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Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Modest Proposal - I

This article which appeared in a news paper as well as several years ago is being reposted here with no changes. A Modest Proposal to answer all calls for autonomy and nation hood


It would be an act of ultimate folly for someone as undistinguished as yours truly to suggest remedies for the very intractable problems that beset this poor beleaguered nation of close to a billion. But, considering the fact that angels have given a none too brilliant account of themselves, there is no harm in fools rushing in and giving it a try!

When we were children, in the circus, the clown would invariably appear from somewhere under the stool, or table, or some such thing, and fiddle around for some time with the heavy formidable looking weights and, in the process, would topple over. Then, some muscle bound Neanderthal would appear and lift the weight with a big "humph" and dump it with a hyperventilated "haw"! As a child, I always thought that the clown had somehow, merely by touching it, facilitated the feat.

The clowns (alas! ) have all disappeared from under the big top to join politics and other professions, and things are far more solemn these days.

The contentious issue of fissiparous and divisive tendencies is bedeviling our polity and the professional nation builders seem to have bungled it. The more they talk of national integration, the more severely is the nation getting splintered. Ever since independence, one minority group or the other has been clamouring for some homeland or the other in order to maintain its separate identity. No sooner has some solution been found than some other group gets seriously affected by identity crisis. Precious resources of the nation have been squandered in either curbing or containing this movement. A careful and detailed consideration of the issue has led me to the conclusion that any compassionate democratic society committed to honouring the verdict of the majority as also accommodating the wishes of the minority, is faced with a serious dilemma. In trying to appease every shade of opinion it may end up killing the proverbial ass carrying both father and son. Moreover no arrangement will be an enduring one because the onset of minority consciousness or complex is an ailment of unspecified aetiology. In our politically conscious and agitationally hyperactive society, this is bound to infect everyone sooner or later. Therefore as a preventive or prophylactic measure, every citizen should be freed from all shackles and constraints. He should be unfettered and his rights made paramount. To this end it is being proposed that every single Indian should be accorded a sovereign nation status straightway.

Absurd? Fantastic? Ridiculous? I would call it just that little bit futuristic? The rate at which demands for autonomy, separate states, homelands (the latest, one hears is, the demand for an independent Muslim Bangobhumi for those few million who have sauntered across the border from Bangladesh - so much for their pains! ) are cropping up in every region of the country and in the heart of every citizen. It is only a matter of time before the number of contenders lined up would be catching up with the number in my proposal, take a few hundred million this way or that way.

After all, where is it written that a country has to be large? Or that it has to be economically viable, or even logically tenable? This here my desk or my study is my country. I am the president, the supreme commander of armed forces: the one man legislative body, so on and so forth. My kitchen is my wife's territory while the children's bedroom can be neatly partitioned off to settle their claims to territory for nationhood. The treaty for sharing the parlour and other common space, as also the minor issue of the decoupling of the resource (me) from the dependents who owe their existence to me can be worked out in good time. But an announcement must be made: impromptu and without further ado. A confederation of a billion sovereign republics (schizophrenic individuals are not being included in this proposal for the present) free from the bondage of this or that exploitative or imperial power, pursuing their avocations peacefully and happily.

If you speak to someone in Hindi your interlocutor would be perfectly free to answer back in American Sign Language. Or if your trading partner hands you an outmoded Reserve Bank of India currency note in some trading arrangement you should feel free to give back in exchange a handful of glass beads or trinkets. There will be the freedom to choose your own currency, be it pebbles or fish bones. International peace treaties would be simple and uncomplicated. If you don't like someone you either refuse to accord him recognition or just bump him off. The solutions are simple and permanent. No aftermaths of treaties or wars. Everything would be present - here and now. What is in my interest is in the national interest and no residual feelings of guilt about the divergence between self-interest and national interest would trouble the republics. Of course there would be some minor practical problems of corridors and rights of passage and the multiplicity of currencies and the relation between confederation and the federating units, but the billion nations can easily come to some understanding on the basis of Sarkaria Commission recommendations. In spite of this if some problems of multiplicity of view and failures of agreement on various issues relating to use of common facilities persist it should be considered as a taken price for the idylls of such political existence.

The oldest profession – politics – could be depended upon to solve problem as they come up. Some people may have their reasons for holding prostitution to be the oldest profession but the latest bit of research shows that the claim of politics is better authenticated.

As the story goes a Jesuit priest, a journalist and a politician were arguing and trying to settle with reference to the Holy Bible as to whose was the most ancient profession.

"In the beginning was the word", said the journalist.

The priest, not the one to lose out, declared, "And the word was God".

But it was the politician who finally carried the day, "God created order out of chaos! And who do you think invented chaos? ”

I am intrigued why this ultimate solution did not occur to the professional politicians. The scheme of things outlined above will forever end agitations, strikes and economic blockades. Nor will be there any demands for autonomy or liberation and the bedevilled problem will finally be laid to rest. And everyone will live happily ever after.