The NaMo downslide continues at break-neck speed. Totally at a loss to decisively tackle issues facing the country, he grabbed the saddest and most shameful episode of our recent history- the Partition and appealed to us to observe August 14 in remembrance of the horrors of the Partition. We know NaMo is the master of cheap patriotic gimmicks, but this is the cheapest and ugliest to date!
For one thing, August 14 happens to be the independence day of Pakistan. For another Partition happened 74 years ago, and at least 5 generations of Indians were born and thrived after it: drastically reducing those who (generally indirectly) felt the 'horrors' of it to a fast diminishing minority. Thirdly, even those whose ancestors had to trudge to India with bare minimum possessions have now assumed the identity of free Indians living in a sovereign democratic republic. They could not care less to revive the memories of an event that saw 10 lakhs dead and 1 crore displaced (undoubtedly shocking numbers, but history has seen worse). The wound has healed; there is no mention of Partition in the daily conversation of Indians. Even those who have fits of ecstasy when India beats Pakistan in cricket/hockey or NaMo drops a few bombs just beyond the border never invoke 'horrors' of Partition that Namo wants to do.
NaMo has justified his cheap, ugly appeal still more hypocritically. Such observance will help our countrymen to unite and forewarn them of future possibilities of the division of India, he argues. Are there no other ways to unite Indians? Further, are the Indians on the brink of disintegration? Has not India survived democratically proving skeptics like Churchill pitiably wrong who called her not a nation but only population? And would it not be wiser to convince Indians that it is not enough to have mastered the rituals of democracy like free and fair elections, freedom to media, assurance of fundamental rights to all and we need to embrace democratic values in all domains-social, political, economic and moral?
However, NaMo will not think on these lines looking at his past. The Partition was a pet bogey of the RSS in the years after independence. RSS has been an onlooker during the entire freedom struggle and had not only sat on the sidelines during the 'Quit India' movement, but it was fashionable in RSS to downgrade it as something chaotic and undisciplined. It is only rumoured among RSS circles that during the Partition it had saved lots of Hindus: no concrete evidence has been offered. Such was the narrow-minded anti-Congress-Gandhism of RSS that they just ignored the pragmatic wisdom of Savarkar-another Hindu ideologue- who had welcomed the liberation of 3/4th of the motherland and celebrated it by dissolving his own organisation Abhinav Bharat in 1949. Savarkar had indeed expressed heartfelt anguish because the Sindhu(Indus) was not a part of this free India but had himself called it his 'mad dream' -thereby conceding the political impracticality of his stand.
I joined the RSS towards the end of the 1950s while the Partition rarely formed a topic of debate among the average Indians for whom making both ends meet was the essence of independence-such was the level of poverty and disparity which never attracted RSS comment. Rich or poor it, was enough to be a proud Hindu and attend the daily shakha without fail. Like the Sun the shakha never takes a holiday-we were told. I distinctly remember the evening of the first independence after joining RSS. An elderly swayamsevak was in top form. 'How did you spend your day', he asked. 'School had a holiday but we went on a Prabhat Ferry'(morning route march), then there was 'Zenda Vandan'(Flag Hoisting), a speech and we were given a Pedha' I answered. 'Did you find the Pedha sweet'? he asked narrowing his hazel eyes. When I said 'Yes I did', all hell broke loose. 'How could You'? he asked accusingly; 'That Pedha was soaked in the blood of your Mother(land),' he thundered and went on to describe how our motherland had both arms severed (the two Pakistans), how her head had been bleeding(Kashmir) for over a decade and how August 15 was a 'Black Day' and how it was shameful to rejoice!
Even on the verge of teenage, I felt that he was labouring to inject something silly and morbid into me. I continued to attend the shakha for a few more years but always bunked on August 15!
I outgrew RSS around 1965 and started working out my own version of active patriotism. One sure thing I remember was that the number of people referring to Partition dwindled all the time. Despite Partition India had enough worries- underdevelopment, unemployment, ill-health in mass, faulty infrastructure, education that failed to equip individuals to a livelihood most persistent among them. India's rank on all paradigms of development was falling all the time. Social and economic disparity still held her by the throat! Yet nobody blamed Partition for these challenges...
Maybe a few among the Sangha Pariwar still continued to brood over that sad history and they influenced NaMo (who was born in independent India) and shaped his mindset! But even that seems unlikely as the public utterances of RSS stalwarts rarely touched upon it because they targeted Congress and Nehru all the time. Partition was relegated to the way- back- seat by most and seldom raised its head when somebody wrote about it. Generally, the discussion was academic with little emphasis/relevance for the present.
I am sorry to say that sinister minds must be at work if this Ghost is being raised right on the eve of Independence Day when the Prime Minister should take a review of the past year and unfold his plan/s for the year to come. NaMo should rather have boasted that Achche Din is already here and given his countrymen the habitual assurance of ushering in Jyada Achche Din- that would have covered his total lack of vision for policies of the future.
Jihadists proclaim 'Islam Khatareme Hai and our PM proclaims, in the absence of any palpable threat (imagined threats always abound!), that the unity of the country is threatened and memories of the evils of Partition is the remedy! Could things be worse?
No! Mr. PM Sir, this is an old hat, devoid of both intelligence and imagination. I am sick of listening to it because it has been hurled at me from all unimaginative individuals-no matter what party they belonged to over the last sixty years. They have come and gone, but India has survived despite them and the likes of Yourself-both in concept and reality. If India is threatened at all it is more so by unimaginative 'dealers'(sic leaders-no slip of tongue here) than any events of the past!
We, as citizens of a sovereign country, should resist steadfastly this gimmick to divert our attention from the real challenges facing India. They are many and are likely to stay for some time to come. We have to adopt democracy as a culture and not just as a system of governance. We have to cure ourselves of hero-worshipping the most unlikely heroes our imperfect democracy throws up and propels to the top from time to time. We have to realize and actuate a kind of patriotism that is more productive in real terms and less emotional. We must work ceaselessly to reduce economic and social disparity; in that order. We need to convince ourselves that wealth can be judiciously distributed only if and after it is created and give up the habit of hollow talk of socio-economic justice. We have to do a SWOT analysis of our standing in the world economy and capitalise on our strengths-weaknesses will disappear fast by work and less by the blame game. Above all, we need to be patriots without fear of imaginary threats and express it with a positive will for our own perestroika!
We have a long, long history and we have been obsessed with it ad nauseam! Is it not possible to draw a line somewhere(say 1950-the year we adopted our own Constitution) and tell ourselves enough is enough? Our scrap-heap of history is too full of dirty rags: can't we stop washing them in public? Can't we tell ourselves that we have to create history now and leave its discussion for posterity?
- Vinay Hardikar
(The writer has been working in the public sphere of Maharashtra for the last five decades. His versatile personality has several dimensions, but the primary ones remain to be that of an established writer, journalist, editor, critic, activist, and teacher.)
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