Edit & Opinion

74 ‘Independent’ Years: National hall of fame or shame

By Poonam I Kaushish

“The naïve notion that we can preserve freedom by exuding goodwill is not only silly, but dangerous,” wrote former US President Richard Nixon in his book “The Real War.” His wise words of caution are water off a duck’s back as our netagan celebrated 74th Independence Day Saturday. Replete with the syrupy speeches of Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vishwaas…for Vikas and ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ which resonated to the aam aadmi’s raucous silence!

Yet when one draws up an annual balance-sheet can the Prime Minister brush under the carpet the fact that the situation sadly continues to remain stagnant —status quo ante? Where is the promised freedom: from poverty, social and economic discrimination and religious distortions?

Six ‘independent’ years under Modi, has he walked his talk and delivered? Brought about inclusiveness, made minorities comfortable, won their confidence? Created employment, economic well-being, ushered development even Aache Din? Or, should one believe his detractors who see him as a filibuster of a “fundamentalist Party”?

Certainly, the pandemic hit India hard and all credit to Modi for taking timely action, ramping up our shabby medical infrastructure hospitals, equipment, testing centres, kits and medical personnel and feting the corona warriors.

Undoubtedly, the BJP is puffed with a sense of nationalism bordering on narcissism on fulfillment of its decades-old “core” ideological Hindutva demands of building a Ram temple at Ayodhya and nullification of Article 370, which gave the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir special status. However, a year down the Valley is in the grip of risky silence of sullen Kashmiris as terrorist thrive.

In 74 years we have learnt that power is the most luscious mistress to be loved, raped and conquered at all costs. Along with the kursi and paisa that comes with it. Clearly, coming up trumps is the new normal of political morality. See how the BJP overthrew two Congress State Governments, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh by engineering defections.

One may cynically justify dal badlus by asserting when was Indian politics about political integrity? Since the 70’s the Aya Ram’s and Gaya Ram’s are all rolled into one. Exposing that money and power is the glue that makes incongruent leaders bandy together.

It has little to do with niti, butall about raj-niti at its crassest worst with clinical precision devoid of any pretensions, strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of State machinery for intimidation etc are all commended as resourcefulness. Worse, even the faint wisp of demeanor has been discarded with the devil taking the hindmost!

More incredible is the whopping monies spent on this dazzling razzmatazz. Recently, witnessed in Rajasthan.  Amounts of Rs 10-25 crores were freely bandied as the going rate per MLA. To safeguard its turfs, the two Congress rival factions and the BJP flew their MLAs to fancy resorts in ‘favourable’ destinations away from luring eyes. Queries about who foots the astronomical costs of charter flights and hotel, is answered with deafening silence. No investigations by the CVC or Income Tax, no accusations on black money by rival. Sic.  

Take Maharashtra. Who could have imagined that Hindutva BJP and Shiv Sena which fought Assembly polls together would split and the Sena would align with ‘arch enemy’ Congress and NCP to form the Government to the strains of Hum Sath Sath Hain!. How does someone who was communal yesterday become secular today?

More worrisome, our political landscape is bereft of a strong Opposition which is in shambles, fragmented, leaderless and directionless. A truncated ‘dying’ Congress seems to be in the throes of inertia engrossed in its First Family Gandhis’ soap opera while the regional satraps are busy guarding their turf from predator BJP. Bringing things to such a pass Modi is all-encompassing numero uno who is steering India to majoritism rule.

Consequently, a moribund Opposition in its quest for a coherent narrative to take on the BJP, is completely disengaged with issues of national import and long term national well-being. Neither do they have the time for what is a real threat to our nation State and external security.

Isn’t it tragic that independence is being celebrated amidst a cacophony of terror, rage and violence wherein the three Cs (crime, corruption and casualness) and three Ms (money, muscle and mafia) rule the roost. In this chor-chor-mauser-bhai political milieu dotted with politico-criminals in their “bullet-proof jackets” our netas have merrily converted offices of public services into private profit and justify their wrongs as in public interest. Failing to realize the disconnect between the jan sevak and the janata.

Yesterday’s princes have been replaced by today’s Ministers, and MPs, who see themselves as winners.There are no rules of the game anymore, they make their own rules, rule by law and are doctors of all trades. Experts in doctoring facts and fixing deals. And we call ourselves a democracy. Feudal, is more like it.

Depressingly, nowhere does ideology or principles even rhetorically figure in our polity’s vocabulary. In the past, leaders used to camouflage their intentions in ideological garbage. Today, even that fig leaf or verbosity has been discarded. There is only one lakshya: “gaddi rakho, paisa pakro”. Is this what we fought for?

We seem to have made peace with our pandemic of inequalities as there is silent acceptance of prejudices doled out routinely. Cases of clashes between a new Hindu majority vs Muslim minority, caste divides of upper caste assaults on Dalits replete with further sub-divisions, North against South Indians over language. Alas, despite the Constitution emphasizing equality, fissures continue to fester. Covid-19 demonstrated how citizens from the Northeast were mocked and taunted as “Corona” for their looks.

Economically, Covid has sounded a death-knell. Companies go belly up, unemployment has spiked to 26%, 18 crore people have lost jobs, 36% have used their entire life savings,  starvation deaths and farmers suicide abound, violence is the rhetoric of the times as hungry bellies fill their stomachs on enticing neon advertisement of McDonalds which taunt Asli Bharat.

India faces its toughest external challenge posed by the Chinese in Eastern Ladakh, Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso, Desang up to the Y-junction. Modi needs to navigate these turbulent waters with measured and calibrated response as the incursions underscore Beijing’s seriousness about demarcating the Indo-Chinese border but wants to keep the situation ambiguous to enable its salami slicing tactics to incrementally grab territory.

As a first step, New Delhi has ‘attacked’ economically by banning Chinese apps and investments to prevent its predatory policies: ‘Say-no-to-Chinese-goods’. In the long-term India-China relations will be determined by India’s strategic goals and objectives vis-à-vis the evolving regional and global security environment.

Where do we go from here? No longer can we merely shrug our shoulders and dismiss it as political kalyug. Our polity needs to dump its ongoing political nautanki, re-think their priorities and desist from destructive mindlessness. Our democracy needs urgent course correction and corrective action.

The time is ripe to break the walls of silence and take immediate action lest the country slide into self-created chaos transcending into a lynch-mob society. Our leaders need to apply corrective balm to a vandalized aam janata, connect with its hurt people and assert its authority interspersed with emotional discourse. Our leaders should grasp that nations live or die by the way they respond to the challenges they face. Only that nation survives which rises to meet that moment and has the wisdom to recognize the malaise and resolve it before it is too late. Will our polity heed the call of true independence?

 

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