New Delhi: Reflection and introspection are in fashion. The country is 60 years into independence, so everybody is looking back. The media, the academicians, the public, the intellectuals, the once-upon-a-time bureaucrats and just about everybody else with claims to cerebral activism.
Raj Liberhan, Director, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Yes, we are a free country. No doubt about that. For the skeptics, we have loads of evidence. The 15th August of every year, the moving ‘tryst with destiny speech’, the national anthem composed by our very own Nobel litterateur, our very own constitution with a whole chapter on fundamental rights and much else.
Apart from being a free country, we are also a non-aligned one. We are free from any attachments abroad and have only peace treaties with fellow countries. Make love, not war is our guiding philosophy, even though, we do not confess to making love and as for making war, we are, in principle, opposed to the very idea.
Ours is truly a rag-to-riches story that unfolded in 1947. Many of the then rich were left with only rags in the aftermath of the division of the country and notwithstanding the protestations of some leaders on our side and a few on the other side, people lost their homes, love, businesses and lives.
The scars took a long time healing. The yearning for the legendary life of Lahore has abated now and the present generation has barely an academic memory. As many rags have changed into the rich and the prosperous, through various means like industry, professional excellence, there are some who leapt over the onerous and inconvenient processes of hard work. They made the grade through trading of office they held or through gratitude of people at large. The contribution of this lot is most generous as they actually helped the country to make it to the top ten in the list of the most corrupt. No mean feat in a short time of a half a century or thereabouts.
In the meantime, we have grown in numbers and crossed the billion mark successfully, and are jostling each other in urban and rural spaces. Schools are full, colleges are full, hospitals are full, trains and buses are full, airports and planes too are full, even courts are full and so are jails. People and more people everywhere.
The pace of change has been frenetic. The India of ’47 to Bharat Varsh, to Bharat Mata and now Incredible India, there is a new respect globally for this land once dubbed as one of snake charmers and rope tricksters. Our hunger remains unfulfilled. Hunger for rule of law, hunger for an environment where excellence of talent can be pursued, hunger for a helpful government and hunger for a state, which does not extort from its own citizens.
Our other half’s travails have been no less arduous. It began as a birth of a nascent democracy, experimented with a military dictatorship and again flirted with democracy. The affair didn’t last, so it fell back into a dictatorship readily and generally continues to make its yearning for democracy an infrequent feature in its chequered history. The saviours and the defenders of the faith together helped to place their country at the bottom quarter of the heap. The hunger of the people is alike on both sides of the divide and for practically the same things.
It is said that of all the thoughts in time, the saddest are those that dwell on what could have been. Indeed, what might have been if we had opened more schools, built more hospitals, created more roads and bridges, allowed more enterprise and in general had the state facilitated the pace rather than obstructed. Would it be fanciful to imagine that could we have been a better world than being the third grade one, which the sub continent is commonly referred to, if the two halves had stayed together?
Could our hockey supremacy have been intact, could our cricket have been hard to beat, the craftsmanship comparable with the very best and would our social mileau been without ethnic dimensions?
Ah…the might have beens, never shall they come to pass. Destinies have been separated and so must remain. This breather at 60, is only just that and the nation has to move on. There are many freedoms to be given a real meaning. The governance system needs to acquire a sense of fairness not greatly in evidence uptil now.
The time gone by has given us an opportunity to create a dream. What makes nations great has yet to be discovered by the people and generation after generation has to strive to make it happen. The rags-to-riches formula is only an array of opportunistic deal makings where the most common factor is the advantage of the few and not of the community.
We need to resurrect an ideology of greatness by common consent for the next 60 years, an ideology that will include a fundamental and abiding commitment to respecting the right and beliefs of the anonymous citizen by the state, and an enforcement machinery of a veracity to which all will bow down to. The fragility of the present day arms of the state stems from the overall sickness of the body politic. We hope that there are enough young doctors, able and willing, to nurse the polity into good health, wealth and prosperity.
Raj Liberhan is Director of the India Habitat Centre at New Delhi. Send your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org