When it comes to disasters, it is as if India’s tryst with ‘iconic’ dates continues unhindered. Although not warranting any commemorative celebrations, the onset of these dates year after year has not been without their share of apprehensions.
Human psyche is such that it has a proclivity for registering debacles more consistently than achievements. Although our country does not fall into the category of those haunted by the specter of tragedies, Indians too have been well-known for their knack of latching on to memories of total ruin and devastation when situations akin to those in the past threaten to trouble their present.
Unseasonal rains and the resultant floods, the destructive storms, rumours of another Tsunami along the coastal belt, cloud bursts and avalanches in the high altitude regions of the country; Indians have learnt to take all such life-threatening situations brought about by the vagaries of the weather in their stride.
Nature’s fury apart, hostile neighbours and insurgency within the country have given the Indians a lot to remember and be uneasy about. Wars and assassinations of its leaders have not been rare in the history of the country either!
The 26/11 Mumbai debacle will forever be etched in every Indian’s mind, more so for fears of a repeat of the attack considering the country’s readiness for aborting any future attempts, than the alacrity and valor shown by our security forces in overcoming the terrorist elements.
At this juncture it however becomes necessary to say that more than the natural calamities it has been the cataclysms over the years defining the political scenario in the country that has been the talking point for the countrymen.
With a few maintaining a neutral stand amidst those who are wedded to the ‘party-culture’ that goes for politics in this country, it is not difficult to gauge which way the wind is blowing if one is to lend a patient ear to the discussions that does the rounds after every announcement of a new program by the government.
Politics as such has been the fodder for an over-enthusiastic nation that has never made any bones about praising its leaders to the skies on a particular day to bring them crashing down very harshly the very next day for actions or words that in its opinion wasn’t worthy of them.
One wonders how the emergency impositions in 1962 and 1971 could be equated with that enforced by Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then prime Minister of the country, in 1975!
While the first two came amidst “the security of India” having been declared “threatened by external aggression” in the event of the Sino-Indian conflict and the Indo-Pak war; the one in ’75 came under controversial circumstances of political instability with the “security of India” having been declared “threatened by internal disturbances”.
Yet how many people remember the travails of the ‘external aggression’ of ’62 and ’71 as compared to the traumatic period brought about by the political highhandedness of Indira Gandhi in 1975!
No doubt the ‘Himalayan Blunder’ of 1962 as an example of amateurish politics that pushed the nation into a war where its armed forces, unprepared and ill-equipped to match the military might of a more formidable China, suffered, worse than the causalities, irreparable damages to its morale, needs to be viewed in a different perspective when compared to the anguish piled on the suspecting citizens by a leader who wanted to exercise complete and unquestioned authority over the entire nation in no uncertain terms.
However, as an event within the country which attained notoriety purely for the political connotations it carried, the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid at Ayodhya by Kar sevaks on 6th December 1992 stands out as that black-letter day secular-India would hurriedly like to forget.
An event that polarized India and led to communal riots in many parts of the country, the religious sentiments of a nation that has forever been taking pride in its attributes of unity in diversity was thoroughly exploited to drive a deep wedge between two prominent communities which have had histories of bloodshed at the slightest hint of provocation in the past.
In the aftermath of the Babri Masjid-Ayodhya imbroglio; as a political brainwave, where the BJP gained ground as keepers of the nation’s religious credentials; the very thought of 6th December in that same context continues to give the security forces in the country the shivers.
But, November 8th will be that unique date in Indian history that gives pride to the Modi-sarkar for having taken affirmative steps to usher in reformative measures that would aid the country in its economic progress.
Unfortunately, a majority of the Indians have nothing but disregard for what they consider is a derogative step that has all the making of an economic disaster. Thus the first ‘anniversary’ of demonetization makes it yet another ‘iconic’ date that the countrymen will like to flaunt around as an indication of the ominous dark days ahead.
As the government observed the first anniversary of demonetization as ‘Anti-Black Money Day’, the general public rues the very same day a year back when in one deft stroke Modiji decided to render useless all the currency it held in denominations of 1000 and 500. The restrictions imposed on the exchange of the ‘banned’ currency and the withdrawal of new notes further heaped untold misery on the common man.
The argument from certain quarters that demonetization is not a Kafkaesque nightmare and is only an attempt to spruce up the Indian economy by eliminating corruption and black-money just cannot be accepted on face value considering the nightmarish experience the public has been going through ever since the announcement and implementation of the process.
This then is a ‘disaster’, an economic one, and one that has had no parallels in the annals of Indian history!
In its unrestrained obsession to fight corruption and black-money, the people feel, the government has acted in a manner quite contrary to its role as a popular ruling front. So much so that Indians have learnt to receive any address to the nation by the PM which begins with ‘Mere Payaare Deshwasiyon” with a fair amount of skepticism and apprehension!
Ostracizing the demons of Demonetization is not going to be an easy task for a nation that continues to be fascinated by the emergence of new leaders which it feels will get it out of the rut it finds itself every now and then – only to be disappointed eventually as has been happening so very often!
But then Indians have to learn to reconcile their political expectations with stark realities!
Pachu Menon is an independent writer from Goa