India after 63 years of independence

By Maryam Yasmin

It has been sixty three years since our motherland broke the shackles and unfettered her from colonial presence. These sixty three years have not been easy. Every day, every year has been a story of relentless hard work and perseverance of each and every Indian trying to carve out a niche for their motherland in the international platform.

The country has undergone many changes, developments and constitutional amendments.

No doubt there have been many accomplishments and achievements in last sixty three years. But now as we enter sixty four years of independence, there are many issues that need to be addressed before we point out our accomplishments.

And the immediate one that our government should address is Kashmir. According to official data over 55 Kashmiris – including children and teenagers — have died from police action in a span of 64 days of violent clashes between security forces and people across the Valley. And suddenly all news channels and newspaper’s time and space are dominated by news from Kashmir.

Kashmir is an extreme example, but the country is wounded by a thousand cuts from ongoing social strife.

India’s north-east has seen more violence in the last 50 years than any other part of the country. Yet the outside world knows virtually nothing about the crisis there.

More than half of all Indians killed in political violence in the 1980s and 1990s died in the north-east.

Seven states (also known as the Seven Sisters) constitute the Indian north-east: Assam (the largest and most important), Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Together, they cover a total of 255,000 square kilometres, with a combined population of over 30 million. It is home to over 200 tribal groups and sub-groups. There is little industry in the north-east, and agriculture is backward.

Although the north-east has substantial reserves of oil, natural gas, limestone-dolomite and coal, political violence means that much of these resources go unexploited. The oldest insurgency is in Nagaland. The main Naga militant group, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isaak–Muivah), claims a territory six times the size of present-day Nagaland, including most of Manipur, as well as parts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Burma.

Assamese nationalism emerged in the late 1970s as a protest against immigration from West Bengal and the influx of ‘foreigners’ from Bangladesh. The most prominent Assamese insurgent group is the secessionist United Liberation Front for Asom (ULFA). While the ULFA has lost some of its mass appeal, it is still a major source of violence and instability.

The local population is trapped between a repressive government and intolerant militants, against the backdrop of a shambolic democratic process. Delhi-appointed governors in the north-east play a dominant and meddlesome role in local political life, much to the irritation of local leaders.

New Delhi views the insurgencies in the north-east not as expressions of local discontent but as part of wider efforts at destabilization by China and Pakistan. And not to forget, that the issues of North East have been completely ignored by our popular news channels and newspapers.

And not to forget the country's worst industrial disaster which saw a cloud of deadly gases explode out of a faulty tank in a pesticide factory and silently spread into the homes of people. Over 20,000 people were killed within days, and the horrific effects of the gas continue to this day.

And twenty-five years have passed since this disaster but no justice has been given to it The Bhopal gas tragedy verdict has taken almost 26 years to come, but has justice been done? We bring you the latest on the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict that has sparked nationwide anger.

The compensation that was promised to the victims hasn’t been given till now. There have been no efforts in fixing the accountability of the disaster to Union Carbide and to make them pay for the destruction caused. Adequate measures to address the long term impacts of the gas leak, including cleaning up the site, remediation of the factory, regular supply of safe water and economic rehabilitation, haven’t been done till now.

The ministerial panel on the Bhopal tragedy has recommended that the government set aside Rs. 1500 crores as relief package to the victims of the tragedy. However this will be paid from the Indian taxpayers’ money and not from Dow Chemicals, who at present owns Union Carbide. Systematic failure of the Indian administration to hold Union Carbide accountable for the disaster is again on view here. In a mad chase for bringing more and more foreign companies to India, it seems the government is giving little consideration to the safety of the common man and to his basic human rights.

The US government and the Obama administration have some answering to do on their double standards on dealing with environmental disasters. While Obama speaks about keeping his “boot on the throat” of BP for the oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico, he remains silent on Warren Anderson, who is the prime accused of the Bhopal tragedy. When it is understandable for the US administration to shield one of their citizens, what is a matter of disgrace is the inability and palpable indifference of various Indian governments to pursue Anderson.

The inadequate judicial verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy shows that there is a lot of discrepancy in our judicial system when it comes to giving justice to the victims of industrial disasters.

We already had problems of poverty, lack of education, construction of roads, implementation of policies at ground levels and other developmental issues but issues of Kashmir, North East, separatism and on top of all inflation that affects common masses like anything.  g

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