30 Jun 2022  |   08:26am IST

Whither India?

Radharao Gracias

I grew up in the sixties and the seventies of the last century of the last millennium. And those were wonderful years to grow up in. There was revolution in the air. Everywhere. The world was split between the east and the west, the capitalists and the communists.

The east was red. The west was bad. Left was right. Right was wrong. Young people tended or pretended to be communists, socialists or some type of leftists. Coffee table discussions centred on Liberation Theology, Motorcycle Diaries, Little Red Book, Das Capital. Environmentalists were just waking up. Silent spring was in the air. Rachel Carson had launched the environmental movement.

Leftists strode the world stage. A thousand flowers were abloom; in China. In Chairman Mao’s garden. Ho Chi Minh had sent the returning French; into oblivion. Americans were soon to taste their first defeat; in Vietnam. Patrick Lumumba was spreading revolution; in Congo. Kwame Nakruma had hoisted the red flag; in Ghana. Che Guevara had just been martyred; somewhere in South America. Death conferred upon him; a halo. Fidel Castro was undisputed leader in Cuba. His business was to export revolution; duty free.

Kanu Sanyal and Charu Mazumdar threatened to paint India red. Cultural revolution was unsettling China. Naxalbari was exploding in India. The Cultural Revolution went its full course and cleansed China. Superstition wrapped in ritual continues to holds sway in India. As custom. As tradition. As religion. Naxalbari was pacified. But the issues raised, remained dormant. Life started in the raw for India, China, Korea, Taiwan, others post Second World War. The, except India, have emerged into the first world. The thousand flowers that bloomed in China have now borne fruit. China is a super power. 

We have created a middle class of two hundred million.  It is more than the combined population of England, France and Germany. Yes, and we have also created an underclass of a billion people. Is it not twice the population of the whole of Europe? We take pride that our democracy has survived. Rightly so, we have survived. So what? Life is not merely a matter of survival. Have we thrived? The cockroach too has survived. Two million years! Still, it is a cockroach. We are in the position of the cockroach; mere survivors. Beyond that it is all downhill. We figure at or near the bottom of the field in almost every field of human endeavour. How come?

The answer stares us in the face. As we can see China which began the journey at the same time as India and from a much weaker position, endured the pain of the Great Leap Forward and from its suffering has emerged modern China, a military and economic super-power. How did it do it? It first recognised what ails it and overcame it before beginning its march to modernity. And what exactly did it overcome? Well, its own version of Hindutva!

And what have we done? We have done just the contrary and have actually adopted our ailment as the cure! The result is that for every single forward step we take, we land two steps behind. Thus instead of challenging China to our North we may end up emulating Sri Lanka to our South!

For eight years the BJP under Modi is calling the shots. It has strengthened itself immeasurably and could conceivably win the next election and the election after that, with ease. But to achieve the ascendency it has torn the social order asunder. It has thus completely weakened the polity and with it the chances of any economic or social recovery. 

Because the Congress was so accustomed to fight from a position of power, it has little experience of making a comeback, as it did under Indira Gandhi some forty years ago. Congressmen accustomed to the perks of power, do not have the resilience to fight it out, consequently, are defecting to the ruling side, in droves. Congress has been unable or unwilling to play its role as an opposition party. The Opposition in Parliament comes mostly from the Trinamool Congress or to an extent from the AAP. Our own MP Francisco Sardinha with his outsized frame is only seen, but hardly heard. The future seems bleak with the opposition led by men with skeletons dangling in their cupboards, in total disarray.

Actually there is no more a pan India Opposition party. The Congress is entirely lost in the South and East. It only has a rather tenuous presence in Rajasthan. Only in Chattisgarh does it hold its own. It has virtually disappeared from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, States that send nearly a quarter of the MPs to the Lok Sabha. The plight is so bad that even the heir apparent Rahul Gandhi had to run away from the family fiefdom of Amethi to a safe minority dominated constituency in Kerala.

And to compound the public fears, never before had the higher judiciary appeared as weak and disoriented as now. There is a continuing failure to intervene when the executive appears palpably wrong, as in the cases of unilateral demolition of houses of those arraigned as accused, in the cases over protests on the purported insults to Prophet Mohammed. Or in cases where central agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are unleashed on those who dare challenge the authoritarian ways of those in power.

Like Mao had for China, Nehru had too a vision for India. And indeed he had a vision. But it did not proceed beyond his loins. The fourth generation of Nehru-Gandhi is now seeking to usurp power. And that is where the crux of the problem lies!

(Radharao F. Gracias is a senior Trial Court Advocate and a former 

Independent MLA.)