Pope Francis made the imagery of ‘Spaces’ and ‘Processes’ popular by referring to it on many occasions – be it in his official writings or through the informal speeches. Explaining it the Pope suggests that it is far more important to initiate processes than merely occupy the spaces. For instance, it is critically important to have a dedicated visionary leader – heading the nation – at a particular point for time, but it is more important for that country to have a mechanism in place, like a vibrant and participatory democracy. It takes time to initiate the processes but their impact could be relatively more durable.
Now, India is at a crossroads!
At various levels – socio-political, economic, cultural and religious levels – the idea of India (the foundational values and principles it stood for) is being systematically compromised, questioned and destroyed. The speed and intensity with which it is happening is shocking all those who are aware of it. For the record, the many ills that have been paralyzing India for decades and centuries have not disappeared in any significant way: massive poverty, patriarchy, caste-discrimination, poor health indicators etc. still stare at us, despite a measure of phenomenal growth in some sectors. Surely, India faced many challenges and it will continue to face them but there is a dramatic shift in viewing and attending to them. Some years ago, there were fears that the nation that we dreamt or strove for is changing. Now, some declare that India has changed forever!
By and large, what occupies the columns in the print media and bites in the electronic media are ‘space’ related ones – and, even here, many of them simply toe the official line out of fear. The concerns are important and they deserve to be highlighted. The rape and torture and killing of the children and teenagers have shocked the conscience of the nation and there have been protests across the country (Being in Mumbai then, I was able to participate in a protest-march there). Farmers protests across the country are far from over and some farmers, in desperation, sadly decide to end their lives. On the economic front, Demonetizing process, new taxation policies (GST) ad continual rise in fuel prices have made life unbearable for the poor and the middle classes. The Hindutva forces have become a law unto themselves. Related and unrelated to the elections, many Dalit youth have been beaten to death because they were allegedly caught by the cow vigilantes transporting or killing the cows. A blind Muslim beggar was asked to say ‘praises’ to a Hindu god. Ironically, all such episodes of violence and torture are being recorded by the cameras, with a view to circulate them through social media, to further terrorize the religious and social minorities. Too many grave concerns numb the nation and people simply do not seem to know where to begin with.
What is happening to the country at the level of ‘processes’ worries some and it should leave more of us worried! It took a long time for us to be where we have been, and hopefully where we still are. Apart from the many saints and prophets, mystics and martyrs, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore and Ambedkar, and countless freedom fighters – men and women – gave a direction to who we will have to be, as a people and as a nation. Attempts to erase our history and diversity have been contained. They drafted a magnificent Constitution that was destined to ensure dignity and equality, rights and freedoms to all peoples of this ancient land. A culture of debates and discussions in the parliament and outside of it envisaged that truth alone should triumph and not falsehood. People of all religions and languages, terrains and cultures were expected to study together and grow up together. These foundational principles and values – at times some took for granted – are at stake now. Even if takes time, ‘spaces’ can be rebuilt, but it takes longer time to reignite the processes. To infuse confidence into people -in themselves, in neighbors and the ‘others’ is harder.