We will not allow our leaders to
If you define civil society as
people in the quest of change in their community without having to get involved in the
race for power political power or any other kind of power then I would I
would define myself as a member of the Indian civil society trying to bring about change
in what we see is wrong in our society.
India was among the top ten corrupt
countries of the world in the survey conducted by Transparency International and it
was a pleasant surprise for me to find out that India and Pakistan were competing.
The NGOs working in the civil
society of India have created a social space for themselves: they are heard.
When the Babri Masijid was
demolished the entire civil society spoke out in one voice against that demolition. Last
week the leaders of that incident have been charge-sheeted. Because there exists a feeling
of not allowing the religious fundamentalism to take over and demolish the fabric of
Indian society which today includes ten crore Muslims.
Sri Ram Khanna from
Delhi University described the evils of the Indian society very succinctly through the
- corruption related to power quest,
- the extreme difference between the life styles of those
who live in poverty and those who live in luxury: while some have noting to eat except
wild flowers, others have enough to spend on dinners in five star hotels,
- the common person has no recourse: if you are not
well-connected you cant get justice;
- fanning of religious differences by political parties to
increase their vote-banks: they work up negative emotions in two months which are
difficult to quench in years and decades.
Dr. Khanna described the more than 80,000 NGOs working
in India (at least twice as many good ones as the bad ones) as the only factor
contributing towards development of egalitarian values. Among the examples of the
NGOs contribution in this direction he mentioned their role in:
- ensuring justice for the common person
- increasing options for women
- environmental protection
- health care initiatives
- civil rights litigation even against persons from
the armed forces
- slum development
- mass education even in domains that are generally
considered to be the domains of the universities, such as science education.
- While describing the overall situation of the Indian
civil society as hopeful, Dr. Khanna also pointed out that the South is generally stronger
in this regards than the North, where a common youth would be more concerned with the
immediate personal benefits rather than the long term collective gains before undertaking
any kind of social service.
A special dimension of Dr. Khannas speech was his
emotional emphasis on the human similarities between the Hindus and Muslims living in
India, and between the people of India and Pakistan on the international map.
Dr. Khanna suggested that the poverty line does not
divide the Muslims and the Hindus in India: the Hindus who are poor live in as much
destitution as the poor Muslims. The human problems are the same.
On the international plane the newer generation, born
after 1947, does not know so much about the differences that caused the partition nor do
they have memories of bitterness like their elders who had witnessed the divide.
Himself born of a Hindu migrant from Rawalpindi, Dr.
Khanna spoke of the days of the United India as an era that had lasted for thousands of
years and whose impact in terms of common legacies will hopefully contribute in
lessening the tensions created during the last fifty years by the political leaders alone.