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Karnataka's New Government - A Wary Welcome


I suspect I belong to the category of people whom some others would dismiss as being "pseudo-secular".  I like to believe, however, that I am neither 'pseudo' nor 'secular' in particular senses of those words.  In all honesty, I am neither an atheist nor a modern rationalist of any rigour, and culturally, I could not call myself a non-Hindu (if these are the things that are somewhat implied by the term "pseudo-secular").  However, I also happen not to have a problem with Muslims, Sikhs, Parsees, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, materialists, marxists, tribals, SCs, STs, dalits or anyone else.  I do not believe, either, that Pakistan is inhabited by monsters, nor do I believe that Muslims are all bearded terrorists or culturally inferior human beings. I also most certainly do not subscribe to the view, and this is perhaps the most vexatious for the accusing type, that Hindu culture, society and civilization are superior to all others.  In today's India if all this suggests that I am pseudo-secular, so be it.

Let me also say that as a non-BJP voter, I welcome the outcome of the recent state assembly elections in Karnataka.    I am keen to see a new government and a new dispensation and maybe new approaches to running the state.  Despite challenges to industrial ways of life from climate change, the food crisis, depleting fossil fuels and the reality of peak-oil, usable roads seem to be the one thing many in Bangalore crave the most for.  Perhaps between providing food, clothing, shelter, universal education and healthcare, public safety and roads, it is only roads we think our government might actually be capable of doing anything about.  So we will keenly watch Bangalore's roads and sidewalks, and ugly, abandoned piles of rubble and crater sized potholes to see how they change under the new government. And we will watch the city's traffic of course.  Also, how those spaces under the various, ill-conceived flyovers that were built in the past, will be treated. The spaces that tens of lacs of rupees were squandered on, under previous dispensations, for beautifying, but remain waste heaps.  The spaces that in cities like Hyderabad and Delhi seem so elegantly restored, even manicured, but in our Bangalore remain rubble and trash ridden, with tired, passers-by just hugely relieved that they have got back a road to use.  And we will be keen to see how the various agencies of city government - the BBMP, the BDA, the police, the utility companies, and others will behave under the new dispensation and whether they will remain as brazenly unresponsive, uncaring, incompetent and unimaginative.  And we will watch the lake beds, civic amenities sites and public lands to see whether rapacious builders are stemmed from hogging them up, as they have been for so many years. 

We will also watch warily to see whether saffron banded thugs will emerge and begin to intimidate young men and women from doing what they want to, however frivolous (or 'foreign'?)  they might appear to some of us - exchanging roses, holding hands or wearing what they choose to.  Whether uni-dimensional notions of Hindu culture and ethic will be proclaimed loudly or thrust upon the  rest of us Hindus, and everyone else.  Whether FIRs will be filed against the likes of Ashis Nandy for writing what they choose to and for asking difficult questions. Whether art of all hues (even though we may have no knowledge or appreciation of it) will continue to be exhibited freely in our galleries. Whether, of course, there will be conflict and rioting in our mixed communities and more polarization and tensions in the many multi-religious shrines across our state.  Whether more unsuspecting 'minority' boys will be taken away for questioning and subjected to primitive, illegal, truth-serum treatment (called 'narco analysis' by our government and a happily abiding and unquestioning media) in the interests of our security. Whether we will, in other words, start resembling Afghanistan under the Taliban.

We may find it difficult to admit that "we" too can act and behave like the lumpen in Gujarat or Kanpur.  Or indeed like the Taliban.  But politics, demagogues and a vacuum of human values and true education, can spring ugly surprises.  After all Adolf Hitler did what he did ostensibly for the larger "German" good.  And he built the autobahn.  And most Germans believed, trusted and complied.

We shall be supportive of the new government ... and watch warily.  I hope we will be proved wrong in our wariness.