Friday, October 2, 2009

A Journey into the Past and through the Present : Part - 1

A quick glance at our pre-Independence history would tell us that despite the vicious tactics of our colonial rulers to use communal and religious differences of the diverse Indian society and also the caste system which was widely prevalent at that time in order to divide the moral, religious and communal fabric of our nation, the maintenance of communal harmony had been successfully achieved to a large extent in our nation mainly towards the end of the era of our freedom struggle, particularly in our southern states. (It would be prudent to observe that caste system still remains deep-rooted in India across all sections of the society, even among educated citizens). This achievement, I feel, is directly attributable to the concerted efforts of our band of Freedom Fighters. The selfless devotion and self-sacrificial lifestyle demonstrated in ample measure by these Freedom Fighters, through their own personal example are commendable. Their impact on the raw, innocent minds of the general public of pre-independence India was immense especially when we see that the people of those times relied on the guidance and advice by such leaders and were used to emulating such leaders in their day-to-day life.

Communication played a very vital role in the success of these leaders. As we all know, tools of communication of those days were restricted to word of mouth, newspapers – though limited in number, letters, telegrams, personal contact through offices of local governance, radio and lastly the telephone. Although the telephone was not readily available to the masses, the radio was available to small sections. Ideologies that were discussed by leaders who were at the forefront of the Struggle had to trickle down through a channel that was slow but steady. Personal interaction was the key to effective communication of those days. The important attribute of this channel of communication was that it was more of a unidirectional, top-down channel than a bi-directional one. Naturally, a person who could pass down data while being a part of the channel, and also interpret the data into meaningful information had an audience who were willing to listen and therefore a following. The wisest of these became the bottom-most link to which was tethered the nation’s anchor for the Freedom Struggle. The path that these leaders who formed the bottom-most link in the chain of national leadership adviced and followed, became the path of the people who believed and vouched for their leaders and this I think is what brought them all together under one Flag, fighting for a single aim - the creation of a free nation.

As is known, the last few years of the Freedom Struggle were the most crucial in marking its success. The most important matter to note here is that at that point in time, the nation as a whole had a common enemy in the Colonial Ruler and this was the most important singular factor that brought every one together under a common banner. However, in that fight too, various tactics and ploys were used by leaders at regional levels to gather men en-masse in addition to the speeches and exhortations of great leaders of the Struggle. These tactics may have taken various forms and hues in different regions of the country of that time, commensurate with the prevalent customs and traditions of that society. For the information of the youngsters of today, it is important to understand that the typical Indian society of that time consisted of a poor populace being driven by a powerful few who wielded power and wealth. Naturally, there would have been different strata in that society with people divided over loyalty to the rich and powerful, (a section which had the protection provided by the colonial ruler) and those of the working class who were downtrodden and exploited by the rich and the powerful aided and abetted by the Colonial rulers. Incredibly, the influence of singular leaders of tremendous willpower who led the masses by personal example, who were respected by a large part of the society – including some sections of the rich and powerful lot - and who wielded notable influence over such a society made the differences in class, caste and creed to fall apart for the first time in those societies and then, by their own means influenced the minds of the people to unite despite their differences. Also, the horrors of the Freedom Struggle and the oppression meted out to its leaders by the Colonial Rulers generated a deep sense of compassion for brothers-in-arms which flowed out of the brotherhood's fear of danger to the society that was being threatened of extinction by a foreigner. This, in my opinion would have generated a unique sense of unity in the minds and hearts of the people surpassing all barriers of caste and creed which played a significant role in strengthening the moral fibre of the Indian society of those days.

It may be noted that the older population of today who had the good fortune to witness the transition to triumph of the Indian nation possess a strong moral fibre that is hardly affected by the changes in moral outlook that have overtaken and engulfed the newer generations. More than in the urban regions, this fervour is passed down to younger generations in rural India to a large extent even to this day. However, their voice is hardly paid any heed in modern Indian society. But why has it come to pass like this? Where has it all started? Why and who has started it? Who has let go this destructive monster of divisiveness from the bottle? The answer is still not clear and the intellectuals of today would have many reasons to give. However, as a layman who has only a very basic and practical understanding of how society flourishes over the years would be tempted to observe that the uncontrolled permeation of emulative cultures and the blind and mad rush for economic independence coupled with an unstructured education system would partially be responsible for this degradation of moral values and the ruptures in the once-strong moral fibre of our nation. Having thought so, it cares to analyze these premises critically.

Although the Indian Independence Struggle is widely known and documented as a nation-wide effort, India's struggle for Independence in its final days were concentrated more in the northern states and the more important political and democratic decisions were taken in closeted fora which were inaccessible to the common man. The patriotic fervour that was being echoed in the nook and cranny of the nation was attributable much to the yeoman efforts of the local leaders of the Struggle, who were as insulated from the frontline leadership as much as were the men they led. As we all know, and have been supplemented with information that have trickled down over the years since Independence, there is reason to believe that a few Games had started off within the walls of ornate buidings of northern India and in the minds of some of our legendary leaders - under the influence and political pressures of our erstwhile white Rulers - long before the dawn of the hour when the nation was being freed off colonial rule. There is also reason to believe that the Colonial Rulers had chosen to pull out of the country very abruptly, when the frontline leadership had not expected them to be, although they were largely aware that a pull out would be affected soon. This was probably done so by sensing the chaos and conflicting thought processes that was building up among leading personalities of the Struggle at that time.

The national leadership of that time was so deeply involved in the defensive, non-violent mode of Struggle that the development of differences of opinion on issues of very great importance that were being fomented for quite some time among themselves had gone unattended by design or by default and were unpardonably ignored. Here, there is enough historical evidence to support the logic that the second line of leadership at that point in time was not discernible and had it existed, those leaders weren't part of the strategic decision making processes which the frontline leadership were involved in. This led to a state of affairs wherein the second line of political leadership was virtually jobless thereby making them always live in a wonderland as to what practical steps need be taken in guarding the unity of the nation once it is created. The utter confusion that existed at this layer of leadership paved the way for a very convenient method of existence wherein they chose to tow the line of their frontline leaders and act as 'Yes Boss' secretaries to them. The second line of leadership who ought to have been ready to take over the job of streamlining the unity in diversity that had been achieved by then, with the same patriotic fervour that had helped the nation to win its model fight against colonialism, failed in its duty to identify its role and contribute to this very important task that was the very first step in nation-building.

The frontline leadership, powerful as they always had been in their own way found it very convenient in the initial days of chaos to keep this second line of leadership under their toes with little or no freedom to act independently. Here we can see the first manifestation of the results of the ultimate aim of the Colonial Rulers in the kind of education they imparted to the Indians during their two century old rule - to create just clerks and not administrators. The frontline leadership was afraid to let go of their deputies independently fearing the consequences of independence. They were fully aware that they themselves had not allowed their subordinates to be part and parcel of the larger picture of India's future which they already had formed in their mind.

They forgot over a period of time that the chaos which had managed to float around in the second line of leadership was percolating down the line to the lowest links - the Common Man - and it was but natural for the common man to start thinking of reverse engineering when he found out that his life hasn't changed much after the celebrations on the creation of the new nation had faded out of his ears. For the Common Man, life was still the same as it was when the nation was under Colonial Rule. Soon, he understood that it was only the colour of the skin of the Ruler that had changed, not the mindset. The Colonial Ruler had sown his seed of Division on fertile ground and coupled with the deep rooted caste system, the seeds of mutual exclusivity in society started gaining ground. With the frontline leadership continued to be engaged in closeted discussions on sorting out internal chaos, the second line leadership, which by now had taken the form of sycophancy for their survival turned to discover their own ways and means of cutting the cake and savouring a share of it, for, they never wanted to be left high and dry at the end of the day.

The Administrators of the new nation, in addition to the Leaders, who now became part of the new governing mechanism of Free and Independent India had been erstwhile students and under-trainees of the Colonial Rulers and they had only been taught the time tested techniques of the Colonial Ruler of 'Divide and Rule' and the nuances of British Bureaucracy which was essentially rooted based on the basic traits of a successful trader. The administrator of the newly formed nation was only a glorified undertaker who only knew how to squeeze the juice out of the workers under him in order to earn beans for his master and in the bargain get to keep a small kitty of his own. These administrators became the squeezers of their own countrymen and more often than not, they were comfortable in basking in the old glory, not liking very much the fact that stared at them that one day they had to vacate their chairs for the new generations that were coming of age. The education system continued to be the same old system with hardly any change in its basic structure that was made with a different aim by the Colonial Ruler - to produce clerks and not Administrators. The nation needed rational thinkers who had to be exposed to the world that existed and prospered outside its borders and this was achievable only by the rich and the powerful, who could send their wards off our shores to seek and learn what was available in Europe or elsewhere at their own expense. The poor and the needy continued to feed on the crumbs now being thrown at them by native Rulers, the only difference being that the neo-administrators were thick friends (they always were) with the rich and powerful who regretted the exit of their Colonial partners as well as with the new line of leadership. As a matter of fact, the trading community of India (with some exceptions) was always towing the line of the Rulers that ruled India - that is to say, when the British were the Rulers, they towed the line of the British and when the Leadership changed, gladly they changed loyalties to the new rulers, thereby ensuring that their businesses were not affected grossly.

Despite the design of the rich and the powerful, Independence from Colonial Rule gave the chance to the society of united India to emerge as a modern society which consists of the resurrected poor of the past who never had any access to wealth or power for generations on end. Naturally, the poor of the land were more comfortable being subservient to the rich and powerful and were defter in handling ploughshares and fields than handling wealth and the glitter of the higher echelons of societal life. With India's Independence came freedom of thought, action and choice. Though not cock-eyed, the ill-structured policy for integrating rural India into the path to democracy brought out the deep rooted evil of communalism into the brains of the well educated rulers of modern India, which led to the greatest mistake of Reservations based on caste, religion and creed being introduced in the system of governance, employment and education. The demon of Division based on caste which had been brilliantly put to use by the Colonial Rulers but which had been driven under the carpet and tred on during the Great Struggle to achieve Victory over the Invader was given official sanction by the Native Rulers to dance on main-stage in front of the whole new world . The fervent Freedom Fighters who lived to witness this shocking metamorphism opposed this foolish move of the Native Rulers at the very outset bringing out the consequences it would have in the long run. Although the learned lot of the Rulers fully understood what they were doing, they had no choice but to turn a deaf ear to those words of wisdom. Those learned great leaders by then would have realized their folly of not having designed and kept a genuine plan in place at the very outset for making India emerge as a spectacular nation that had to demonstrate itself globally to be a befitting reply to the colonialists. Unfortunately, their vision was blurred and did not focus at the larger horizon which was in front of them. The Whites, who had become masters of the Indian psyche could easily fool around with the brains of those great leaders, who, in fact had been trained by their own educationists. The lackadaisical approach that these leaders continued in not nurturing a second line of committed leaders (training for tomorrow) was the first political fault that happened in modern India and that which turned the fate of the country. The other was the failure to appropriately acknowledge the stalwarts of Indian Freedom Movement in the right spirit and convert those brains into Knowledge - Bank which had jurisdiction over the Parliament in all matters of National Development, Economic Policy and External Affairs. This would have been a befitting tribute to their contribution and a more patriotic and sensible decision which would have given them their due respect and by which the nation would have benefited manifold rather than reducing those great Souls to mere impressions on postal stamps and left to live a Dog’s Life through a meagre allowance of Freedom Fighter's Pension which practically has lesser monetary value than the equivalent monthly expenses of dog food that are being incurred in the homes of powerful politicians and bureaucrats of our times. It would have also encouraged the emerging leaders to understand the importance of imbibing and practicing moral values, which as a consequence would have re-inforced the strength of the moral fibre of the nation. The failure of the creme-de-la-creme of Indian politics to percolate down the knowledge and wisdom that they had gained in the course of their life and struggle in the Freedom Movement in a structured and disciplined manner to the lower rungs of their followers is the third major failure that the Indian polity suffered.

Growth of a Nation – Is there Sufficient Gross Underkeel Clearance?

Social Studies and Civics were subjects that were much too ignored during my schooldays not only by backbenchers but by the front benchers as well. The general belief - and to some extent the truth - was that these subjects are trump - cards for easy scoring in exams. This was demonstrated in full measure by some frontbenchers after it was mugged up over breakfast, lunch and dinner. This was also the only (sensible) topic among others in school education that could be reproduced with sincere eleventh hour efforts for the backbenchers (the basic aim at the backbench in any case is to obtain a pass mark, if feasible as all my mates there would agree). I wouldn't know if this philosophy has changed after over two and a half decades now (maybe one could substitute breakfast, lunch and dinner with morning and evening TV slots).

The thought process germinated after I had viewed a funny presentation that I had recently come across on one of the popular online video sites on the Great Info Highway. In this particular video, locals at an alien location in Uncle Sam's country were being asked basic questions related to their own nation. It didn't surprise me when obese native whites were struggling to guess the name of the American nation which begins with the letter 'U'. More shameless were the answers to other questions of similar nature which any schoolboy worth his salt would have correctly answered. The answers that I heard were so idiotic that it made me remember the Rector of my school who used to teach us social studies, civics and political science. I recollected his discussions on the basics of the Constitution of the US and I remembered that he used to summarize his classes with stories based on his own experiences and the general impression any White would convey through his interaction with others; I particularly remember that he always used to compare those aliens with the legendary toads in a well - each in a make-believe world closeted from the realities of the outside world. He used to remark that, for those aliens the word world used to mean only their nation with a 'U' at the beginning. The rest of the globe was alien to them - may be the reason why even their propaganda material available at their embassies label non-natives as aliens.

This above incident sparked a thought process in my mind (incredible for a frontbencher) which made me think: Are we any better? Of course, as Indians, we are far better off than them in such aspects of general information not only about our own great, dear nation, but on many other global issues as well. Also, despite many shortfalls in rural and urban India, we are emerging as a Global Power – so the media tells us. However, there appears to be a loss of focus in the efforts that we as a Nation are putting in to reach that level of perfection. Why is there a feeling of loss of focus? Are we on the right track that will truly empower us as citizens of this country? Whom have we benchmarked with? Who is our worthy competitor? Is our Nation as cohesive as it was when we gained Independence? Can we really run this race as a Nation and finally attain Victory? Is our Common Man really aware of the state of our Nation? Are the youth of today maintaining our status and image as a culturally rich nation with a distinguished heritage in these modern days too? Are they getting trained today to become worthy leaders of a Global Power of tomorrow? Are we getting traded off in a very stylish way? Would we be also reduced to such idiots as are the citizens of the Nation whose name begins with the letter ‘U’? The answers to these questions, as a matter of fact, are not as easy as one would think. It is not easily given nor is it easily available. To be true to ourselves, these questions have to be answered after careful analysis and introspection.

On my own, I then thought of delving a bit into these issues which I had created for myself. The thought process that flowed in my mind was typed in as and when I got time and later on organized in my own style. The flow is more or less streaming and keyed in as originally as it came. I thought of organizing the text in two parts, with distinct separators in time. Before we reach conclusions, we need to dissect the moral fabric of the present day Indian (includes me and you) threadbare for, he is the element that makes up the matter of interest about modern India that meets the eyes of world nations. For the moment, let us forget about the Great Game and save it to be discussed some time later.