By Dushyant Shekhawat Jan. 30, 2018
Dear Bapu, 70 years after your assassination, I find people questioning your legacy. We’ve lost the plot on ahimsa, but at least we still observe dry days in your name.
We’ve been missing you! I thought you might appreciate an update on India as you peer down on us from the Great Ashram in the Sky. It’s been a while since you were last here and some things have changed, while others are still very much the same.
For starters, there are a lot more of us than there were in 1948. Trivial fact, but our population has approximately tripled since your time. Imagine how much faster we could have sent the British packing if we’d had three freedom fighters for every one we honour today!
Of course, it’s not like sections of the country aren’t trying to thin the herd. We’ve come up with so many different ways: exhorting a change of address to Pakistan, actively lynching dissenters in the street, and running over people on pavements. You might want to look both ways while crossing the street before attempting a Dandi March these days.
But I don’t want to depress you. We’re getting to be a clean country now. Swachh Bharat is the baby of our current Prime Minister, from your home state of Gujarat. He invokes your name and uses your glasses as the emblem of the movement. He wants to gift you a clean India for your 150th birthday in 2019 and has released many campaigns and spent millions of rupees trying to tell us to stop littering and defecating. We may be far from achieving the target, but our states are leaving no stone unturned in exaggerating the number of toilets built under the scheme.
I’m not discouraged by the fact that the pile of rubbish on my street corner hasn’t diminished in size and the fact that there are more crows and rats picking up garbage than sanitation workers. I put it down to an avian/rodent quota for these posts.
Speaking of quotas. Now I know why you weren’t too keen on the idea back then. You once even stated that reservation in government departments would be “fatal” to good government. Still, you went along with the Poona Pact with the assumption that in 10 years our society would have progressed far enough that the reservation system could be discarded.
We messed up on that front, Bapu. We’re still holding quotas for various posts. People are still classified as SC and OBC, and instead of it being an unfortunate marker for the socially downtrodden, it’s become a desirable one. Now, we have leaders like Hardik Patel, who demand the OBC tag for the privileged Patel community, which has never been backward, and public life is disturbed. Some people blame you for indulging Babasaheb Ambedkar in Poona and acquiescing to the reservations policy. But don’t be fazed by that: Blame game has become the national sport of our country.
But cheer up, Bapu. We’re still naming streets after you, stamping currency with your face (we even corrected your photo on our new notes!) and what’s more, we still don’t drink on your birth and death anniversaries.
But perhaps I’m being too pessimistic, and that’s just not right. After all, India is shining. Or maybe it is shining too bright and we are being blinded. Well, at least half of Kashmir is. Following your non-violent philosophy, we’ve stopped lethal weapons and started using pellet guns up there. Sure, it has had some side effects but you can’t say that we’re not trying.
And yes, on the whole, we’re not so much into the whole ahimsa thing now. Switch on the news, if you get any TV reception up there, and take a look. It really doesn’t work. You have a nation of men killing each other over beef, women wantonly drinking, lovers unabashedly necking, artists and students being anti-national. Even standing up for the national anthem has become a matter of debate. All kinds of things that piss us off are happening every day, so we keep mobs handy. I don’t know how you’re going to take this Bapu, but we’ve taken justice into our own hands and now feel free lynching people for all kinds of real and imagined transgressions and then making viral videos out of it. Yes, viral videos are new weapons that we’re using to Make India Great Again. (You had President Truman in your time; we have the genius whose words I’m paraphrasing here.)
I can sense that you disagree with the way things are unfolding, Bapu, but really it is a whole new world now. Why, even Nathuram Godse is celebrated as a hero today. The ideology of the outfit of which he was a part has started to influence public life.
But cheer up, Bapu. We’re still naming streets after you, stamping currency with your face (we even corrected your photo on our new notes!) and what’s more, we still don’t drink on your birth and death anniversaries. For this generation, that’s like giving up salt. And in the ultimate tribute, as we put all anti-national elements on a train to Pakistan, we’re practically giving your Quit India movement a sequel!
Anyway, I’ll end this letter now. I want to see Padmaavat and have to select an appropriate suit of armour. You keep paying attention to our country and you might even be lucky enough to see our PM announce one of his new schemes. Maybe one of them will be the Pradhan Mantri (Gau Raksha Peedit) Suraksha Yojana. Until then, Jai Hind.
This is an updated version of an earlier published story.