Tuesday, February 4, 2014

India- The State of Ignorance and its Youth

I was not born the time India became a sovereign nation. Nor did I witness the China war, the East Pakistan conflict or the Emergency. I was a toddler when insurgencies brew in Punjab and not even in my teens when Babri Masjid was knocked down. I will agree that it has been my self- driven need to know about my socio-political surroundings and an insatiable thirst for history as a subject. But what is disturbing is that how many people of my age chose to update themselves with India post 1947.

One of the arguments made by Ramchandra Guha in his scholarly book- India after Gandhi, is why the history textbooks of India stops abruptly after 15th August 1947 with only small references made to the Goa liberation. I second this sentiment. The constitution, local self government and the legislature are a small part of a small annexure called the Civics text book; treated so insignificant that it was reserved for last day look before exams (or so it was in my times). The transition from the Nehruvian economy to the post ‘91 liberalization came in an even smaller textbook of Economics. Sadly this book also failed to capture the License Raj era; so one day in the 50’s we were a socialist economy building the dams and steel plants (the temples of modern India), next in ’77 we threw out Coca-Cola and IBM and the day after that in the 90’s we got in Coca-Cola and IBM to make us the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world.

While these thoughts resonate my mind in a lot of ways- what got me to write them down was a recent interaction and some research I did to verify why this was happening.    

It has been just over a week after the Rahul Gandhi and Arnab Goswami saga unfolded on TV and the reactions on how and what was said and what should have been said are still high. Amidst the discussions on at work, I stumbled upon a line asking what should Rahul Gandhi apologise for; there have been so many riots in India. What was so special about 84 riots?

Though it was not my argument; I simply could not refrain myself from the discussion even as I could sense there was a bagful of ignorance to plough through. My question was pretty simple- no doubt any of you were even born when the riots happened, but what as per you all were they all about? The answers I got were both hilarious on one part and raising a concern as well. Indira Gandhi made derogatory remarks against a Sikh religious leader... some sardar ending in‘walla’- Indira Gandhi had called some Sikh saint a terrorist and the Sikhs retaliated by killing her- Indira Gandhi sent some police into Golden temple to catch terrorists and so there was rioting, Operation Blue Star- AC ka ad hai kya???

As much as I was taken aback, I could not help clarify that it was a chain of events leading to the assassination followed by riots which involved some Congress leaders in the fore guiding mobs. Okay, but why should Rahul apologise? He said na that I was not even born then. Needless to say that a man of 40 was most definitely born then; but what was ignored here was that it was moral responsibility for party actions was being demanded much on lines that Modi is being asked for in the 2002 case. Finishing touch came in a statement- I’m not into politics so I don’t know much.

This incident involved people who are 20 something and voters in this land of the largest democracy. The Congress campaign is stating that 50% of the country is under 30. If this is the awareness about our own country and its state- what are the young turks planning to vote on?

I am not sure who should be blamed or is there anything to blame at all? This part of our country’s history is not written in text books, politics is a dirty and dynasty driven business, TV has Sitcoms and social media always has dancing kitten videos to entertain GenY. Until someone wants to take it seriously by interest- there is no reason or mens to know it.

But I don’t know, somehow we know more about United States than India. Though when I probed these set of people (until I got ‘kya subah subah bore kar rahe ho...) I got some winners as well- the tallest waterfall was Niagara, Kempe Gowda Airport was my mythical creation and Chhattisgarh (like Raigad, Rajgad) is a fort.   

Bottom line, I know it is much cool to know all about the latest gadgets, hottest house DJ and even every word of what Pitbull yaps in his song and say India is in its state due to corrupt Politicians; somehow it is our own ignorance and neglect that we have such people deciding our fate.