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Taking Stock
The Rustic Seer
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahIt was about this time of the year in eastern UP. The morning breeze had bid a cool send off to the Mahwa-mango flavour in the air and a mustiness of the freshly growing grass had registered its presence.

The year was next to our 'tryst with destiny' which had opened its score with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. But by that time the word 'terrorism' had not been plucked from the pages of dictionary to describe chilling cruelty although there was no dearth of such events in the wake of partition. The horrific events were casually described as riots and the society, a civilized society, had coalesced in silence unmindful of the consequences of its growth. However, it was little late that morning but still the sun was slightly pale as its brilliance had been borrowed by the early morning mist. I was standing on the bank of a small river Tons which crisscrosses the city of Azamgarh and then goes on placidly on its charted course eastwards. I was waiting for the lone boat to come from the other side of the river. It did come. Those coming from the other side jumped out on the slippery bank. Then it was our turn to try a jump in. There was a piquant passenger too who swam alongside the boat and his master in the boat held the rein. It was an unharnessed horse. The cart along with the paraphernalia had been pushed on into the boat with the help of fellow passengers. Anyway, the boat turned towards the other side.

Passengers were the local folks carrying their commodities or wares to the market place close to the other bank. There were some students, certainly not the madrasa students, it was obvious from their appearance and behaviour. The boatman had spread a piece of dirty cloth in front of him. The passengers gave him something by way of fare, a handful of grain, a pinch of vegetable or a few paisas. All was dropped on the cloth as if in charity and not in return for his toil and the sincerity with which he spanned the banks of the river braving all weathers. The cartman paid him two annas. The students paid nothing which was their birth right.

However, we jumped out of the boat on the other bank. The students took lead. An old man was the last person to leave the boat. I took the winding path towards the railway station. The old man was waddling along. The group of jostling students in shabby clothes, bare footed, dangling typical cloth satchels was waking with a faster pace a few yards ahead of us doing some young age pranks.

The old man trying to walk alongside me was murmuring some thing, he came a little closer and pointing towards the boys uttered in audible whisper: They will be the thugs and dacoits in future. I thought that the old man was piqued by the jeers by the boys over his slightly crooked back and had retorted by saying: At my age, if any of you could ever reach, would not be able to stand up on your feet. As my thought process continued my next idea was that the ignorant, illiterate old man had a natural aversion to education that is why he believed that the education would be destructive of old traditions. On the other side I thought that the young boys were breathing the fresh air of independence and to them it meant freedom in every respect and their future expectations knew no bonds; as for duties and responsibilities in the free country, they had no idea about it, may be they had not heard about it.

When the old man, perhaps observing a slight smile on my face, realized the signs of my disbelief in his surmise, he elaborated: Look, today these boys did not give khewa (boatman's due) tomorrow they will ransack his house. After heaving a breath he continued: They will not get high education so as to be able to get good jobs, they will study a little and then leave the school. With some education they will be shy of the traditional job of their forefathers in the village, they will forget that too. But they will grow, their family will grow, their needs will grow. Then how will they meet their needs? They will take to loot and pillage!

By now the generation of those boys has grown old. Some of them must have joined the ever growing crowd of politicians of various brands whose track record is before the countrymen. Alas! In all probability the old man, the rustic seer, would not have survived for another half a century to see how true was his vision, to see how the country has produced and brought up generations of people who are unaware of their heritage, the traits and traditions of real India whose heart throbs in our villages, the villagers that are increasingly polluted by the evil side effects of imported culture which is increasingly splitting the society in smaller sections of beneficiaries and increasing number of the deprived. The visionary could not see that the increasing number of the deprived would rise one day to demand their share of the pie and that the newly ignorant would fail to define that human urge and in that bewildered state of mind all sorts of alibi would be given a try. And thus regionalism, lingualism, separatism, casteism, communalism, anti-nationalism, war group, naxalism and fundamentalism were all given a chance trial but nothing stuck like terrorism with its undefined parameters.

The uprising in North-Western hill areas in post-Independence years began in Naga Hills and spread to other adjoining areas. The rebellion was innocently called ‘demand for sparate tribal states.’ But the violence continues inspite of the creation of those states. The rising in Bihar against Bengalis was branded the voice of the ‘sons of soil.’ The anti-Bengali riots in Assam and Orissa were regarded as mere ‘language riots.’ But ask any Bengali the extent of terror he was struck with. In Punjab the stir was only for a ‘Punjabi state,’ we were told. But after the creation of that state the violence did not subside, rather it went from bad to worse. As for terror, better not mentioned. There have been violent incidents in South as well for various reasons. In fact these are all cases of political failures given to the armed forces to solve.

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