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Numbering lives

Patriotism is not proved by singing the National Anthem or flying the tri-colour on one?s home, but by concern for one?s fellow Indians, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2006 17:10 IST

There must be times when you get seriously worried over the state of affairs in our country and think, if you could help in changing them for the better, what would you do? I think it is the duty of every citizen to ponder over questions like why we remain among the poorest of the poor countries of the world; why is corruption and violence rampant in our country; why countries like China are doing better than us?

My reading of the situation is simple. The vast majority of us cannot afford to eat two square meals a day because we are too many and our resources are limited. We continue to increase at an alarming rate while our landmass remains the same. Despite use of fertilizers, good seeds, pesticides and modern methods of farming, our agricultural produce will soon reach a plateau stage. Except for the affluent minority, the rest cannot afford to send their children to schools and colleges; so most remain illiterate. Because we are too many, we quarrel among ourselves and have communal riots. Does this not lead to the conclusion that our top priority should be to check the reckless rate at which we breed? Two children at the most and no more. Being a democracy we have to pass laws that on the birth of the second child both parents must be sterilised irrespective of whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Sikhs. Those who speak against it shall be ostracised from society, and if necessary, put behind bars.

However, there are eminent Indians who disagree with my simplistic diagnosis. There is Shri Sudarshan, head of the RSS, who exhorts Hindu women to produce a dozen children each in order to keep well ahead of the increase of the Muslim population. And now we have a Patriotic Front comprising retired judges, IAS, IPS officers and well-educated people. I was astonished to read their manifesto. Their approach to the population problem was much the same as that of the RSS leader: Hindus must breed more otherwise Muslims will outnumber them and take over the country. Indian culture, which they regard as entirely Hindu, will be lost forever. The Patriotic Front provides census figures to drive their points home. What it does not tell us is that the poor and illiterate, whether they be Muslims, Hindus, Christians or Sikhs breed more than the better off and educated because they know no better. There is not the slightest proof that impoverished Muslims’ birth rate is higher than others because of the religion they follow. They tell us that in states like Assam the population of Muslims has gone up significantly, but do not tell us that this is mainly due to the illegal influx of Bangladeshis, all Muslims. Or that in Haryana, the Muslim population has risen without indicating that it is confined to Mewat populated by poor and unlettered Muslim peasantry. The truth of the matter is that it is economic backwardness and ignorance that is the cause of reckless breeding and not religion. They should also bear in mind that Islam is winning over converts from other faiths at a faster pace than Hinduism, Christianity or Sikhism.

Patriotism is not proved by singing the National Anthem or flying the tri-colour on one’s home, but by concern for one’s fellow Indians. If you start with deep-set prejudices against fellow-countrymen, who happen to be Muslims, you have no right to claim to be patriotic.

Natwar’s dramatic monologue

With a shaking head and quivering lips Natwar Singh yelled
“I will not bend
Come what may, I will not yield
I will fight to the bitterest end.
My son and I are both blotless
What though for Andaleeb
I did a bit
Manmohan Singh is a weak Prime Minister
For he didn’t give me a clean chit.
I wonder why Sonia Gandhi
Whom in high esteem, I hold
First deprived me of my cosy chair
And then drove me out of my ancient fold.
Pathak report has exposed my false assertions
It has shorn me of my sheen
Still I proclaim from the house-top
Ram Kasam I am clean.”

(By GC Bhandari, Meerut)

Thoughts of dying

The unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough; it takes up a lot of your time. What do you get in the end of it? A death. I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first: start out dead; get it out of the way. You wake up in an old age home, feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being healthy; go collect your pension. Then, when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day. You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You drink alcohol, you enjoy parties; you’re generally promiscuous. (Hey, you’ve only got a few years left, what’s the big deal?) And you get ready for High School. Then you go to primary school, you become a kid, you play; you have no responsibilities. And, finally, you become a baby. The last step, you spend your last nine months floating peacefully with luxuries like central heating, spa, room service on tap, larger quarters everyday and then... you finish off as an orgasm!

(By Amir C Tuteja, Washington)