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|May 22, 2001||
Living with Ghalib's lament
Writing in the book Reforming The Constitution (UBS Publishers & Distributors, 1992), Subhash C Kashyap, an authority on the subject, wrote, "The oft-repeated populist jargon that our people though poor and illiterate vote intelligently, freely and with a sense of responsibility is all nonsense, so much poppycock." Jayalalitha's latest triumph and the Bengal Left Front's electoral world record would seem to prove that indictment as nothing else has done before in India's democratic polity.
But, ah, as it now transpires, that severest possible indictment is apparently not endorsed universally by the rich, the literate, the intelligent and the responsible community in India.
There's a foreign correspondent, for instance, who has empathized with the millions of supporters of Jayalalitha as being those who vote with the heart, with innocence, with tendencies of bhakti and shakti of rural India that make the greatness of India and its sanatan dharma.
An assistant editor of a famous English-language newspaper has dubbed the AIADMK and Jayalalitha's victory as "the sweet triumph of hard-won success" while simultaneously ascribing a good part of the DMK's defeat to "the inexplicable Faustian bargain it made with Hindutva forces which involved throwing away its legacy of the Dravidian movement -- its platform of social justice and secularism". And there are any number of letter-writers in The Hindu who not only endorse the cause of the Dravidian movement, but also hail Jayalalitha as a "master strategist".
So where does all that civilisational sentimentalism and cerebral dialectics leave the likes of Kashyap? Confounded and battered -- that's where, simply stated, compelling us to consign our conventional theoretical models of governance to the waste paper basket.
Some signals that emanate from the recent state elections seem loud and clear. The first and foremost is that ours is not one India but two: urban and rural, with dozens of hues in between, together constituting a colossal mass whose psyche only God understands -- perhaps.
Whatever the nature of those innumerable hues, the cold fact is that our country is not one in its evaluation of such concepts as morality, rectitude, corruption, legality, secularism, law and order, poverty, casteism and... governance.
After all, if even an intellectual believes that the trouncing of the DMK was but retribution for its alliance with the "communal" BJP, what more can one do than tear one's hair and give it all up for permanent sanyas?
After all, if even among the intellectuals and the intelligent there are those who believe that MGR's original Dravidian movement and its subsequent manifestations all these years did for social justice the same damn shit as Laloo Yadav has done for a whole decade, what can one do but pray for deliverance?
One is reminded here of Ghalib's lament: Na wo samjhe hain, na samjhenge meri baat/Yarab, de unko dil aur jo na de mujhko zabaan aur. (Since they don't understand me, and never will, give them the sense, oh God, even if it means silencing me henceforth.)
If, after all these 50 years, even edit writers don't accept that this nation's professed secularism has been a monumental constitutional fraud that has resulted in pampering one whole big community into a state of lassitude while also kindling heart-burn and fissiparous intent, what is one to do but become a recluse?
If, after all these long years, one and all accept casteism as a factor for official or unofficial political alliances, what is one to do but live with Ghalib's lament?
If poverty is widespread in Bengal even after a quarter century's rule by the leftists, what is one to do but mourn the fact of Tagore's people returning them to power yet again? If, despite physical evidence of communism having brought the Soviet Union to near ruin, we still see the Sitaram Yechuris strutting about on our TV sets, what is one to do but lament? If, despite the fact that Communist China's apparent prosperity sits surrounded by despotism, we are still forced to listen to Jyoti Basu's hectoring about the BJP's 'barbarism', what can we do but suffer it as one of the vilest, cruellest jokes on this land's civilisation?
Yes, apart from either stoically bearing it or simply running away from it all, there is one thing we can do -- or, rather, what all the NGOs in the country can do and should do. By pooling all their human and financial resources, these NGOs -- the latest one of Bill Clinton included -- should travel to every nook and corner of India and draw up every state's "Profile Of People's Expectations" based on the largest ever universal stratified random sample.
Funds for the novel exercise can be got from donations and grants from all and sundry, including the Government of India. If widely propagated and updated every five years, this profile of every state and Union territory could go a long way in formulating the strategies of all political parties in the country. Who knows, the entire political scenario could transform from innocence of heart or whatever to nothing but an compromising demand for good governance.
Until such a "Profile of People's Expectations" comes about in black and white, one must reconcile living with Ghalib's lament even as one mournfully intones Jaya jaya jaya, jaya he.
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