Bhaskar Ghose on “being Indian”

In Ghose’s view, the Central government’s indifferent handling of the worsening situation in Manipur risks upsetting the dynamic that keeps India together.

This concept of India, this dynamic and restless intermingling and confrontation, which cannot really be summed up in that smug phrase “unity in diversity”, has kept India what it is. There has never been a time when India has not been threatened and there has never been a time when India did not break into several kingdoms or separate States and come together again. But the process has always had, running through it, some strong and abiding bonds.

These are the bonds that are being tested in the northeastern region, and more particularly, now in Manipur. In time, the bonds may prove stronger and prevail, but the process must be understood and accepted as what it is by Indians generally and the government in particular. The process is of the re-identification of a group, a community, or people. Sometimes this perception tends to be smothered in the indifference and worse still, by the dreadful and all enveloping bureaucracy of the government. The danger lies here.

In years gone by, farsighted rulers or even colonial powers, saw these essential underlying factors and built on them. Today, we run the risk of this foresight slowly decaying and degenerating into a different setting in the form of note in a file maintained by a Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. [Frontline]

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finally considering taking greater personal interest, starting with the probable sacking of the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

5 thoughts on “Bhaskar Ghose on “being Indian””

  1. Patil is an absolute dead weight and should never have been made Home Minister; his antics as speaker during the vote of confidence against the Narasimha Rao govt and the handling of the JMM scame illustrated his shortcomings clearly. I can only assume that some links with the Nehru-Gandhi clan or some other Congress Supremo, saw the resucitation of a political career that should have ended by now.

    I am not sure that I agree completely with Ghose’s attitude and argument; simply because ‘unity in diversity’ et al. sounds all very good in theory but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to steamroller smaller groups via majoritarian sentiment. Much could have been defused purely at a political level by wise handling of sensitive border states by the Federal govt and not playing partisan politics; time and time again we have seen local sub-nationalist aspirations which could have been easily accommodated within a Federal constitutional structure turned into extra-parliamentary secessionist movements through suppression of local democracy and heavy-handed repression. This happened in Kashmir, in Punjab and in the NE; given the immense strategic locations of these states, one would have thought that a sensible and well-managed plan from the Centre would have accommodated these pressures before it was too late but no. Caught between violent terrorist movements and political repression from the Centre, each with their own chauvinist-nationalist intolerances, the local populations in these states turn from the Centre to the separatists depending on who can offer the more security and let them live in peace. What is really needed is an inclusive nationalism that can include the local and political aspirations of the regional populations within a suitable institutionalised framework; the tragedy is that channel most likely to deliver this – the Indian state has proven either unresponsive to most such demands and is distrusted, while those that claim to represent them – the separatists, have no actual plan or real capability to fulfil their promises. Having said this Ghose makes one major error, the government and state of today can’t be compared unproblematically with those of the past; as the task of nation-building is an extremely difficult and ardous one at the best of times and whatever else the past rulers and colonial powers were interested in, nation-building was not one of their aims. Neither were self-government or economic development, two crucial pillars of state-legitimacy within the current context; people don’t just expect a benign ruler in some far off capital or an English ICS officer to visit occasionally on horseback; they expect to be able to be given a say in how their own affairs are run and for their lives to improve visibily over their lifetime. Historically speaking these are two relatively new demands in the relationship in the State-Society dynamic; and it makes the task of the former that much harder.

  2. Must agree with Conrad Bawa on this one.

    ideally, soon after 1971, we should have negotiated a long term land-access treaty withmujib-ur-rehman through bangladesh for servicing our NE regions. Now Bangladesh hasbecome a haven for NE insurgents and is virulently anti-Indian.

    As for Kashmir, the entirer article 370 farce was a blunder. We should have integrated them as one state among equals.

    BTW, nobody really cares abt the plight of the displaced kashmiri pundits, eh? If even 10% of their number were muslim refugees from some hindu majority area, you should’ve seen the media circus that would’ve generated. Who says muslims are equal in India? they’re nmore than equal, I say!

  3. Hmmm, I don’t think Sudhir quite got the drift of what I was saying. Article 370, transport connections etc. these are secondary issues – if people don’t beleive in the state or the nation they belong to, these these won’t make a whit of difference. I think it is clear where the failure lies here.

    Of course nobody cares about the Kashmiri brahmins, if the State cared it wouldn’t have acquiesed in their being driven out and subsequent govts would have done something for them. Unless there is political mileage to be derived in rehabilitating them, as opposed to keeping them around as perpetual refugess, this won’t change.

  4. Now let me start from the scratch. First question is : who is writting this? Frontline (the hindu’s). This newspaper (the hindu) never give its view on the matter. When crisis started arising it came up with the editorial of a person who wanted to scrap ASFPA. Then after somedays Its leading editor(Rajamohan) wrote completely opposite view. And the only one name to blame : Shivraj Patil. Then after some more days it (when patil went manipur) came up with editorial in which it cited exactly opposite view to which its Rajamohan took ( albeit indirectly). First let me not exaggerate and write in to clear word: this paper is really making people fool.
    Now Come to Mr. Shivraj Patil. “Incompetent “:the perfect word for him. When the Manorama devi’s dead body was found , Patil was in sleep. Then after sevendays the incident of nude protesters( very unfortunate) came up. But still he was in sleep. Then agitation was catching wind slowly. But atleast for another 7 days he never responded (in media atleast). Then the first word from his mouth was :”Centre is thinking of scrapping ASFPA”. Look at this time lag first. Atleast 15 days. Now how should he do then? When agitation started catching wind (nude protesters’ incident), Patil with senior army officers (especially assam rifles) should go there,talk with NGOs,setup commitee to inquire the probe, and give the guilty required punishment within seven to eight days. This would signal two things First to public, that central government donot want to show indifference to their grivances. Second to army, even if you have extreme powers , you arenot above the law. I think every thing will be solved if this time lag was not there.

  5. Mr. Shivraj Patil, looser in Loksabha elections, is the most incompetent minister I ever seen. I belong to Maharashtra and still hate this guy. He says Maharashtra government should not make a big issue of “Illegal Bangladeshi Immigrants” as it may spoil India’s relationship with B’Desh. Man, he is a coward sitting on the throne.

    When asked to comment on Salman’s alleged conversation with Aishwarya, he says “Dont ask me to comment on what people say in media”…Such a useless fellow and he is country’s home minister. He needs a dose of “Boost” every 1 hour to make him strong. He should step down from the chair and serve as the clerk in some bank.

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