Atanu Dey On India's Development

The Endurance of Indians

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Reports of gross misdeeds by people in power leave as much of an impression on the Indian mind as does yesterday’s weather forecast. And they appear to be as helpless in the face of institutionalized corruption and criminal behavior as in altering the weather. They take both as a given, a fact of nature that is outside their control.

In the section on “Politics”, IBN Live reports, “Mamata to look into allegations of scam against Lalu.” Well, that’s politics. Lalu and scams is not news. Indeed, Indian politicians and scams are nothing new. IBN also reports “Karnataka Chief Justice in trouble”

Karnataka High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran’s assets are under scrutiny and the Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan has asked him to respond to allegations that he has amassed assets disproportionate to his income.

From the Mumbai Mirror

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who inaugurated the refurbished Congress office at Azad Maidan on Monday, stands to lose the moral high ground she likes to take. It may unnerve her to learn that the office is neither legal nor austere.

The mind rebels on reading the phrase “the moral high ground” and the name of a politician in the same sentence. Yet Indians willingly vote into office politicians that no one doubts are corrupt and worse complicit in murder, rape, extortion and other generally nasty things. It is quite certain that these voters would shun any of their acquaintances if the latter were accused of major crimes but for some peculiar reason find it totally acceptable that the people whom they are electing to make laws are themselves criminals.

Recently, the chief minister of AP died in a crash. It appears to be common knowledge that his rise to power was associated with major violence — not unlike other politician’s rise. Yet they were falling all over themselves with grief at his demise.

Why is this so? Do Indians lose their moral compass when it comes to leaders?

Reading the news today brought to mind the truth of what that great American abolitionist Frederick Douglass (d. 1895) had written over a century ago. “Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them … . The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” A wide-angled view of India reveals that Indians are willing participants in their own oppression.

Or maybe I should be more charitable. Perhaps Indians are not so much willing as unable to do anything about it. Their powerlessness comes from their inability to reason, which could be because they are uneducated. Perhaps keeping the masses of India uneducated is deliberate. It keeps the people from revolting against those who are in power.

The wikipedia informs us about Frederick Douglass:

When Douglass was about twelve, Hugh Auld’s wife Sophia started teaching him the alphabet. She was breaking the law against teaching slaves to read. When Hugh Auld discovered this, he strongly disapproved, saying that if a slave learned to read, he would become dissatisfied with his condition and desire freedom.

I think that the people who grabbed power when the British left have seen to it through the policies that they implement that most Indians should not even become literate, leave alone become educated. I am sure that widespread literacy may awaken the Indians, leading them to demand freedom.

The slaves of America, led by people like Douglass (who was called “The Lion of Anacostia”), freed themselves. I wonder if Indians will ever become free from the tyranny that they endure. There are no lions in India.