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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 6, January 31, 2015 - Republic Day Special

Break the Siege

Saturday 31 January 2015, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

Once again the nation celebrates the birthday of our Republic, now crossing the fortyfirst milestone of its eventful career, Beyond the rituals of the occcasion, this time has come in the mind of many of the citizens of the Republic serious premonitions about its durability, whether it has the strength to overcome the challenges that beset it. Never before in these fortyone years since the promulgation of the Republic have its foundations been so badly shaken as they are today.

The basic weakness which has debilitated the strength of the Republic in a large measure has been the disconcerting fact that to the utter shame of this nation the vast majority of the citizens are left in a state of privation and illiteracy after four decades of impressive economic development. From being rich quite a few have become super-rich, while the gap between the affluent and the impoverished has been widening every passing year. Just over one-third of our nearly eight hundred million population can read and write, while the other two-thirds are left in the darkness of illiteracy. Unless this is rectified in the next ten years, we will have to bear the disgrace of having the largest number of illiterates at the dawn of the twentyfirst century.

The year taht has just passed has witnessed the most amazing assertion of caste domination in our social life. A very small move to reserve a few jobs for the backward castes touched off a violent outburst engineered largely by those who felt their entrenched upper-caste privileges threatened by this small step towards social equality. This vicious campaign was of course dressed up in the garb of pseudo-rationalism that such reservation of jobs itself would be tantamount of whipping up caste animosity, as if our society had already been emancipated from the shackles of the invidious caste system.

This is also the year that has experienced the fury of unremitting communal violence in many parts of the country, the magnitude of this menace bringing back the nightmare memories of the bloody communal carnage of the Partition days that had smudged the face of Mother India at the moment of her freedom from foreign rule. This time base communal passions have been whipped up over the clamour for a temple to be built by demolishing a mosque. This has sought to open up the prospect of an India dominated by the majority community, with the principal minority community living in the land of their birth by the grace of the majority, thereby negating the very essence of our democracy nurtured by the unique traditions that have fostered the mingling of several streams of great civilisations.

Against such a sombre background it is not at all surprising that sections of our people in different parts of the country should be involved in violent unrest setting off ideas of seceding from the Republic itself. Political leaders in power and those aspiring to power have been so preoccupied with mutual squabblings that these assaults on the fabric of the Republic are not attended to with the seriousness and statesmanship demanded of them.

Perhaps the gravest weakness in the present situation is this bankruptcy of political leader-ship. It is time for our entire nation to wake up and bring forth a leadership that is worthy of this great Republic and service it in such a manner that its foundations are reinforced and its pillars are bathed in the shining glory that it rightfully deserves.

[‘Editor’s Notebook, Mainstream Republic Day Special, January 26, 1991]