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63 years of Democracy vs. 300 years of British Raj : Wolf in Sheep's clothing ?

by Sudhanshu Gupta on Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 8:12pm This is a thought which was in the process of forming because of all the events that have unfolded in the past 18 months or so, and finally materialized owing to an authoritarian and barbaric state police action on a peaceful protest on 4th June, 2011. (I do not entirely support the individual, or all his demands. However, I fully support the fight against corruption and the fight to defend my right to peaceful protest)

India was declared 'independent' (of British Raj) on 15th August 1947 with the departure of the colonial rulers in the following months. The citizens of this new-born nation declared it as a Democracy wherein they would elect representatives in a structure of self-governance. However, just a look at a few facts indicates, sadly, that while the Britishers left, the ghosts of the colonial rulers were left behind in the very people who had led the country's freedom movement : The Indian National Congress, and other political parties in the coming future.

Following is just a compliation of stark similarities between the 300 years of British Rule and 60+ years of India's so called 'Democratic' phase.

(I am not against, or for, any political party. I do not endorse the views of any political party as their views rarely convert into actions on the ground.)

1. Monarchy

Wikipedia defines Monarchy as a form of government in which the head of state reigns by some kind of divine sanction. It is usually hereditery and there is usually only one Monarch ...

Pre Independence, it was the Monarchy of the United Kingdom which lay its claim on our nation for about 300 years. Post independence, it was simply replaced by Monarchy under the guise of Democracy. Here are a few facts :

- In the 63 years of India's Democratic self-rule, 37 years (58%) have seen Prime Ministers from the same family tree : Jawaharlal Nehru (1947-1964), Indira Gandhi (1966-1977, 1980-1984) and Rajiv Gandhi (1984-1989) (It must be borne in mind that this Nehru-Gandhi family has no relation to Mahatama Gandhi, the father of the nation) - Add to the above 37 years, the 7 years when the Congress led UPA has ruled the country, wherein Sonia Gandhi has been the President of the Party owing to controversies about her origins and its implications on her nomination to the position of a head of state. That's a staggering 44 years (70%) that the country has been under the shadow of the Nehru-Gandhian family. (Also, barring few exceptions, the Indian National Congress has suspended it's rotation of party presidents every 1-2 years ever since Sonia Gandhi became the president of the party in 1998)

This rather profitable proposition has infact been adopted by the other political parties as well who claim to represent the people of the country. Here's a few more facts about the Lok Sabha : - Three out of 10 MPs (28.6%) have entered politics through family connections. - An alarming 69.5% of women MPs have come into politics through family connections. - All MPs under the age of 30 are hereditery. - More than two-thirds of MPs under the age of 40 are hereditery. More details about this shocking piece of research by Patrick French here (http://www.theindiasite.com/family-politics/)

2. Loot, Pillage and Corruption

Pre Independence : It is a well known fact that India was colonized owing to its status of The Golden Bird. The riches that lay abound in the nation had tempted the British who had taken control of the country and then spent the three centuries henceforth in absolute pillage and plunder of these riches which were eventually taken back to the UK.

Post Independence : The trend of loot and pillage of the nation's riches and their stashing away in countries abroad unfortunately did not seize after the golden hour in 1947 as well. Consider just some of the recent scams that have come to light in the last few decades : - 2G Scam : 1,76,000 crore - CWG Scam : Anywhere between 10,000 - 70,000 crore - Telgi Scam : 20,000 crore - Bofors Scam : 40 crore - Fodder Scam : 900 crore - Hawala Scam : 72 crore - Hasan Ali Scam : 40,000 crore - Black Money Scam : 20,00,000 crore - Scorpene submarine Scam : 18,000 crore - Bihar land Scam : 400 crore .. and the list goes on (http://www.rediff.com/business/slide-show/slide-show-1-the-biggestscams-in-india/20101230.htm)

It would be important to point out that most, if not all, of the above mentioned (and more, unreported) scams have alleged involvements of politicians and other public servants.

Just these scams form a staggering figure of Rs 22,55,000 crores (For perspective, India's GDP is about 55,20,000 crores). This is money which rightfully belongs to the nation and hence its people, which has been squandered away by select individuals for their personal benefit. How would you feel if someone stole your hard earned salary ? Well, this is money which is deducted from the same hard-earned salary and is supposed to benefit you indirectly in the form of facilities, reforms and overall upliftment of the nation.

Many people in the middle class do not understand the implication of this as they have worked hard to be able to earn enough to afford a lifestyle that they can atleast be satisfied with, if not

happy about. But think about this. The highest tax a middle class citizen pays is 30%. This is similar to countries such as Sweden, United States and even United Kingdom. Now compare the facilities and their qualities provided by these countries.

3. Suspension of basic rights, and murder of citizens

Pre Independence : The concept of fundamental and civil rights of citizens did not even exist under the British rule and countless defenseless people were murdered by the state machinaries.

Post Independence : While fundamental and civil rights were installed with the establishment of the constitution, there have been many instances which show the disregard that the so called 'elected' rulers hold for the same.There have been further instances wherein state sponsored murder of citizens has also taken place. Consider the following instances that spring to my limited memory : - 26th June 1975 to 21 March 1977 : Declaration of state of emergency by Indira Gandhi - The alleged questionable role of the state establishment in the communal riots in Gujarat - Recent state of emergency declared in a district in UP in the land acquisition case - Use of article 144 on 4th June 2011 for disrupting and dispersing a peaceful gathering of people against corruption

But let's take it to another level.

How many people do you knbow who would recommend you to not report a crime to the police for the fear of being harassed by them in the future ? My guess is atleast 40-50%. And now, how different is that from living under an authoritarian regime where you probably would have not had the right / opportunity to lodge such a complaint in the first place ? (think in terms of opportunity cost)

Would you report a corrupt official ? Or would you rather just pay him/her the bribe and atleast get the work done ? A lot of intellectuals will argue that you posses a pseudo right to deny a bribe and you should practise that. But if that is so, why does most of the population not exercise it ? Or rather, why does most of the population find it difficult to do so ?

Consider another case in point, most of the rape cases in this country go unreported. Mostly, the reason is avoidance of social taboo, but another, more sublime reason is fear of harrassment from the law enforcement agencies. Only an ostrich living in this country would have not heard of a case of a woman's plight who was harassed by the agencies who went to report a previous crime. Such cases are in plenty to be labelled as mere exceptions.

Another thing to ponder over is that we hear about these cases when they get picked up by the media. Imagine, just like those cases of rape which go unreported, there would be another number of cases of harassment by the police which would also not be reported ! (A popular one which finally came to light was of an IPS official in Chandigarh)

Lastly, most of the poeple who will read this on electronic media would be living in urban centers. Imagine the plight of all those people in the villages for whom even the right to education, basic medical services, sanitation, necassities such as electricity and clean drinking water are a distant dream.

For these people, is colonial occupation really over ?

4. Divide and Rule

Pre Independence : The Britishers tore a nation apart and categorized them clearly under two religious sections. They played on the sensitivities of various religions and sparked off riots which led to bloodshed of mammoth proportions on all sides.

Post Independence : Not much has changed. Only definitions have changed. While the secular and progressive eloquent speeches in English are meant to impress the upper and middle classes, the actual elections which are fought in the villages are unfortunately still doggedly plagued by caste-communal politics. It's just that they don't make it in the great national media with much evidence and fervour.

No political party can hope to win an election without clearly outlining where it stands on caste, resercations, support for minorities, etc. They have become so deeply embedded in our political system and everyday life that we have stopped seeing it for what it is. Eloquently, these are hushed under the 'needs of a diverse demography'.

On Progress : I'm not entirely discrediting all what has happened so far. Surely, there are many positives such as the rise of the Great Indian Middle Class, the dominance of the Indian Service Industry on the global footprint, the liberalization of Media, etc.

I am not, for a second, saying that we should do away with democracy. We are definitely better off than where we were more than half a decade ago. This, however, is essentially an upper and middle class perspective. The lower classes might have 'mixed' reactions about that to say the lease.

But you have to ask yourself this question. What all could we have actually accomplished had we not been under such deceit ?

On Change : I also accept that change is happening. The media and free speech proponents would claim that we are much better than we were 20 years ago. However, it needs to be asked whether this change is as exponential as we are hoping would be ? Or merely linear ?

Surely, there will be a better day. But when ? I hope this young nation would not be too old, too poor and even more divided then (than it already is). I hope, the second golden hour in history would arrive soon so that all of us, inclusively, can ride the wave into the sunset.

[Note : As pointed out by Ronnie, British Raj and colonialism, etc indicate the 300 years of India under the rule of EIC / UK]

- Suds