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Samvaad: A Conversation

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Sunday, August 14, 2005


Looking back and ahead - India at 58

It's the morning of the 15th of August in India. 58 years ago on this day India was re-born. My beloved country broke through the shackles of imperialist bondage stepping into a new future of possibilities. That day of celebration was indeed muted by the pain of partition yet it was a day to honor the uncountable sacrifices made by India's most loyal sons and daughters.

For an Indian today is a day of patriotism - a patriotism that honors the struggles waged by generations before us to see India as a free and great nation. We are free in the political sense but the legacy of greatness that these great souls had established is faltering badly. India has been at its best when it has moved as one nation from the ground up. Today business leaders and policymakers pay little heed to the "ground" - India's villages. Most intellectuals too are fashionably ignorant towards that part of Indian society that really made independence happen. It was Champaran in 1917 that shook the nation.

This year I may do something other than make a blanket indictment of the existing political and economic system. Today I challenge India's youth. And that includes Indian youth of the diaspora as well. The opportunities that are availed to us are because some brave soul fought and died for them a century ago. India's youth cannot deny their own moral obligation to those who are still in need of independence from misery and want. India's founders did not build a nation that would forget its weakest but rather they built a nation that would place the suffering of our most vulnerable citizens atop the list of our priorities.

We must engage. Find organizations that work in Indian villages. Do research that will help better rural policy and strengthen rural democracy. Invent something that assists in bringing dignified livelihoods to our people. Campaign against development that kills rural India. Propose development that grows the capacities of our villages to sustain themselves.

The India of Mahatma Gandhi's dreams cannot be created without addressing the most fundamental problems of India's villages. A vision for India that is oblivious of the ground realities in rural India is a vision that is incomplete. So, this independence day let's do something for that 71% of the population that is often neglected in our daily cyber discourses. We do so at our own peril. These 71% taught us a serious political lesson last year in the general election and if intellectuals and current policymakers continue to ignore them they may be in for even greater surprises.

As we pause to honor the soldiers of our independence let us pledge to be true to their fight as well - a fight for a just and better India for all. And I mean ALL.


Thursday, August 11, 2005


Time for Justice

The latest report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi is out. The Nanavati Report (text has not yet been made available) indicts senior Delhi Congress leaders of the time. Namely, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and HKL Bhagat stand accused.

3000 innocent Sikhs were killed in the violence that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguard on October 31st, 1984. Families have waited for two decades for justice. The Congress party has pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice. Yet its own allies leave alone the opposition are not convinced. The onus is on the Congress. If the Congress demands that people like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be charged then they should use every resource at their disposal to help seek justice for the 1984 victims and their families. Anything less than that would be an abdication of constitutional duty.

Along the same lines the BJP's insistence on justice for the 1984 riot victims will be seen as disingenuous as long as they not only shelter but praise Chief Minister Modi. Their hypocrisy in the realm of human rights is being terribly exposed.

The Indian political system MUST ensure justice for all dispossessed in their own homeland - be it Kashmiri Hindus, Gujarati Muslims or the Sikhs in Delhi. Let not parties exploit the pain and suffering of these people for political gain.

Once the report is released to the public we'll have more on the matter.



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