Normally I don’t participate in discussions that involve politics and nationalism because everybody has his or her own opinion (including me) and you cannot really change people’s opinion unless they really want to change it. Anyway, a few days ago Amrit (yes, the world can never have enough of Amrits 🙂 ) on Facebook asked, “Do we really love our country?” Some exchanges ensued and as usual there were some ambiguous answers, including mine.
And then Susanta, again, on Facebook, expressed his disagreement on the upcoming BJP bandh against the recent fuel price hike, calling it a “political sham” and another, tiny discussion ensued between us, and of course, we couldn’t agree.
These two chains of thoughts are related. Does really loving your country mean proclaiming your love and feeling all misty-eyed when patriotic songs are played, or does it mean you actually participate in the process of nation building and political engagement?
Take for instance this bandh. Theoretically I’m against bandhs and strikes — political, social, religious and industrial — but there is a big difference between theory and practice. We live in a world where people screw you right left and center if you don’t have a voice. The same goes for the government — any government — if there is no medium to show or express your disagreement, it’ll start screwing you big time. Bandhs and strikes — whether you like them are not — are a part of democracy and they are sanctioned by our constitution. In fact, near Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, there is a dedicated place where you can go and stage a protest against anything, called Dharna Sthal or Virodh Pradarshan Sthal.
Of course I’m totally against forcing people to down their shutters and the entire affair going into the hands of political goons, but there is a reason why such ugliness creeps in. As citizens we’re too bothered about “today” rather than tomorrow. In order to earn a few hundred bucks today, we don’t want to protest and save ourselves hundreds of thousands of bucks that we end up spending due to government’s exploitative policies. How many citizens protested when the present government waived a 60,000 crore (around 6,00,000 million) debt of farmers so that a few politicians could keep getting money from multinationals that control the food market? After all this money went from our taxes. The same goes for money being (contemplated yet) given to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims: again from our pockets. This money should have come from the company that caused the disaster due to criminal negligence.
Coming to the fuel price hike, no matter how politically motivated the bandh may be, the common citizen should participate to let the government know we’re pissed off. I know many will say that the government is simply streamlining the prices and so everything happening concurrent to that cannot be avoided. Do you know how heavily the western governments subsidize their farmers so that they can throttle competition overseas? Many of our farmers are killing themselves primarily for this reason (and also because of the genetically modified seeds, against, being pushed down their throats by greedy politicians). How many of us actually protest, or are even aware of that? Fuel price hike immediately pushes many food items out of the reach of the poor. Our maid and her family survives on bare minimums. Even the proverbial daal-roti is being snatched away. In the past 3 years the food prices have increased more than 100%, or even more in the case of pulses and fruits. How many of us are hitting the roads to protest?
Sadly, in our country we don’t strive for quality of life, we simply live. Do you ever think why South Africa is able to hold the FIFA World Cup despite getting independence in the 90s and we’re still wallowing in the doldrums of Asian Games and Common Wealth Games even after being independent for more than 60 years? People are crying over Brazil and Argentina and Italy and Germany and this and that, in India. Don’t we feel ashamed that despite being such a big country we don’t have our own football team to cheer for and we’re forced to act like party crashers?
Do you ever think why we don’t have post-independence architectural examples and why our president still lives in a building constructed for the British viceroys? Even Dubai has better buildings then our metropolitan cities. Why don’t we have even a single world class software or hardware product? Why do we keep silent when our biodiversity is being destroyed and our tigers are being made extinct? Why do thousands of Indian citizens still die of hunger every year? Why don’t we protest enmasse when 6 people in Rajasthan are swept by the torrent and not a single helicopter can be sent to save them and on top of that the CM says they did everything they could? In another country such a CM would have been sacked and arrested.
In India we are too laid back for our own good, and we have this suicidal tendency to side with those we should actually be opposing. This is a historical trait, right from the days of ancient India when foreign invaders came and some of our local rulers supported them, and the rest of the history, hopefully, you know. The same is happening after the independence. Election after election we keep on electing the same crooks and then feel so smug while being screwed in all the holes we’ve got. When the TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan was killed in Vasant Kunj the Delhi chief minister actually had the temerity to say that she shouldn’t have ventured out so late in the night in the first place (she was returning from her duty) knowing quite well the same losers will vote again for her government.
Whatever progress we’ve made so far is despite the government, not due to the government.
So is it some anti-government, anti-establishment tirade? No, I’m just saying, we don’t really love our country. Country? We don’t even love each other. When was the last time you smiled at your neighbor or a neighbor smiled at you (if you smile at somebody he or she will probably take offense)? When was the last you paid the poor rickshaw wala or the auto wala ten rupees extra just because he is your fellow countryman and going through a tough situation (constantly rising prices, for instance)? We live in this delusional, jingoistic mentality that makes us think we love our country. All the love fizzles out the moment somebody suggests that come to a protest march or organize a protest against something unfair happenings around you. Then all of a sudden we start weighing the pros and cons and then put our heads back into the good old and comfortable ostrich hole.
If you love your country, start protesting. Start having a voice.