Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

The darkest times in Indian history were not when the Harappan civilization faded into oblivion, not when Alexander crossed the Sindhu, not during the Kalinga battle, not during the first Muslim conquest, not even when the British dug their fingers deep into the Indian soul, but in the last sixty years of independent India (1947 – 2007). The ‘Goras’, having gone bankrupt during WW-II and having drained the Indian exchequer as well, found no use for India any longer. So, they left it to us Indians to build a nation from the ruins they left behind. We the people of India, then broke it into two and gave unto ourselves India (for the Hindus and ‘secularists’) and Pakistan (for the Muslims). Of course, the British were undoubtedly the henchmen in this task – in fact they were guilty of fueling the growing mistrust between the Indian leaders. After all, their principal dogma of governance was to ‘Divide and Rule’. Ultimately, the independence did indeed rid us of a 200 year long British nightmare, but it also ushered in an even grimmer, more sinister period.

India during and after Partition

With the country split in two, more than ten million people were forced to relocate, sparking the largest exodus of human population the world has ever seen. Their lives turned upside-down overnight. Mutual hatred kindled fires of religious violence. The inferno raged across the two new-born nations and only ashes remained of more than a million souls. The seamlessly woven Indian fabric was torn apart, beyond repair, never to be the same again. This was the ominous beginning to the building of the two free nations of India and Pakistan. The Partition of India still remains one of the bloodiest chapters in human history. The survivors still retain harsh vivid memories from the time. The scars are too deep to heal. The two neighbors have since had to face hostilities from each other over a disputed paradise which both claim propriety over. They have fought three major wars in less than 53 years. They still look daggers at each other and neither shows any signs of relenting. All the bitterness has been pushing the divinely beautiful Kashmir valley (the disputed paradise) far from being the utopia it once was. Kashmir being a Muslim dominated region, the hostilities have driven the Kashmiri Hindus out of their homes and made them refugees in their own country. The Muslims aren’t living in peace themselves. Often suspected of fanning terrorism in the valley, Kashmir has become a living hell for the innocent Muslim. We the people of both countries are now crossing fingers hoping that Kashmir does not turn into a ‘Paradise Lost’!!

Both countries have had their share of political upheavals through the years. India, for its part, has had to face the challenge of reorganizing itself politically, and building a democracy. The multitude of languages spoken throughout the land lay the groundwork for the political reorganization of the Union. This was in the face of secessionists from certain regions demanding sovereignty for their respective provinces. The secessionists sometimes made their presence felt through extreme violence. India even had to acquire certain provinces like Goa (also called Gomantak) and Pondicherry (also called Puduchcheri) from other European colonists – the Portuguese and the French respectively, who wouldn’t let go easy. The consolidation of India into a Union was by no means an easy task and it was certainly not innocent of the people’s blood. The Union had to pay an insufferable price to stay united.

The politics of post-independence India could not have been murkier. Even the British Raj would be put to shame with the levels of corruption that have crept into the system. Almost the entire political spectrum of the country is now infested with corrupt, reprobate leaders who have the word ‘Bhrashtachari’ etched on their foreheads. The dirty politics of caste, ethnicity and religion have plagued and crippled the country. The declaration of Emergency in 1975 is a grim reminder of the disrespect for democracy shown by our so-called ‘leaders’. Riot-mongers have ripped the nation apart on more occasions than the land had ever seen throughout its long historical legacy. India has also been labeled a ‘soft target’ for terrorist attacks. The partition was a harbinger for further animosity between the two neighbors and also amongst the communities within the country. Some catastrophic events still remain fresh in the nation’s mind while some have been forgotten. These incidents today only play around as nightmares in the memories of the survivors. The 1984 Anti-Sikh attacks that followed the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, are one such less-remembered incident where man has tried to play God. In a period of less than three days, in Delhi alone, more than five thousand Sikhs were either burnt alive or hauled to death. My parents themselves bearing witness to a few of the atrocities. Most other killing sprees across the country went unreported. The guilty still roam around scott-free, because their political clout made the best use of all the loop-holes in the Indian judicial system. One reason why many Indians have lost their trust in the judiciary is because it still sells itself to political pressure. The judiciary has become the underdog of India’s democracy. India is today considered one of the worst countries to fight a legal battle – the feather in the cap of 60 year old Indian Democracy!! Corruption, inept leadership and utter pandemonium in the political system had almost drained the National Treasury to the point of bankruptcy in 1991. If it weren’t for the few remnants of wisdom in the nation, only God knows what the chaos would have pushed all of us into!

Acts of God have also done their part in ravaging India in more ways than one. Cyclones, earthquakes, famines, droughts, spates, tsunamis and other forces of destruction have all chipped in on behalf of Mother Nature to the devastation of the land. Although these are inevitable and in most cases unpredictable, it is still painful to admit how powerless we humans are against such forces. Several unforgettable disasters have left an indelible imprint on the Indian psyche. The Bengal Famine of the 40s claimed three million lives. The Great Cyclone of 1970, named Bhola, ripped through most of the Eastern coast of India and East Pakistan (which went on to become Bangladesh in 1971) and washed away more than three hundred thousand lives. The Latur, Gujarat and Kashmir Earthquakes of 1993, 2001 and 2005 respectively buried more than a 100,000 people. The Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 built another fifty thousand watery graves. More such calamities will occur in the future with unquestionable certainty. We humans are not bestowed with the power to control Nature, but we are definitely bestowed with the mental faculty to be prepared for the worst.

This preparedness for the worst, a visionary outlook, a harmonious and responsible society, a stable and clean political system are not fragments of unrealistic hope, if only we as the citizens of the country assume as an obligation the salvaging of India from the quagmire we ourselves have pushed her into. As the ancient strategist and politician, Chanakya (Kautilya) quoted ‘the downfall of a nation is most importantly due to its irresponsible citizens’. Hence, the panacea to all the maladies is responsibility and action. The last two decades bear testimony to a changing India. We have shown significant progress in these two decades, but this is only the first step to a long journey. We have just begun a process of change that spells a mightier India. The sleeping giant is beginning to hear the melodies of the dawn of a glorious era. The phoenix is beginning to rise from the ashes of time. Let us turn the wheels of India’s fortune and restore its past splendour.  Let India soar, high in to the skies of glory, where it once was and where it rightly belongs. Our National Anthem extols the ‘Dispenser of India’s destiny’. Let us not forget that, ‘We, the people of India’ are the ‘Dispensers of her destiny’. Let victory be ours!!

JAI HIND!!!