Mumbai in our soul

A strong nation state means more than just a security apparatus. It means that you can protect the nation against all man-made or natural calamities: terror, hunger, floods, wars, mass farmer suicides, fake encounters, apocalypse now.

Amit Sengupta

It's time to think of a paradigm shift. It's time to redifine time and space, time-present and time-future, stand up and act, wear our trousers rolled. It might seem impossible, but history stands testimony that it is the margins who define the mainstreams, across the spectrum of defeated and demoralized time.

As it is now.

As it was yesterday.

As it bound to be in the days to come in this condemned country called India - gloating and bloating as a mythical nuclear and economic super power, where ten terrorists can take the entire might of the protected, armed State to ransom and destroy the unprotected, unarmed, civil society.

Think about it. It is possible to posit a scenario which is not as self defeating. When the indifferent middle classes and the upwardly mobile can consider that India belongs to the vast unwashed masses also, and not only those who are the fat cats. That this India, united, across the class and caste and religious spectrum, can actually work out a paradigm shift and change the world...

Editors and politicians sometimes speak the same language. They think and speak alike. They said it is time to work together and avoid the dirty and vicious blame game. But then the papers carried the terror 'ads' scoring brownie points for vote bank politics, even while hundreds were trapped between life and death, and others were dying and dead. Live. The BJP ad said vote out terror; the Congress ad said, don't forget Kargil and Kandahar. And the papers: they carried the ads. Make money even when the funeral pyres are alive. Live. And the human screams in the burning rooms mixed with deadly explosions.

Two things: the papers could have said, sorry we will not carry the ads. We don't care for this damned money. We believe in what we write - the nation is above all considerations in this moment of unprecedented crisis and tragedy.

But, predictably, they did just the opposite of what they wrote, they betrayed their words and values - they carried the ads. So what is the locus standi of their high moral ground vis-a-vis the goddamned politicians?

As for the politicians and political class and the ruling and opposition alliance, let us be clear that this is no popular cliché, this is a truth, as bitter as bitter realism: across the political spectrum they have sold their souls and ideology, the nation or the nation-state is the least common denominator for them; they have completely and effectively subverted democracy, including electoral democracy, so that no honest individual or collective can fight elections and seek a stake in power or administration or alternative destinies; they have divided the nation into electoral blocs of caste, communities and religion, and violence or tragedy is just about yet another factor thorough which this fragmented mass can be manipulated; that they are brazenly corrupt, wealthy and unaccountably rich  -- well, most of them  are and no one knows the origin of their wealth because they don't work and they are not professionals; they have effectively subverted the Indian Constitution and they know it; they are entrenched with the power-broker feudal and corporate classes and it's a successful and self-propagating nexus; and of course, they are transparently short-sighted, crude, insensitive, inegalitarian, without a social or human vision, amazingly inefficient and incomptetent, low caliber men and women who are controlling the destinies of the nation. Our destinies. Your destinies. And they care little for human values or human life, despite the rhetoric.

And they don't deserve to be where they are.  Between Sonia Gandhi, LK Advani, Manmohan Singh, Narendra Modi, Buddhadeb Bhattacharaya and Mayawati and the rest of the power floaters - they share this common trait. The only common dimension is that they are aligned with the rich, the big business, the MNCs, the big feudals, the fat cats, casino and predator capitalists. And they are cushioned and protected from the unpredictable inevitability of sudden tragedies and terror attacks and communal carnages unlike all of us common people: with bodyguards, jammers, armed forces with automatic weapons, sanitized living and office zones, helicopters and aircrafts, bulletproof stages and cars, commandos all around, palatial, colonial government homes arranged like fortresses with an army of cooks and servants. (What does the NSG do apart from saving human lives as in Mumbai?: provide VIP security.)

Between the BJP and the Congress and its opportunist allies they have all been nincompoops in dealing with terrorism or with poverty, or with social justice or communal fascism. The BJP in fact celebrates communal carnages along with its hydra-headed fronts like the VHP and Bajrang Dal, while the Congress and its allies play soft Hindutva footsie in power or outside. Between hard and soft terrorism, between Raj Thackeray, Pravin Togadia and the sundry Islamist fundamentalist killer groups -- there seems an uncanny and tacit chord of symbolic similarity; they share the barbarism, violence and madness which basically hates all norms of a constitutional, civilised democracy. Basically, they hate a secular, pluralist democracy; basically the Taliban mindset and the Hindutva brigade want a kind of one culture one, religion dictatorship trapped in a retrograde, regressive, inhuman vicious circle.

In this realm of terror, as in Bombay, therefore, let's not forget the Gujarat  genocide  when 2000 innocent Indians were raped and massacred by a State-sponsored public spectacle, or the 50,000 homeless in Kandhamal now (the raped nun, will she ever get justice?), the Bombay pogrom of 1992-93, whereby the Shiv Sena was clearly implicated by the Srikrishna Commission. But nothing happened. The killers live with us, as honourary citizens, holding power, aspiring for power, on the front pages of newspapers and TV channels.

So has this nation internalized this barbarism so much that even Mumbai's horror can become desensitised?

A nation which forgets and tacitly backs one mass murder and criticizes another, is condemned to repeat history. India is a great example of this history repeats itself syndrome. That is why we fail in anticipating: Kandahar, Kargil, Kandhamal, Delhi 1984, Gujarat 2008, Batla House 2008, Bomb Blasts - all over India, Mumbai 1992-93 and 2008. That is, justice always eludes.

India is fast becoming a Failed State.

The problem is: can this mighty "super power" redeem itself, or is it a perverse spoof, a dirty joke on the nation's conscience? What are we going to do with the Sensex, the stock market, 10 per cent growth rate, the Forbes list of billionaires, the huge military and nuclear arsenal, the nuclear deal while being a stooge of the US, if we can't save innocent people on the streets of our cities? If ten drugged barbarians can kill hundreds in the heart of our financial capital while our intelligence systems and top leaders look like morons?

The problem is: can the nation get rid of these myopic, divisive and totally insensitive, incompetent and inhuman political parties and politicians who will not change come what may: terrorist assaults on innocents, bomb blasts, wars, communal carnages, fake encounters, mass hunger, farmer suicides, organised inequality and poverty, earthquakes, train accidents and floods. Indeed, this might be the catch-22 of the Mumbai Massacre - the unlearnt lesson.

History often moves through great waves of tears. People who think they are not part of this history too are condemned to drown in these saline waters. Millions of poor and those in the resistance fights on the ground (as against the SEZs, big dams and MNCs) know this reality for decades. Those who have already died as in Nandigram and Kalinganagar are not remembered by the elite and the media, but they stand testimony to this change. Indeed, it's time for all sensitive people to unite against the paradigm of injustice, inequality and inefficiency and think of a new vision: outside the paradigm of India Shining of this political and corporate class.

This is because a strong nation state means more than just a security apparatus. It means that you can protect the nation against all calamities: terror, hunger, natural disasters, wars, mass farmer suicides, fake encounters, apocalypse now.