Monday, June 21, 2010

India erupts

For some years now, I have been concerned about the situation in India, and the possibility of the eruption of blind, destructive violence against the system and all its vested interests.

We have Maoist insurgency in various parts of the country, which the prime minister of India had described as independent India's most serious security threat. But the Maoist insurgency had not yet been expressed in destructive violence against the system at large. The so-called Jehadi violence in India has been of the latter character. Maoist violence had not yet become like Jihadi violence. Maoist action had also become enmeshed in mafia operations, the latter being a general feature of India.

But some recent incidents have thrown up the question of whether Maoist insurgency has now turned into blind violence. A passenger train was derailed in West Bengal, allegedly by the Maoists, and a goods train came and rammed the derailed train coaches, resulting in a massive loss of life. In another incident, an entire bus was blown up in Chhattisgarh, because some of the passengers were security personnel. Here too, a large number of civilians died. Hence, I have been preoccupied with this question, of whether the violence of poverty, disparity and exclusion is finally going to cause a volcanic eruption of destructive violence against everything.

From what I see around me, living in Calcutta, it seems we are living under the shadow of looming violence. A civil war, where the have-nots finally turn against the haves. Once something like that erupts, we are in for successive rounds of ever more ferocious blood-letting. No good will come of all that, and India's future as a pluralist democracy would be under severe risk. Life in India would become like what life is like now for people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But the question is, can the necessary changes that must take place in India, which have NOT taken place in the 63 years since India's independence - can such change happen, before the destructive violence erupts? Things like education, healthcare, housing, drinking water, sanitation, public transport. Equal opportunity for all irrespective of their socio-economic circumstances.

I do not see that on the horizon, quite the reverse actually. Neither the govt, nor the private business sector has any such inclusive vision. The civil society is weak and fractured, and divided by caste and religion. It has no influence in public policy. I do not see the possibility of civil disobedience, of a non-violent uprising by the country's educated section, the middle-class and the intelligentsia, to compell the state to act in favour of the poor and marginalised, and to put in place in the system the means for a basic level of equity.

Those of us who have a vision of a more equitable and truly democratic India, and know that only a non-violent social revolution can realise that, and that this means an inner awakening in every individual - we shall do and keep doing whatever we can towards that goal, whatever the odds. We have no other alternative, in the sense that this is the only thing we are able to do. Like ants.

Rahul has written a fitting "song of the ant".

1 comment:

Rahul Banerjee said...

One has to grapple with the dichotomy between the state and the community to find a solution to the present crisis of humanity. The community allows more interpersonal relationships but at the same time there may be intense exploitation. The state brings in the impersonality required for justice in many cases but because of its vastness it too becomes unjust in many ways. Today we cannot just go back to purely communitarian systems of living. The challenge is to incorporate the good of both while rejecting the bad of both in a new hybrid system.