From Raj to Swaraj to Suraaj
As the date for India’s tryst with destiny (that has remained unfulfilled from that fateful day in 1947) draws closer, the voices of the status-quoists are getting shriller and shriller, prophetically promising doom and destruction if the BJP wins the general elections in 2019 and Narendra Modi again becomes the Prime Minister. There is a whole phalanx of these political past-masters in deceit, religious pontiffs, public-school-educated historians and columnists, leftist jholawalas surviving on government grants and Break-India NGOs, Media Moguls and their chosen editors and TV anchors who have mortgaged their souls to Mammon, and a whole battalion of bloggers, whose sole aim is to put the fear of imminent disaster in the minds of the people should such a catastrophe(?) come about.
When the departing British Raj handed over the reins of government to Nehru and the Congress party, the mood within the country was full of buoyancy and optimism, notwithstanding the trauma of partition. But Nehru, who had grown up in privilege and pelf, was not up to the task to ensure that each and every citizen of India would transit from Raj to Swaraj that had been so wonderfully articulated by Tilak when he said, “Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it.” The first casualty of Nehru’s wishy-washy utopianism was Kashmir that went up in flames almost immediately after that historic speech at the Red Fort. Nehru’s effete response and disconnect from realpolitik led him to an equally effete organization, the United Nations, to resolve the crisis.
Kashmir continues to burn 70 years after independence and the waters of the melting Himalayan glaciers every spring, instead of dousing the flames, bring in their wake, hordes of armed terrorists to spread mayhem within the valley. Almost 30 years after the forced expulsion of the Pandits from the valley, a generation of Kashmiri Muslims there has grown up in an exclusivist Islamic society, completely out of touch with the Pandits who had not only carried on the ancient Kashmiri Sanskriti in the face of multiple attempts to destroy it, but also kept enriching it with their scholarship and administrative acumen.
Today, the young, mostly unemployed youth of the valley, identify themselves with these jihadi terrorists, abusing and provoking the security forces whenever some action against armed terrorists is under way. Some of them inevitably get caught in the conflict and pay for their folly with their lives. Political hyenas like the Abdullahs, the Muftis, and the cowards that constitute the Hurriyat, then go about beating their breasts, trying to alienate the civilian population even further away from good sense and well being. On 21st October 2018 an encounter took place in Kulgam between Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists and security forces. Three Jaish terrorists were sent to their maker. The civilians of the area tried to hinder the cleaning up operations and went poking into the debris of the building that was damaged in the encounter. An explosive device went off and seven of these “pokers” lost their lives. But this is what Omar Abdullah had to say about it:
“Alienating the people in the fight against militancy is a sure fire recipe for losing the fight. How long can we go on ignoring the ground realities and living in denial about how bad things are in Kashmir?”
Mehbooba Mufti, till recently the CM of J&K, went one step further in her exercise in deception, lying when she said that the civilians were caught in “crossfire.”
“Civilians again caught in the crossfire of violence, thus adding fuel to the already volatile situation.”
These leaders care a fig for the lives of others and while civilians poke in the debris of destroyed buildings, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti stir the debris of their lives to keep the fires of separatism and terrorism burning.
Not only did Nehru fail in Kashmir, but also his promise of Panchsheel, touted with great fanfare with Zhou En Lai was betrayed in 1962, when the Chinese army strolled into India, inflicting the most humiliating defeat on us. The Henderson Brookes report, leaked by an Australian journalist, Neville Maxwell, while damning Nehru’s favourites V.K. Krishna Menon and Lt. Gen. B. M. Kaul, is also a pointer to the corruption and incompetence that had been inherited by the country from the rulers of the Raj; the ICS that would later morph into the all-powerful IAS that would surpass its predecessor in both oppression and corruption. India had exchanged one set of brutal, colonial masters for another set of brutal, indigenous masters.
At the same time, Nehru’s strategy of putting military boots on the grounds of the North-East, suppressing the legitimate demands of the native Nagas, the Mizos, the Manipuris, and the other original inhabitants of this region, further fractured the Indian state and the fault lines kept getting wider and wider. Like Kashmir, the Northeast remained in conflict and a large part of the Indian security forces were made to engage in a meaningless war with their own people.
The first decisive answer to a conflict imposed upon the country came, not from Nehru, but from his successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, whose diminutive stature was misunderstood by the aggressive Ayub who launched a war against India in 1965. The reply this time was not wishy-washy, but swift and definite, and the Pakistani Army was roundly defeated. India was unfortunate to lose this Prime Minister so soon thereafter, and the conspiracy theories surrounding his death in Tashkent refuse to go away. Patwant Singh in his book, “The Second Partition” writes, “Dynamism is associated with energy and movement, not passive acceptance of every assault on the country’s self-esteem and pride.” Nehru was a passive acceptor and that has become the default position of the Congress party, from the time it became the private monopoly of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Indira Gandhi’s intervention in East Pakistan was an opportunistic movement, created by the mishandling of the Bengali question by Yahya and Bhutto, and cannot be compared to Shastri’s decisive response to Ayub’s aggression. Manmohan Singh, the accidental Prime Minister, continued this tradition of “passive acceptance” to the eternal sharm of the country.
The anti-Modi rhetoric that occupies space in the print and electronic media, traverses from the crude “chaiwala” comment of Mani Shankar Aiyer, an alumnus of St. Stephens College, via the sophisticated chant of another Stephenian, Ramchandra Guha’s “Fear of Fascism”, to the murderous final solution promised by a Congress Lok Sabha candidate who would “chop Narendra Modi into pieces.” Of the three, I found Imran Masood’s hostility to Modi quite honest and understandable, as he belongs to a community that has largely remained outside the mainstream and preferred its Islamic credo to the Constitution. Perhaps Rahul Gandhi believed that Masood would actually perform this act for him and, therefore, rewarded him with a Lok Sabha ticket from Saharanpur in 2014. As per the CD that went viral in social media, Masood was reported to have said: “I am a man of the street, ready to give my life for my people. I am neither afraid of death or of killing.” But long before Masood, the matriarch of the party had already set the tone for this rhetoric when she made the infamous “maut ka sudagar” comment in 2007 while canvassing in the Gujarat Assembly elections that practically obliterated the presence of her party from that state. Various Congressmen and their allies among the communists and communalists repeatedly express such pathological sentiments.
What makes Modi so untouchable to people like Ramchandra Guha? After all, the events of 2002 in Gujarat are not a unique episode in the history of post-colonial India that would bring instant revulsion into the minds of cultured men and women. Why don’t the events of 1983 in Nellie, followed by Delhi in 1984, Meerut in 1987, Kashmir valley in 1989, Mumbai in 1992, Muzaffarnagar in 2013, and countless other riots evoke a similar revulsion? How many political heads have rolled after these heinous and dastardly acts? Why is the spotlight so constantly focused on Modi? It is as if a policy of “hot pursuit” that should have been put in place against Pakistani terrorists has instead been implemented against Modi. There is no denying the riots of 2002 that took many lives, but why is there a single-minded focus on Modi, and why the other CMs are not called to share similar responsibility for the violence that happened under their watch? No public person in this country has been hounded so single-mindedly by the state, the judiciary, the media, and the so-called guardians of secularism, as Modi. The “Gujarat model” of development is still derided and questioned without any reference to the non-development in other states.
Does this hostility stem from the assiduous cultivation of the Indian mind by the introduction of Macaulay’s insidious policy of liquidating indigenous culture through the planned substitution of it by the alien culture of a colonizing power via the education system? Is it because Narendra Modi does not belong to that elite group of public-school products that have occupied privileged space in post-colonial India? Is he seen as an interloper who dares to challenge their monopoly on national discourse? Is his vocabulary not as sophisticated and erudite as that of the children of Lord Macaulay?
Modi’s has been a lonely furrow. He rarely expresses his incense at the constant abuse and venom that is spewed at him daily. His calm, detached exterior doesn’t betray the turbulence that could be taking place inside. Like a yogi he is unaffected by all the criticism, fair and unfair that is hurled at him. When he entered the Lok Sabha in 2014 he made a promise of Suraaj and form his first day in office he has been working towards this aim. When he unfurled the Indian Tricolour from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi on the 75th anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s declaration of “Azad Hind Government” he was also declaring that India may have moved from the British Raj to Swaraj, but real Suraaj had eluded the nation all these years. Nehru’s betrayal of the real architect of India’s freedom, Bose, is a closely guarded secret of the political history of the Congress. Bose’s Azad Hind Government had not only declared India’s independence with a new national flag, but also brought out its currency and postage stamps, that today are the envy of collectors. It was wonderful to see PM Modi paying the highest respect to the forgotten heroes of India’s Independence struggle by donning the Azad Hind Fauj cap, and saying, “Today I can definitely say that in the later decades of independent India, if the country had got the guidance of personalities like Subhas Babu, Sardar Patel, the conditions would vary greatly” (from those that the Nehru-Gandhi family rule had created over their decades of bad governance.)
India’s progress along the developmental plank and the economic emancipation of the miserably poor is unprecedented in the annals of modern history. The respect with which the World looks at us today is mainly due to Modi’s record in office. There is no leader of the World today that can command the same attention that Modi does. The gruelling schedule he has followed from Day 1 is unbelievable. He has not taken a single day’s holiday, working into the late hours day after day. Now that elections to the main Hindi-belt states have been announced, he will be expected by his party to address many election meetings across central India. There is no chance of rest for him, as the general elections will follow the state elections. His energy levels will be tested once more, as a punishing schedule will demand the highest physical and mental agility. Modi is not a shirker, and one can be sure that he will go through this rigorous routine with his usual equanimity.
Unfortunately, there are many who have failed to appreciate the superhuman efforts of this man. Their impatience blinds their eyesight. They were expecting that within months of taking charge the Gandhis, Sibals, Chidambarams, etc., would be in jail; Ayodhya would have a Ram Temple; Kashmir would be rid of terrorists; corruption would disappear; there would be no crimes; and India would have “Ram Rajya” after the Diwali in 2014. The fact that none of the above has happened fills them with despair and they question Modi’s commitment to both the country and its Hindus. “What has he done for Hindus?” is a common plaint. Drunk in the taverns of hope they had built for themselves in May 2014, they are now down in the cellars of fear as Shabarimala boils; RTE remains unrepealed; Urban Naxals use the highest courts of justice to give new, ridiculous definitions to open calls for the assassination of the Prime Minister, terming them merely as harmless dissent; fuel prices, freed from administrative control, follow the market; and the stock market corrects from the giddy heights it had reached. They forget the thousand small achievements of the four-and-a-half years of the many reforms, of which the Ujwala scheme is a prime mover of meaningful change in the lives of the poor. Enough and more has been written about these reforms and it would be difficult to catalogue them in one blog. Earnest readers can find them easily on the web and on the Narendra Modi App that is freely available for download.
If the Northeast today is quiet, it is mainly because Modi allowed the democratic process to mature without interference from the centre. The experiment failed in Kashmir because its Muslims have extra-territorial loyalty to Pakistan and an Islamic state that has no place in a democratic world.
In conclusion, I am reminded of a line from the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, who in his autobiographical work, “Report to Greco,” wrote: “the man who either hopes for heaven or fears hell cannot be free. Shame on us if we continue to become intoxicated in the taverns of hope or the cellars of fear.”
So, when the time comes, remember to press the button on your EVM without fear and without being intoxicated by unrealistic hope. Remember that NOTA represents neither dynamism nor energy and movement; but a passive acceptance of every assault on the country’s self-esteem and pride.
Born in Kashmir. Indic by culture. Occasional writer, avid reader. Love serious cinema, but not TV. Eternal student.