Monday, November 15, 2010

History of India after 1947. Redux.

There’s much chest-beating and heart-burning every time Arundhati Roy’s recently expressed view that Kashmir was never a part of India is discussed. If you were to realistically and unemotionally look at the geopolitical status of pre-Independence India, it was as follows. The British Raj consisted of British India directly governed by the Governor General – and, later, Viceroy − of India for the Emperor of India and close to 590 Native Princely States under suzerainty of the British Crown, supervised by Residents. There were also Portuguese India comprising Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Pondicherry (now Puducherry), Karikal and Yanaon making up French India. India was pretty much balkanized as of then as it used to be before the East India Company took over the governance. Come to think of it, even with the so-called Mughal Emperor in Delhi or prior to that reign, balkanization was the rule rather than the exception. The Undivided (except for Pakistan) Independent India was an idea of those to whom the absconding British transferred power in unconscionable haste in 1947. These latter worthies with eminently Middle Indian values, sensibilities and concerns used the stick and the carrot route to fashion a federation out of it. Along with the transfer of power, the departing Imperialists also left behind with their successors their arrogantly domineering Imperialist attitude and style of governance. The inheritors promptly picked up where the British Raj had left off. For their own first colonial conquest, they chose the native aborigines and tribals and the rural masses to play the role of the victim. Arundhati Roy summed it all brilliantly in her The Greater Common Good. "The Indian State is not a State that has failed. It is a State that has succeeded impressively in what it set out to do. It has been ruthlessly efficient in the way it has appropriated India's resources – its land, its water, its forests, its fish, its meat, its eggs, its air – and redistributed it [sic?] to a favoured few (in return, no doubt, for a few favours). It is superbly accomplished in the art of protecting its cadres of paid-up elite, consummate in its methods of pulverising those who inconvenience its intentions." And: "India lives in her villages, we're told, in every other sanctimonious public speech. That's bullshit. … India doesn't live in her villages. India dies in her villages. India gets kicked around in her villages. India lives in her cities. India's villages live only to serve her cities. Her villagers are her citizens' vassals and for that reason must be controlled and kept alive, but only just." (pp.14-15, IBD, 1999) There have apparently been 60 million oustees ever since 1947 as a result of these river dam projects. Numerous atrocities have been and are being perpetrated by forestry department’s official, police personnel and contractors on tribals with impunity. The first one of them was at Pararia in West Bengal in 1991 where the guilty went scot-free. In the second instance, a few years later in Sagbara District in Gujarat, the two policemen who raped Guntaben, a young tribal, were imprisoned for ten years thanks to the intervention of Amnesty International on her behalf. The other instance happened in Nandurbar, Narmada Valley, where the tribals were displaced four times, literally hounded by the officials all the time. The motive for the horrendous treatment is to demoralize the hapless victims who have nobody to turn to, nobody to fight on their behalf. (The Dalit at least have a champion in the shape of a political party to take up their cause.) In the very first major river valley project, Hirakud in Orissa, the oustees living on open land were relentlessly harassed by the forestry personnel. The story repeats itself in Singrauli, also in Madhya Pradesh, where the tribal oustees were displaced at least three times in three decades. Felix Padel, the co-author of Out of This Earth (Orient BlackSwan, 2010) and the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, hazards a guesstimate of displaced persons in India since Independence at 60 million and in Orissa alone by the Aluminum Cartel at 3 million. Given the scenario of virtual genocide of the tribals and the continuing armed occupation of Kashmir, why should the Maoist upsurge and the Kashmiri call for azaadi outrage us?