Friday, October 14, 2005

Bharat and India ceasing to be two different people

George Fernandes, NDA Convenor, former Defence Minister

To me, India Empowered means a country where poverty has been eliminated and no one goes to bed without a meal. Where the old slogan of roji, roti aur makan (job, food and house) is a reality and no more a slogan. Where the State looks after the citizens’ health so that no one has to die at the hospital gates for want of medicine they cannot afford. A nation which is at peace with itself and with its neighbours with no power on earth daring to threaten it.

Where religion does not divide the people but binds them in love. Where man-woman equality is not a favour to women but a dogma. Where child mortality is a bad dream from the distant past. Where all children—from the Prime Minister’s to the sweeper’s—have the same opportunities to study and learn so that talent stands out and mediocrity is left behind.

When the casual way the farmers are treated by the political establishment, the government and corrupt financial institutions is over and the farmers are given the same respect which any other labouring class receives.

Where dynastic politics which breeds corruption, generation after generation, has no space.

Where truth reigns and lies are shown up for what they are, whether uttered by an individual or by a journalist or by a politician or within a family. Where justice is not on sale and the unjust get the punishment they deserve. Where the curse of caste system has been ostracised and the whole nation works together to raise India to its heights in the spirit of Vasudeva Kutumbakam (the whole world is one family).

If I am not mistaken, it was the then leader of the farmers, Sharad Joshi, who divided India into two parts. Bharat, being the other part. In this divide, India was the land of the haves and Bharat, the land of the poor. The rich landlords were a part of India along with industrialists, while the small farmers and workers were Bharat.

The ‘Reforms’, whatever they may mean, have not bridged this divide. If anything, the ‘Reforms’ have widened the divide, with the poor becoming poorer and the rich growing richer by the day at the expense of the poor. It is not that the Reforming Indians were not aware what was waiting for the poor of Bharat. But it was not their concern. Their eyes were riveted to the manna that was about to drop for them from heaven.

It was under the leadership of the United States, whose white population believes that theirs is God’s own land, that the ‘Reforms revolution’ started. Indians, who benefited from the largesse they received from the US, joined its bandwagon. Thereafter, many natives joined in. To cut a long story short, Bharat is going down as India is shining.

When Charu Mazumdar started his Revolution in Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967, it was a few months since I had entered Parliament after defeating S K Patil in South Mumbai constituency. Dr Ram Manohar Lohia called me over to his residence and asked me to proceed immediately to Bengal and meet Charu Mazumdar. The brief he gave me was to see if we could establish a political relationship with him.

The Naxal movement began among the farm labour whose exploitation by the landlords was crying to the high heavens but the Congress government of the day had shut its ears to their cries, so rooted were their interests with the landlords.

Whatever may be the state of the Naxal movement at the moment, it cannot be denied that it is only through their work among the most deprived among the country that they have established control over vast areas from the north to the south and the east to the west. All efforts of every government to deal with the Naxal movement have failed for the simple reason that every government could not relate itself to the poor and the dispossessed.

The empowerment of India, that is Bharat in this case, must start from the lowest rung of the ladder of our society. If it does not, talk of empowerment is bound not to take us anywhere. India may have to go through what Latin American countries had to go through. To avoid this, India will finally have to extricate itself from the rigid grip of corrupt, vested interests and continuation of the British Raj that goes on under different colours. All else will be mere tinkering.

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