As I ponder India 2007, I am struck how truly free a country she is. You may just do as you please—multiply lucre, or starve and opt for suicide. You may also kill without let or hindrance.
How often does history offer so sanguine, even if largely gruesome, a paradox that the happiest occupy opposite ends of an ideological divide that neither wishes particularly to bridge.
On one end, the establishment end if you like, is the “growth” brigade. Like Arjun of the Mahabharta epic whose warrior arrow was trained to see nothing but the eye of the fish, this brigade sees nothing but the figure 9. Deeply mystified as you properly must be, let us tell you that 9 refers to the percentage at which the Indian economy is growing, give or take.
Still more properly, this 9 caters to its foundational fraction of 3—yet another deeply mystical figure as you would know. Know also that the 3 here alludes to the percentage of Indians who are by now so sexily amalgamated with the global economy of consumptive crap. They are the pool that give to us our fourth distinguished place worldwide among countries with the most dollar billionaires! Surely, Coleridge’s magical lines may without shame be deployed to define the status of our Prime Minister under whose whiz-kid expertise such a consequence has resulted:
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
And so puissant is this new 3 that it has the power to obliterate all governmental lateral vision, a gift whereby the other 97% of whom 77% subsist on less than US 50 cents a day (all according to report of government’s own distinguished committee—no dearth of those, committees, that is) are rendered invisible. So that what is also made invisible is that this 77% is without pottable drinking water, human sanitation, schooling, health care, housing, or piece of land of whose ancient roots they might eat. Although when all public grain disappears from government shops through diversion to privateers, this 77% is known to take their fill of what grass they can find. And often to sell off their unwanted children, daughters especially, for a pittance against the hunger of the next day. A circumstance that calls for invoking the wisdom of another old English poet, William Blake, who was to point out how
Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody poor.
In our 9% situation, we may indeed replace the word ‘pity’ with ‘greatness.’ Although pity and greatness do also go together: they breed that happy marriage between marauding capitalism and equally marauding religion that we see nowadays on display in large parts of India. Remember that it is no object of missionary activity of any religious denomination to actually eradicate misery; that would be incurring suicide. The whole trick lies in catering to misery on a lasting basis without discomfort to oneself. Unsurprisingly, ever since the Washington Consensus was made to overtake India, the object of religious catering has also shifted without embarrassment to the miserable of the Fortune and Forbes magazine types who, after all, being such harried managers of the world’s welfare, suffer all kinds of stress and strain. Thus, among the 3% cabal who drip with lucre you may also count most of India’s best-known gurus and godmen.
The 9% yielding the 3% phenomenon has another kind of prowess—such that it routinely propagates through the print and electronic media channels whose list of ‘experts’ on economic wisdom remains sickeningly steadfast. It is able to show, as the well-known columnist, J. Sri Raman, has recently alluded to (“Pillorying the Poor for Poverty”,Daily Times, Lahore, Sept.,14), how those bleeding-hearts who speak for the 77% are at bottom ‘intolerable populists’ whereas those who argue for ‘more state concessions and incentives for big business’ are indeed ‘patriotically progressive.’
With sound instinct, therefore, no less than two scions of the Congress Party have smirkingly pointed out how farmers who commit suicide are infact the ones to blame for their poverty. In the language of Dickens’ Steerforth (see David Copperfield) ‘that sort of people’ have incurably thick skins and will refuse all succour. What can an advancing India have to do with them. Just let them be. India after all is a free country, and we may all do as we like. Who says the Tories are dead and gone.
In a word, a state of impenetrable hubris overlays the “growth” brigade. And the acme of its inebriated self-satisfaction is the new embrace with the world’s only ‘superpower’, even if that poor superpower does not seem to be able to manage to subdue the least of nations where people have the most grit. With unending supplies of uranium round the corner, the 3% who alone may buy what energy that atom yields aspire to scale the heavens where stores may never be short of brands and vending machines of junk food. Now that India has also graduated to the world’s largest buyer of armaments with defence deals sealed and signed with who else but the world’s only ‘superpower’, India’s ruling elites are convinced that the State is well-nigh impregnable, and therefore deserving of a place at the high tables of all the world’s high tables.
Looking quizzically from the other end, however, is the anarchist eye. And it sees what the denizens of the bloated balloon of State do not—a thousand little darts stuck in its thick skin, determined to find a way in. Laughing away the pretence of State, it can almost visualize the combustion whose consummation may after all require no extra-territorial conspiracy.
Beginning at the primum mobile of the State, its Parliament, the anarchist eye spies a parliament wherein a sprinkling of earnest men and women are overwhelmed routinely by the cacophony of fowls. Thanks to the very channels that proclaim the hubris of the State, the least is able to see how government business is slipped without discussion inbetween its main preoccupation of pandemonial mayhem, much as Corporate TV channels slip in bits of programming between their main preoccupation—commercials. And when the honourable though so overwhelmed Speaker is heard to say, equally routinely, that it would be best that the House be shut down permanently, the anarchist heart swells at the promised implosion.
Among the polity, the situation seems everyday evenmore promising: more and more army personnel shoot dead their colleagues and disobey their officers, more and more commit suicide, more and more policemen kill off innocent citizens in fake encounters to collect reward and preferment, organized right-wing extremists go on blood-thirsty rampages at the least imagined insult to one cultural/religious icon or the other, burning public property, bashing public men in office, killing as many of the ‘other’ in unhindered pogroms of carnage; and in still more organized fashion, armed left-wing extremists capture more and more territory in the hinterlands, running their own governments in line with their own laws. In the ‘peripheries’ dozens of provinces refuse to acknowledge the majesty of the State, and dozens of ethnic armies carry on their defiance of it.
And, most significantly now, instances of fatal public lynchings multiply dime a dozen as well. In village and town, the high-castes vent fatal justice on low-castes, often for no offence greater than standing upright in their august presence, caste panchayats administer instant retribution to loving couples who transgress caste laws (who cares either about the elected panchayats or the Constitutional prerogatives of the citizen), many often beheaded in tandem, or left to hang by the next tree, vagrant teenage ‘thieves’ are caught and bludgeoned to death as approving voices justify the procedure, including members of the state-apparatus who feel relieved that people take upon themselves the rotten business they were appointed to do. Within a month in just one state of India, half a dozen of these wild-western executions have come to light.
Add to all that the time-honoured killings that are conducted to fulfil ritual injunctions—children cut up by tantrics to propitiate some god or the other inorder to obviate immiseration or ill-health, women obliged to climb the pyre as Satis , or be hacked as witches so as their claims to property can be obliterated, daughters-in-law burnt off so that new ones may come with fresh infusions of dowry; and with the mouth-watering prospects of the good life beckoning all and sundry, instances of old parents left chained in cells for months/years in the heart of metropolitan India until discovered, or deposited outside temples and suchlike to be carted off by whoever minds their presence. Thus the anarchist sees in the ever-deepening social atavisms the promise of the State’s dissolution.
Most of all, the anarchist delights in the new contagious phenomenon that seems to traverse the length and breadth of the country, namely, collective and violent resistance put up by farmers of all description against the appropriation of their lands by the Corporates who cannot wait to maximize their profits thousand-fold in the shortest span of time, and who now know that the State is their buddy, and the law-enforcement agencies their permanent protectors from the people. And the courts honourable allies as well. And should these agencies prove inadequate, there is now, after all, the Nimitz and the Kitty Hawk ready and authorized to shoot uranium pellets from as close as the Bay of Bengal.
What wonder then that the anarchist should snigger ‘did you think Pakistan was imploding? Just wait till you see what happens here you call home. This here democracy that you laud day in and day out is a giant mannequin; its life-blood has long dried out and now flows in the drains everyday with the greed of the haves and the desperation of the have-nots.’ And who can say they misrepresent the situation.
So what of those who have a place neither in the balloon nor in the anarchist corner? They are allowed the freedom to make opinion. For now.