Friday, August 6, 2010

The Nation at Stake

“The CBI is targeting patriotic Indians”

(Bhartiya Janata Party statement on the investigations into the Gujarat crimes).


As the skeletons tumble in droves out of the house of horrors in Gujarat, right-wing Hindutva forces which now openly include the “main opposition Party” in parliament, the BJP, is up in arms at what it suits them to call a Congress-inspired attack on “patriotic Indians.”

As per revelations thus far available from the investigations, ordered not by the Congress Party, or the government of the day, but by the Supreme Court of India, these “patriotic Indians” include business bigwigs, extortionists, extra-judicial killers among the highest echelons of the Gujarat police, and no less than the Minister of State for Home Affairs of Guajrat (read Interior Ministry), now arrested, and under questioning in custody.

Among the documents of the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) is a poser (Annexure C) as to the accountability, to use the most parliamentary of terms, of the Chief Minister and Home Minister, one Narendra Modi, since all transfer files of senior Indian Police Service and State Service officers go to him per protocol for decision.

The question: did he know why these officers were being either removed or relocated while the extra-judicial killings were underway? Who all might he have been in steady communication with during the days and hours when some 21 citizens were liquidated, all accused of having “provenly” connived, don’t you know, to kill Modi, the saviour of Hindutva from the “Islamist” onslaught, and the heroic emblem of the idea of “Natonalism”?

Time will tell, it seems sooner than later.

But here is the point: of all the coercively homogenizing discourses through human history—male prowess, racial superiority, colonial “civilizing mission,” the bounties of Imperialist expansion—it is “nationalism” that seems to have won the day. Globalisation notwithstanding.

If only you can first construct an idea of “nationalism” (and that of the Hindu right-wing in India has been so constructed on grounds of race and religion), then be vociferous in its propagation, through myth-making, lies, and violence, all directed against a steadily constructed “enemy,” (in the Indian case, the Muslims), you give unto yourself the privilege to denounce every legal or constitutional operation that is seen to be inimical to “nationalist” pride and glory.

Nothing suggests this more dangerously or despicably than even the parliamentary BJP’s a priori refusal to accept that crimes, and revolting ones at that, have been committed in Gujarat, or that even the Supreme Court may be granted the leave to investigate into those crimes through the agencies it designates to do so, in this case the CBI.

Another matter altogether that the same Supreme Court and the CBI may be accorded praise and approval when things go or have gone the “nationalist’s” way—as, for example, in Gujarat itself when the government there was absolved by an enquiry of any hand in the murder of Modi’s Cabinet colleague and close aid, the late Haren Pandeya. Notwithstanding the firm and publicly expressed assertion of Pandeya’s father that Modi had him murdered on suspicion of having leaked information about a meeting that was held by Modi on February 27, 2002, in which directions were given to the police to let Hindus express their vendetta against the death by burning of Hindu karsevaks (helpers in a religious undertaking) in a train compartment at the Godhra station on their return from the admirable “nationalist” task of having demolished the Babri mosque.

Or, for that matter, for removing the charge of “conspiracy” against the names of L.K. Advani and six BJP and other Hindutva stalwarts who were gloatingly present while the mosque was being demolished. And partaking of sweet meats and cheerful hugs when the deed was done.

Then too, the decision to demolish the mosque had been taken at a secret meeting at the house of the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) leader from Uttar Pradesh, Vinay Katiyar.

So if the same CBI brought such succour to Advani while he was Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister rolled into one, the CBI was not to be accused of bias or wrongdoing.

You see, the “nationalists” never ever do any wrong, so where is the question.

Thus if the redoubtable RSS is now under the scanner in relation to the many acts of terror committed by Hindutva terrorists, this can only be seen as yet another instance of a conspiracy to malign the pre-eminent “nationalist” organization of Bharat.

Declare yourself a “patriot,” then berate the enemies of the nation. Still a going concern here in India.


"There is nothing common to the Commonwealth; certainly not wealth”

(the late Krishna Menon, genius beyond compare).

Speaking of “nationalism” there is of course a secular version as well. This devolves at the moment chiefly around the flashy and extravagant enterprise underway to prepare, “develop”, indeed bedeck the capital city of Delhi for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

To date, according to available information, this enterprise has cost the taxpayer some 40,000 crore rupees (and 42 labouring lives)—all in the name of flaunting India to the world as a superpower-in-the-making. It is also sometime said of course that sport is also a part of the enterprise.

Something similar had happened in 1982 when the Asian games were hosted by India.

Remarkably, to this day, however, this country of a billion and more people figure usually only towards the bottom of any international sporting competition result. A reason perhaps why Cricket remains at the focus of the popular Indian imagination.

Then of course, there is the silent cause why these jamborees are indulged—whatever infrastructural development happens during such preparations all go to facilitate rampantly colossal money-making by builders, bureaucrats, politicians—all this only this day brought out in a report by the Central Vigilance Commission. Among other things, medical and allied infrastructural contracts have gone to two companies, one certainly, and in all likelihood, both with blacklisted records as businesses, and equipments bought in some cases at seven times the declared costs of manufacturers.

As TV channel debates rage on the issue, we will ofcourse wait to see how things turn out. Especially since even some Ministers of the government of Delhi have confessed that stadia and other facilities are far from completion with the games only some fifty days away.

But, try as you might, logic, data, empirical evidence both of under-preparation and wrongdoing that you might furnish to the world, all is a waste against the “nationalist” voice, which holds you culpable of wishing the nation and its pride ill by so grumbling about either the ill-advised decision to hold the games, or the bribes that were parceled out to the sports federations of various Commonwealth countries to vote for India as host, or the humongous corruption in evidence as “development” works are carried out.

Not to speak of more basic principles.

Those basic principles were relentlessly underscored by the one and only Mani Shankar Aiyar when he was the Sports Minister in the government of India some years ago. No surprise that he was asked to give over the portfolio, something he gladly did.

Among other things, Aiyar had sought to raise the question whether investments in sports should be directed at building extravagant showpieces in metropolitan centres, or in hosting mega events calculated to build the “image of India,” or in finding, nurturing, training and exponentially expanding talent countrywide, so that over the long-term India could foster a culture of sports from the grassroots upwards, and so that Indian sports people could also figure among medal winners at international games. Essential to Aiyar’s conception was also freeing Indian sports, perish the thought, of the mortal embrace of non-sporting busy-bodies among politicians, corporate honchos, and of bureaucratic controls, all of which have over the decades effectively reduced sportsmen and sportswomen to slavery at the hands of authoritarian bosses accountable to no one but themselves, and handing over the job of fostering talent and games to reputed sports professionals.

Incidentally, Aiyar was also then the Minister incharge of Panchayati Raj, making arguments and efforts there as well to make the devolution of developmental decisions to the grassroots Panchayats and Gram Sabhas (village communities) an effective strategy of rendering democracy real and egalitarian, both for purposes of carrying investment and decision-making to the hinterland where it is most needed, and for meeting disaffection of the Maoist kind on a lasting basis by implementing in letter and spirit various existent laws (the Forest Rights Act, the PESA and so on) which were meant indeed to restore to the most neglected of Indians their due rights in assets ownership and the right to formulate strategies of development with regard to forest, water, and mineral resources as would be best suited to lifting millions upon millions out of malnutrition and abject poverty.

Alas, taken together, whether in the Sports arena or in Panchayati Raj, Aiyar was offering models of development that conflicted with the magisterial paradigms set by the state in league with the corporate classes.

No wonder that when the other day he, with admirably characteristic candour, stated in response to a media question how it might be a good thing if the Commonwealth Games failed to come off well, since such an eventuality might discourage the state and the busybodies from venturing further into hosting the next Asian or Olympic games, he was promptly dubbed an “anti-national” malcontent. The chorus of outrage promptly joined in by the super “nationalist” BJP.

Thus be it in the matter of racial/religious preference (Hindutva), or in the matter of investment paradigms (even if in sports), the “nationalist” idea remains all-powerful, shaming the dissenters into obloquy.

The point being how dare anyone harbour a view of “nationalism” that contradicts that of the state as by law established and as by the corporates run.

A public school (read private school)—Bethany or something—has just sent a circular to parents, warning them of how the governments’ new policy directive that such schools must henceforth admit atleast a 25% of children from under-privileged sections of society from class 1 onward ,free of charge, threatens to expose their children to the criminalized and vulgar world of the have-nots. The circular drew approval from some parents I heard on a TV debate.

Proof, if proof was needed that in India the bulk of Indians do not quite yet find acceptance as legitimate inheritors of the nationalist ideal. Roughly some 77% Indians who are taught to know their place regardless of the progressive impulses that the government might harbour now and again.

Remarkably, whereas India has laws that render discrimination on grounds of race, caste, gender, or faith criminal offences, there are no laws that make such blatanly class-based discrimination and calumny as perpetrated by the school circular an offence of any kind. Whereby hangs the tale.

“Culture” and “Development” thus are conjoint handmaidens, ordained to cater to a 20% or so minority of Indians who self-evidently constitute the nation and prescribe the true meaning of “nationalism.”

And yet, so long as there are those who are now unraveling the house of horrors in Gujarat, and a Mani Shankar Aiyar who can fearlessly heap contempt on the self-appointed custodians of “development” all may not be lost.

Many years ago in 1859 John Stuart Mill had spoken in his celebrated essay “On Liberty” of the dangers of the “tyranny of the majority.” Many years ago also, John Ruskin had envisaged a model of development based on village communities, cottage industry, and so on in a book like Unto This Last.

We recall that if Nehru was much taken with the first, Gandhi was to model his own economic paradigms on Ruskin.

We say then to our presiding Party structures, leave room for truth tellers like Mani Shankar Aiyar who have the integrity and the courage to critique your favoured schemes, and refrain from taking recourse to the tyranny of the majority to sideline them (as we write, any number of whistleblowers have been murdered for exposing wrongful shenanigans through their Right to Information), and recall Ruskin-Gandhi before you set upon such well-wishers of “we the people” ( in whose name you framed the Constitution of India) for rubbishing your Commonwealth Games idea.

Just as we say to the cultural fascists, have a thought to the Constitution and the rule of law upon which you take your oath as parliamentarians and ministers, and have the character to admit to gruesome atrocities of the kind that your own have perpetrated in Gujarat—or the propriety to say that you will not obstruct the course of justice through vigilante hooliganism, brazen denial and filibustering , or smashing media houses who report on your misdeeds, and will abide by the results of court decisions when they come.

And to both we say it is time that you learnt to include and rub shoulders with, not as tactics and gimmickry but as conviction, some 80% “other” Indians, be it as cultural entities or economic have-nots, in your definition of nation and nationalism. Or the time is not far when they will make you do so.


Badri Raina

1 comment:

വര്‍ക്കേഴ്സ് ഫോറം said...

Thus if the redoubtable RSS is now under the scanner in relation to the many acts of terror committed by Hindutva terrorists, this can only be seen as yet another instance of a conspiracy to malign the pre-eminent “nationalist” organization of Bharat.

Declare yourself a “patriot,” then berate the enemies of the nation.