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Are we now a nation of shameless people?

By Colonel Anil A Athale (retd)
October 19, 2004 17:09 IST
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India is a meaningless mass of amorphous humanity:' Oswald Spangler, The Decline of the West

A few days ago when a group of 16 Pakistani journalists visited the Jammu camp of Kashmiri Pandit refugees from the valley, there were unruly scenes. Many victims of terrorist violence begged the Pakistani journalists to ask their country to stop the violence and help them return to their homes.

The reaction of the visiting Pakistani journalists is not known but it ought to make every single of the one billion plus Indians hang their heads in shame. Here is a peaceful community of over 300,000, that was driven out of their ancestral homes 14 years ago and have been living in pathetic conditions for all of those 14 years. What was the 'crime' of these people other than the fact that they practiced a religion different from the majority? Did they commit any atrocity against the majority?

True, Kashmiri Pandits are not the only such unfortunate people. Palestinians have been enduring this for the last 57 years! But there is a crucial difference, the plight of Palestinians is recognised by the entire world. India, as the self appointed 'mukhiya' [leader] of the Non Aligned countries, has been championing their cause. But 'we the people of a secular, democratic and socialist Republic of India' have resolutely and totally put them out of sight and out of mind.

The Kashmiri Pandit exodus took place in the early 1990s. Since then we have had six prime ministers -- from V P Singh to  Manmohan Singh, and three different parties have ruled India, including the ostensibly 'Hindu Nationalist' Bharatiya Janata Party. Yet all of them have ignored the plight of the Pandits and did nothing to end their suffering.

Also Read: Francois Gautier: Who cares for the Pandits?

The ever so alert judiciary that intervenes in issues ranging from the use of CNG in Delhi, to pollution, to even the selection of hockey teams, does not look at the fate of 300,000 Indian citizens who have been denied their basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution. What stopped the Honourable Lordships from taking a suo moto cognisance of this injustice? 

The sad plight of Pandits has also not touched the conscience of the ever so sensitive 'human rights' groups in India. The Teesta Setalvads and Javed Anands, the Medha Patkars or Arundhati Roys of this world have been deafeningly silent on this issue. There are no street plays, no documentaries or painting exhibitions on the sad state of these 300,000 Indians. The news media, both print and television, have shown no inclination to highlight their cause.

Also Read: Sharanarthi: The Forgotten Ones

The political parties, government machinery, judiciary, media and the NGOs, have all failed to fight for the cause of these hapless people. The people at large have been apathetic. In no elections was this ever made an issue by any party. The common refrain seems 'how does it bother me!.'

Indians as a people have a short historical memory. It is precisely this attitude that helped the British gobble up the whole country, one region at a time. Thus while Robert Clive was busy finishing off Siraj-ud-Daulah in Bengal, Shah Shuja in Awadh was least concerned, till the British did not turn against him. In 1799, the Marathas watched the British under Duke of Wellington decimate Tipu Sultan, knowing fully well that it would be their turn next. After 150 years of slavery, nothing seems to have changed in this land of Bharatvarsha.

As a former soldier I feel ashamed that with the world's third largest army, we are unable to ensure the safety and security of our own citizens.

Has India reached that advanced stage of decay that we are now a nation of shameless people?

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Colonel Anil A Athale (retd)