometres from Mussoourie, which we call the "queen of the hills" because that is what the British called it. It has a number of internationally famous schools which charge per student as high as Rs 7 lakh a year. There is no dearth of power supply and drinking water which is clean and safe. Roads reach the doorsteps of the residents and students are comfortably placed enjoying studies and the cool weather. Chamaseri, has a population of about 1,000 people. A gram sabha is functioning which means it has at least 250 houses. It's just behind the Woodstock School, famous for having educated some of our elite political leaders' siblings. But it's not connected with Mussoourie through any road. We had to walk eight kilometres each way, through a rough hilly terrain full of big stones and muddy craters to reach a friend who lived on the other side of the village. We saw a couple of naked electric poles and wondered why they were so powerless? A villager sarcastically said that a year back they had erected the poles to get votes. Now votes have been cast so they forgot to put wires in them. Yes, this village in the backyards of Woodstock doesn't have electric supply. Children walk to Mussoourie to study in Ramabai School, run by the local government as there is no school in the village. It means walking eight to nine kilometres each way, almost two hours, as the school is situated at another end of Mussoourie. Children, little kids wih a bagload of books on their backs leave home at six in the morning to reach school by eight, spend the day there and return home by six in the evening. Many times they have to carry extra load on their heads bringing kitchen needs from the city. On a holiday or often on their return from school, they are sent to forest to collect firewood for cooking and grass for cows. A little girl, not more than eight, was bringing a load of green grass on her head, I tried to weigh it by lifting it. Believe me it was too heavy, must have been about 25kg. And she was bringing it from two kilometres from her home that took a tough hilly terrain. It's a daily routine for her. And of course the village doesn't have any landline telephone connections.

(Daughter of Garhwal: Burdened at this tender age yet smiles abound)

I asked some silly questions like what if there is an emergency. (They take patients on a charpoy to Mussoourie, where the nearest government hospital is located). How do you communicate with relatives living in distant areas? (Through post cards). What do you watch on TV channels in the evening? (They don't have any TV as there is no power supply). Have you been given proper care instructions about Swine flu? (What is that, sardi jukam?) What books do you read and is there a library? (They work in lantern and chimney lights, hence can only concentrate on school textbooks). Hospital? (There is one building coming up for it. Doctors will arrive only after the building is done).

(She will traverse the path on her left to reach the green area where her home is, with this load for the cows.)

That's Bharat, Sir

Forget about politicos. What about those who turned Mussoourie into a money spinning station to them and enjoyed a life of a sahib? Why didn't they think they had a social responsibility towards those who provide the chai, servants, chaprasi and vegetables and grains? Have the British left, really?

(This girl, a Class VII student, brings home a sackful of goods from Mussoourie with her school bag hung on the shoulders. Every day she walks 8km way to study and brings household goods too.)

That's visible in most of the rural areas that makes the real Bharat. From Nandigram to Sylhet and Udalguri to Phulbani. India acts through khaki. Killings, arrests and no hearing and accountability. The Manipur episode is not an isolated one. If something of this kind happens to the Indian brown sahibs they would threaten to secede. Why should I have my love for a state that doesn't have any relation with me except collecting votes and tax and giving bullets and backwardness in return? I can love Bharat as my nation but the state power's ruthless rudeness needs to be punished. But how? Through guns? Or use people's power?

Gun never succeeds, it never has

The only solution lies in collecting strength on the basis of positive resolution of people's consolidation. It alone wins ultimately. Gandhi did it and succeeded. Hedgewar did it and showed it works. So can us.

(The poles are there but the wires are missing.)

Here are some tips to begin

Instead of blaming the government for every ill, start a public-interest group, adopt an area to spread literacy, and teach hygiene and etiquettes, organize small help centres like "how to use RTI" and get information about MPs and MLAs funds distribution.

(On the road to Chamaseri, a girl takes fuel wood home for evening cooking.)

Land acquisition is a big racket and it's killing farmers and a social life. Try to collect data about how much land has been converted for non-agricultural use and write letters to editor in local newspapers creating awareness and appealing to people to petition courts to stop urbanization of farmlands.

Plan a holiday in the northeast. It's the most panoramic part of our nation but too neglected and ignored. We must be as naturally going to the northeast as we go to Haridwar or Shimla. It's a great experience in fun and national integration.

Send the best child in the family to join the forces. It's a shame that forces are lacking good human material and they have to advertise to attract youngsters to join their ranks. There can be nothing more satisfying than serving in any wing of our security set-up. Start distributing beautifully designed stickers for the vehicles of those whose children have joined forces, saying "proud parents of a soldier"'. It helps create a patriotic atmosphere.

Try spending a weekend in a village close by. Learn and teach your children about the importance of village life, its autonomous structure, meet people and share a meal. Maybe you will find a child who needs your help or an old man who would like you to write his application to the district magistrate or you may use your connections to expedite a project for the common good. Nothing will be more satisfying than this, believe me.

Remember Ramakrishna Paramhansa said: "Jeever Seva, Shiver Seva" (to serve humans is to serve gods). I don't think we need more temples and mosques and churches, whatever we have is enough to make God hear our petitions and prayers. If humans are living a miserable life, what use is it spending millions on such structures? Ensure that the temple in your vicinity or any place of worship is kept clean and puja is conducted correctly; that will be more useful than erecting a new structure. Our places of worship should cater to the needs of the society. If they teach how to face swine flu in such times, and why we shouldn't panic, that will be more in tune with serving the gods. The temple must start teaching physical exercises to keep the body fit and inspire devotees to make religious groups for river cleaning and stopping the use of plastics while on a pilgrimage. After all, rivers are dirtied and plastic bags thrown in our holy places by devotees only. Why can't we start a reformist action at such places?

1 comment:

the ethical man said...

I know mussoorie very well as i studied their, I know woodstock school because it was right in front of us through the gorge and I sometimes wanted to know what was around it as it was thickly forrested,thanks to you now I know a village is there, but there so many of these villages all over the country that are facing similar problem (atleast the children school is 8 km, ofcourse not a walking distance at all for kids)
You said it very rightly the diffrence is between India and Bharat, but what is the solution to merge these places in one Bharat or one India I wish we make that road as soon as possible to merge them to Bharat/India.