Out of my mind: Diversity or difference ?

The most worrying part of the Cauvery dispute is that it pits citizens of one state against another, as if they were independent nations.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Updated: October 9, 2016 12:01 am
Cauvery issue, Amit Shah, Cauvery Management Board, Tamil Nadu, Tamilisai Soundararajan, Pon Radhakrishnan, Rajya Sabha MP elect L Ganesan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India news, Latest news The Supreme Court’s first decision was challenged by a cleverly targeted demonstration.

India is proud of its diversity. But there are times when diversity becomes difference. The developments in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over the division of Cauvery waters are alarming. It seems an endless dispute beyond solution. The Supreme Court’s first decision was challenged by a cleverly targeted demonstration. Militant intransigence, wearing populist clothes, defied the judiciary again and again. The state government stood aside and let mayhem rule. But the most shocking part is that the SC modified its order. Then the Karnataka Assembly passed a unanimous resolution to defy the Supreme Court once more. Result: further delay while the Centre gets involved. The SC orders the Cauvery Management Board, then delays it. Even weeks later, there is no urgency about complying with the SC orders or respecting its authority. Violence trumps the rule of law.

Ahimsa may be paramo dharma, but it is not a helpful political strategy. Repeatedly we see the use of politicised violence by linguistic state movements (Telangana), vigilante groups (gau rakshaks), caste reservation movements (Jats, Patels). Governments have failed to check such violence, and surrendered. Former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, a Patel herself, did not surrender to the Patidar agitation, so she lost her job.

The most worrying part of the Cauvery dispute is that it pits citizens of one state against another, as if they were independent nations. The mutual antagonism between the residents of the two states is being expressed in terms of ‘national’ identities. If this goes on, very soon Bengaluru and Chennai will cease to be cosmopolitan. In the UK we have xenophobia against the Europeans who come to work. This xenophobia caused Brexit. To see within India such passionate hatred is disturbing.

There has always been this tension in India. Is it a single nation or many nations combined in a fragile Union? Jinnah saw two nations within British India and got his moth-eaten Pakistan. Then Pakistan split again. So now there are three nations within the old Hindustan. Are there many more?

The nationalist movement fighting the British built the idea of a single nation. Unlike China, India was never a single kingdom or Empire. Its boundaries have foreign names — MacMahon line, Durand line, Radcliffe line, because no one had determined the precise extent of India’s territory. There were always many kingdoms fighting each other, never combining against invaders. From Alexander to the British, conquerors had it easy because Indian kings were busy fighting each other. The idea of a single nation in India, before or after Partition, is very fragile.

In how many more ways can we define a nation? Religion proved divisive. Now language is causing riots between neighbouring states. We have unifying events such as the passage of the GST amendment. We console ourselves that sustained growth will integrate the various regions of India together. There is no such guarantee.

Within the last 25 years, two powerful nations have broken up. The first is, of course, the Soviet Union. When I was young, we thought it was the ideal nation. But it is no longer there. The second is Yugoslavia. Once it was the model socialist state, the third way between Soviet communism and American capitalism. It broke up amid extremely cruel violence and has now disintegrated into many nations.

India, take note.

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  1. C
    Oct 9, 2016 at 12:27 pm
    With current state of affairs in india, my feeling, india will be divided into pieces sooner than later. So called Indi an consu is a w orthless doc. Look at form ation of states...dividing people for electoral benefits. Northeast states are discrimnated. Only criteria for any development work is number of lok sabha seats. Only cow belt states rule the r oast. North india ns take top posts....south gets discri minated. in this mess, it better to go in each every way.
    1. B
      Bhagwat Goel
      Oct 9, 2016 at 3:07 am
      1. V
        Oct 9, 2016 at 9:46 am
        Agree that religion has proved divisive. India must make a strong and well articulated stand against proselytising religions who keep their religion first and not India first.
        1. G
          Gautam Roy
          Oct 18, 2016 at 12:48 pm
          The splintering of USSR and Yugoslavia was essentially on ethnic lines, which is also the basis of most nation states. Indian states are also mainly ethnic groupings rather than being "linguistic" (as evident from 4 of the last 5 states created in India); hence educated urban Indians often themselves in terms of their states rather than their nation. Statehood must therefore be some sort of sub-nationalism. The point is, if the modern world can aspire to be a global village, can India -- with her long history of trade and cultural linkages -- at least be a national village?
          1. K
            Oct 9, 2016 at 8:49 am
            Dont worry, nothing is going to break here. The consution is strong enough to keep everyone's interests satisfied to be in the union. You worry about britain, your country where leaders are asking immigrants to leave, while imagining free trade deal with their countries!
            1. M
              M. Kapil
              Oct 9, 2016 at 5:55 am
              Rest ured, Mr. Desai, India will not break-up as long as Hindus remain the majority. We are bound by a common culture and tradition. The moment we become Islamic or Christian, Balkanisation will set in, as you can see in the number of countries in Europe and Arabia. Having said that, the problem regarding Cauvery is fanned by linguistic fanatics in Karnataka and TN. Linguistic states are a post-independence phenomenon. Another problem is the lack of water in the Cauvery. River-linking is the remedy. Recently, heavy floods in the Godavari forced the Telengana and AP governments to release more than 200,000 cusecs into the sea every day for about a week. What Karnataka is refusing to give TN is 2,000 cusecs every day for a week.
              1. S
                Sankaran Krishnan
                Oct 9, 2016 at 10:45 am
                The so called Sleeping Former PM is behaving like an Immature leader like an Ordinary Political party outfit and it is nothing but shame to call him as Former PM and hope he and his family is ruined politically in the political battle and will be cursed by the Farmer's community for playing politics over the Water issue and thus lowered his own stature at the National level !!!
                1. M
                  Oct 9, 2016 at 11:18 am
                  It is a sad matter, this Kaveri dispute. Karnataka is not accepting the well known principle that says Riparian (down stream) areas of a river have a right to a percentage of the water of the river that flows into the sea through their areas. Karnataka's total water resources are better than Tamil Nadu's. Tragedy is that Tamil politicians, especially, Karuna Nidhi, have been negligent in NOT protesting when Karnataka built too many dams along the Kaveri river. Karna Nidhi was busy talking about the South of India was Dravidian, how Kannada language "Came from Tamil" [ they are sister languages, to be sure], but had not brains to understand how the Kaveri Water may be denied to Tamil Nadu, with so many dams built by Karnataka. True that Kannadigas and Tamils are ethnic and linguistic brothers but will not behave like so when it comes to Kaveri water.
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