Do you want to see how a nation builds itself? Look at the People’s Republic of China. From a tattered country, wracked by civil war and internal strife, in 1980, it has systematically pulled itself up to emerge as one of the leading powers of the world.
The Communist party there abandoned dogma to unleash its economic potential, and reformed itself to provide effective governance based on giving the levers of power to the best and the brightest in a systematic, time-bound manner.
In these years, it has sand-papered regional and linguistic variations by a national culture, built on a bedrock of a new network of road and railways, extending into the outermost reaches of the vast country. Its great metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing vie to become world centres of industry, finance and culture.
To see how a nation destroys itself, however, you do not have to go far. You only have to look at India.
In 1980, we were ahead of China in almost every department, except nuclear weapons. But over the years, we have fallen behind everywhere— in science, agriculture, manufacturing.
Our political system increasingly based on parties that seek to exclude or divide people on the basis of caste, creed, region or language seems determined to destroy the unified fabric of the country.
Our vaunted right of democratic protest has degenerated to a point where tearing up national communications networks like roads and railway tracks has now become the norm. Our great metropolis Mumbai has been blessed with leaders whose perspective does not extend beyond the state of Maharashtra.
In this process, the country’s leading political party, the Congress, has been the most complicit for its failures of omission, rather than commission. It has failed to provide the kind of national leadership that was expected of it. Instead, it has kowtowed to fundamentalists, fumbled before separatists and failed to keep the country’s tryst with destiny.
But perhaps the biggest immediate danger we confront is from the actions of the Bharatiya Janata Party which projects itself as a super-nationalist organisation, but seems determined to diminish the nation, and not just geographically. Recall, in the 1990s, it demanded that a Ram Mandir be established on the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and unleashed a national movement that led to widespread rioting and mayhem in the country.
It’s double-barreled somewhat transparent aim was to humiliate the Muslim community whose demonisation has always been a part and parcel of its mobilisational strategy, and to gain the support of the majority Hindus who worship Lord Ram. That project as we know has only been partially successful. The Muslims have been humiliated to the point that some of them have turned to radicalism and even terrorism, but the Hindus have not rallied behind the party in the numbers that were expected.
Jammu & Kashmir
So in the past year or so, the party has experimented with a number of other issues like Sethusamudram, hoping that one of them will be the spark that sets off the prairie fire. But last month it believes it hit pay dirt when the issue of the transfer of land by the Jammu & Kashmir government to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board rocked the state. There is no doubt that the protests in the Valley had a communal colour, led as they were by the Mir Waiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Neither is there any question that it was mishandled by the previous governor Lt. Gen (retd) S.K. Sinha and the coalition government of the Congress and the People’s Democratic Party.
The counter-agitation may appear to be a spontaneous upsurge of Jammu-based Hindus angered by the communalism of the Valley leaders, but it is in fact a well organised campaign being directed by the Sangh Parivar which had, as recently as 2002, backed the idea of a separate Jammu state. The leaders of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board Sangharsh Samiti are known Parivar men — Tilak Raj Sharma of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, VHP state president Ramakant Dubey and the BJP state chief Ashok Khajuria.
When militancy broke out in 1990, some administrators like Governor Jagmohan had suggested a scorched earth policy of destroying the financial support structure of the separatists by blockading the Valley and preventing any export of its fruit and handicraft products. Fortunately better sense prevailed and the Indian security forces were able to restore a great measure of authority of the state without having thrown the baby out with the bath-water.
But the Jammu agitation is trying to do precisely that by blockading the Valley and preventing the export of its apple produce. It is being assisted in the process by the Punjab government which is a coalition between the Akali Dal and the BJP. It does not take much imagination to see that the consequences of these actions will be to deepen the sense of alienation of the Kashmir Valley Muslims from the rest of the country. Since the other major route out of the Valley leads out of the Jhelum Valley to Pakistan, this will go a long way in promoting the Pakistani project in the state.
But these things do not matter much to the BJP. It has not hesitated to pursue a cynical and dangerous policy of alienating the 140 million Muslims and pushing them over the brink through actions like the Babri Masjid demolition and the Gujarat massacres of 2002.
Now it seems determined to push the scheme of trifurcating the state which was last attempted by the Jammu Mukti Morcha, an RSS-backed body, in the 2002 elections. It should be clear what trifurcation implies — the Valley, Doda, Poonch and Rajauri becoming 100 per cent Muslim and edging towards Pakistan, so that the rump of a Hindu Jammu and Ladakh remain with India.
The BJP leaders think that once they have consolidated their electoral majority in Parliament, they can douse the fires they have lit, or coerce the Muslim community into total submission. But given the experience of the consequences of Babri Masjid and Gujarat — the repeated acts of terrorism that we are witnessing in the last couple of years — it should be clear that they will be unleashing a typhoon which will destroy the nation as it is constituted.
This article appeared first in Mail Today August 7, 2008