The lady who helps me at home and my driver are both Bengali. He’s gone back to settle a family crisis (relatives who ran away from Nandigram and descended on his parents). She had to go home recently to sweet-talk the village Commies into not grabbing her land. So much for grassroot party ethics. How are these guys different from Congress-BJP local dadas? “Ideology”? Oh, pooh. Meanwhile, as men and matters get uglier in Gujarat, as Delhi crumbles hopelessly into gridlock, as bad news deluges us daily from every Indian corner, what you feel in the last month of the sixtieth year of Independence is disgust.
Shouldn’t we re-assess our worldview and act accordingly? Development may not get a party or a person votes in the short run, but is there another way to survive at all as a country? And how come we, the people, don’t value development enough to vote for the guy who delivered bijli-pani-sadak, schools and hospitals, or promotes peace and quality? Not just to us but where there’s nothing? We have learnt nothing, we remain stupid if we let religion or caste be reasons for voting anybody in. Zarathushtra said, “In the end, the hands that work are better than the hands that pray.”
Something that’s stayed with me is what a sanitary worker in Mumbai told dalit writer Gopal Guru back in 2000. He said, “Our job is as important as that of the soldiers fighting on the borders. In both cases it is a question of protection. In the first case, it is the protection of the country and in the second case it is the protection of civil society. We fight to maintain the health of society by maintaining its hygiene.”
But isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be doing in various ways? Instead, we make a mess and think someone else will clean up behind us, while we escape unscathed. Do we believe we’re each the King of France, Louis the 15th (1710-1774), who is supposed to have famously said, “Après moi le déluge” (After me, the deluge). And what was that? The French Revolution that drank gallons of blood.
It’s waiting to happen in India and locking our building or colony gates or installing the latest burglar alarm won’t stop it. The forces of law and order never show up in time or else are held back. If it can happen to fellow-Indians who were Sikh or Muslim in the plains or Hindu in Kashmir, it could happen to any of us tomorrow if it’s the poor against the ‘rich’, either pereceived or really rich. Neither police nor army will appear magically to save us from sudden mob fury if someone orchestrates it, if it’s an all-out people’s rebellion.
The state will win eventually but will we be alive until they ‘win’? More than a 150 of our six hundred districts are already in a state of civil war because of the Naxalites, whose influence grows every day. Why won’t it, when the privileged and the powerful, the affluent and the advantaged, don’t engage or have not engaged enough yet to matter?
So back to what we can do. As if we don’t know already: responsible citizenship, civil behaviour, paying for somebody’s schooling, not flashing wealth, wise voting. But we start, don’t you think, by cleaning our heads of delusions for the sake of civil society, to protect our country? The five percent of India that’s made good simply cannot shine on if there is civil war across the land. It will not be allowed to live. Its homes and workplaces will be invaded, like the Sikhs of New Delhi were invaded, like the the Muslims of Gujarat were invaded, like Kashmiri Hindus were evicted by their own people, like everything that’s happening in the North-east.
It’s all interconnected. Scripture says so and ‘reality’ proves it. It will catch up with ‘us’ very soon. If the good does not get in there first in critical, transformative mass, the aggrieved will rise up and burn everything in sight. Indeed, how easily we forget our own history.
We privileged, ‘successful’ Indians are like neo-colonials in our own land. We’re poised in the 150th anniversary of 1857 on the brink of another Rising for not equipping the rest to earn a piece of the pie like we did. This time, it won’t be us against them. It will be the Revolution.