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Taking Stock
At the crossroads
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahIn the history of a people, just as in the life of a person, there comes a defining moment or a defining time. When such a time comes the people must choose, and choose decisively, a long course of action and devise means and ways for enabling to continue on that course of their choice. Within the span of five and a half decades after independence we Indians find ourselves standing on a crossroad where we should rise above petty considerations and before taking a leap into any direction should weigh every action in the light of reality and rationality. Let us ask ourselves:

Can we or can we not walk into the American shoes? Americans traversed half the globe in pursuit of their enemy, dug deep holes into the Himalayan heights or plugged the existing ones with thousands of tons of rocks. Can we split a rock beyond the borders defined by an Englishman who had never visited the areas? They wiped off a regime half the globe away which they disliked, and replaced it with another one. Can we do so even in a neighbrouing island? The swing of their economy shakes the world economy. Where do we stand in that respect? They can declare the leader of a country persona non grata and take a vow to see him ousted. Can we do so? Some of the blind men in India can take a vow to eliminate the minorities for which the country has to pay a price. Only last week the US commission on international religious freedom recommended that India be put on a list of "countries of particular concern" who had tolerated severe violence against religious minorities. Once a "particular concern" tag is put on a country the US law requires the president to take specified actions ranging from a diplomatic demarche to economic sanctions. The commission’s report drew on the findings of the National Human Rights Commission (NHCR) that spoke of "substantial evidence of premeditation by members of Hindu extremist groups, complicity by Gujarat government officials and police inaction". The report accused the union government of not taking preventive action to impose direct control in Gujarat and spoke of earlier attacks on Christians and "destruction of many churches in Gujarat". US actions or sanctions, economic or otherwise, against the countries which falter, even the probability of such actions, is enough for many countries to shudder and make them see that their conduct is suitably rectified. Can our government institutions influence others that way. Here local leaders dare to throw spanners in the working of constitutionally established bodies, their recommendations are frowned upon and their reports gather dust in archives. Americans can strike off international treaties in one go when they have failed to serve their interests and purposes, Can we? While answers to these or most of these questions are not in affirmative we must conclude that our course of action should be different from those of America.

In the wake of current talks by Americans about pre-emption, extremist groups and their leaders in our country are talking in similar tones and terms. The difficulty is that they by their irresponsible utterances can stir the ignorant masses and create all sorts of problems for the government and leaders who are answerable to the people as well as to the world comity. We are surrounded by several neighbouring countries who are on adversarial or unfriendly or not so friendly terms with us. All of them are facing a phenomenon which was called a stir, a rising, a rebellion or infiltration until the last decade, now all of these situations have been put in a single category called terrorism. After all, there is always an element of violence in every political movement. These neighbours are accusing each other for sponsoring, aiding, abetting and exporting terrorism. It is a sort of mutual destruction or collective suicide by these South Asian people. Were we not forced in the past to pull back our troops which had gone beyond the international boundaries? Is there any certainty that India will not be compelled to do so under similar circumstances in future? Then what does the hot pursuit or pre-emption mean in our circumstances? In fact, it is not the question of our military capability which is well established beyond any doubt. It is the question of political and economic stamina to resist the following pressures.

At a time when most powerful countries are worrying about their security and seeking the cooperation of the smallest countries in one respect or the other, at a time when the sanctity of international commitments has lost its meaning, at a time when politics is devoid of morality, how can India depend on any agreement or commitment for help in the time of need? Did we not see the Soviets distancing from us when China invaded in 1962? So the need of the hour is something else. That should be considered thoughtfully and patiently. Any precipitate action will be suicidal to say the least. But there are certain preconditions for that patient pondering:

There should be a sound, well-knit national leadership capable of keeping the nation united behind it. It should be able to realise the national and international implications of its actions. Here we have regional dwarfs with their gendarmes and demigods doing all sorts of political wire pulling without bearing any responsibility. Their misdeeds quite often disturb the civil life, at times play havoc but still far beyond the reach of the long hands of law. They are introducing unconstitutional qualifications for Indian citizenship and its validity. They go unchallenged. Can every suffering citizen go to the Supreme Court for relief? They quarrel among themselves on purely administrative or technical issues, such as, flow of river water or making of railway zones. All of them feel so insecure in the midst of their own people that they want all security arrangements for themselves and thus leaving the people insecure. This state of affairs has caused an ever widening gulf between the people and the leadership. The traditional leadership emerging from amongst the people, fearless and fair to all, has been bid adieu for ever. The need to fill the gap between the people and the leadership is a fact of life. How to fulfil that need?

The media has intervened to play a role. But the media is no longer the same press which provided a fine communication link between the people ant the leadership both through its fair contents and fearlessly expressed sincere opinion. The contemporary media is an unwieldly creature out to captivate every mind big or small, mesmerising into believing what it wants or does not want to be believed, prejudges on issues. This is a different story. But we must think whether the preconditions for standing up to face a defining time are met.
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