A Correspondence With An Ex-IAS Officer
A contemporary of mine in the Allahabad University, where I had studied from 1963-67, who is a retired IAS officer, recently sent me an email, which led to an interesting debate between us. I am posting the conversation for the interest of the readers.
AB: I have always admired you for your blog ‘Satyam Bruyat’. But when the entire world seems to disagree with you, is it not time for introspection by you? After all, all NRIs, diplomats, bureaucrats, academicians etc cannot be ‘buffoons’. Ask yourself. Could it be hubris that is distorting your vision? Remember, hubris leads to nemesis.
I sent the following reply:
Thank you for your email.
Since there is obviously no possibility of meeting of minds, in view of the condescending and supercilious tone of your email, let us agree to disagree, and leave it at that.
However, I would like to say one thing. When in 1543 Copernicus said in his book De Revolutionibus that it is the earth which goes around the sun (the heliocentric theory), instead of the sun going around the earth (the geocentric theory), he was the only one in the world saying this, and the rest of the world was saying the contrary (following the Bible and Ptolemy’s theory).
In fact even a century thereafter, it was heretical and dangerous to propagate ‘Copernicus’ theory, as the example of Galileo, who was almost burnt at the stake by the Roman Inquisition in 1633 for propagating it (and saved himself by recanting) shows. But who in the end prevailed, Copernicus or the Bible?
So it is wholly irrelevant that the ‘entire world’ disagrees with me (which, by the way, is not true as there are plenty of persons who agree with me). The question is: who is correct?
And as for ‘atma chintan’, let me tell you that I do it all the time, constantly thinking whether my ideas are correct or not, and sometimes finding they are not, whereas I doubt that NRIs, diplomats, bureaucrats, academicians, etc who mostly have closed, ossified minds (except a very few rare ones) do that.
For example, I have said several times that India is heading for a revolution, as all state institutions have become hollow and empty shells and the people’s distress is growing.
Parliamentary democracy has really degenerated into caste and communal vote banks. Casteism and communalism are feudal forces which must be destroyed if India is to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them. So it has to be replaced by an alternative system of government under which India rapidly progresses, but that is not possible within the present framework. A revolution is therefore inevitable.
Some people ask when will the revolution come, how will it come, who will be its leaders? My answer is that it is impossible to answer such questions as one cannot be rigid about historical forms. But one can be sure that a revolution is inevitable in India seeing that everything has collapsed (your own former service, the IAS, has become 90% corrupt, as I am informed), and lately the economy is tanking.
No doubt revolution will not happen immediately, or even in the near future. First, there will be a prolonged period of chaos in India, maybe for 10-15 years, prior to a revolution. But chaos cannot go on forever. Nature does not like a vacuum. An alternative system is bound to emerge, but it will be after great bloodshed.
Revolution is not a picnic, as a study of historical revolutions reveals. There is a lot of violence in it, and many people (including many innocents) perish in the process, but ultimately a better world emerges.
When will it come, how will it come, who will be its Robespierres, Dantons, Marats, Lenins and Maos no one can say at present, and such speculation is idle. As I said earlier, one cannot be rigid about historical forms.
The truth is that we have even today massive poverty, record unemployment (as the National Sample Survey admitted), every second Indian child is malnourished (as recorded by UNICEF, Global Hunger Index etc), over 3 lac farmers have committed suicide (and the trend is continuing unabated). 50% Indian women are anaemic. Proper healthcare and good education are almost non-existent for the masses.
7 individuals own as much wealth as the bottom half of India’s 135 crore people, the Indian economy is sinking with 5% GDP, crash in auto, IT, power and real estate sectors, onion and vegetable prices skyrocketing, unemployment mounting, etc. This state of affairs cannot continue forever.
To divert attention of the public from the economic crisis, which the government has no idea how to resolve, it must resort to gimmicks like building Ram Mandir, cow protection, Yoga Day, Swatchata Abhiyan, abrogation of Article 370 etc. And of course lynching of Muslims and making them scapegoats, as the Nazis made of Jews, is a useful technique.
The test of every political system and political act is one, and only one: Does it raise the standard of living of the masses? Does it give them better lives? How will abrogation of Article 370, which most of you so called educated people hailed as a great victory for India, give the Kashmiri people better lives?
In fact, their lives have become miserable due to shut down of mobile phones and Internet (which today are necessities, not luxuries) and curfews and other restrictions for the last 70 days.
To say that now businessmen will buy land in Kashmir and set up factories there, giving employment to Kashmiris, is nonsense. A businessman is not a fool. He will never invest in a disturbed area where bullets may be flying around.
When I put my ideas in the meeting of Allahabad University Alumni some time back, most of you were horrified. You just can’t face the truth if it runs contrary to your conventional and closed way of thinking.
New ideas usually face strong opposition for a long time, for two reasons : firstly, because most people have conservative mindsets and don’t want their thinking disturbed or challenged, and secondly because there are powerful vested interests who feel their interests may be jeopardised by the new ideas (e.g. the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity at the time of the French Revolution of 1789 which were regarded dangerous by the French aristocracy as they thought they would endanger their feudal rights).
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.