India's Tryst With Destiny Goes Awry
By Colin Todhunter *
In 1947, Nehru spoke about a tryst with destiny. Free from the shackles of British colonialism, India was on course for a bright new future. Fast forward 62 years and take a look at where the priorities of ‘modern India’ lie. Witness the not so glittering outcome that Nehru didn’t have in mind.
Think back to a few months ago when various Indian TV channels were providing almost 24/7 coverage of Zohal Hameed’s alleged ordeal of sexual abuse in relation to a famous Australian cricketer. Women are battered, raped and subjected to all kinds of violence in India every day, and at least 50 million have been eliminated from the Indian population due to foeticide, infanticide, dowry murder or just plain murder. But, each day, a mere few column inches appear about a woman who has been murdered, attacked or raped.
By and large, these crimes are underreported in the media, until they are captured on camera in Guwahti then placed on You Tube, that is. Who requires real news when an Indian Premier League-related sex and cricket celebrity hotel scandal will do?
India faces massive problems, yet you wouldn’t know it if you watched these TV channels. But this is the world we live in. Too few care about the plight of adivasi women who have been raped en masse and murdered by security forces. Too few give a damn about women being trafficked from Nepal to work in city brothels.
These outrages are not outrages because they are a fact of everyday life. Too boring, not ‘newsworthy’ enough. Too unsettling, not soothing enough. Can’t offend people’s sensibilities or have them realising there’s a totally different reality to the one dominated by facial creams, Bollywood gossip and designer wear.
Shopping and consumerism are the concerns and priorities of a misinformed and misled population. Misinformed by news outlets that pass off infotainment for news. Misinformed by a government that cosies up to western multi-nationals with secretive ‘Memorandums of Understanding’ and then proceeds to target some of the poorest people in the country as ‘the enemy within’.
When the Twin Towers came tumbling down in New York in 2001, governments all over the world began to take their cue from Uncle Sam. The US started to launch unilateral military strikes and to strip people of their hard won civil liberties in the name of a ‘war on terror’. 9/11 was a convenient excuse for any government to enact authoritarian policies and label dissenters and protesters as terrorists or at least potential ones.
Part of India’s own self proclaimed war on terror is taking place in the highly mineral rich mountains and jungles of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. State governments have already signed hundreds of agreements with companies to begin mining and build steel and aluminum plants and other industries. How easy it was for the Indian government to discredit any legitimate protestor in those regions as a Maoist or Naxalite insurgent. How easy it was for it to then attempt to secure those areas for rich foreign companies by killing thousands and forcing nearly 50,000 adivasis into camps in order to control dissent.
Over 600 Chhattisgarh villages have been stripped of their inhabitants by government backed private militia. Some 300,000 have been forcibly displaced. Hundreds of thousands of security personnel have poured into the region with sophisticated military hardware.
Despite Nehru’s misty eyed views, the Indian and western elites are now the new colonial masters in India. Whether it’s the waging of war on its poorest people or the collusion with foreign governments and corporations to loot the economy for profit, successive Indian administrations have conspired to deceive their own people as they work hand in glove with Wall Street, the City of London and proponents of ‘free trade’ and neo-liberalism to sell the lie of freedom and independence to an affluent section of the population eager to believe it and willing to regard the killing and oppression of the country’s poorest folk as ‘collateral damage’ in the drive to secure ‘necessary economic infrastructure’.
It comes as little surprise then that the Indian government turns to its new bedfellows for advice and support when it comes to its own ‘war on terror’. The US and Israel not only invented the concept, but are also among the brand leaders in oppression and slaughter. Who better to consult then? Think of all that military hardware that the US has been selling to India in recent years, including unmanned drones. And think of all that tactical expertise that has been passed on to India about using such weaponry on its own people.
But it’s all out of sight out of mind, isn’t it? The mainstream media’s reporting of a conflict affecting almost a tenth of India’s population isn’t worth just one per cent of national airtime or column inches.
With 75 per cent of the population living on less than two dollars a day, the influence of western agribusiness leading to well over 200,000 farmers’ suicides and one third of the country under military law, western countries will no doubt congratulate India as it celebrates Independence Day on 15 August.
India will be heralded as capitalism’s miracle, as democracy’s great success story. The old clichés will be trotted out about a land of enterprise and growth, Bollywood and glitz, millionaires and cyber parks. As with the Indian corporate media, its western counterpart will help its own population swallow these highly convenient lies.
* Originally from the northwest of England, writer Colin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written extensively for the Deccan Herald (the Bangalore-based broadsheet), New Indian Express and Morning Star (Britain). His articles have on occasion also appeared in the Kathmandu Post, Rising Nepal, Gulf News, North East Times (India), State Times (India), Meghalaya Guardian, Indian Express and Southern Times (Africa). Various other publications have carried his work too, including the London Progressive Journal and Kisan Ki Awaaz (India's national farmers' magazine). A former social policy researcher, Colin has been published in the peer-reviewed journals Disability and Society and Social Research Update, and one of his articles appears in the book The A-Z of Social Research (Sage, 2003).