Saturday, 16 February 2008

Balkanizing India

So now Raj Thackeray wants the Indian constitution to be rewritten, to allow for both provincial and national citizenship. He now claims to be an Indian Thomas Jefferson fighting for states’ rights. In my not-so-humble opinion, Bal Thackeray resembles John C. Calhoun, whose greatest claim to fame was as the inspiration for the secessionist Confederate States of America, whereas Raj Thackeray resembles Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy in the US Civil War. His diatribes against north Indian migrants working and living in Maharashtra have seen factory workers in Nashik voting with their feet. The fact that so many people flock from all parts of India to work in Mumbai or in Maharashtra should be a matter of pride--it means that there is more than enough work for everyone. And frankly, I for one support the contention of our founding fathers that provincial citizenship should not be a part of the Indian constitution. Unlike the US, where the people were originally migrants from Europe, Africa and Asia, and where balkanization is not so likely, the people of India have very strong cultural and social ties to their province. If provincial citizenship became a part of the Indian constitutional set-up, it might well lead to the balkanization of the country. The policy of allowing Indian citizens to live and work wherever they please can only strengthen the country and add to the richness of its cultural heritage. Of course, the fact that Raj Thackeray was let off after posting bail makes one wonder if the Congress-NCP government is not trying to use the MNS to increase its vote bank at the expense of the Shiv Sena. Maybe the Congress has not yet learnt its lesson from the Punjab insurgency--encouraging a secessionist force can only lead to a cycle of violence, which can destroy lives and nations.

Indian politicians’ obsession with vote banks and wealth is the reason why so many young people have no respect for politics. There was a time when politics was synonymous with self-sacrifice and nation-building--now, it is seen as a refuge for scoundrels or criminals, who use political power to amass unaccounted wealth for future generations or as a cloak for illegal activities. Why on earth should politicians expect to be looked up to by Indian youth, who are far more interested in working hard to better themselves? They, like Voltaire’s Candide, are busy cultivating their own gardens, doing their own little bit to make this country better. Where can we find the vision of an Asoka or an Akbar to create a united and prosperous country? As the movie makes clear, both Jodhaa (never mind if that was not her real name) and Akbar have to work hard to create the Ganga-Jamuni culture that our grandparents spoke of with pride and that our politicians are bent upon destroying for their narrow, selfish ends of setting up an unbeatable vote bank.

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