Ruling Class' Big-Power Pretensions
Punctured by Grim Ground Realities
As we approach India's 63rd Independence Day, we are surrounded by our ruling class' hype about India's impressive growth rate; its status as 'strategic partner' of the mighty America; its prestige as the host of the Commonwealth Games; its national currency, the rupee, which now has a dollar-like symbol of its own.
But this rosy picture of India's 'national pride' is rudely shattered by the shocking reality that we can see all around us. A recent study found that there are more poor people in eight Indian states alone than in the 26 poorest African countries combined. Nutritional deprivation – a polite phrase for hunger – is the main factor in this stark evidence of poverty; 46% of our children do not get enough to eat.
Even as the Governments seek to suppress and play down the evidence of poverty, they are unleashing a veritable assault of price rise on the struggling poor! While the poor struggled to survive in the wake of double-digit inflation, job cuts and low wages in the past couple of 'recession' years, the number of super-rich in India has increased by more than 50% since 2008. They achieved this feat because they enjoyed all sorts of gifts and freebies from the government, not to mention the freedom to violate labour and safety laws, loot our country's mineral resources and grab fertile land with impunity. We have recently seen how the mining mafia like the Bellary brothers of Karnataka enjoy political protection as the BJP State Government and the UPA Government at the Centre alike turn a blind eye to the evidence of illegal mining and enormous corruption.
Meanwhile, in a graphic display of the tenacity of feudal survivals, the areas of the most advanced capitalist development in agriculture – Punjab, Haryana, Western UP – as well as urban centres like the national capital of Delhi are grim theatres to the khap panchayat-sponsored 'honour killings' of young couples who marry in defiance of caste and tradition. While the demand for a law against honour killings is gaining momentum and the Central Government too is forced to acknowledge the issue, senior Congress leaders who run the Government in Haryana have displayed their open support for the regressive agenda of the khap panchayats. Atrocities against dalits continue with unabated ferocity – at Khairlanji, Gohana, Mircchpur, Jhabbar – while the perpetrators enjoy political protection and evade justice.
While honour killings and caste atrocities testify to the semi-feudal reality beneath the globalised 'India Shining' sheen, the semi-colonial character underlying India's big-power pretensions is also becoming more and more exposed every day. We have recently seen how the CEO of the American Union Carbide company responsible for the world's worst industrial disaster at Bhopal evaded having to face justice in India, and its successor Dow Chemicals Ltd. is in fact being courted by Indian capital and its political representatives in India's ruling class political outfits. Similarly David Headley, the American spy agent who was the mastermind of the terrible terrorist attack in Mumbai, has been protected by the US and has escaped facing trial in India – with nary a protest from the Indian Government. Both Bhopal and the Headley saga serve to remind us of the shameful and deeply unequal nature of India's 'partnership' with the USA. The UPA Government is now showing its commitment to the interests of imperialist forces and corporate criminals by promoting the 'Nuclear Liability Bill' scripted to suit the US nuclear industry and private players in the nuclear power sector, giving them the freedom to perpetrate more and worse Bhopals with impunity. If the Nuclear Liability Bill jeopardises the health and safety of Indian people to serve corporate and imperialist interests, the Indo-US agreements signed by Manmohan Singh and Obama in the realm of education and agriculture are all set to promote US business interests at the cost of the interests of India's students and farmers.
To facilitate corporate loot and appease private capital, the ruling class is willing to undermine laws of the land and suppress any truths revealed even by commissions of its own making. Be it labour laws or laws to protect the rights of adivasis to land and forests, all are being blatantly ignored and violations overlooked because they prove inconvenient to private industry. Some time back, an Expert Committee set up the Ministry of Rural Development came out with an indictment of the systematic undermining of land reforms – its recommendations have been ignored. More recently, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj has actually resorted to deleting an entire chapter from a Report commissioned by it, because the chapter in question exposes the collusion of governments in denying adivasis their legally mandated rights in PESA areas.
As people's resistance to price rise, corporate loot, land-grab and a slew of pro-rich, pro-imperialist measures intensifies, they are being met with suppression of their rights, denial of democracy and outright state terror. Industrial democracy is being denied and workers' struggles met with victimisation and outright repression; struggles of peasants and adivasis are being met time and again with batons and bullets; 'counter-Maoist operations' are being invoked to wage a virtual war on adivasis, equate any people's movement with 'extremism' and witch-hunt any voices of dissent. In Kashmir, street protests against the cold-blooded massacre of children in firing by paramilitary forces are being termed 'terrorist' and met with still more firing and denial of basic human rights.
The significance of Independence Day surely lies in the legacy of the anti-colonial struggle and in the hopes and aspirations - for freedom not just from the colonial oppressor but from feudal shackles and exploitative structures within the country – that fired that struggle. It is those hopes and aspirations that continue to resonate in the fierce struggles we see all around us – to demand, defend and enrich their hard-won freedom, rights and resources.