“If India are left to govern themselves, they would surely fall apart very soon”, said the British Minister for India.
“Maybe. But rather we live under our own imperfect rule than a foreign rule”, replied the great Mahatma.
…And an imperfect rule it has been.
However, India has a lot to be proud of in its considerably youthful independent state. The only majority Hindu nation that has had a Muslim President, a Sikh Prime Minister as well as a woman Prime Minister and President. They have held their fort up against foreign attacks on their borders and have the largest film industry in the world. The Indian people that have spilled into almost every nation in the world have proved to be a cultural phenomenon with the Bollywood-mania and chicken tikka masalas being served up in every corner.
The current situation, though, in India is one of the most intriguing and riveting worldly events, that could forever change the course of its governance and principles. At once, we see a nation that is at odds with its own people, its own government and its own cultures. On one hand, we see a government mobilizing itself for the economic prosperity that the academics have so promised and a Realpolitik that is preparing to take the world stage as one of the dynamic game changers. On the other hand, we see the Indian people at the very grass roots level who are tangled in a foray between cultures and behaviours that were once accepted but shall be no more. Whilst the political fat cats are busy preparing the business banquet to fill up their coffers, the rank and file of the nation are now deciding they want a piece at the dining table too.
This is not about money. This is about the people of India rekindling their spirit. The spirit which won them independence in 1947. The spirit which led them to win every major war they have been involved with in her 10,000 year history. The only difference is that the battle in which is being fought is no longer against a foreign power but an enemy created amongst themselves. The anti-corruption rallies led by Anna Hazare against the government- a lay person with only $1000 to his name last year. The overwhelming demand for technological advancement in the rural states. The empowering Satyamev Jayate TV show hosted by Aamir Khan last year, that unmasked and broke taboos for the common man. And of course- the massive demonstrations for anti-rape laws after the brutal attack on aspiring medical student, Jyoti Singh Pandey (yes, that is her name) in December. This is about Indians recapturing their values, their rights to equality, their right to be a free human being and ultimately their identity; that have been so foolishly sacrificed on the altar table of that which politicians call ‘democracy.’
British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is today ushering in the largest business delegation to India in an effort to bridge the economic gap, and yet at the same time millions are still demanding just the basic rights to living free. The tension between the rising aspirations of the middle-class and the stubborn government is reaching an apex in which one has to permanently give way. As people become increasingly educated and worldly aware, the nation’s consciousness must shift on its axis to face a whole new direction and purpose. This is thus an absolutely fascinating moment in the history of the nation. India has the largest English speaking middle class in the world, and the demand for better treatment of its citizens is a real, conscious sign that many have moved on from the bare subsistence of living that was once the foremost concern of its people. If history is anything to go by, rising literacy rates and standards of living, indicate that people will worry less about basic food and housing and more about their entitlement to equality and human rights. The increased access to technology that has also branched to the poorer sections of society, who almost all have access to mobile devices, is solidifying this effort. In much the same way the Arab Spring was characterized by the rise of a people that had reached their boiling point in current affairs, the Indian people have now decided enough is enough.
The spirit in which Independence was scripted by Nehru and Gandhi on that Summer’s night in 1947 was a republican government, by the people and for the people. In that endeavour, it appears the politicians have got lost in translation and made a government by some of the people (with money) in favour of only some other people (with money). All of which is typified by a third of the politicians having criminal records including some 15 rape allegations. A government where scandal and bribery is on the daily agenda, exasperated by a Prime Minister, who has more degrees than a thermometer but less words to say than a mute stranded at sea. When the Indian people rise up, and reclaim this dream set out by the nation’s father and other freedom fighters then maybe they’ll be steered back on course again. The non-violent resistance movement that made a celebrity of India in the independence struggle, was a perfect instance of India being an example to the world. When power is restored to the people that matter, I believe India will be a shining example once more. It is just a matter of time.