A LOT OF PEOPLE in India are feeling left out. For nearly 10 years, they’ve hoped against hope that the nightmare will end and life will return to normal.
For them, everyday life is mutton biryani at the Pakistan High Commission (now sadly downgraded), guided tours by ISI to PoK, BBC documentaries on India, and perhaps even an official visit to India by His Majesty King Charles III.
It’s been awfully long since Charles was here last, inspecting trees in Lodhi Gardens. It’s just as well he didn’t go to Amritsar or nationalists would have forced him to apologise for Jallianwala Bagh. Some would even have, impolitely, called him by his old family name, King Charles III Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. (The family quietly changed its original German name to Windsor in 1917.)
Left-out Indians don’t like to upset British royalty or remind it that David Cameron, then prime minister, did visit Jallianwala Bagh in 2013 but refused to apologise for the massacre. If he had, the British confided, India might ask for reparations. That would open up a Pandora’s box.
Left out of decision-making for a decade after being used to calling the shots for over half-a-century, nothing could be worse than seeing favourite roads being renamed. Aurangzeb Road had a nice inclusive ring to it. The Mughal emperor may have killed a few lakh Indians and demolished a few thousand temples, but he surely deserved to have a road named after him in Lutyens’ Delhi.
The disentitled miss the dashing Imran Khan the most. Who will ageing society ladies-cum-authors swoon over? Poor Imran is imprisoned by the millionaire Sharif brothers who want to do business with India. Their best friend is an Indian steel tycoon.
When Imran was new to politics, he was a regular at conclaves and summits hosted by leading Indian newspapers and magazines. He would insult India to an adoring Indian audience. They were halcyon days. Those left out today nurse their gin and tonic at the India International Centre and think of the next op-ed they could write.
Take this lament in a column: “Modi began his monthly address to the nation soon after coming to power in 2014. Never one to knowingly come up with an original idea, this one was clearly copied from the ‘fireside chats’ broadcast on radio by Franklin D Roosevelt after he became president of the United States in 1933. While the American leader’s broadcasts in those pre-television days were an innovative way to reach out to a nation, Modi’s broadcasts have been banal and predictable, their chief function being to feed into his project of ceaseless self-aggrandisement.”
When deprived of entitlement, acquired after decades of climbing up the socio-economic-academic ladder, disappointment builds. The creation of infrastructure, financial inclusion, digitalisation, water on tap, last-mile electrification, and deft leadership of the global South are dismissed as a chimera.
Left out of decision-making for a decade after being used to calling the shots for over half-a-century, nothing could be worse than seeing favourite roads being renamed. Aurangzeb Road had a nice inclusive ring to it
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This editorial in a business daily summarises the angst those left out over the past decade feel about India, almost as if the country was unrecognisable because it lacked the corruption and nepotism that marked past governments: “The Narendra Modi government has set before the country the goal of attaining ‘developed country’ status by 2047. On an initial reckoning, this seems a tall order, and one might justifiably wonder whether this is just another chimera—like doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022, or getting manufacturing to account for 25 per cent of GDP, also by 2022, or becoming a $5 trillion economy next year.”
And then comes this gem from a card-carrying member of the nepotistic, dynastic-embracing club: “Was colonial rule the reason for India’s relatively low income and Britain’s high one? Maddison’s data does not support this claim. Even in the pre-colonial period 1000-1500 AD, Britain’s annual per capita income growth was thrice India’s 0.04%. In 1500-1820, which was mostly pre-British, India’s per capita growth was minus 0.01% against Britain’s 0.27%.”
The actual facts? In 1947, Britain left India impoverished with a per capita income of $60 and enriched itself with a per capita income of $16,000—over 250x India’s. The gap in 1750 had been near-zero.
Those left out wilfully abandon the truth about India’s past, present, and future.