AAP and the limits of expansionism

Why did AAP win Delhi? Can AAP do to the rest of India what it did to Delhi?

Among many answers to the first question, one must stand out as important: the party had its ears to the ground, i.e., it spent most of its time listening to those at the bottom of the pyramid of power instead of imposing the images and words of supermen from above. That they didn’t have any supermen in the first place helped them become popular with laypeople, providing them an impression of flatness of organization and ideology. Everyone, it appeared, was welcome to AAP as long as they weren’t with “the bad guys”.

But organizational and ideological flatness within AAP is a myth. It was stated in exactly these terms by some, who left the party, but one doesn’t need a proof for it; it’s a truism. Any well-run political party must have a command and control structure, and those who command and control must, in a well-known hierarchy, be above those who are commanded and controlled.

When the organization isn’t large enough, hierarchy doesn’t come in the way of its being close to the ground: the voices from below reach the top because the top isn’t too high up in the air.

Why am I bringing this up? I’m bringing this up to answer my second question above, as to whether AAP can do a Delhi with all of India. AAP’s relative flatness compared to BJP and Congress, which was good enough for the geographically insignificant area of Delhi, is not scalable as it tries to “go national”. Localness isn’t expandable from one locus.

For starters, the very name of the party is in a foreign language for most of India: Hindi. The language of Delhi, it is considered a dangerous threat to liberty in South and East India; there aren’t any Aam Aadmis there to begin with; that’s an alien expression. The actual Aam Aadmi, who speaks an Indo-Aryan language like Hindi, is not exactly welcome in South or East India because he comes to replace the native Dravidian or Tibeto-Burman, to colonize.

No successful organization, because of its inevitable hierarchy, can maintain even an impression of flatness when it expands beyond a certain size, or beyond certain natural boundaries such as those of language and ethnicity as discussed above.

The Congress and the BJP have mastered the art, of not even putting up a facade of flatness, in “going national”. They essentially operate without the advantage which AAP had in this Delhi victory, and they’re not apologetic about it. In fact, they want the peoples of India to apologize for being diverse and making it difficult for them to keep their ears to the ground.

AAP’s fate will be no different as it tries to expand beyond Delhi. Aloofness from the ground is in the very nature of expansionism. I’m not saying this to cast my vote in favor of the BJP or the Congress. Far from it, I am saying this to forewarn the peoples of India against falling for another national party to rule over them thinking it will be fundamentally different from the existing ones. The thing to learn from AAP is that localness is the way forward, and this naturally requires rejecting AAP everywhere outside Delhi.

 

[First published: IBNLIVE, 11-02-2015]

Violence by language

The idea of a pan-Indian lingua franca is violent. The question is not which language must be the lingua franca, but why any one language must be. The most common answer is that Indians need a common language to communicate with each other. But what is conveniently forgotten is that any lingua franca expands to become the one and only language that ultimately prevails. As I write this, I myself find it next to impossible (even a major waste of time) to write in two languages.

We are also made to conveniently forget that we need to alienate ourselves from the people closest to us to support an all-India lingua franca. For example, elite Kannadigas who think India needs a common language also necessarily give in to the violent idea that it’s okay for them to divorce themselves from tens of millions of Kannadigas. Let the idiots catch up if they have what it takes, or let them be wiped out by ‘survival of the fittest’ – this is the unstated feeling we have for our own brethren.

Patriotism is the offered justification for this violence, but the real one is simply the insatiable desire to get ahead of others in the race for material resources. Far, far non-violent than this is to have state-level lingua francas. That is, Kannada in Karnataka, Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Bengali in Bengal, and so on and so forth. Of course this does not eliminate the violence entirely, but it reduces it by degrees of magnitude. There is no perfection in the material world; the question is whether one is moving towards it or away from it.

Bangalore to Bengaluru: the Untold Story

While the ‘national media’ is fixated on things of ‘national importance’, the media in Karnataka, both Kannada and English, is abuzz with the news that the Centre has agreed to the Government of Karnataka’s proposal to ‘rename’ several cities in the state. Bangalore is now officially Bengaluru, Mysore is Mysuru, Belgaum is Belagavi, and so on and so forth.

Despite all the hype, celebrations, and the occasional mention of the late U R Ananthamurthy’s name (he stood for this cause), it’s important to pause and understand what exactly has happened here. Are the names really new? Who are they new to? In which language or languages are they new? All in all, does it matter?

These names, Bengaluru, Mysuru, Belagavi, etc., are not new to the people of these cities or of Karnataka as a whole. Nor are they new entrants to the Kannada language. Nobody has ever used the words Bangalore, Mysore, Belgaum, etc., in Kannada; it has always been these ‘new’ names. It is, in fact, impossible to use them because it’s foreign pronunciation. British pronunciation, to be precise.

So what’s happening now is not ‘renaming’ from the point of view of those Kannadigas who take their own language more seriously than others. Yes, it’s true that the India outside of Karnataka is going to try and use the same names as used within Karnataka. I say ‘try and use’ because Kannada names cannot necessarily be pronounced by non-Kannadigas. The ‘l’ in Bengaluru, for example, is not pronounced north of the Vindhyas – at least not any more.

So, is this whole thing a sort of an achievement? Does it call for a celebration?

To get some perspective, consider the fact that Germany is not pleading with the EU to be ‘renamed’ as Deutschland; The Netherlands is not pleading to be ‘renamed’ as Nederland; France isn’t pleading to be ‘renamed’ as République Française; the number of such examples is not even countable. In fact, people worldwide have their own names for all the countries and cities they’ve had the opportunity to talk about.

To take one example of a city, what the British call London is known and written in some of the world’s languages as follows: Llundain, Londër, Londain, Londan, Londe, Londen, Londhíno, Londinium, Londona, Londonas, Londra, Londres, Londrez, Londyn, Londýn, Lontoo, Loundres, Luân Đôn, Lundenwic, Lúndūn, Lundúnir, Lunnainn, Reondeon, Rŏndŏn, Rondon, and Londoni. Is this a let-down of the people of London? No. In fact, it’s a matter of Londoner pride for their city, like all living things, to have a Vishnu Sahasranama of its own.

So then, why did some Kannadigas ask for this, why do they call it ‘renaming’, and why are they celebrating now? There is only one answer. They have resigned to the fate, decided for them by the Government of India, of Hindi and English being more important than Kannada. To ask for the Kannada names to be approximated in Hindi and English is, first and foremost, to accept the over-lordship of these two hegemonic languages. Even U R Ananthamurthy advocated for Hindi’s emergence as a pan-India link language; I don’t think he worked out the full impact of such a disaster on Kannada. Perhaps it gives the celebrators some solace now to think that the hordes of migrants who are coming into these cities from the North will at least try and preserve the names of their cities – if not Kannadigas’ existence in them.

First Published: IBNLIVE, 18-10-2014

How Hindutva kills Hinduism

I.

In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4, the sage Yājñavalkya decides to retire to the forest after dividing his property between Maitreyī and Kātayāni, his two consorts. Maitreyī then gets into a discussion with Yājñavalkya on whether the property would keep her happy forever. She asks:

yan nu ma iyaṃ bhagoḥ sarvā pṛthivī vittena pūrṇā syāt kathaṃ tenāmṛtā syām iti.

“Would I become immortal if all the wealth of the world were to become mine?” Yājñavalkya has to make a clear choice between artha and moksha here, and this is what he says in response: no.

neti hovāca yājñavalkyaḥ. yathaivopakaraṇavatāṃ jīvitaṃ tathaiva te jīvitaṃ syāt. amṛtatvasya tu nāśāsti vitteneti.

“No, your life would be like that of those who have rich possessions. There is no hope of immortality through wealth.” And then the Upanishad goes on with Yājñavalkya revealing, upon request, one after the other spiritual truth to Maitreyī.

This short episode should clarify beyond doubt that the true focus in this, as in every, Upanishad is moksha, not arthaamṛtatva, not vitta. If it weren’t for this focus on deliverance or salvation, the Upanishads would have lost meaning long ago, as many of the other parts of the Vedas have.

Noise can make us forget that the Upanishads, not other texts, are central to Hinduism. But in reality, one cannot claim to uphold Hinduism but let go of Upanishadic messages. It is impossible to uphold some other text or portion thereof, if it contradicts the message of the Upanishads, and claim to uphold Hinduism.

II.

Why am I writing this? This is to set the record straight after reading an article titled ‘The Desirability of Artha’ by Bibek Debroy. I would perhaps not have bothered if it were from someone else, but for such a prominent public intellectual to let go of the centrality of the Upanishads in advocating for Hinduism illustrates that the intellectual disaster that has struck India’s right-wing elite is of a greater magnitude than I had imagined.

In an article which sets out to establish the desirability of artha, which desirability is, of course, not questionable, Debroy makes the point that the superiority of moksha in Hindu scriptures is ‘superficial’. This is an unpardonable mistake. There is no question of comparing artha to moksha in the core of Hinduism; the latter wins hands down, and explicitly.

After having made this seminal mistake, Debroy’s article gets entangled in a mess of absurdities.

Take, for example, the idea that the Varna system represents ‘nothing but economic specialization’ if we were to consider it ‘without defending its subsequent hereditary aspects’. This is like saying cyanide represents harmless matter if we were to consider it without defending its poisonous character.

Debroy also claims to give the original meaning of Brahmacharya. According to him, it need not necessarily involve celibacy. No doubt one can achieve moksha even while being a gruhastha, but that does not mean you go and preach sexual intercourse to the Brahmachari.

Continuing, Debroy argues that Hinduism is quite concerned about wealth creation (one could argue it’s always transformation); the impression that it isn’t concerned comes, according to Debroy, from a selective and biased reading of Hindu texts. Well, one can argue without end about which texts are part of Hinduism and which aren’t, but there is no doubt that the Upanishads are. There is also no doubt that they are central to the religion; any selective reading must involve them in order to remain meaningfully Hindu. In such a situation, to bring the limited scope of a couple of parvas from the Mahabharata as proof that ‘Hinduism’ cares for wealth-creation – so much that moksha loses its supreme position among the purusharthas – is to give up the core of Hinduism and wallow in superficiality.

Debroy even pushes his economic agenda into the mouth of the scripture. According to him, because public works were driven by individuals, not kings, we must take it as an acknowledgment by scripture that there should be little State involvement in public works today, too. I am not opposed to the proposition itself, but the farce of deriving it from the Mahabharata.

And what is that reference to the Buddha doing in the last paragraph of the article? The claim is that the vaishyas supported Buddha. So what? That makes moksha‘s superiority superficial as claimed? Or is it that we should welcome the author’s economics as ancient and absolute truths which supported the Buddha? Or is it a way to draw to his brand of western economics those who are concerned about the economic state of the Dalits?

Why is this intellectual disaster happening? Why are the self-appointed protectors of Hinduism themselves defaming Hindu scriptures (Debroy is apparently translating the Mahabharata and it is said to be a seminal work in Indology)? Why are the Hindutvavadis defending the indefensible exterior of the religion and discarding the perfect core, i.e., the Upanishads? Why do they not even hesitate to deny supreme importance to moksha to argue for their brand of artha?

The reason is that they try to approach Hinduism through the politico-economic lens. What appears through it is the monster created by the British and worshipped by Indian nationalists – the Indian Nation. This monster is their God. In singing its praise and positioning themselves as its high-priests, they do not seem to understand that they are destroying the impeccable spiritual core of Hinduism.

Hindi as Putonghua

It is often difficult to separate out jealousy and enmity. While Narendra Modi‘s attack on China for its ‘expansionism’ is widely understood not to increase friendship between India and China, that’s not the full story. There is jealousy in it, too.

The Government of India has always secretly craved for Chinese-style control on the diverse peoples of India – and that’s internal ‘expansionism’. Not surprisingly, it forms the foundation of the Indian elite’s Idea of India. How nice it would have been if, for the outer world, the Government of India could openly claim complete racial, linguistic, and ethnic homogeneity within India! How nice it would have been if the Many voices of the Many Indias could be made to disappear and instead, the One voice of One India could assert itself on the global stage! Wouldn’t that be the roar of the Indian Lion no force on earth can stand up to? Narendra Modi is a puppet trying its best to turn this necrophilic dream into reality.

Of course, there is no democracy in China; India scores a big positive on that front. But there is no dearth of Indians who think democracy is India’s bane. And there is no dearth of people who think of democracy as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Why, even the founding fathers of independent India considered democracy as the best means to achieve, among other things, the homogeneity that China has achieved – but nonviolently. Why raise an arm where words suffice? Why use sticks when strategically placed carrots suffice? It is in the means that China differs most from India. The end is the same: homogeneity.

The Chinese have been getting rid of diversity, which always opposes the State’s supreme wisdom, from as early as 221 BC when the Qin dynasty came to power. But India hasn’t done anything comparable before 1947 AD – or, I must say, before the freedom struggle came of age. While the Chinese have effectively destroyed the various languages of China using violent means – books have been burnt, scholars buried alive, a single script imposed on one and all at gunpoint – India hasn’t tried anything of the sort. Instead, we are all set to destroy all Indian languages but Hindi nonviolently. No books will be burnt, no scholars will be buried alive, but they will all voluntarily submit their souls to the Centre, propelled simply by monetary, career, and sexual incentives (the last is the territory of Bollywood). That’s the belief, at least.

Take, for example, the upcoming State-sponsored celebration of Hindi beginning next week. That’s like a festival to celebrate the imposition of Beijunghua (the language of Beijing) on the diverse Chinese and calling it Putonghua (common language). Only, the Chinese never had to resort to such cheap tricks: they caught hold of all other languages and sent them to the guillotine after turning the lights off centuries ago, and nobody came to know.

Chinese writers who are allowed pen and paper by the Party, such as Zhang Weiwei, now claim that China is a ‘civilizational state’ – implying an organic homogeneity in one sixth of the world’s population. But in reality, China is a ‘state civilization’ – a whole mass of humanity forcefully subjected to an arbitrary state’s mindless craving for uniformity. The Indian elite working in tandem with the Government of India, jealous that our kings didn’t achieve this in the quietude of history, are now trying their best to achieve it today. Needless to say, they will fail, and the failure will be demonstrated, to an extent, in the next couple of weeks.

First Published: IBNLIVE, 12-09-2014

On the Government vs Business Debate

The West is obsessed with the government vs business debate (or the public vs private debate, as some term it), which is summarized by one single question: how much control should the government have over business? Whether we like it or not, we Indians are constantly being asked to disclose our position in this debate, and made to feel as if this is the most important ideological question in front of us. But before we even agree to consider the question, the stage must be set for making it meaningful: we should know who runs the government or the business in question. Do we run the government? Do we run the business? And finally, who are we?

Let me explain why these three questions matter, beginning with the first two. If foreigners run both the government and the business, it matters little what our take on the matter is. However you vote, you end up strengthening a foreign power which simply goes against our own self-interest. If foreigners run the government and we run the business, it’s trivial to see that we must side with the business. If foreigners run the business and we run the government, it’s again trivial to see that we must side with the government, not the business. It is only when we run both the government and the business that the question becomes non-trivial.

Now, on to the third and the trickiest question: who are we? Before we try to answer the question, let us ask ourselves: how does it matter? It matters because, if we don’t know who we are, we can’t tell us from them and we can’t tell whether the government or business is run by us or not. If we can’t do that, we are back to the situation where we’re asked to vote in the dark: we have no clue whether it is we who run the government or the business, and we have no clue which to side with. This is the situation most Indian intellectuals are in. And how do they vote? Based on which school they went to: a place that convinced them that they (the we in question) belong to it (that school) more than anything else.

This discussion of who we are reminds me of what Yâgñavalkya told Maitreyî in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad:

Verily, everything is not dear, that you may love everything; but that you may love the Self, therefore everything is dear. Verily, the Self is to be seen, to be heard, to be perceived, to be marked, O Maitreyî! When the Self has been seen, heard, perceived, and known, then all this is known.

Of course, the great sage meant the Soul when he used the word Self (actually, the Sanskrit word atma), not the body, but his advice seems to apply equally well to the Self in question in the government vs business debate: the materialistic self. Business or government aren’t dear that we may love business or government, but that we may love us. It follows, therefore, that we need to know who we are. Of course, when Yâgñavalkya said ‘all this is known’, he meant the entire Universe, not our take on the government vs business question. But the advice applies quite well to our limited context.

I know, you must be thinking: ‘Okay, let’s assume we run both the government and the business. Can you now disclose your bias?’ It is tempting to answer this question, but I will resist it because it is theoretical. We haven’t even established who we are. The question of government vs business, more than any other, is most practical. I will, therefore, instead of falling prey to the temptation, try to answer the question who we are.

Now, this, I must again emphasize, is not a theoretical question to which the answer can be, too. Yâgñavalkya’s answer, which is that the Self is the Soul, does not help us answer the materialistic question in front of us. In the spiritual realm, the realm of the Soul, the distinction between us and them, government and business, and even Soul and non-Soul are invisible. Even the distinction between the visible and the invisible is invisible. Or visible. This is not the direction to go, therefore, to answer the question as to who we are in the limited context of politics and economics. We must leave Yâgñavalkya alone here and take our own path. Yes, when we do so we err and proceed on a path that takes us away from Moksha, but the government vs business question did not intend to take us towards it, did it?

So, then, who are we? Unfortunately, despite all the build-up until now in this article, there is no universally accepted answer to this question; there cannot be. It is not a question which can have a mathematically correct answer, but one which we may answer based on our biases. But whatever our biases are, they must help us distinguish between us and them. It is easiest to narrow down the definition of we to an individual, making it an I clearly distinguishable from everyone else, but that has its own problems: individuals don’t run governments, even if they do businesses. So, we has to be a group of people.

If it has to be a group of people, what sort of group? How big must the group be? What should be the relationship between its members? What should be the differentiating factor or factors between one group and another? These are all, again, very difficult questions to answer. In any case, all of humanity cannot be the definition of the group we’re after, because that would be equivalent to throwing away the idea of a group. If it’s all one group, then there are no groups. If everyone is us, nobody is, because there is no them. Therefore, all we can conclude regarding size is that it can neither be individual-sized nor everyone-sized. It has to be something in between.

To define our group more clearly, we must realize that we are seeking a definition in order to answer the government vs business question. We are not seeking it in a vacuum. In other words, we want to define groups such that we can answer the government vs business question in some optimal way. Which optimal way? I propose that it should be a way in which each group, so defined, derives the maximum benefit from the way it is defined. If some groups are advantaged and some not, or rather, if the distribution of advantages is clearly and blatantly iniquitous, I wouldn’t like to call it an optimal way of defining groups.

For one individual in a group to derive a benefit from another, there must exist, first and foremost, a sense of commonality that binds them. That is, the feeling ‘we are one’ must exist and be easily recognized by everyone in it. They must share something. Of course, extreme individualism, another Western product, teaches us that no such thing is necessary, and that individuals can act all by themselves. But this cannot be the route we take because we are out to define groups; we gave up the definition of we as an individual above. Returning to our question then, what must individuals share in order that they can derive benefit from one another? Clearly we’re not talking about the family bond, although it may seem like a good answer to the question. Families don’t run governments – at least democratic governments – even though they might run businesses.

To cut a long story short, I propose that our group must be linguistic – one whose members share a common language. A common language brings its speakers on a common platform on which they have the opportunity to benefit from one another. Without a common language and the opportunities for communication and cooperation it provides, it is next to impossible for people to benefit from each other. As they benefit from each other, the language itself grows in complexity and utility, and so does the sense of unity that binds everyone in the group. In this sense, the common thread of language is a minimal requirement for a group. Also, language makes it possible to clearly distinguish between one group and another. It is easily possible to say who we are and who they are – even for the unlettered. And to be able to make this distinction, you will recall, is necessary to even address the government vs business question. Language is also a secular commons – you not only use but also contribute to the language irrespective of your religion – and this means it is a more potent tool for curing society of religious bigotry of all shades. With very few exceptions, language also ensures that the group so created is located in a geographically contiguous region, making it easy for it to associate itself with a piece of earth it can call its own.

Is this sort of grouping optimal in the sense I set out to make it? That is, is linguistic grouping the one that distributes advantages equally to all groups? This is certainly so in most cases of real languages such as Kannada or Tamil or Bengali or what have you, although it is possible that some languages are more equipped than others to carry science and technology which are crucial to the group’s success. Linguistic grouping also makes it possible, nay a requirement, for each group to work on its own language and develop it. Yes, every group will have work to do – to bring its language up to speed – but every speaker of that language, irrespective of religion or caste can, at least theoretically, contribute to it. When everyone contributes to something, or has the opportunity to contribute, then, and only then, does the feeling emerge that it is common to one and all. Language is such a thing.

The Kannadigas, in this sense, are a group – a we in their own right. So are the Tamils, the Malayalis, the Telugus, the Bengalis, the Assamese, and so on, and so forth. It is these linguistic groups that need to have, internally, the government vs business debate. And, as discussed above, it is only when both the government and the business are run by the group in question that the debate becomes meaningful. The debate is settled before it is begun should either the government or the business be under the control of a group other than the one debating.

It might appear to some that I have forgotten something very important: India! But that is an illusion created by the current idea of India in which the groups I just mentioned, and their languages, are of no importance whatsoever. In fact, by talking about these groups, I have covered almost all of India – a big, very big, nation. What I have left out is not India but migrants who cross linguistic borders. They are, first of all, a trivial minority compared to the population of Indians that does not cross linguistic borders, and therefore, the question as to which group they belong to is not the most important one in India. But yes, they must belong, by default, to the host group in order to be treated as part of its we.

Of course, Indians belonging to all linguistic groups together make a macro group of their own – a we in their own right, for reasons such as our common history of oppression under the British followed by independence, and, of course, the diverse and rich spiritual traditions of the sages. We have derived a great political benefit from these commons: independence. That is, we have used these commons to deal with external powers for the benefit of every Indian. But these commons have little utility when it comes to settling questions such as that of government vs business within India.

Besides, all it takes to preserve independence and prevent civil wars is to make sure that the central government, and only the central government, has control over defense and external affairs. All other powers can be safely entrusted to the linguistic states (there must be only one linguistic state per major language, for reasons difficult to explain in this short essay) and Indians in every state allowed to deal with all other matters internally – including the question of government vs business. If external affairs is held by the centre, shouldn’t the centre take decisions on government vs business when both Indian and foreign ones are involved? Yes, it should, but only when they are involved. These, and other details, such as the requirement that every state must have the same stakes in the centre, have to be worked out meticulously for the solution I’m proposing to work.

‘How about now,’ I hear you ask, ‘can you disclose your bias now that you have settled the question of who we are and also proposed a restructuring of the Indian polity?’ My answer to that is: it has to be worked out by the different groups, i.e., states, differently. There is no one answer that applies to all. As far as my group is concerned – the Kannadiga group – there’s no point answering this question since we Kannadigas control neither our government, in the ultimate analysis, nor the businesses that operate in Karnataka.

Why corruption?

By the time I completed writing The Pyramid of Corruption, the Jan Lokpal protests led by Anna Hazare had nearly come to a halt and the UPA government had begun to take the matter seriously. There were claims that the protesters had ‘won’. The so-called Aam Aadmi Party, whose stated objective is to eliminate corruption in India, had not yet been formed.

Fast-forwarding to today, Anna Hazare is out of the game and the public hysteria over the Lokpal Bill is gone; and a subset of the protesters have formed the Aam Aadmi Party. The latest news is that this party has already managed to get into its own alleged corruption scandal. One can hear arguments that this new ‘party with a difference’ is no different, after all.

Of course it’s too early to say whether or not the corruption charges on AAP are genuine. Even if they are, since there are much bigger and dirtier fish in the game, the new tiny fish in the pond is certainly one of the cleaner ones. Since AAP has carved out a niche for itself by opposing the corruption in parties such as the Congress and the BJP, it may be reasonable to expect, perhaps, that it will fare better, if not a lot better, at what is known as being clean.

But the problem with this whole approach to ‘cleanliness’ in politics is it recognizes only what can be described as operational corruption. This is the corruption in the functioning of existing systems of politics and economics, not in their definition or construction. Put differently, this approach assumes that the nation by itself is infinitely incorruptible; that everything that has transpired in the process of its establishment is free from corruption, even divine; and that the only thing wrong with the nation is the character of the people running it today.

But this is far from true. As I show in the book, the very foundation of the Indian nation is steeped in corruption which fits the popular definition of the term, ‘abuse of public power for private gain’. This can be called the nation’s primitive corruption, to distinguish it from operational corruption.

The Aam Aadmi Party, whose motto is to ‘clean up the system’, cannot be said to have an all-India ideology or philosophy of its own. All it proposes to do is bring execution excellence to, or remove the painful friction from the working of, the Indian nation. AAP’s declared focus, therefore, is not on where India should be going but how to take it there effectively and efficiently!

India’s primitive corruption has ‘contributions’ from people from the very first pages of India’s history, the British, as well as the original Indian National Congress which, of course, played a crucial role in the independence movement. This primitive corruption is not even recognized by AAP or other parties, or in fact, anybody currently seeking to ‘clean up’ India.

Cleaning up, as understood today, can at best result in the creation of one hundred percent clean Congresses, BJPs and public offices of all descriptions. Contrary to popular belief, this would be a disaster because, then, there would be no impediments thwarting the career of the primitive corruption embedded in the foundation of the nation – one that threatens to consume hundreds of millions of people, all amidst the vulgar songs of patriotism.

Decoding ‘Unity in Diversity’

We have heard the mantra too many times in India to have missed it: unity in diversity. The moment it is repeated, the listener and repeater alike are psychologically overpowered by the thought that their duty is done; understanding and implementing it are optional, if not unnecessary.

But what does it really mean? What kind of unity and diversity are meant by it? These are important questions we must answer. The mantra must be decoded.

Really, the word diversity is easy to decode. All sorts of human diversity are included in the word: language, culture, religion, etc., etc. Literally everything one can think of.

The problem lies in the word unity.

Clearly, it cannot mean unity of language, culture, religion, etc., because that would not be unity but uniformity or the destruction of diversity, i.e., cultural invasion. Unfortunately, however, this is the popular understanding of the word; even the one used by the Government of India in projects such as the spread of Hindi, and by pan-India businesses which would like all of India to celebrate Diwali though it means bankruptcy in several languages.

What else can unity mean? I think very few would object to giving it the meaning political unity. That is, except the secessionists who are very few in number if not extinct today, everyone would agree that the word is meant to convey that India is one nation, not many.

But what does that mean? Does it mean every Indian has or ought to have the same political or economic ambition? Surely not. Does it mean India has no internal conflicts? Surely not. Can it mean Indians present a single voice in the comity of nations, that Indians are united in their stand on global matters? Unfortunately, even this cannot be the meaning because diversity implies diversity of voice, of stand, on all matters, including global ones.

The word unity can mean one and only one thing: that we try to achieve uniformity in internal and external politics and economics to the best of our abilities, making inevitable mistakes on the way, and making up for them as and when possible. To minimize the mistakes all-India projects, both political and economic, have to be, first of all, very few in number. Nearly all the projects must be undertaken at the state level and lower, leaving only defense and external affairs to the centre.

Today, the Govt of India as well as pan-India businesses are not only obese to the point of disease, but are also growing further in size and strength. Cleaning up after them is being termed unpatriotic, and it is only helpful, to those who are advantaged by them, that you and I only repeat the mantra without understanding any of this.

But obesity will kill us all.