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MY VISION OF INDIA

Submitted by: Sukeerat Kaur Channi

Course: B.A. [H] Political Science (semester 6)

Roll number: 0717037

Submitted to: Dr. Haukam

Ham watan nahi jaane denge- Amir Aziz

[Translation: We won’t let the nation slip away (into darkness)]

This line was said by a protestor, very poetically, inducing patriotic fervor inside my liberal self.
But if I were to ponder over this, I realize that I never thought about my idea of India, only about
what it’s not supposed to be. The current political upheaval might be the best times to
contemplate. What is India? Is it the couplet of a fervently patriotic poet who fought for freedom,
or the satirical muse of disillusioned youngsters? Is it a land, people, culture; all of it or none of
it? India is not just a territory to be conquered or ruled. It’s the people. The people, different and
vibrant, are what that makes up the heart of the India. Our nation prides itself for being diverse
yet united, and this notion, though cliché is maybe our best representation.

Apart from the geo-political sense of the notion, diversity comes into play when we think about
socio-cultural differences. India has an array of languages, religions, beliefs, conventions and
what not. India is not one people. It has no language or religion or ideology that unites it.
Sometimes one wonders what is the thread that has bound it all together. This acknowledgement
that India is not actually one nation in the technical sense of the word brings up a pertinent
question: How can these multi-faceted diversities be accommodated and done justice to? The
country has adopted a unitary system to keep the nation ‘united’. But in doing so, has it
undermined regionally diverse aspirations? The states and their institutions are devoid of
substantial power vis-à-vis the central government. Promulgation of the Goods and Services Tax
has only added to the woes of the states, who no longer have control over their revenue.
Financial and political powers are increasingly becoming a prerogative of the national
government, paving a path to centralization. This entails an imposition of the Centre’s motives
on the states, underplaying diverse demands from different states.
It might be a double edged sword after all: giving power to the Centre to keep the country from
disintegrating, while risking the heterogeneous needs of the people. I often wonder how much
people and groups are made to give up on their ideas and demands in the name of unity; in the
name of what we think is ‘the greater good’. We fear the consequences of giving sub-units
control. But what is the cost of staying united? In a polarized nation today where there have been
attempts to collectivize people in the name of religion, what is the cost of staying silent so as not
to endanger this ‘unity’? And why can’t this unity exist with political diversity? These are
questions that distort the image of India that has been spoon-fed to me since forever.

This image of India is intricately tied to the popular perceptions of it as a nation. Such a diverse
country is bound to be surrounded by variable images of nation, mostly tainted by stereotypes
and status quo. The patriarchal definition of the nation limits it to a mere physical space to be
guarded. This in turn has given rise to masculine hyper-nationalism which undermines anything
that wavers from the path it sets. Hence, there is a deeply divisive course of politics regarding
who is a true nationalist, and who is an ‘anti-national’. Unfortunately these are the trends that
dominate the politics (and elections) of the country rather than issues of development. There is a
pseudo-urgency regarding the materialistic protection of the country, the glorification of the
armed forces over democracy, and vilification of the neighbor. India deserves so much more than
this…So much more than the right and left in an endless tug of war, with the people as the sole
casualty. If the conflict was grounded on ideological lines, it would have been a healthy
competition, but both sides are concerned only with besting each other, political ideals be
damned.

Then there is also the extensive tapestry of legislature, executive and judiciary that holds the
state in place, as it should ideally. But lately we see the elected government has been dominant,
undermining covertly even the independence of the judiciary. Maybe the government should
have the upper hand, for they are the only ones directly chosen by the people. But where does
one draw the line? As a democracy, this country stands firmly on its various institutions.
Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), there is a deep distrust amongst the people towards the
system. Corruption, red-tapism, discrimination and general apathy don’t really surprise people
anymore. Even our movies are resplendent with the age old plot of ‘hero fighting the corrupt
system’. Except that no hero will come to save us.

I could say that there was a time when India was the Golden Bird, a great civilization. I won’t.
The problems we face today didn’t grow overnight. Instead the lurked in the shadows as different
actors added fuel to the fire. Sometimes I think India is Scheherazade from The Arabian Nights,
spinning tales to avoid reality. That is why we as a nation have a problem of ‘othering: we never
own up our problems, attributing them to our colonizers. We don’t own up our minorities, and
certainly not the ones who attack them. They are not people who miraculously appear to target
the already marginalized. They are us. They have emerged from us and are sustained by us as
well. The sooner we acknowledge this, the more probability we have of healing the damage. I am
often told that I am idealistic, and I am. In fact, this country is in need of a healthy serving of
youthful idealism that refuses to budge when faced with the Old Guard. Therefore, I will no
longer let my people compromise in the name of practicality. I will no longer sit in privileged
bubbles, deriding the country when I do nothing for it. I will no longer accept that anti-
government is anti-national. India might not be a Great Nation right now, but, with all my
idealism, I will try to work towards making it one. The only vision of India I have is the one that
is yet to come.