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India – A Banana Republic?

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There is a feeling of despair rather hopelessness that is pervading the Indian psyche. Governance, which some time ago appeared to be adrift, is now submerged in internal sleaze, conspiracy and internal power play of the worst kind. There is every indication to suggest that India has surrendered much of its sovereignty in independent thought and policy. Corruption, scandals, totally unprecedented in magnitude is tumbling out on a daily basis. It appears that the whole country is ‘on sale’.

Collectively corrupt but individually honest

There is no one to own responsibility. The concept of collective responsibility which is the bedrock of parliamentary democracy has been killed in India. The only feeble escapism for the political leaders at the helm is their remonstration about their personal incorruptibility? It defies logic that how can a person be personally upright but countenance corruption by colleagues and superiors by inadvertent or forced omission, that too repeatedly

The abyss that the political executive and the instruments of governance has sunk into, has engendered the unprecedented assertion authority by institutions like Supreme Court and the CAG. Probably, never before has the CAG held press conference. This seemingly reinvention of these roles by the institutions is fortuitous and ephemeral phenomenon, because, on the whole most institutions, i.e. CVC, CBI, higher judiciary have lost much of their prestige in the public. It only indicates that how the linkages between the constitutional institutions have been debilitated and subverted by internal and external vested interests over the years.

Ideological subversion

One former Chief Justice of India is under critical scrutiny for having compromised his integrity while in office. In another far reaching development, with regard to vital security concerns of India, a segment of the political class has questioned the Supreme Court verdict on Special Police Officers (SPOs) in Chhattisgarh and has obliquely described the judgement of carrying ideological bias. As it is a wide spread belief has been alive in India that the Maoists, in the last two-three decades have infiltrated most constitutional bodies, educational institutions and the media. Some observers are in fact of the opinion that the substantial chunk of the media has been taken over by leftists, having sympathy with the Maoists. The Maoists have on their payrolls, lawyers, doctors, media houses, and even elements in the judiciary. This is no longer a belief, but now seen as a reality, a threat in the being.

Erosion of media’s credibility

Peoples’ faith in the media is rapidly eroding. To begin with, when the private TV channels first appeared on the Indian scene, it enjoyed tremendous respect and goodwill. Somewhere down the line, as competition became more fierce, some channels compelled by economic intimidation or greed, traded their fairness and independence. Paid news, blackmail, personality promotion, personality degradation are some of the ills that pervaded the media. Some media personnel became power brokers. They were exposed, but they and the media house they represented, unlike Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, continue to thrive. One such private channel is today dubbed as Doordarshan. Some media personnel did not hesitate to become agents of external agencies.

Sources having journalist linkages with Pakistani press had confided with this author few year ago that some Indian journalists were on the payroll of Pakistan establishment, and the least the Indian authorities could do was to inquire as to who pays for their opulent and lavish lifestyle while they are visiting Pakistan, which in some cases is 15-20 visits in a year. Most of the names that the Pakistani journalists mentioned have enjoyed the hospitality of ‘Fai Foundation’.

In the international arena, such things are not uncommon, but such individuals in other countries are certainly not rewarded by appointing them as points-men of the government on sensitive matters involving territoriality and diplomacy.

If in a free country with ostensibly a penetrative and unbiased media simple detail, which includes health, of the most influential politician of the country is ‘out of bounds’, then we are not living in a transparent and fearless democracy. If the press balks at even inquiring about where abroad, does the much touted ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ celebrates his birthday then the credibility of our entire democracy is suspect.

Told to live with Maoist terror

Maoist terror has so far consumed 231 out of 605 districts in the country i.e. one out of every three districts in nine states. This ideologically driven terror has physical, economic, social, religious and an overwhelming international dimension. In sophistication and brutality it leaves Taliban terror way behind. One Indian life is lost every eight hours on account of Maoist violence. Maoists are recruiting children and have destroyed 1700 schools. Maoist leaders have gone to the extent of killing and consuming flesh of suspected informer in full public view to terrorize them. This happened in Malkangiri district of Orissa. And yet, despite the Prime Minister describing Maoism as the biggest threat, it is rather intriguing, that overt agents of the Maoists are not only shielded from law, but are also accorded respectability and official patronage. It suggests that there is some political and on financial design and gain to keep the Maoist terror simmering specially in mineral rich and potentially ‘proselytizing rich’ regions.

The international face of the Maoists and their facilitators within the country was quite evident when some persons belonging to the European Union countries travelled to Chhattisgarh to witness the trials Binayak Sen in the High Court. What was the purpose? Was it to exert indirect international and psychological deterrence on the Indian judiciary in trying Maoist ideologues? Otherwise the entire western world acknowledges the fairly high credibility of the Indian judiciary. No sooner Binayak was granted bail by the Supreme Court, an anxious government rushed to confer respectability on him. In that it appointed him the member of Planning Commission Committee on Health. The timing, the selection and the signal is sinister.

Some Maoist sympathizers are in the highest advisory bodies in the country. A couple of them have infiltrated Anna’s campaign against corruption. It appears that a segment of the dispensation is complicit in the spread of Maoist terror and has vested interest in keeping India unsettled.

Recently the Chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child, Shanta Sinha, was much dissuaded by the government authorities from undertaking a tour in Kamanguda village in largely Maoist controlled Ghadrachiroli district of Maharashtra. She persisted and some 1000 policemen were deployed along the 90 km travel route to safeguard her. Yet the Maoists did manage to attack her convoy.

The dread in which the common people live in Maoist impacted areas can therefore be extrapolated. In many ways the government has been goading people to accept Maoist spread by means of terror as fact of life just as contractors and corporate houses have begun to factor the Maoist extortion industry while budgeting their projects and businesses.

Told to live with Pakistan’s proxy war

As in the case of Maoist terror and Maoist extortion industry we are being seemingly asked by the government to live with terror emanating or orchestrated from Pakistan. In the aftermath of the recent bomb blasts in Mumbai the government, right from the outset, was anxiously straining itself to absolve Pakistan. The then Indian Foreign Secretary, in the few days preceding the blast had vouched for drastic change in the attitude of Pakistan establishment with regard to export of terror. It is another matter that three Pakistanis among five LeT terrorists were killed by Indian security forces in Kupwara in North Kashmir just a day after the Mumbai blasts. But we Indians over a period of time have been conditioned to believe that security of the border areas is different from the security of the nation.

During the same period, the US Secretary of State, Mrs Hilary Clinton came on a visit to India. The timing of her visit may have had some bearing on the posture of the Indian establishment vis-à-vis Pakistan. Adjustments with the strategic partners, however desirable cannot be compromised with vital security interests of the country and more so on the corpses of terrorist victims. As if, that was not enough, some politicians began to portray the incident as handiwork of ‘Hindu Terror’ groups. These elements must explain the very rationale and objective of Hindu terror to the people of India.

Such sleaze with matters concerning security environment in the country, primarily motivated by vote-bank politics, compounds the complexities of internal security discourse. Banana republics abound in such politicians. Now, India has its fair share as well. They have umpteen platforms by virtue of a collaborative media.

Nationhood and patriotism

The governing class in India made the people first inured to causalities of security personnel. In fact, some students of a university in Delhi celebrated the killing of 76 personnel in Chhattisgarh. Now with passage of time, we Indians are becoming indurate to loss of innocent lives in terrorist attacks.

Increasingly, the security forces are being treated by the government as a ‘paid force’ to safeguard and further the personal and political interests of the elements in power. Nationhood, patriotism, the sense of sacred duty and other such key motivating factors have been robbed from the culture of the security forces by the political class. Security forces can only deliver when there is unanimity in the country regarding threats and objectives.

Even the Indian Army, the ultimate bastion, has not been spared. There is a concerted move to make an honest Army Chief retire a year early to supplant him with a more pliable and compromising individual. A preposterous, legally most untenable ‘age controversy’ has been fabricated in respect of Gen VK Singh to ensure succession by another Kalmadi like figure in the Indian Army.

May I submit to our Hon’ble Defence Minister, who is very sensitive about his clean image that by not upholding the contention of the Army Chief regarding his age, he by imputation has conveyed that the Army Chief has lied. If that be so, then the country must be spared of a Chief, who is a liar. But, if the Army Chief’s contention is correct, which by all moral, and legal reckoning and standards is, then the entire country and more so the Defence Minister should stand by him.

Institutions are pillars of democracy and the very concept of nation-state. All round and comprehensive development is the harvest of conscious, positive and ethical investment in strengthening of institutions by the representatives of the people. Unfortunately, it is the political class that has been constantly buffeting then. It has taken its toll. With little support and battered inter-institutional linkages, these institutions are trying to defend themselves. Should they fail the road to anarchy passing through the Maoist territory, insurgent territory in Northeast, and ‘proxy war ravaged’ Kashmir is going to encompass the entire country.

Patriotic and nationalistic quotient of the top leadership percolates down the governing machinery at the lowest levels. More importantly, by sheer osmosis, it rubs on the countrymen including the security forces, who guard the nation. Other deficiencies notwithstanding, patriotism and nationalism had been the hallmark of most leaders in the past. Patriotism and nationalism acts as antidote to corruption, violence, insecurity and disrespect to national symbols and institutions.

India, like the Banana Republics, is now abysmally low on the scale of nationalism and patriotism.

(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a guest blogger for Canary Trap)

2 responses to “India – A Banana Republic?”

  1. Ajay Sharma Avatar
    Ajay Sharma

    Dear Mr Singh, I mostly agree with the insights you have provided on the current scene of India’s politico-bureaucratic-media-security establishment. I’m the member of media and think that few of your observations are overtly stated.

  2. Nitin Avatar

    I think the list is much bigger, even increasing poverty and the income gap. Migration to cities thus causing problem of disguised employment, sometimes crime, low quality of life in cities and pressure on infrastructure in some pockets in country. Even after 64 years, we are still suffering with many diseases which are wiped out in most of the world, we still rely on the rain gods for a good crop and stock market, extreme cases of crops getting wasted in one part and people dying of hunger in another part. Any natural calamity, terrorist attack always takes us by surprise and we as a country is left in investing time, money and lives in reacting to all these and many more issues all the times. The plethora of events which one common individual has to deal with in a usual life, makes him nervous and perhaps indifferent towards everything and anything which does not provides him popcorn happiness.