March 20, 2012
India: The Next Superpower?
Superficially, India seems to have travelled a long way from the summer of 1948. Now – despite the dissensions in the borderlands, in Kashmir and the north-east – it is clear that India is and will be a single country, whose leaders shall be chosen by (and also replaced by) its people. Indians no longer fear for our existence as a sovereign nation or as a functioning democracy. What we hope for instead is a gradual enhancement of our material and political powers, and the acknowledgement of our nation as one of the most powerful and respected on earth.
But, the more things appear to change, the more they are actually the same. For today, the Indian state once more faces a challenge from left-wing extremism. The Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, has identified the Communist Party of India (Maoist), known more familiarly as the Naxalites, as the ‘greatest internal security threat‘ facing the nation. The Home Ministry lists more than 150 districts as being ‘Naxalite affected’. This is an exaggeration, for with even one single, stray incident, a State Government is moved to get a district listed under that category, so as to garner more funds from the Central treasury. Still, the Naxalites do have a considerable presence in some forty or fifty districts spread out over the central and eastern parts of the country. Their greatest gains have been among tribal communities treated with contempt and condescension by the Indian state and by the formal processes of Indian democracy.
The conventional wisdom is that the erstwhile Untouchables, or Dalits, are the social group who are most victimised in India. In fact, the tribals fare even worse. In a recent book, the demographer Arun Maharatna compared the life chances of an average Dalit with that of an average tribal. On all counts the tribals were found to be more disadvantaged. As many as 41.5 percent of Dalits live below the official poverty line; however, the proportion of poor tribal households is even higher, at 49.5 percent. One-in-six Dalits have no access to doctors or health clinics; as many as one-in-four tribals suffer from the same disability.
Posted by Robin Varghese at 10:06 AM | Permalink