Beyond discontent, the spring of hope


The declaration made on the banks of Ravi on January 26, 1929, symbolised our national will to be independent and sovereign. Sixty years ago, on this day, we proclaimed ourselves to be a Republic and gave unto ourselves a Constitution, enshrining the ideals of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. The remembrance of such a day should be more than an annual ritual. It is the day one should feel proud of being an Indian, proud of having been a part of that concourse of humanity that forced the alien ruler out!

The reality, grim and grinding, beckons the Republic to a desperate prospect on its 60th anniversary. There is distress all over the country. Hunger stalks the land; millions are unlettered and jobless. We have denied two square meals a day for the majority of our people. The enormity of the dehumanisation of the Republic is beyond words.

The economic hardships alone do not account for the mounting discontent. Much more is involved in the present complex situation. Deep-rooted fatalism, dumb acceptance of misery, a raging sea of poverty, and a few islands of vulgar luxury, inhabited by a few who behave as if nothing has happened. This is India today. And this should disturb every sensitive Indian. The situation is far more serious, the prospect grimmer. Sixty years of the Republic have widened the gulf between the rich and the poor and helped create a meaner, more selfish and more dangerously tense society —the crushing poverty and misery. Today our society is disfigured by gross unfairness, which, without constant correction, feeds strongly upon itself.

Cancer

The cancers that have grown in the vitals of India are so horrendous that whole limbs may decay and die before some sort of curative effort succeeds in the rest of the system. Corruption has become so entrenched that responsible national leaders justify it as a fact of global life. Parliament has become a shadow of what it used to be. Politics presided over the liquidation of the systems and values that nurtured this nation through its early years. Men of vision, integrity and merit were at the helm in those years. A different set of qualifications has now become necessary to attain and then retain office.

The welter of crashing values, the miasma of poverty, the insensate outburst of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, regionalism and casteism. It is chaotic. One is also shocked at the sight of brute force trampling upon the underprivileged, while the elite enjoy all the inevitable accompaniments of permissive morality, addiction to vicarious violence, erotic and narcotic fantasies.

But, in an atmosphere surcharged with cynicism on the one hand and despair on the other, we would do well to remind ourselves that our present predicament is not unique. There was a time when many Indians sold their souls to foreign overlords and many among us despaired of ever liberating the country from the grip of foreign rule and from the corruption it bred. Yet, our leaders were able to dispel the gloom when it was at its darkest and to show the way not only to freedom from foreign rule, but also from the vice that polluted public life.

Caught in the immediacy of the present we may be agonising over these maladies. There is still hope. If the past is any pointer to the future, there is indeed hope. As tyrants took over one banana republic after another, India kept the flag of liberty flying. Democratic traditions have struck roots even among the unlettered. The institutions of democratic governance, despite oft-voiced fears of erosion, have survived and gained in strength. The so-called fall in parliament’s debating standards could also reflect a pleasant reality.

If past is any pointer to the future, there is indeed hope. There is resilience in our people, which no combination of adversities can kill. Our ideals and principles might appear to be in eclipse. But, eclipses are short-lived.

Like many other patriotic Indians, “I live today in the hope that a Saviour is coming, that he will be born in our midst in this poverty-shamed hovel which is India. I shall wait to hear the message he brings with him, the supreme word of promise he speaks unto man from this eastern horizon to give faith and strength to all who hear. I look back on the stretch of past years and see the crumbling ruins of a proud civilisation lying heaped as garbage out of history! And yet I shall not commit the grievous sin of losing faith in Man, accepting his present defeat as final. I shall look forward to a turning in history after the cataclysm is over.” (Tagore — ‘Crisis in Civilisations’)

Beyond the winter of our discontent there must be the Spring of Hope!

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