Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam’s year-end musings on the state of the republic and what could be done for a better life as Indians in months and years ahead.
In the final hours of the year, when the fog deepens and the cold begins biting hard, the mood gets grim and it is easier for dark thoughts to assail the mind. In these last hours of 2010, it’s easy to get despondent about our situation as a nation, whose great promise as a future super power is in constant and immediate danger of being frittered away by the elite.
I don’t want to spoil anybody’s mood in these twilight hours of the dying year with a long list of what has gone wrong with our society and our nation. Nobody likes to be a perpetual grumbler, a constant complainer. Nor do I. But, look at the way we have messed our lives, wasted our opportunities. I wonder whether even after 63 years of Independence “we” really means “We, the People of India” at all, instead of “we, the such and such caste”, “we, the such and such religion”, “we, the Maharashtrians”, “we, the Punjabis”, “we, the Manipuris”, “we, the Bodos” etc.
And how many financial swindles did we have in the past few years involving how many lakhs of crores of rupees? Do we have any count? How many politicians and big official were jailed? How many Sangh leaders went to jail for killing thousands of Muslims and Christians? How many Congressmen have been punished for the murder of 2,000 Sikhs in 1984? None. And what happened to the perpetrators of Gujarat 2002?
And, do we ever stop to think that as a few individuals of our elite loot thousands of crores of rupees of public money at one go, more than half our people (depending on which set of statistics you prefer, it varies from one-third to three-fourth) earn less than 20 rupees a day? Can they ever imagine in their wildest of dreams that it is possible for certain Indians to loot one lakh crore of rupees at one go? Can they even imagine such a large sum exists?
The rot has gone too deep into our public life. Has anybody kept count of how many IPS officers are cooling their heels behind bars for cheating and murder? And what happened to the great “steel frame” of India that had supposedly kept the diverse country bound together, the Indian Administrative Service, the successor of the illustrious Indian Civil Service? More plainly, how many of our IAS officers have been sent to jail for crimes of different types?
And, how many democracies in the world are there whose Parliament, while in session, witnesses their members paying and receiving huge sums of money right on camera? And how many countries watch their legislators paying and receiving bribe on their TV sets? What does all this say about the health of our republic?
As if that was not betrayal enough, we are stabbed in the back by a sizeable section of the judiciary, which was supposed to be the guardian of our freedom. The rot has entered the judiciary – from the lower judiary to the highest. So, where do we go from here? Further downhill? Or, do we try to stop the decline and climb back? Let us be clear: there is no way for us except upwards, howsoever difficult it could be. And it calls for nothing less than another “struggle for freedom”.
The need for complete freedom was felt even at the time the country got its freedom from British rule. Mahatma Gandhi said at that time that political freedom from Britain was not complete freedom, and that the struggle had to continue. Real freedom means freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom from tyranny, freedom from institutionalised injustice. We have not got any of it.
When Jai Prakash Narain started the movement against Emergency Rule, he promised “Sampoorna Karanti” (total revolution). The idea was the same: that the country’ independence was not complete. The Janata Party experiment failed. That does not mean the idea of total revolution had failed, but the political leadership that took responsibility for it was not true to itself.
That idea is worth preserving. In his short tenure as prime minister, IK Gujral, too, reiterated the need for it. However, it did not take off as he did not go beyond lip service.
Let us pledge, at this moment when we are about to enter a new year, to think seriously over it and come up with actionable ideas to arrest the decline and struggle to gain our rightful place under the sun as a nation. Also, do let us know how we can join forces to usher in a fresh “movement for independence” from the sorry state of affairs, in which we find ourselves today.
Remember Faiz, who wrote in the “Dawn of Freedom” that the country’s independence was flawed. So, “Let us keep marching; we have not reached our destination”.
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