December 31, 2008

Concept called Country

The events of November in Mumbai did not have such an earth shattering effect on me as it did on most other people. It did not uproot my sense of security as it did on thousand of Mumbai residents and neither did I feel a sense of helplessness where I could be the victim of an act of ‘terrorist’ aggression. 

That will be the only place in this post where I use the word terrorist. To earmark someone terrorist means that their actions does not have a reasoning. These people have a sense of being wronged. I do not know what it is that they perceive, but that is not for me to comment.

The question that arose in me as an aftermath of the episode was what does it mean to belong to a country. The train of thought I followed to get finally to this question is the underlying theme of this post.

I revive on old habit when I say that the Oxford English Dictionary (the online version) defines a country as below

Country: noun (pl. countries)
  1. A nation with its own government, occupying a particular territory

  2. Districts outside large urban areas

  3. An area with regard to its physical features: hill country

Do notice that the basic theme of a country lies in the territorial nature of it. This means that we define country based on its boundaries. When I posed the same question, what is a country to one of my friends, her answer was what I believe is the true meaning of a country. Her reply was that it was a collection of people who share common cultures/ethnic origin. Her definition removed the need for a boundary for a country.

My understanding of root of terrorism in India has been and will continue to be Jammu and Kashmir. I do not mean that the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir are terrorists, what I mean is the way that India has treated Jammu and Kashmir over the last sixty odd years has created a sense of being wronged in the minds of many people who are trying to voice that sense of being wronged. In addition, you have a neighbor who claims to have an equal right on the land of Jammu and Kashmir, creating further rift.

In my limited knowledge, I do not know what the people of Jammu and Kashmir want. I believe that the only way to resolve the long-standing conflict is to hold a referendum in the state. The terms of the referendum are if the people of Jammu and Kashmir want to belong to the collection of states that constitute the country called India, or would they prefer independence.

The reason that I make this statement is my belief that no region whose people do not want to belong to a country must have to made to belong to that country by force. An example to prove this point is in a family, if a member wishes to break free from the ties of the family and live on his own, wants to proclaim his independence, then the family has no right to prevent him from doing that. This I believe comes from the basic right to freedom.

The question that arises here is if the result of the referendum were towards freedom, then there would be other regions that would want to break away too. I hope that as you ask the question you are realizing how misplaced it is. By asking the question, you are telling me that you are identifying the country not by the people who live in the country, but by its boundaries. It is like trying to identify you by the body rather than the mind.

So, if the country is not defined by the boundaries, what is a country? In my opinion, a country is just a collection of people who share a common culture or ethnicity. That is the core issue surrounding India as a country. There are so many cultures, so many ethnic groups that it is not possible to have a unifying culture or ethnicity as the glue. Therefore, we have had to resort to the boundary as the fact defining India. I hope that you are not going to tell me that you belief in India, as a concept for that is not a glue; there still needs to be something that hold India together, not the concept of India and that cannot be its boundaries.

I would go on to state that of all the countries that I can think of at this point in time, the one that most suits the concept of a country is Russia. I am not sure if there are very many other so-called countries that share ethnicity and culture the way that Russia does. I do agree that there bound to be many dialects, many sub cultures; however, they are Russian for they speak Russian.

Given the mass migration of people over the last couple of centuries, the concept of country is getting highly outdated, for there is no particular region that does not have a multitude of cultures and ethnic groups. The so-called alpha-country, the United States of America is not even a country by any means, for it is the collection of people from all over the world. I guess that is the reason that they are correct when they say that the world starts at the Atlantic Ocean and ends at the Pacific (they are actually correct in one sense).

Coming back to the topic under discussion, when I mean that a region must not be attached to country by force, does this mean that I am advocating that India be broken into many tiny parts, each a different country by itself? I did a little research and I think that the concept of Constituent Country might work in India. This same thing binds England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland into United Kingdom.

A final question that could pop up and I want to address here is the significance of the turnout in the recently concluded Jammu and Kashmir polls. Does the ~60% turnout signify that they want to be part of India and be ruled by India. I would not assume so. When the options given are either do not vote and let someone who is not even remotely connected to the state rule the state, or have your say, the obvious answer would be to have a say in the ruler. However, that need not be the ultimate desire of the people of the state. In this case, they are maximizing the return in a given set of limitations. My request is to remove those boundary conditions and given them the option of independence. If then there is as much people who want to be with the country, the abstract concept called India, then I will agree having them as a part of my country. If not, then I would be more than happy to give them their freedom.

As an afterthought, it is the duty of the rulers of the country to give the country and its peoples what they want, even if it is independence from the country.


Destination Infinity said...

There are different interpretations of freedom. And different people understand it differently. Some may not be mature enough, like the son, say at an age of 22 wants to be independent and live alone, outside the family, he doesn't foresee that he is fuelling a trend which makes age old people feel very alone. When he becomes old, he might repent having broken the bond called a family, because he didn't foresee the advantages that a family would have provided to him at his old age. A little sacrifice when he was young might have saved him from so much lonliness, when his son decides to stay alone too.

Second, external factors are always prevalent. If Kashmir were to become an independent nation, what is the guarantee that it may not become another Tibet, especially with three powerful nations in its immediate vicinity? Indian Govt is quite clear about what are state subjects and what are central subjects. I guess enough freedom is already given to states on many local issues. Language, for example - state decides what language should be used within . When center tried to impose Hindi as official language, there was a major outburst in TN. And they had their way. There were opinions that TN would be better off as a separate nation, during that period. But after the issue was resolved, there are no more such demands. That is the third factor - Time.

Rajaraman said...

Concept of any cou try has been formed based on the principle of independance and interdependance.
Sharing of resources,sharing of riches and poverties.
But that is not fully being foloowed. So there is a feeling among the constituent states that they are being wronged.Second every state wants everything only for themselves. when they get a feeling of injustices is spread and they become agressive and start talking seperatism.
Then the vote bank politics. All regional outfits create a sense of one up manship against national outfits to win votes.This again create alieniation.
Then again the feeling of linguistic jingoism where evry one feel that their language is superior the ancient etc etc.

As soon as the country attained Independance, the country was affected partition loss life and property, refugees,grand old drought in almost entire county.
Thanks to the selfless leader of the yester years the country went through all the pains with courage. No body talked about severance.

Rajaraman said...

This county met with three wars imposed on them. But for the strong centre I dont think that could have been thwarted.
Yes there was atime when there was too much of discrimination against southern states in project allocation and project funding. Even today there are some areas there are a lot of unequal participation.But despite all that Partition into smaller stes is going to be a solution.
Imagine the next step.
Districts asking for seperation from states and taluks asking ffor seperation from distruics and visllages asking for seperation from Talukls.As per the author the freedom has to granted if asked for

Wont we be heading towards pre christial eras of Zamindars, small kings Smaller kings. Wont ther be chos. Kings fighting amongst themselves for gold, girls and greed as it happened before the entry of British.

It will make the evil designs of the agressive countries like China, Paki and B desh to invade and the final sufferers will the common people.

In fact the very feeling J&K was suffering is a wrong concept. J&K hd a special status. Evrything was being subsidised. Ration was available at much lower price In J&K compared to other places.Things were given at much compassionate package to people of J&K.J&K has special status in Inida. Common iNdian cannot buy property in Kashmir

Possibly more of this compassion made the government Look weak.They started asking form more. They wnated to have things without effort.They became restive when they did not rather could not get their desire.
Pak used this frustration to their advantage, Religion found a common base for this frustration. Our vote bank politics added fuel to the already flaming fire fire.The gutless leadership helped the cause more.
Similar situation was there in Punjab. Govt came down heavily and the carnage sptopped. Peaole like KPS GILl Robero who operated with utmost sincereity and against all odds and pressure to put out the fireUnfortunately such a political will is lacking today.
BUt certainly partiction tot he atmic level is not a solution.
We are able to get ove many problems because we are country still otherwise even a Dog wont care for us.
INdia is know a mostly populated 1.2 bn religiouly linguistically ethnically culturally devided but united country with a lot of pardoxes and contradition which by itself is its beauty

Dont see only its contradiction but enjoy its beauty enjoys it cultural diverse
The Famous Poet Bharthi once wrote
Sandaiitaalulum sahodarar andro(Despite all the fights are we not brothers.)

aditya said...

@ DI
I would have to disagree with the family example you cite. You cannot hold on to a family because it is going to help you in the future. You cannot say that you are a part of the family because they will care about you. It should be the other way around. In fact, to say that I am a part of a family is because they will provide me company when there is no one else is belittling the affection that the family has towards the person. In my opinion, I believe that if company is the only reason, if you are trying to drive away lonliness by sticking on to something, that thing is not worth sticking on to. In fact, I will go as far as to say that if that is the case, then what I understand is that you want to leave, but are so scared of the outside world that you hold yourself back. That is not family, that is fear, and that is not the basis for a family.

I request you not to look at things the way that they have been looked at over the last sixty years. I do agree that the government has central and state subjects. But then when does the government draw a line saying that even if central thinks something, and the state thinks something in the opposite direction, we will give the people of the region, who are actually undergoing the strife the choice. You cannot not give them the choice and then proclaim that you are correct. If you have nothing to be worried about, then give them the choice and let them choose you.

Time is just another way of saying that you hope that the people who were wronged will die and the ones who are young will remember. That is all that means.

Again, I restate what I believe in, if TN Wanted to go, and there was a referendum that suggested that was the wishes of the people, then I would have to agree. Do remember the entire issue was used for vote bank politics and nothing else. It was the wishes of the politicians, who have the ability to induce emotions in the public to better suit their needs. Leave politicians out of it, gag them, have them in hidden houses and take a neutral vote. We are a democracy, I think it is high time we behaved as one.

Destination Infinity said...

@Aditya: Living in a joint family, for example, has its advantages and disadvantages. When people preferred nuclear families - they were quite clear about the advantages that were offered by a nuclear family but when it came to the dis-advantages, they were blind or they hoped that there would be no disadvantages for them, because they were so clever! This is the point I am driving at - When a person chooses to live away from family because he doesn't feel a part of it, what he doesn't foresee is how the events might turn after a certain number of years. It is not only about lonliness in old age, they need physical, mental and monetary help of a family. If this person doesn't support his family (mostly parents, these days)during the times of their wants, he cannot hope to receive any kind of support during his time of wants. I am not saying that he cannot live on his own, but having a family to support makes things easier in his old age.

When a person is leaving home for the want of freedom or what ever the imagined assumption, if he does it fully conscious of what he is going to gain, and more importantly what he is going to lose (both on the short and long terms), then I guess his decision is correct. But if he is leaving home to live happily ever after, at the best, I say he is short sighted (Doesn't analyze). Or Egoistic. Where was all this ego, when before ten years he was totally dependent on his parents?

When politicians created so much hype on the linguistic topic, for whatever vote bank purpose, people tend to believe them. Even though they are mis-guided. Now, if you had taken a referendum when this topic was at its peak, there is a possibility that people would have voted for a separate nation - which if had been granted, they would have repented after some time. And you cannot eliminate the politicians from a society. If not them, there are always other people to misguide the masses. That is where a strong and responsible central government is absolutely critical. And everything cannot be left to the states either. What if everybody decides to have their own nation, as Rajaraman says?

Destination Infinity

Rajaraman said...

I tend to agree with DI. Almost two genenerations in TN still repent for not having studied Hindi since they could not travel north of opportunities.and languished in TN and only TN.

It is really frightening to imagine where will 100k Engg graduate coming out of TN Engg colleges get employment if not for the united India.Similar is the case for other states.

When there is a union of different variety of people there is bound to be disjoints nad disconnect. But that can not be the reason for seperation of Existing states into seperate country. Nor they will be viable.

The whole of solar systems works on a central force holding the planetory system together. so does the constitution holding the constituent states together into the Indian Union.When the smaller nationsof European Union trying to work together to make a common platform we should not lose the exisitng advantage of unified nation.

Rakesh Vanamali said...

My friend...You have categorically remarked that 'these' people feel wronged!

I'm not sure if terrorism is an answer to vent out wronged feelings. Terrorism against innocent people in a foregin nation is an act of cowardice and is totally deplorable and disgusting!

Call me jingoistic, pro-bureacratic, anti-pakistan etc but the fact remains that that nation in totality loves so much to see India obliterate, nothing less! What else explains the motive of the ISI and the pak army to regularly encourage terrorist activities against India?

Add India's economic growth to the picture (which never can be matched by pak in a 1000 years), the objective is all too clear!

Now, it is a well known fact that J&K was part of Raja Hari Singh's kingdom and it chose to accede to India following a pashtun aggression that was initiated by pak in the year 1948. To whine and moan that Kashmir is a part of pak and what occurs there is a freedom struggle has been part of pak's radical islamic rhetoric over the decades.

The danger my friend, is not any of this though. It is complacency from within our establishment! Why is it that the do not learn from Israel and engage in hot pursuit!
I'm no war monger, but will advocate war to usher in peace, for that is what most wars are fought out for!

I'd like to reiterate that J&K is a soverign part of the Indian Democratic Republic and cannot under any circumstances be acceded or for that matter tolerated as a reason for ongoing terrorist activities.

Suchitra said...

I remember watching
often when I was younger. Although the (stereotypical?) images fascinated me, I always liked the part where Balamuralikrishna, Kamal hassan and the beach came on, only because they were easily more familiar sights. The song, I guess, attempted to make the rest of India as familiar.

My take on the issue is posted on N Series, here

Rajaraman said...

Coming back topraticality of the question raised. Now only one question remains Hopw long we can keep this country united only on emotional, caste basis or the econmic base.
Suchitra cited the case of Russian episode. I cite the episode of the Eurropean countries . They are small but still they survive and not only they survive but say survive very well. Every small counrty is a civilisation bu nitself.Can we do that are we capable of such a transformation.
I dont think.We are mostly talkers and non doers.I just dont know what percenteage of people is rally prductive and constructive.
Our dicvisions on umpteen basis and our poitcal system the so called democratic freedomm allows us authority without responsibilities.When we start asking for rights with responsibilities we can cerainly become a great nation(s)In this counrty we are used to freebies. And every one wants everything free
So htere willbe hardly development and the poverty continues to remain

aditya said...

@ Rajaraman (first comment)
The concept of a country is not limited like that of a society. There is interdependence, agreed, but then in today's world, I depend on Iraq for oil, Japan for cars, Australia for minerals, China for cheap toys, Korea for electronics.. getting the drift?
That means that your underlying assumption is faulty.
Finally, there is nothing called selfless. Every so called leader had a selfish motive. If one cannot see them then they are blind.

Second Comment
I see pettiness in what you have said and that will be there in my reply to you. Unfortunate, cannot be helped.
I would request you to remove your rosy glinted shades and look at the country, or what is left of it.
We are small kingdoms, ruled by kings called politicians.
To get to gist of the post, I plead with you, let the love of a country that you hold so dear lose and look at it in its nakedness. Look at her scars and the pains that we have put her through to keep her in one piece. I can liken this to a gangrene that is eating her up. Amputate the limb, you will save her. else, she dies.
Coming to J&K, if we have to subsidize them, it means that we are admitting that we wronged them and we are trying to remove the wrong.
Your comment is emotion, please look at reason

aditya said...

@ DI,
Everything is a personal choice. One chooses, and if later they repent, then they do. However, that does not make the original choice wrong. I refuse to be in pain, thinking that there may be some joy later. I want joy now and in the event that MAY (use caps) bring pain later, it may or may not, we do not know, we cannot know, I will not let go of joy now.
The second paragraph talks about ego and short sightedness. The question that you pose is where is ego when he was 10. Well, at that point of time, his parents were for all practical purposes dictators. That is how evolution made us humans, We have to be cared by parents until we are mature enough ourselves. The ego, the one you ask me for, is nothing but my recognition of the fact that what I want in life differs from what my parents can offer. In the event that I want it so bad, then I leave. Simple.
The final discussion about the politicians; i am sure that you would agree that we are discussing on ideals here. Therefore, in an ideal state, I would remove them and see what is to be done. The practical aspect is to have people who are sane, (hard ask) campaign for the country and see who campaigns for the state. Use as much mud slinging you think is necessary. If you think as Rajaraman says, there is significant interdependence and are able to show it, then why would they want to go.
The final think DI is this, independence and freedom is ultimately personal. And that is all one needs to know.

aditya said...

@ Rajaraman's comment on English and Hindi
If you say that English is an unifying factor, please remember that it is a vestige of the very empire that you so desperately threw out!
And I hope you are not going to compare EU and India. EU is a union of separate countries, each with its own free democratic constitution. India is a conglomeration of states and is not held by common economic gains, but by emotions and feelings. The latter may be stronger in many cases, but it also leads to heartburn.

aditya said...

@ RV
So, you are taking the moral high ground? Are you cowardly enough to admit that if someone is wronged by a section of people, then they cannot voice the opinion using force, if all other measures are useless? How many times have you had to lift your hand to hit someone when they refused to listen to you? How many times has your anger driven you to violence when discussions failed?
I am not going to argue for Pakistan, for I do not know it. I am not willing to use half baked knowledge to support or take away from my position. I am not even bothered with the country. All I am bothered with is the ideal of a country.
I have nothing but laughter when I see your comparison. Why is that you, who define your country by its boundaries, feel such a superiority complex, when nearly 30% of your own population are wallowing in poverty, when there is rape and sexual discrimination rampant, where there is casteism, reverse casteism, where equality is best ellucidated by "all animals are equal, some are more equal'?
Do not compare. Look in absolute terms my friend.
Your reiteration of J&K as a part of our country is just an expression that you have no idea what is holding our country together, and you are banking upon its boundaries to define what cannot be defined. I might sound highly patronizing, but all I wish to say is recognize the country and its greatness for what it is at its heart, and not from its boundaries.

aditya said...

Such, your reply will come at NS

aditya said...

I rest this post in peace, in pieces, and will dissuade people from commenting to this piece, for the sole reason that a country like all other things is a belief. I have mine, you yours. Let it be, in peace....