Saturday, April 25, 2009

Vote Blank Politics

The second phase in the grand exercise we call parliamentary elections just concluded. This time now, till we have the swearing in of the next government in Delhi, is exactly the stuff that Messrs Pranoy Roy & Co live and breathe for. This also used to be the time, when newspapers could safely count on our politicians to supply enough fodder to fill out all their pages with glee.

But a bit of distance helps changing perspectives. This is my first election from foreign shores. And if i were to sum up my opinion on this one, in one word, i would choose APATHY.

Granted, Shekhar Suman's plunge into the matkas and jhatkas of regular politics has robbed us of the excellent Poll Khol programme. That apart, this election seems remarkably bereft of character. While i can't put my finger on the exact reason, the maddening passion that generally marks the tussle and tumble of the Indian politics just seems off this time.

Whether this is due to greater concerns on the impact of the recession, or saturation of political coverage due to the armada of TV Channels, or the gradual blurring of ideology that used to distinguish our major parties or perhaps, the lack of a young leader, with a refreshing change of attitude/ideas/approach is up for debate.

While every Raju, Ganpat and Murari is predicting a hung parliament this time, i am a firm believer that opportunism and greed will hold their sway and give us a sworn in government at least for the next 2 years. what happens post that is beyond the scope of even the magic crystal ball.

What is of much greater interest to me however, is the voter turnout among the newly registered voters. I am also going to watch out for the positions and maneuvering that the so called "Third Front" is doubtless going to indulge in.

Sadly, i see the sun setting on the stellar public life of Dr Manmohan Singh a year from now. He was a spotless man in a muck of rajniti, and he along with Montek Singh will go into the history books unsung.

I will not put my neck out to predict a winner but i do think that unless BJP finds a new generation of leaders or allows the current gen to step out of Vajpayee and Advanis shadows, the party risks being relegated to the fringes of the right. Which is a danger in itself to our country. A Congress that is fearless of the "Threat from the Right" will relapse into the babugiri of the last 5 decades at the drop of a hat.

Dont agree with what I've written? That's ok with me. So long as we all take the Elections seriously, i dont mind anyone faulting my views at all.

Love It or Hate It
Dont Ignore IT.

Now back to my regular mind killing, creativity sapping, spark sapping dreary existence.

A Historic Amnesia

First off let me admit, the current bit of introspection comes after watching Anurag Kahyap’s Gulal. The movie is a must watch for anyone interested in the shenanigans and Machiavellian scheming that goes on unreported, in the dusty heartlands of India. I found the first half to be a welcome breath of fresh air in hindi cinema, which for once, tackled a subject that has not yet been brought to life on the silver screen.

However the main plot of the movie, which deals with aristocratic discontent in a post Indira Gandhi India, got me thinking. Here is a chunk of Indian history, which had huge ramifications for the notion of a democratic republic of india. Here is a piece of celluloid that deals with one of the most important issues –the absorption( or devouring, depending on the viewpoint) of the 600+ erstwhile princely states that now make up the landmass of our country. Here is a movie that deals with the struggle of assimilation, a tale that involves coercion, bargains, deals, unfulfilled promises and threats.

And yet, I as an Indian who underwent the prescribed education in school, remain blissfully ignorant of this part in the story of the country. In fact, most of the education I received has since fallen by the wayside. This by no means is a knock on my wonderful school. I would like to look at it as a symptom of our faulty view of education.

History is one of the most moving and overwhelming subjects that ought to be taught with a view of not just imparting dates and places and sizes of kingdoms on maps. No, the objective of our lessons should be to transport us back into the palaces. To visualize the splendor as well as the societal conditions that existed then. To not drill plain names into our heads, but to give us living breathing figures, prone to the same passions and miscalculations that plague our daily lives.

When I refer to historic India, we all remember the grand names, like the Mauryas, Guptas, Mughals, Marathas etc with all the fervor of a freshly landed tourist with a guide book in hand. But how many of us can actually recount the shaping of our culture, the evolution of our language, the introduction and spread of several faiths, the sowing of the seeds of future conflicts, the reasons for the various conquests, the reasons for the burgeoning population, the wealth and eventual pillage at the hands of invaders, the arrival and reasons for the spread of the east india company.

Bluntly put, we are taught history in 3 main stages. The classic age, where we are told India was “the golden bird”. A whole lot of pats on the backs as we recall our advancements in sciences and arts and commerce, upto the Gupta period. Then we deal with the Mughal Rule and the subsequent shameful era of the Raj. The crowning glory then is the freedom struggle and the partition and 15th august.

But where are the details, of our participation in the World Wars? And what happened to our story post independence? What of the struggles of a young India, tottering after 2 crippling centuries of british looting? What about the simmering communal tensions, that devastate us even today? What about the genesis of the march of the Dalits to the forefront of national politics? What about the License Raj, a time when there were limits on the amount of sugar a family could consume? What about India’s struggles against Pakistan and China? What about the battles with domestic terrorism in the west, the heartlands and the northeast?

The story of the accession of J&K, Junagadh, Hyderabad and the ilk remain silent chapters, safely skipped over in our classes and exams. And the biggest omission of them all, in my eyes, remains the criminal exclusion of the Emergency.

There is no way that you can instill the meaning of freedom, democracy, rights and duties, the influence of judiciary, press freedom, censorship etc without teaching us about the Emergency. The other silent areas include the Sikh Riots, The crushing of the Khalistan Movement, the IPKF fiasco, the Babri Masjid, the Stock market crashes of 92, 2000 etc.

If you ever wonder why the new generation is apathetic to the trials and upheavals that we have witnessed as a country, look no further than to our text books. We call ourselves a nation, yet we do not know the meaning of it. The value of freedom, the meaning of it, as opposed to the definition, will only be truly found out when one is locked up in a cage. Far too many of us abuse the electoral system with our non participation, to really understand the magnificence of the privilege afforded to us.

Enough of the rant. Maybe next time, my anger would have simmered down enough to write in a more cohesive manner.