Monthly Archives: August 2019
Its August 15, the Indian independence day. For the last few years I have written about things to celebrate about India and that make it unique. But today my heart is heavy and those posts from the past years feel like a cruel joke.
For the past five years BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his followers in the government and outside have made it their life mission to dismantle Jawarhlal Nehru’s legacy. But without Nehru there is no modern India. Dismantling his legacy is dismantling the Indian experiment. If India defied expectations and survived as a democracy and as one country it was in no small measure due to the work of the leaders that fought for its independence and then wrote constitution that enshrined within it the ideals of freedom, equality and liberty. And among those giants, Nehru stands tall.
His vision for India is in peril. He has fallen out of fashion in today’s Sangh dominated India. On this day of all days I want to remember his words, the words he uttered as India gained it is freedom after a long struggle on 15 August 1947
Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny; and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India, and her people, and to the still larger cause of humanity.
At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries which are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her successes and her failures. Through good and ill fortunes alike, she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.
The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?
Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labor, and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over, and it is the future that beckons to us now.
That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.
The ambition of the greatest man1 of our generation has been to wipe “every tear from every eye.”2 That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.
And so we have to labor and to work, and work hard, to — to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart.
Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom; so is prosperity now; and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.
To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.
It has been over a week since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right hand man from Gujarat, Amit Shah who is now the home minister changed the constitution of India with little debate in the parliament. Modi government has abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian constitution. The state has been under curfew and a strict communication blockade for the last eleven days. Former Kashmiri chief ministers are under arrest.
Article 370 concerns the accession of Kashmir to India, while 35A granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir a degree of autonomy to make laws governing the citizenry of the state. They have been revoked by the government in New Delhi with no input from the citizens of Kashmir. Constitutional scholars can argue about the legalistic validity of these moves, but these actions are undemocratic and unworthy of a constitutional democracy. They blatantly disregard the will of the people of Kashmir. The central government is acting as a colonial power within its own boundaries. Muslim majority Kashmir has been reduced to little more than a colony of Hindu majority India. You can see the population breakup from the 2011 census in the table that I have included. These were the fears that lead to the partition of India. This move reopens the wounds of partition which in Kashmir’s case were never healed.
What this does in practical terms is it strips of Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and partitions it into two administrative regions. Jammu and Kashmir being the first region and the Buddhist majority Ladakh being the other.
It also means the death of the Indian Republic as it was conceived by the generation that fought for Indian independence. The ideological ancestors of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were nowhere to be found in the freedom struggle. Instead, they were busy criticizing the Indian National Congress and collaborating with the British.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir, independent India’s only Muslim majority state was guaranteed limited autonomy when they agreed to become a part of India instead of Pakistan after the partition of India. This has been an anathema to the Hindu right since India’s inception. A thorn in the side of their dream of a muscular Hindu state where other religions are not equal but merely tolerated.
Modi and Shah’s actions betray India’s founding principles, and undermine both federalism, religious freedom. The intellectual heirs of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassins are enacting their vision of India. That the BJP did this after getting a brute majority in the elections held earlier this year is not surprising. The Rashtriya Swayam Sevaksangh (RSS)’s agenda on this issue has been clear since India’s independence when their political arm was called the Jan Sangh.
What has been rather disappointing and sad is the feeble to non-existent opposition response and sycophancy of India’s prestige media like the Times of India, the Hindu and India Today. Most of the Indian media is either not covering this major story or giving cover to the government in New Delhi.
One has to go the web-only outlet, The Wire to find Kashmir covered in detail. This story is still developing and I will post updates.
Table I : Population Breakup of the Jammu and Kashmir from the 2011 census