Tragedy and conciliation

Tragedy and conciliation: Kashmir is a symptom, not the disease. The disease is the mistrust between the two nations.

There was a genuine pain in India over the mindless killing of schoolchildren at Peshawar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked all Indian schoolchildren to maintain  two-minute silence in memory of the lives lost in Pakistan.

He readily offered any assistance that India could render to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Such gestures transcend borders. I wish this atmosphere could sustain between the two countries.

Unfortunately, the civil society in India and Pakistan don’t feel concerned over their youth nourishing enmity towards each other. They, including those from Bangladesh, are the best of friends outside the shores of the subcontinent. But, in their own country, they are always in the midst of schemes to hit the other hard without realising that hostilities may become inevitable.

The Pakistanis often say that once the Kashmir problem is solved both sides will live as friends. I have my doubts. Kashmir, according to me, is a symptom, not the disease. The disease is their mistrust in each other. Even by some miracle if the Kashmir issue is solved, some other problem will crop up because of the suspicion.

The Indians and the Pakistanis are carrying their enmity to everywhere they come into contact. It is sad that even cultural events suffer from the same thinking. The qawwals from Pakistan could not sing at the Delhi Press Club, supposed to be liberal. On the other hand, India was ridiculed with obscene gestures by the Pakistani players after being defeated in a hockey match.

Visiting Pakistani MPs did not meeting the Lok Sabha Speaker, although the Indian MP who arranged the meeting with the Speaker did not check whether she was free at that time. The Indian MPs should have made amends in some other manner but there was no such effort even for the sake of courtesy. Such incidents indicate that even after 70 years of partition, the two countries have not settled down to normal courtesies, much less friendship. The future too does not look bright when enmity seems revealing the Hindu identity.

Yesterday it was Sanskrit, the language of Hindu scriptures. Today, it is conversion. The conversion of some Muslims has only downgraded India in the eyes of the world, particularly Pakistan. When the ‘converted’ say that they were coerced into and promised ration card or the BPL card that gives the poor the essentials at a subsided price, things seem to be murkier than one would imagine.

That fundamentalism is spreading in Pakistan does not surprise me. A state having such blasphemous laws as can kill a liberal Punjab governor with no action against the murderers is lengthening the shadows. It is unfortunate but when even the liberal voices are mute because of consequences, the fanatics are bound to grow in number and in impudence.

The real point of worry is what is happening to India. The country represents a democratic, secular polity and it is respected for this all over the world. Unfortunately, New Delhi has rapidly become a goalpost of Hindutva, to the disappointment of the world and to the horror of minorities.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s lament,  without any serious challenge, that the Hindu raj has returned to India after 800 years is bound to question our secular credentials. I am not surprised that the BJP has enroled four lakh members in Delhi itself. The Congress which can stall the tide is too embroiled in dynastic politics.

But in the past, the party’s ideology of egalitarianism and pluralism was very much in the forefront; whether it was Jawaharlal Nehru who groomed Indira Gandhi and she, in turn, Rajiv Gandhi. But today even Congress president Sonia Gandhi is seen as the right of the centre, not even the centre.

India’s politics is too engrossed in personalities. Today, it is Narendra Modi but not what he stands for. Development is too vague to mean any direction. India should have taken the initiative to develop the region on the whole. But when the ideology is sought to be based on parochialism, it is neither pervasive nor egalitarian in content. The common man feels as much isolated and marginalised as he has been all these years since independence.

The ruling party may have changed at the Centre but the political culture has not. We continue to be feudal in our outlook. This trait transcends other considerations. It does not go well with the democratic temperament. But it is there and has not undergone any perceptible change in the past. Those who come to power become dictators in action. Even when they profess that power is with the people, they are using it figuratively and not realistically because they, a very few, serve the country.

Modi has, in the process, buried Nehru’s idea of non-alignment deep. True, the movement has lost its raison d’être – the confrontation between the Communists and the democratic bloc. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the Communists lost the cold war.

Still the movement had come to represent an idea that small nations should not fear the big ones because of their size or power. Modi is a product of the capitalist world. He has neither the pull of the Nehru era of socialism, nor that of Mahatama Gandhi’s self-sufficiency. Modi wants the country to develop, whatever be the means and however big the economy may create a distance between haves and the have-nots.

Before finishing the article, I must tell something which disappointed me. I mean President Pranab Mukherjee’s book. It was indiscreet on his part to release a book on the Emergency period. He knows that the office he occupies should not be exposed to political criticism. Still, the President has taken advantage of his position to have the spotlight on the book to justify what he did during the Emergency.

President Mukherjee was an integral part of the dictatorial rule at that time. He was the right hand man of Sanjay Gandhi, an extra-constitutional authority, who almost took the country to dictatorship. That Mukherjee, supposed to be liberal, went along will always be questioned, despite all the chest-beating he may do at this time.

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