Indians have to make a call- and make it soon- on what nation they want to live in and what nation they want to bequeath to their children. This decision is incredibly important and is not an easy one. Both the negative propaganda and the blandishments of those in power obscure the picture that should, after so much damage has been done, be clear.

Whatever the accepted definition of “failure,” states and nations both fail when their citizens live under the twin evil of poverty and division. Poverty, indeed, is hard enough to bear. To behold children with distended bellies, frail women laboring under the weight of firewood or water, people actively sacrificed so some of us might be well-off is difficult enough. When combined with division and hate, the basis of nationhood erodes and the back of the country is broken.

There is no form of State, in any political theory, which exists to do anything but to protect its citizens. There are both legitimate and illegitimate disagreements on the particular methodologies or methods by which to do this, but there is no disagreement about this being the central role of the State. So- what does one make of a State that does not optimally expend resources to protect its citizenry or in fact does the opposite- expend resources largely to service the needs of the already-wealthy? Further, what does one make of a State whose spokespeople and power-holders in fact actively sow division and preach hatred of a particular segment of its citizenry? Are these States that have failed to execute their prime charter? And if so, are they failed-states?

Depending on the frame of analysis, the answers are either obvious or not. From the perspective of charter and morality, clearly States that exhibit characteristics as described have for all intents and purposes failed. From the perspective of power, cupidity, and wealth, these States are in fact incredibly efficient in their conversion of public good(s) to private wealth and their transformation of universal goodwill and humanity into petty and partial nationalisms. They are successful in this regard.

So we have to make a call. Which version of the State do we want?

Either choice is fraught- that is important to understand before making a decision. If you pick a plural, equitable, and responsible State, then you’re in for a struggle. Few States, if any, can claim those mantles. Only struggle and sacrifice will deliver this version to you. If you pick the closed, elitist, and biased State, you might not have to engage in political struggle or sacrifice but you’ll have to spend your energies elsewhere: You’ll have to wonder why it is that such stunning poverty exists in your midst. You’ll have to devise ways to protect your own children from those who seek food and shelter and are willing to fight for it. You’ll have to devise ways to clean the air you breathe and to avoid air in the “bad parts.” You’ll have ask why your Parks are denuded, your water delivered in tankers, and the food you eat laden with pesticides. You’ll have to wonder why a particular form of your religion now seems to be dominant, even in institutions of Government. You’ll have to ask why your jails are teeming with folk and why your taxes go to funding new jails. You’ll have to explain to your kids why other kids, who seem just like them, aren’t deserving of decency. You’ll also have to wonder why you work so hard for your money which buys less than it ever did before.

You’ll have to do a lot if you pick the second State.

Democracy offers you the right to pick. It offers you the right to pick badly. It also offers you the right to hate.

Indians have to decide how they want to live and co-exist. They have to decide if they are satisfied with their current state under the current State. But they need to decide quickly lest the possibility of the kinder, inclusive state disappear irretrievably.

Romi Mahajan in an Author, Marketer, Investor, and Activist


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