India Today

Tricolour–Black, Red and Scarlet

Sisir K Majumdar

In today's India, the Shudras are known as Backward Classes, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. They are primarily rural, deprived, underprivileged and the have-nots. Literacy has not reached them yet. India now reserves 49.5% of government jobs for the Shudras, but this alone is not enough. In a free market economy, they are marginalised. India's 20% urban population, mainly non-Shudras, are enjoying the fruits of a free market or liberalised economy. Consumerism is now their creed. This scenario is sinful and sordid. India urgently needs a fully egalitarian social order. Otherwise, India will sink deeper and deeper into a quagmire of caste rivalry. Ideological education of the masses is the only way out. Correct ideology for socio-economic emancipation can only eradicate the cancer of casteism and classism. They are the two sides of the same coin.

Deprivation has reached a limit where social explosion is inevitable. Women comprise 50% of the population; dowary death is a black spot in contemp6rary Indian society; they should no longer be oppressed or denied basic human rights.

"India has finally made it as one of the most corrupt nations on earth... The Indian National Congress in politically independent India after 1947 is synonymous with corruption and nepotism. It propped dirty political dynasties, encouraged delinquent and half-educated siblings of the dynasty to plunder the country. Their cronies only competed successfully in race of corruption. The current scenario is well known. Eminent legal luminary, Nani Palkhivala, rightly said: "The tricolour fluttering all over the country is black, red and scarlet—black money, red tape and scarlet corruption."

Enough is enough. There must be an end to it. It is up to the people of India to put things right. Nobody else can do it for them.

Slavery is still rampant in India today. It was a prominent feature in the Athenian democracy in the Antiquity (400-500 BC). There were 60-80,000 slaves in the city state of Athens out of a population of 200-300,000 when Plato (427-347 BC) was born in an aristocratic family of the city (Plato : The Republic, Penguin Classics, London, 1988).

Even Aristotle's (384-322 BC) views on slavery is condemned in a modern egalitarian society. Aristotle justified slavery in a dubious way (Aristotle: The Politics, Penguin Classics, London, 1988). In India today, slavery, in some form or other, is still a curse. "Ours is a nation which is still three-quarters slave and only one-quarter free." (Asok Mitra: "Confronting Leviathan", Frontier, Auturn Number, 1997 (Oct 4-25), Vol.30, p.7). It's a serious matter for all Indians to ponder and to take note. It must not continue. So far, no further. The famous words of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) on the eve of the American Civil War is worth recalling: "A nation cannot endure half-free and half-slave."

To expect unity in all aspects of life and activity is an illusion—a dream never to be realised. Mutual tolerance, respect and understanding towards each other as equal citizens of India, irrespective of caste, class, language, culture, colour or religion, should be the guiding principle of the nation.

There are 15 recognised languages in India today (Eighth Schedule, Articles 344(1) and 351—Twenty-first Consti-tutional Amendment Act, 1967) and several hundred dialects. English is the link language. It is the language of communi-cation at the official level. Around 10% or more of the population can communicate in English. It is also" India’s lingual window to the rest of the world.

No language should be imposed on anybody against his or her will. Lots of people learn other languages for their own convenience. Forced imposition always alienates people, even willing people. It has happened in the past. In the annual session of the Muslim League held in Madras in 1941, "Periyar" E V Ramaswami Naicker, leader of the Dravidstan Justice Party, who was camp-aigning against the imposition of north Indian culture and the Hindi language on the unwilling south India, sat on the platform along with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the so-called father of moth-eaten Pakistan. The union of the Muslim League and the Justice Party of the day was a political marriage of convenience. (Patrick French : "Liberty or Death—India's Journey to Independence and Division". Harper-Collins Publishers, London, 1997, p. 134). History must not repeat itself. Devolution of power to grassroots level or to regions does not mean divorce. Diversity does not mean disintegration. It means rational adjustment and compromise of willing partners in a creative mosaic of mutual understanding and respect. With centuries of creative and enlightened civilization behind it, India always did it successfully. It is doing it now. It will do it in future. Pluralism in India symbolizes its intrinsic strength. Strengths from sections of different people converge into a confluence of national strength and solidarity.

The diversity of language is a very sensitive issue. Jinnah himself did the blunder. The imposition of Urdu as the state language on the unwilling Bengali-speaking Muslims of East Pakistan triggered the process of disintegration of Pakistan, complemented, of course, with other factors like economic exploitation, etc. The population of East Pakistan was linguistically homogeneous, unlike the provinces of West Pakistan, and constituted 56% of the total population of Pakistan; even in West Pakistan fewer people speak Urdu in comparison to the majority Sindhi and Punjabi-speaking people. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, on his first and last visit to East Pakistan as first Governor-General of Pakistan, in March, 1948, declaimed in a mammoth meeting held at Paltan Maidan, Dacca (Dhaka):

"But let me make it very clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language." (Patrick French—ibid p.420.)

Seven months after that he was dead. He did not live long enough to witness himself the disintegration of his dream-land.

Even at that time, at the height of popularity, though volatile, there were shouts against this infamous and suicidal declaration. It started the digging of the grave for his artificial—"Two Nation Theory". It took only 24 years (1947-1971) to bury the theory for ever in the dustbin of history. Present Bangladesh was born out of the ugly womb of Islamic Pakistan. The secession was brutal and bloody.

This must not happen in India. People must accept, in their heart of hearts, the diversity of linguistic and cultural make-up. It's a strength and not a weakness.

India is, perhaps, one of the few democracies which started with universal adult franchise at its very inception. In the Athenian democracy in antiquity, only property-owning male aristocracy had voting power; women and slaves did not have it. In France, after the glorious French Revolution of 1789, women did not have a voting right. Even in Great Britain, the mother of parliamentary democracy, women got the voting right only in 1928. Contrary to the beliefs of many Western political analysts, including helmsmen of the colonial British Raj, illiteracy, poverty, cultural and linguistic diversity in India could not prevent the development of a successful secular democracy, though bourgeois in its actual nature. Emergency in June, 1975, is a black spot in history. But democratic India asserted itself with ingrained wisdom at the polls, trouncing the villain in March, 1977, removing the opportunists in 1979 and finally burying the corrupt Congress in the 11th General Election in June, 1996.

The central message of several centuries-old unbroken civilisation is accommodation of diversity and dissent. This has enabled 120 million Muslims, the orphans of Jinnah's now defunct "Two-Nation Theory", to enjoy equal citizenship in a Hindu majority country. The scenario in Pakistan, the cursed child of the "Two-Nation Theory", offers a melancholy contrast. Intra-communual blood-bath between Shia and Sunni Muslims, between Sunni Sindhis and Sunni Mohajir (migrants from India after the 1947 partition of India) Muslims, and excommunication of Ahmediya Muslims have crippled Pakistan irreversibly. Oppression and deprivation of basic human rights for non-Muslims of Pakistan have made it an uncivilised medieval landmass—not a real democratic country in the true sense of the term. Democracy is fragile, suffocated and unpredictable. Military dictatorship always lurked most times in front and sometimes in the background, as at present. Whether one likes it or not India is at least partially immune from those vices.

The 5-C's—Casteism, Corruption, Cronyism, Coercion and Criminalisation of politics are the cancers in the body-politic of India today. Their total eradication is vital for survival as a nation. Casteism can be won over only by a positive socio-economic ideology aimed at removing exploitation of man by man—economic, religious, cultural, linguistic and political, and not by the pseudo-religious dogma of "Ramrajya" and Reservation. The expanding gap between the haves and the have-nots in booh rural and urban India needs to be narrowed quickly and to be totally eliminated. Marginali-sation of the vast section of the society will lead to social and political chaos. Positive social reform is the need of the hour. India is far, far away from a minimally acceptable, humanly civilised ideal society. Cradle to grave social welfare is the hallmark of a modern ideal society. Equi-distribution of natural wealth, equal rights of every citizen with equal responsibilities and commitment to society are the means to create an ideal society. It is true that it has never existed in human history. But that does not mean that in the process of all-round evolution, it cannot be achieved.

Vol. 46, No. 47, Jun 1 - 7, 2014