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Clubs for Coconuts

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Veeresh Malik
Ex-seafarer and a lot more.

When the British left in 1947, they left behind many of their worst symbols of colonial plunder, and one of these was the exclusive clubs for their own select few that they had built on our land. When I say “our land”, I mean community land, to be shared and enjoyed by all. Like a park, a forest, a library, a museum, a playground, a hospital, a school, so on and so forth.

There are thousands of such clubs all over India, sitting on vast estates, which could and should in an India have been used for better purposes than as “madhushalas” for a select few. This said “select few” chosen on their ability to carry off a colonial aura in their lifestyle, I may add, which is fine if they want to be white inside and brown outside like a coconut, then that is their business.

But why on community land and at taxpayer and citizen expense? Why were these 0.1% colonial relics given a high pedestal to sit and lord over the rest of us 99.9% and that too at our expense? Are they going to travel 1st Air Conditioned Class all their lives at our expense while we trundle on behind in General Un-Reserved Class?

There is no reasonable or legitimate explanation for this. Especially when some of these Clubs, till today, practice a policy of exclusion of new members on grounds of race, clothing and descent. Please bear in mind that membership of these Clubs even in British days was co-terminus either with life of the member or tenure or with a position held in some organisation. Membership in these Clubs sitting on our land does not and did not become the property of these members, to be bestowed, divided, multiplied or even traded.

The Delhi Gymkhana right next to the Prime Minister’s House in Delhi is an example. Another taxpayer funded property, but currently engaged in a dispute at the NCLT and NCLAT, and to be observed as well as not commented on.

Living in the Prime Minister’s House does not give the occupant life-long rights. Next Prime Minister comes, previous Prime Minister vacates. So what is so different or great about Delhi Gymkhana, which is also sitting on a tax-payer funded property, that membership becomes an inherited asset?

The complete issue of Clubs for Coconuts in India needs to be re-visited and segregated into two wide groups.

  1. Clubs that have membership based on some sort of designation or position or service. Like Clubs for Government Servants, employees of a particular organisation, or specific professions. Co-terminus with their tenures.
  2. Clubs that have become symbols of Colonial Oppression by reason of membership based on descent as well as Colonial practices, for example-wearing Western formal dress only, or demeaning “natives”.

And all such Clubs, in both categories above, if substantially financed by the Government, need to adhere to the Right to Information Act of India, 2005, at the earliest.

Coconuts are welcome to their Clubs. But they need to pay for their Coconut Clubs themselves. Not on our time and dime. The Colonials left in 1947.

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Veeresh Malik
Ex-seafarer and a lot more.
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