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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 43

Time for Introspection


Friday 17 October 2008, by SC


Does the present crisis in the US economy herald
the collapse of laissez-faire capitalism? Certainly not. But it does underline the validity of the concept of cyclical crises that capitalism is bound to experience over time thereby reinforcing the idea that Western style capitalism, especially in the current period marked by the surge of neo-liberalism across the globe, is far from being the ideal system that was advertised worldwide after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the statist socialist states of Eastern Europe resulting in the end of the Cold War. The latest crisis has only exposed the free-market dispensation’s clay feet.

As a matter of fact, the crisis that has gripped the US today reveals the systemic vulnerability of capitalism as analysed by none other than Karl Marx. And it highlights the necessity for India to return to the paradigm of a “socialistic pattern of society” as projected in Nehru’s time at the Avadi session of the Congress in the mid-fifties. (That society was not intended to curtail democracy but instead to broaden and widen its base.) Side by side the new scenario underscores the end of the post-Cold War world (as persuasively argued by the author of the article on the following page) which few in India have cared to note or understand.

It is a time for change and change for the better. It is thus also a time for deep introspection. If the head of state in Pakistan has come out with something this country has not heard from any Pakistani leader at any point in time—that militants operating in Kashmir are terrorists, that India is not a threat to Pakistan—it could be the product of such an introspection. If that is the case then it should be wholeheartedly welcomed. But if it is conditioned by the need to ingratiate himself (Zardari) to the US by speaking a language that would please Washington at this stage and there is no introspection whatsoever on the part of the present Pakistan President, then one must obviously withhold any such acclamation without, of course, taking a holier-than-thou and we-told-you-so attitude to his pronouncements.

Shouldn’t we Indians also engage in similar intros-pection? The popular revolt in the Kashmir Valley shows that the Centre’s writ does not run and azaadi (freedom) enjoys widespread public support there. If that is the ground reality as it really is, is it not necessary for a government claiming to represent the world’s largest democracy to accept that ground reality and do the needful? The option before New Delhi is one of the following: a) launch serious negotiations with Pakistan to demilitarise the whole region encompassing the two Kashmirs and thereafter begin productive discusions with Islamabad to guarantee azaadi to the Kashmir Valley (as it is landlocked, the territory cannot be independent unless both India and Pakistan bordering it guarantee its independence just as Nepal’s independence is guaranteed by China and India bordering the Himalayan state); b) initiate full-fledged political negotiations with the separatists in the Valley on their demands. Instead the policeman-turned-National Security Adviser has taken recourse to strong-arm coercive measures (which have not succeeded in all these years to browbeat the Kashmiri people into submission).

The country is facing mounting threats to national unity from other sources as well—the Maoist offensive in the poorest regions; the stereotyping of Muslims after the recent terror attacks; the assaults on Christians by the Hindu extremist fringe in Orissa and Karnataka in particular. These cannot be tackled by resorting to brute force. What is necessary is a political offensive on all these questions, the need and urgency for which is regrettably totally missing in the comprehension of those currently wielding the levers of power at the Centre and in the States (since we have neither a Gandhi nor a Nehru at the helm today).

October 8 S.C.

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