Mitali Saran: Happy china anniversary

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 21:01 hrs

pTwo important 20th anniversaries took place this week the two-decade anniversary of short message service or SMS on December 3 and the two-decade anniversary of the obliteration of the Babri Masjid by Hindu fundamentalists on December 6 The two events represented an inflection point in India and perhaps the world One blazed a trail into the future building bridges between people all over the world on the back of the universal laws of science The other reverted to limbic bloodlust via a poisonous cocktail of religion and politics that has given us a permanent hangoverppIndia&rsquos exposure to new ideas via traditional media the worldwide web and increased domestic and global mobility means that a vast population is now demanding education jobs and dignity A population that was for centuries conditioned to accept its lot with incredible forbearance has suddenly sprouted aspirations it is happy to vocalise and has lost patience with old excuses Technology is in some ways forcing the hand of lethargic governments It should not have taken 60 years to enact a Right to Education law and a poorly conceived one at that That no government has committed itself to instituting long-term quality education &ndash a basic requirement for development &ndash with any seriousness speaks ill of India&rsquos commitment to progress Technology helps people educate themselves and then they get all bolshie and start demanding some standardsppAt the same time you can&rsquot blame society for not being ready for the pace of change we have experienced as a planet over the last couple of decades There is a real argument to be made for the importance of spiritual grounding in a world evolving far faster than any human society can keep up with Some people ground themselves by clinging to their traditions and rejecting others increasingly aware of and fearful of difference &mdash not just of the gap between different faiths and customs but of the gap between long-entrenched tradition and modernityppThere is therefore an equally real argument to be made for the importance of minimising the effect of religious heartburn Rule of law grounded in secular attitudes is a basic requirement for peaceful diversity Again the responsibility for that lies with governments who not only haven&rsquot trained law enforcement officials in secularism but stand effetely by as riot follows riot and have on occasion actively incited division and conflictppSo what we&rsquove got is two divergent deepening trajectories between those who look forward to a shared future and those who look back to an imagined version of a glorious past There are two possible kinds of meeting grounds for these trends One in which technology allows intellectual cross-pollination in the exploration of a shared human condition and one in which it allows people to induce mass loathing as in the morphed photos of violence in Assam and Myanmar or mass panic as in the text messages that caused the exodus of a large number of north-easterners from southern India last August Which model we stand by in case after case says a good deal about how we conceive of ourselves as a nationppSince the demolition of the Babri Masjid we have seen an increasing tendency for state and central governments to lose their spine when faced with religious or ethnic chauvinism because these forces have no compunction about using violence and poor law enforcement capability is a ready excuse for governments to pander to local interests for short-term gain rather than resist them for long-term benefitppImagine just for kicks that the kar sevaks had been prevented from assembling in Ayodhya that cold winter morning in 1992 or at least had been swiftly rounded up and jailed Imagine if the comet-tail of blood and fear that followed had never taken place Imagine if with each successive riot or instance of intimidation the government had stood up for the Constitution instead of playing the politics of fear and that people had become less not more willing to flout the law knowing they&rsquod get away with it Okay that&rsquos too muchppImagine just for kicks that we invested in educating our kids in a way that transcends grades and teaches them to be the kind of citizens who can participate in the project of democracy not just by casting a vote every five years but by taking on the responsibilities of self-government &ndash non-violence secularism respect for the law &ndash that our democracy demands Imagine that as a nation we then stood by those citizens by protecting their individual rights freedom of speech and rule of lawppThe citizens of Ayodhya seem to want that and to put the emotional baggage of 1992 behind them If only governments could catch up emotionally p

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