Thursday, 18 August 2016

I-Day 2016 – The Other Picture



-      Brian Mendonça

Do 70 years of independence have a bearing on what we bring to the table today? What seem to be the impulses that drive India 2016? Are the values enshrined in the Indian constitution upheld in letter and spirit today?

The very idea of India as a unified entity seems to be challenged today. Indeed, there are many Indias. One can choose which one to belong to for purposes of convenience.  Should one like writer Mahasweta Devi (1926-2016) identify with the marginalized tribals of India whose land is being taken away for development purposes? Should one like Aamir Khan voice one’s insecurity at staying on in this land? Or should one like Salman Rushdie prefer to write outside India since he gets death threats the moment he makes plans to attend a book festival here.

Today it is possible to be told in India what one must eat, how one must dress, and indeed, what one must think. This is moving towards a totalitarian state – the complete opposite of what we are, viz. a pluralistic federal republic.

Today it is possible in India for the common man (and the armed forces in some places like Kashmir) to kill merely on suspicion.  Sarif Khan was murdered in full public view by a mob in Dimapur in Nagaland last year. Caitanya Holt was left to choke in mud and die in Pernem, Goa early this year.

The tongue of hate is now licking our children who, even when they go out to play, face physical and verbal abuse by other children. They taunt each other, push each other (sometimes down a staircase) and appear very pleased with themselves. Where has the sense of concern for the other gone?

It would seem, human life has no value in India. Despite several warnings about using the mobile while driving, last week college lecturer Anupama Aggarwal, mowed down a school boy in her car in Najafgarh, Delhi while talking on her cell phone. The vague statements by the police, the influence the Aggarwal family wields, and the state of denial by the culprit, make the outcome of the case a foregone conclusion.

Last week, we lost our neighbour – a loving dad and husband – when he was fatally knocked down by a speeding 2-wheeler at Alto Dabolim. Where is this speed taking contemporary India – on the highway to heart break.  

Recently the Rajasthan High Court absolved Salman Khan of shooting a black buck in 1998.  The Bombay High Court also absolved him last year of running his vehicle over pavement sleepers in Bandra, Mumbai in 2002. Now, given a clean chit he gets to go to the Rio Olympics as a brand ambassador for India. The trail of death is only incidental.

The systemic chaos in India has often been romanticized by the West. For us it is a reality we cannot afford to ignore.  For an age-old civilization, we are witnessing a break-down of values -- a fractured nation spiralling out of control. 

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Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 14 August 2016. Pix painting of 'Earth' by Raza.

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