Immediately after seeing off the British in 1947, the ?Gandhian? leaders of ?free India? lost little time in occupying the palaces that had been vacated by their former masters. Appropriately for this unique definition of austerity, the Viceregal Palace became Rashtrapati Bhavan, while Jawaharlal Nehru took over the Commander-in-Chief'sresidence.
Since then, even an individual as simple in his habits as Abdul Kalam (who was denied a second term in office by Sonia Gandhi and very recently denied even the Russian Peace Medal sought to be conferred on him by Russian President Medvedev in December) has shied away from the suggestion that the luxury of the residence of the Viceroys may not be appropriate for an Indian in which 400 million people go to bed hungry each night. Surely Rashtrapati Bhavan can be converted into the offices of the top three in the country,the President,Vice-President and Prime Minister, each of whom can be given a modest bungalow within the grounds to stay in. Spending even a week in the luxury granted by our ?socialist? state to holders of ministerial office can make even the most austere lose their sense of perspective and sensibility towards the true condition of the people of a country that is today on the verge of chaos because of the separatist policies encouraged by its rulers, who seem to be following a rule book devised by the ISI.
Although it was support by the Muslim community in India?principally in UP and Bihar?that gave oxygen to the Churchill-Jinnah plan for Partition, subsequently those who opted to remain within the now vivisected country changed track and began to integrate into the general population, a process that accelerated substantially since the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, a process in which several Muslim soldiers of the Indian army played a heroic role, as indeed they did during the 1948 war with Pakistan over Kashmir (and most recently, in Kargil in 1999). Sadly, this process of integration was halted with the 1985 Shah Bano compromise, in which Rajiv Gandhi overruled Arif Mohammad Khan and threw divorced Muslim women out of the protective net of the law, placing them under the control of a medieval system of jurisprudence most eagerly embraced by the Taliban. The purport of this retrograde step was to separate the Muslims from the rest of India and thereby reopen a wound that had only recently begun to heal. It was as though the Laws of Manu were resurrected and made mandatory for the Hindus, or the laws in force during the crusades made to apply to Christians. The very definition of a secular society is one where religion does not play a role in matters of state and law, and this was overturned in 1985. Very swiftly, those who had earlier been the most fervid protagonists of Pakistan stepped forward from hibernation and assumed the leadership of the Muslim community, even though the community has little in common with them. The way a tiny, wholly unrepresentative segment of the Muslim community has been revived and converted into the sole spokespersons of the community is akin to Vinay Katiyar and others of a similar persuasion being treated as the sole authentic voices of the Hindu community
Why is it that only a handful (possessing fringe views) have been enthroned as the ?leaders? of India'ssecond-biggest community,and medieval codes of behaviour made the basis of law for nearly 15 per cent of the population? Since Sonia Maino took power in 2004, a similar process has been put to work among the Christians, where too the handful who regularly trash India in miscellaneous international fora get special consideration, ignoring the overwhelming majority of the community,who see themselves as happy and proud citizens of the Republic. As during the Mughal and British periods, it has become permissible for the most insulting epithets and characterisations to get applied to icons and beliefs of the Hindu community, withy those responsible being honoured rather than censured. Each obscene representation of a divine form, each humiliating description, gives oxygen to the very few within the Hindu community who would like to follow the example set by the Shah Bano act and segregate the Hindu society from the rest of the population. Once the virus of separatism takes strong root within Hindus, as is inevitable under a regime that openly discriminates against them, chaos will not be far away. This time around, there will not be a second Partition. There will be recourse to non-legal means,on a scale not seen since 1947, that will set back the economic development of India by two decades. This is the future towards which Sonia Maino is leading the country.
Besides dividing the population of India on the basis of religion, reversing economic growth has been one of the key ?achievements? of the Soniaites who run the present government. For more than a year,this columnist has warned that the excruciatingly high interest rates set by the RBI, the numerous curbs introduced by SEBI and the East India Company style tax regime of the UPA will cripple the economic dynamism of the country,which is precisely what has taken place. Although patriotic voices within the RBI, SEBI and the Ministry of Finance would like to see a speedy return to low interest rates and taxpayer and investor-friendly policies, the hidden hand of the Mainos has ensured that the so-called policy corrections being made in today'sdisastrous regime are way too limited to have much effect. While ?Palaniappan Maino? (so loyal is he to his Madam that he deserves the position of being an honorary member of the Orbassano clan that today controls the country) claims that it is the international slowdown that has impacted India'sgrowth story, the reality is that bad times in the US and the EU should translate into boom times in India , because of the increased attractiveness of this country as an investment destination in a world economy where ruthless cost-cutting becomes essential to business survival. At a time ( 2005-7) when several hundred billion dollars of investment were readying to flow into India (thus adversely affecting China and the EU), the Maino factotums slammed the brakes, thus killing the chance for a quantum leap in inward investment. The then SEBI chief (a favourite of Finance Minister P Maino) grew hysterical at the $17 billion of investment that had flowed into India by last year, and choked this so effectively that as on date, nearly $10 billion has left India since then. Damodaran will be welcomed with open arms not only in 10 Janpath but in the EU and China, for the immense help he has given these two favoured geopolitical competitors of this impoverished country.
Had an India friendly government been in place rather than a ring of Maino family cheerleaders, at least an extra $40 billion in investment would have flowed into the economy from outside, that could have been channeled into energy and infrastructure, the two areas that most need attention. Sadly, since taking office in 2004, so busy have the Soniaites been with their agenda that both are in even worse shape than five years ago, with the consequence that only those recently escaped from an insane asylum face the prospect of investing in India with anything other than nervous uncertainty. Events at Singur and the NOIDA killing?one instigated by the UPA and the other justified by it at the Cabinet level?have not helped, nor has the re-emergence of a favoured coterie who are mostly dalals for international groups. Sonia Maino knows that a sharp slowdown in economic growth can go a long way towards destroying social stability in India. That, plus policies that divide rather than unite, is what she is apparently relying on to ensure that India gets removed from the list of serious contenders for economic space within this decade.
What is needed is for all those seeking to avoid the enveloping chaos to educate the people about the twin policies of social division and economic stagnation that are being pursued so determinedly under Sonia Maino. The national debate ought not to get diverted into red herring trails, but should concentrate on the Churchill-Jinnah policies now being followed by the UPA and its backers, who openly celebrate acts of violence and condemn the courageous members of the security forces that seek to prevent these. Just as an economic crisis led to the 1992-95 reforms of P V Narasimha Rao, the present socio-security crisis will hopefully result in a government that puts India back on the track towards economic freedom and social harmony.
(The writer is a former editor and renowned columnist and can be contacted at [email protected])