But as long as the underlying causes are not addressed,
more and more disenchanted citizens are likely to take to
the gun to fight the injustices of the system, however misplaced
their methods are.
of vertical fragmentation and social hierarchies led to
unimaginable misery and denial of justice and opportunity.
The social movements that accompanied freedom struggle gave
some semblance of hope to the oppressed sections. The work
of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule in Western India, Narayana Guru's
remarkable efforts to liberate Ejhavas in Kerala from caste
oppression, and Ramaswamy Naicker's Self Respect Movement
are three noteworthy examples of such social mobilization
for inclusion of sections which were hitherto on the margins
of Indian society. The leadership and intellectual vigour
of Babasaheb Ambedkar gave a new meaning to the quest for
equality and justice, and made it an integral part of our
independent India witnessed the decline of social movements.
Simultaneously, the political commitment for the inclusions
of Dalits and oppressed segments in the mainstream society
has been symbolic at best. Issues of real empowerment have
been neglected, and politics of tokenism have become the
norm. If India pursued robust policies for human development
and rapid economic growth, the situation might have significantly
improved by now. But excessive state control led to politics
of patronage and rent-seeking, and depressed economic growth.
Politics of tokenism became a substitute to genuine empowerment
and human development. The result is the extremely uneven
growth process, and exclusion of large sections of population
from the benefits of self government.
economic liberalization, competition and the unleashing
of the entrepreneurial potential should help bridge the
social divide. As skills and capacity for participation
in wealth creation determine social mobility, birth and
patronage should cease to matter. But tragically, the Indian
state did not create conditions for such social mobility.
India never created conditions for human development of
the disadvantaged sections. The limited educational opportunities
created in the early decades after freedom benefited the
upper castes, and created a sizeable body of people with
skills, knowledge and entrepreneurship. But the Dalits and
other disadvantaged sections were largely denied the fruits
of education and development. Over the past three decades,
the unmet demand led to growth of private education, and
state institutions declined. The poor too started sending
children to private schools, adding to their financial burden.
But much of private education too is sub-standard. As a
result, most of the poor children never fulfil their potential,
despite the genetic endowment.
the future of nearly 70% of children can be predicted with
reasonable certainty on the basis of conditions at birth
- caste, literacy level of parents and income. The bulk
of the children have no opportunities for vertical mobility.
Near collapse of public health systems, and low level of
skills even if some smattering of education is imparted
have further compounded the misery of the poor. Ubiquitous
corruption, over-centralization, oppressive state machinery,
and failure of rule of law broke the backs of the poor already
groaning under social inequity. Discrimination by birth
is thus institutionalized, despite a liberal constitution
and democratic trappings. Justice is denied to most of the
people, and law applied to different people in different
ways. Dominance of money and muscle power in elections made
politics a huge part of the problem, not the solution.
is these cruel circumstances which breed anger, alienation
and violence. If we do not address these fundamental issues,
violence will undo all fruits of freedom and economic growth.
And growth itself will be stunted because of violence, and
non-participation of the bulk of the people in wealth creation.
As the illiterate eke out a precarious livelihood through
drudgery, the 'educated' are unemployed for want of skills.
spiral of violence can be reversed only if we focus on education,
healthcare and skill promotion. All parties claim to be
committed to these worthy goals. But for these fruits to
reach the poor, we need to redefine politics. Politics as
business should give way to politics revolving round the
people's lives and empowerment. The oppressed sections which
depend on state for education and healthcare must be enabled
to truly participate in politics and decision making. Total
decentralization of power, comprehensive political reforms
to restore the spirit of service to politics, and radical
reforms of police and justice system to ensure swift and
real justice to all sections must be integral to the new
Martin Luther king said, the silence of good men is far
more dangerous than the brutality of bad men. The thinking
sections need to mobilize the people whose future is at
stake, and act now.