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
    crickin
    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.
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      Bhagwat Goel
      Oct 9, 2016 at 3:07 am
      IT IS VOTE BANK POLITICS OF CONGRESS AND OTHERS IN KARNATAKA HAVE NO CHOICE BUT GO WITH IT. ITALIANS REMAIN ITALIANS. THEY WERE NEVER INDIANS AND SHALL NEVER BE. HIGH TIME THEY ARE EXPOSED AND TRIED FOR SEDITION, LOOTING,PERING THE NATION AND FOR COMPROMISING SECURITY AND INTEGRITY OF INDIA.
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      1. V
        vidya
        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.
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        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?
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          1. K
            Kabir
            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!
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            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.
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                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 !!!
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                  Murthy
                  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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                    Murthy
                    Oct 9, 2016 at 11:22 am
                    No, this Kaveri dispute will not lead to the 'break up' of India. Eventually, ALL of India's rivers would have to be governed by a Central Government River Authority of India. A mive scheme of siphoning of flood waters of the Brahma Putra, Ganga, Krishna, Godavari into areas of water shortage would have to be implemented. It can be done but only with some of the vision and energy of Narendra Modi.
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                      manu
                      Oct 9, 2016 at 7:50 pm
                      if we cannot live peacefully under one consution then imagine the situation where every state is a nation, it would be like thousand stans in perpetual war with thousands of India.
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                      1. R
                        r
                        Oct 9, 2016 at 4:24 am
                        Economy would be unifying factor. No one can afford to lose the market a unified India presents.
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                        1. G
                          Giri
                          Oct 9, 2016 at 8:01 am
                          Timely and perceptive article. Indian states are now filled with politicians encouraging compeive chauvinism and blind adherence to regional and linguistic loyalties. It is well demonstrated by Tamil leaders demanding support to Srilankan murderous LTTE, Kannadigas supporting illegal actions by its government and now an ex-PM going on hunger strike against the orders of the Supremem Court.
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                            T.V. SIVAKUMARAN
                            Oct 9, 2016 at 4:16 am
                            The main reason why such violence is happening and is tolerated , is the absence of real leaders; statesmen who will stand by their convictions and educate the public as to why they hold their views. They succeeded in their obstinacy , e.g. Mahatma's fast against India reneging on their commitment to share the Sterling balance , he compelled the country to do what he considered as fairPlay. There were other leaders like Kamaraj of Tamilnadu who could influence public opinion to do the right thing.To-day, I have not heard of any political leader of either Tamilnadu or Karnataka, explain the principles of sharing of waters between riparian states that is followed all over the world.If people understand this they won't be claiming that Kaveri "belongs to them". These regrettable events almost prove Winston Chuchill's words that Indians will start warring amongst themselves, and are incapable of self-rule.
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                              Vasantanath
                              Oct 9, 2016 at 2:24 pm
                              There will never be a break up - what is required is break up of regional parties in the south which prevent a national vision - the river linking projects have been stalled because of that and will take off only after this happens.
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                                Venkatarama Muthuswami
                                Oct 9, 2016 at 1:52 am
                                A realistic analysis and a timely warning. Even 70 yrs of independence we are just a collection of land mes, not with any great union of oneness of vision, purpose and mission. We allowed our ill educated greedy politico-bureaucrats to rule the place in some chaotic order and we kept a chalta hai atude. The only underlinking weak harmony seems our values of Sanatana Dharma, that somehow transcended and survived centuries of invaders and colonisers. Should we not build on those values thru proper education and building a egalitarian society? Right now our operative principle remains as to know the price of everything, but value of nothing.
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                                1. V
                                  Venkatarama Muthuswami
                                  Oct 9, 2016 at 8:17 am
                                  Study the Tennessee Valley Authority empowered to manage water resources among states in a business like fashion. We need to accept water is a finite national resource and it's ownership and use not confined to any geographical area only, but to benefit maximum thru most optimal usage. River linking could be an achievable goal, but such life giving national unifying projects don't get priority because of our vote bank politics. What do you do when our rulers want keep us as third rate country governed by greed and prejudice. We are only just like that!
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