NRIs, as is their habit, will celebrate the Independence Day with fervour, arrive in droves at various embassies and consulates and join in the flag raising ceremony. Of course, it is exactly the same event each year and is punctuated by amateur cultural presentations that remain static and force fed. For some reason having fun on this day is frowned upon, and it is all very solemn and dreary.
In the Gulf, they dish out copies of the president’s speech and then proceed to read out every word.
So, it is an annual indulgence in vanity that we hop around on 15 August and engage in self-congratulations. But this day was dedicated to the elimination of not just the common enemies of mankind like poverty, injustice, and disease but also to homegrown viruses of caste, corruption and an absence of hope against sexist prejudice, infanticide, and greed.
The NRI community has served its country reasonably well this year even though there has been a 5 percent drop in remittances, the total over the past 40 months is a sizeable $235 billion. Indians are also ecstatic about e-voting rights for the 16 million eligible citizens living abroad but are chary of whether there will be enough transparency to ensure the proxy ballots would get to where they should.
The 32 million Indians abroad have been a conduit for the best of our arts and sciences. From being the Indian frontlines in the Silicon Valley, medical practitioners in Europe, business tycoons in the Gulf and Hong Kong, Wall Street analysts to being crowned international beauty queens, Indian acumen and expertise have become marketable commodities.
Indian music has made its mark on the world stage. Indian food is cultural given. Indian fashion now competes at the level of haute couture even as Indian fabrics are in demand in both the East and the West. Indian novelists writing in English have hit the literary scene with force. Indian professionalism in media, law, accountancy and engineering and information technology has formed a swathe and Indian business' know-how is cutting edge. Bollywood’s attraction has been strengthened by the offerings of the south, and Bahubali reigns supreme.
However, there's little to celebrate. We allowed ourselves to be ruled for 200 years by a foreign power, and this year too, we had a slew of negatives and how they are perceived by the outside world.
Among them, the killings over beef eating make us look savage and primitive. The refusal by the Parliament to revoke Article 377 against the LBGT community, a vicious law imposed on India by the same foreign yoke which ironically has no such law in its own country. A Supreme Court verdict disallowing a ten-year-old rape victim from aborting the fetus on the grounds that it had developed into a sustainable life form is a stark testament to the failure of the system, our poor child healthcare, and the unbelievable fact that for 28 weeks no one thought to alleviate this poor child’s agony. This proves that men still decide what women can do with their bodies.
The Big Brother manifested itself by way of linking Aadhar cards with PAN cards and no one quite knows why. For NRIs, it's another hill to climb. Just as there was confusion about demonetisation — rumours of another one are on the way — the public is unclear how GST will play out even as retailers pull back on several items till there is clarity.
The seven sisters in the North East were hit by floods and we took far too long to react, an acid commentary on our levels of awareness of an integral part of India. A dangerous ignorance that China will exploit as she has spent the past two months trying to hector us on the borders of Bhutan and Sikkim. There are fears that a conflict is possible.
The tension in Jammu and Kashmir does not seem to be lessening and unless a hardcore decision to void Article 370 is made and the state is brought on par with the rest of the country, the issue will never be resolved. All we will do is confront civilians with guns and widen the chasm. The incessant appeasement as a policy only breeds contempt.
The call for Gorkhaland in the east needs to be resolved swiftly. With 29 states and seven union territories what are a few more if a sense of identity is assuaged.
In 2016, we were hit by terror attacks in Uri which led to surgical strikes. But did we stop prematurely with Pakistan? There's also a fear that we have left naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav to the caprice of Islamabad and its generals. Last November, demonetisation was welcomed by NRIs but there is still a lingering suspicion that the truly rich got away.
What scares us this 15 August? Even as our top echelons go through the paces of saluting the unknown soldier’s memorial and laying wreaths against a backdrop where armed forces personnel in peaceful areas are having their free rations stopped, we do wonder if this is the right time.... The dragon in the north threatens to belch fire, and keeping our troops’ morale high should be of utmost importance.
Updated Date: Aug 15, 2017 09:56 AM