A hoarding on a snaking freeway says it all, “God save India.” To this one could easily add, which India? India of the rural poor or the urban poor, the baniyas or the brahmins, adivasis or the tribes of the Northeast, Christians or the Muslims? You get the picture – a house divided, with world views that face different directions, and with grievances that breathe the sordid tale of callousness.
Over sixty years of rubbish from the ruling party with its poisonous ideology of “Dynasty first, country last” has rigged the system to ensure their success with such divisions. The flag may stitch us all together, but the rulers with a lethal win-at-all-cost weapon, has slashed the fabric of the flag into pieces. Even though the nation is broken into several islands of caste, and the community is blazing with anger and hurt, their divided cries fail to stare down the arrogance of the rich brown Mughals.
The wrenching divide between the gangster ravaged badlands of rural India and the vocal, demanding voices of the privileged is a lethal wedge that will get bigger and bigger.
Therefore, when a meddling neighbor blows up our malls, our trains or intrudes into our territory, the response is not a booming voice united in rage but a cacophony of sounds emanating from the quixotic caravan of peace, the shrill voices of the human rights dimwits, or the Zen like silence of the rogue administration. The deafening silence of the rural hinterlands is not even missed as they crouch outside the tent of privileged India, their existence beyond the radar of the country.
Take the example of the adivasis. He may rise from his lowly seat and lay claim to his father’s lands and fight land sharks to do so. But he fights his battles alone and his voice goes unheard. The sold out media is more interested in its TRP ratings and trivia, the crooked police side with the man who has the gold and justice lies in an eternal coma.
The urban poor fight the dead-end trajectory of marginalized and hopeless lives. But their group also fights alone, as their voices are drowned by society’s hate for the poor, or the intimidating tools of state repression, the police or the CBI. The tragic case of Satyajit Mondol, a poor schoolboy of West Bengal who only asked for better food pilfered by the teachers, demonstrates the impunity with which the hounds of repression are let loose on the powerless and the poor. The frail little boy was mercilessly beaten and hanged by his masters, the very same teachers who were supposed to feed him his mid-day meal instead of stealing it. And, therefore the deprived and the destitute go about their daily grind, quietly seething amidst a riot of flies, mounting garbage, stinking toilets, and take their raging hunger to bed night after night.
In the vast hinterlands of rural India, over 75% of India lives and endures the feudalistic, caste-bound societies where parentage is destiny. They seek to escape its intimidating ethos where the Sarpanch’s humanity shines in such glittering acts as raping women for opposing child marriages or chopping hands for building schools. Yet the rural poor also battle alone as the goons of the landlord storm into their lives, torch their homes, destroy their crops, hang their men, and their political mentors ensure that their voices do not escape the terrain of the landlord, in spite of over 100,000 suicides by farmers between 1997 and 2007.
The relatively well-off middle and upper classes which can provide the civic ballast of society and is empowered to make changes is brainwashed into passive acceptance of the status quo, as their energies are diverted into money making and high living. Ever willing to fight the government from the anonymous comfort of the world-wide-web, they would rather put up with leaky infrastructure and recurrent power failures, than vote for change by braving the hot sun or the cold rain. Their social nationalism is no substitute for action. They choose not to fight and even if they do, the powers in charge ensure their voices are divided and feeble.
Hence if the Taj Mahal hotel is blown up and parts of urban India seethes with rage, the rural folk only ask, “terror, what terror?” We live with such terror every day - when the zamindar makes us lick his boots or decides to take any woman for his pleasure, when the police destroy our shanties, book us on false pretexts for stealing, or when they steal the water that gives life to the land. When 80 percent of rural India is beyond the radar of the connected and the empowered 20 % of India, they choose to remain anonymous as they face terror from the same 20% of the people who are connected either by trade or politics to the powerful landlords or other power centers such as heartless moneylenders.
The wrenching divide between the gangster ravaged badlands of rural India and the vocal, demanding voices of the privileged is a lethal wedge that will get bigger and bigger. Eventually the resulting vacuum will be filled up by undesirable alternatives such as the Maoists or the dacoits.
Unless society’s winners develop a social conscience and learn to give back to society, there will always be two or more India’s working against each other’s interests and eventually against the national interest. This includes the rich NRIs who gives 20 crores to rich temples rather than opening schools or soup kitchens for the poor. And the crony capitalists in 20 storey mansions who would splurge on 60 million dollar weddings rather than give to hospitals or research institutions.
Unless all these privileged classes, for whom fate has pushed the right buttons do not open the way for the meritorious, the just or the deprived, a powder-keg will be brewing in the slums. And nobody can escape the fury of its whirling fires.
As long as wild inequality prevails and justice lies in the twilight zone, resurgent India will be powerless to be born.