07 March 2014

Looks like you’ve got some problems over there Manmohan Bhaiya*

There’s a sick man in South Asia and it is not Sri Lanka.  I checked.  Here are some sobering facts.  There’s a sick country in South Asia where 10.8% of the labour force is unemployed.  In this sick country, a full quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. This country has an infant mortality rate of 47.57 deaths per 1,000 live births. Close to 40% of people over 15 years of age cannot read or write.   This is India. ‘Shining,’ may we add? 

India: a great country; one of the biggest economies in the world; has acquired nuclear capabilities, has one of the largest standing armies in the world; aspires to become a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council; got big dreams and thinks big.  When it comes to delivering and distributing, however, India comes a distant second to countries like Sri Lanka.  Maybe it is the small-mindedness. 

Here’s some relevant data regarding Sri Lanka.   Sri Lanka’s Per Capita GDP stands at US $ 5000 (India’s is US $ 3500).  Sri Lanka’s unemployment rate is half that of India.  Sri Lanka’s inflation rate (5.6%) is half that of India. Infant mortality is at 9.7 deaths per 1000 live births.  Literacy stands at 90.7%.  All this, let us not forget, was obtained and maintained through two bloody insurrections (the second precipitated by Rajiv Gandhi’s attempt to turn Sri Lanka into another Bhutan or Sikkim through the Indo-Lanka Accord) and a 30 year long struggle against terrorism (Indian-instigated, Indian-funded, Indian-armed and Indian-trained, let us not forget).  ‘Sri Lanka Shining’ sounds a more believable proposition, one might say. 

India is not a bunch of statistics which shows a country of vast contrasts with a privileged few exploiting and living off millions who are not.  It is a country which despite all appearances of opulence and national wholesomeness, is falling apart at its many seams. 

There are presently 123 independence movements in India struggling for rights of self-determination. Apart from these movements there are sort of on-going struggles for social and economic justice and they are spread over 220 districts in 20 states covering about 40% of India’s total geography.  Murmur names such as Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Sikhs and Nagaland and worry lines will appear on the most stoic of Indian officials and politicians.  India, moreover, indulges in what is almost like a national pastime: that of engaging in faith-related pogroms that leave tens of thousands dead every 5-10 years.  Keeping India ‘intact’ has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and requires systemic torture, assassination and genocide (in Kashmir for instance). 

How about Sri Lanka? Well, we had a problem.  Yes, ‘past tense’.  Took us time to sort it out, but sort it out we did and no thanks to India, let me add. 

India exists courtesy those who invaded the subcontinent.  It is a recent amalgam and one that would not have materialized had the Europeans not arrived. Indeed, the name ‘India’ is a convenience coined by the colonial powers and it is to the lasting shame of that country that it is yet to unshackle itself from that strong (indelible?) symbol and reminder of a violently subjugated past. 

Not so Sri Lanka.  We suffered 500 years of colonial rule, yes.  This island, however was not a hodge-podge of petty kingdoms at war with one another or describable as glorified fiefdoms, which is what much of what is now called ‘India’ used to be (and still is, one might argue).  India does not have a ‘national’ history.  There was never ‘national’ coherence in its past, except on a few occasions when warrior kings subjugated neighbouring regions.  It is diverse, yes, and that’s not a bad thing.  Diversity, however, is pulling India apart, i.e. into her constituent elements.

So when India wants to prescribe ‘reconciliation’ to Sri Lanka, it is in a sense laughable.  A far better idea would be for Indians to come to Sri Lanka and learn how to be a nation, how to overcome the challenges that life and living naturally throw up including those related to identity-based anxieties.  Not perfect, sure.  Far less imperfect though than our neighbor. 

India is THE sick country in South Asia. Perhaps it is this sickness (described above) that makes for delirious and self-satisfied ranting and raving about how her neighbours ought to sort out their little problems.  It is this sickness that perhaps makes India want to interfere and mess up her neighbours in the ‘Suffer Like I Suffer’ kind of logic.  That’s screwed-up logic when it comes to bilateral solidarities but India will not see it that way.  We can put it down to delirium.

India is suffering from a terrible cancer that has struck the core of its foundational lie. It is not a ‘nation’ but a hastily-pieced-together something that is coming apart because the colonial glue is no longer sufficient to keep things together and coherent, never mind the fact of the horrendous citizen-anomalies that describe it.  Sri Lanka had a tumour too. It was duly removed.  What remains are wounds which are eminently curable with home remedies. 

India does not need Sri Lankan experts to tell her how to sort things out.  All India needs do is take a look at Sri Lanka, or better still, take a look at herself.  India would then looks at others, especially Sri Lanka, differently. 
*Written 3 years ago.  Still 'fresh', I feel. 



Dileeni said...

A good article Malinda.