Had the time, money or energy spent on the CWG fiasco been invested to solve the problems of Naxalism, hunger, and poverty, India would have been praised for being really a democracy
Amidst all the public outrage and shame, India hosted the 19th Common Wealth Games (CWG) last month. The Games though aimed at boosting India’s image of an “economic power in making” ended up in a fiasco.
Scams and the scamsters involved in hosting the CWG shadowed the entire event. Indian media, of course, highlighted the malpractices in hosting of the CWG but it tightened its lips when the days got nearer. May be the policy was amended in the interest of ‘nationality’ or ‘national interest’. Now when games are over, New Delhi based media is again up in arms.
The Games, the largest international multi- sport event staged in Delhi have ensued in grave violations of the human rights of the poor. The government resorted to forced evictions of street vendors and closed down shelter homes so as to present a sparkling, spick and span face of Delhi (read India) to the world. It demolished thousands of homes rendering tens of thousands of people down-and-out. It chased street vendors out of the city which resulted in the loss of livelihood opportunities for workers belonging to informal sectors thus affecting a minimum of 3,00,000 taxpayers of India.
According to reports the cost of the Games has turned out to be 114 times higher than the original estimates.
On the other side India was listed 67th out of 84 countries in the Global Hunger Index of 2010 by the International Food Policy Research Institute. India is home to 42 percent of the world’s underweight children and 31 percent of its stunted children as the GHI report suggests. India should ponder over these shocking figures. National conceit, too, has its limits. Imagine had Government of India allocated these huge sums of money (rather a small portion of it) to fight hunger and alleviate poverty it is badly suffering from. This would have really served the cause of democracy. Have they forgotten that 70 percent of their population live their lives for only Rs 20 per day? Somewhere I find relevance to what the known writer-activist Arundhati Roy recently said that “India is a corporate Hindu state”.
Hunger and poverty apart, India is facing the strongest ever public outcry in Kashmir, northeast and the deadly Naxalism in many of its states. While India was all busy in preparing to host the games, the democracy was at its worst in the Himalayan region.
Indian police and paramilitary troopers stationed in the region were on a killing spree to suppress the peaceful public protests thus killing more than 100 youth in less than four months which pushed the unrest to a point of no return. Interestingly, India claims to be the largest democracy on the planet earth.
Democracy, however, doesn’t stand for caging the people for months together, prevent them from offering religious obligations and force them to reel under shortage of life saving drugs and baby foods.
Not only has this Kashmir been left over with much more agonies. Agonies which nothing but painful: a wailing mother being carried on the stretcher carrying her son’s dead body on way to burial; a father shouldering the coffin of his only son. At times the physique is so miniature that the same father has to take him in his lap towards the lush green cemetery. Dreams shattered. Mourning continues. To be very honest writing it in a small piece wouldn’t suffice in as much as Kashmiris have a lot to say about the largest democracy.
There is a belief now on the streets of the valley that India has proved that Kashmiris no longer belong to it. Definitely so! The killings, arbitrary arrests, harassment, and other crimes they are committing against the Kashmiris increased the resentment among the people. So does the presence of draconian laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act. If India needs Kashmiris rather Kashmir then they have to have revisit their policy and approach. In other words they should make Kashmiris feel that they really belong to mainstream India. Otherwise they have to face the wrath from the people.
A question arises here as to what is important and paramount for a country: games which turned out to be the costliest affair or the lives of the people, which constitute the country. There is a need to introspect.
The very recent ‘sedition row’ is the result of this deliberate indifference of India towards the main issues confronted by Indians. Had India left no room for constructive criticism by seriously redressing the issues and grievances? The voices like Arundhati Roy would not have surfaced. However people like Roy merit admiration for voicing the concern confronted by the local Indians, in the broader context, are key to build a more vibrant democracy.
On the other hand, it is quite ludicrous to hear people like who said on a TV debate that “the moment you say that India is occupying Kashmir it amounts to sedition”. Right if this is the golden scale then Pandit Nehru was the first person to be charged with sedition. And the young chief minister of the state is next who falls in the category in the wake of what he said last month on the floor of the State Assembly.
The government of India should think beyond the rigorous of what they call “national pride”. This is the only way out to win the hearts of the people. Had all that (whether time, money or the brains) which was spent on the Common Wealth fiasco been invested with seriousness and honesty to solve the problems of Naxalism, hunger, poverty etc, India would have been praised for being really a democracy. Rather this would have added the real beauty to the Indian democracy. For democracies envisage reaching and listening to the people (even if dissent) rather than organising the stages for corruption and injustice to its own populace in the disguise of the so called development.
Author is a Srinagar-based lawyer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org