15 August 2007

sixty years and what?

independence celebrations have always seemed a little strange to me, contradictory even. i see lavish ceremonies (the cost of which could easily have fed and clothed a large number of the country's poor and marginalized) and government officials spewing platitudes and blatant lies regarding the condition of its citizens.

sixty years ago, India was freed from its existence as a british colony. according to some, from a colony it has now become a dysfunctional state:

"The state of affairs in India as of today concerning its civil administration and the other pillars of democracy is similar to the psyche of a raging mob...

"A direct result of a failing executive machinery is the alarming number of starvation deaths in India. India as of today does not face a food crisis. However thousands in India die from acute starvation and malnutrition. One tenth of the country’s population goes to bed hearing the cries of their children for food. Starvation and malnutrition is a direct result of executive malfunction. Deaths from starvation are gruesome examples of how a failed executive forces death upon the people it is supposed to serve."

so what is there to celebrate? when india's constitution was being drafted after independence, there was much discussion regarding how to bring about a document that would prevent atrocities committed under the british raj from recurring, including the arbitrary detention of political prisoners and discrimination on the basis of caste. the document now exists with the relevant clauses, and yet the practices remain.

and what of the forgotten refugees in west bengal's cooper camp?

"We first came here as refugees in 1947,' says Kajal Roy, his eyes watering from the smoke that fills his bamboo and mud home. 'We used cow dung for fuel then, as we do now. Nothing has really changed for us. When we fled from East Bengal to West Bengal 60 years ago, our land in the camp was marked out by a few pebbles: 20 square feet a head. The pebbles are still there, dug into the ground...

"Coopers Camp is the sub-continent's oldest and least-known refugee camp. A hangover from another era, it represents a major embarrassment for the progressive West Bengal government, which remains focused on industrial development around Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). As India has grown from strength to strength amid economic resurgence, life seems to have passed by the people of 'Partition Camp 17', 200km north of India's famous 'City of Joy'. Few Indians even know of the camp's existence."

pakistan and bangladesh have their own demons to deal with--a military dictatorship and failing democracy amongst others.

here is my wish list for the next year:
no one should die of starvation or malnutrition.
there should be no victims of honor killings.
extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and custodial torture should not be tolerated; the responsible persons should be prosecuted and punished according to law.

when these become reality, then we can celebrate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

meryam, after reading your previous post (uncertainty) I became a bit anxious…I was afraid you really abandoned your idealistic views. but now, after reading your recent post on India, especially your wish list for the coming year, I feel happy again because you are not changing:) you are still that person who, as you pointed out, sees the world as black and white and, as a result, is able to be such a great person, a really good friend and a true human rights advocate!