Saturday, December 02, 2006

Get used to riots in Mumbai

In a post a few days ago, I said that I wasn’t normally a doomsday prophet.
Incidents in the last few years cause me to worry about things – perhaps it’s just that I’m growing older.
Earlier this week, the desecration of a statue in faraway Kanpur caused Dalits to resort to violence across the country, closing down the commercial capital, Mumbai. The next morning (yesterday), Mumbai’s citizens checked the newspapers, the TV news and spoke to friends before venturing out.
Because someone in Kanpur desecrated a statue which led someone in Mumbai to torch a train.
Where is the security of living in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai? The security which the city once prided itself in offering to citizens? None. Because, tomorrow, someone in Tirunelveli might desecrate another statue. And that could cause a train to be torched in Mumbai, or a building to be burnt down in Delhi, or cars to be stoned on NH4.
And that worries me.
And I tried to find parallels elsewhere, and I stumbled upon a discussion on the decline of nations – with reference to the US-- on a blog. Warning Signs When Nations are in Decline is an interesting read if you’re a worrywart like me. I reproduce a bit here, and the parallels are interesting, to say the least.
The strength of a nation comes in part from its ability to assimilate immigrants from diverse cultures while keeping its own culture in tact.
When massive immigration, (especially for economic reasons) is left unchecked there is a tendency for new immigrants to identify first with their personal heritage. Sub-cultures or societies within societies are formed and well defined divisions rise up like walls that isolate them and restrict their opportunity. The recent rioting in France is a classic example of what happens when the melting pot doesn't melt.
An impediment to effective assimilation is language. Immigrants isolated by language often group in cloistered sub-cultures, such as we see in Little Saigon, China Town, etc. and they have little motivation to learn the national language or appreciate their new culture.
The division caused by closed and isolated sub-cultures weakens the main societies ability to achieve necessary understandings for problem resolution as communication breaks down. Communication and consensus is fundamental for democracies to operated effectively, without that they are increasingly facing a sort of governmental gridlock (an inability to identify and prioritize needs).
Further, the isolation caused by sub-cultures create social and economic ceilings fueling inequities, injustices and prejudices. That is why its often said, "Strength does not come from diversity, but diversity united behind a common ideology."

Club all these observations, add the caste factor in India and corruption in India, and – why are we surprised at all when incidents such as the Dalit uprising occur?

Can we learn something from history? Anything at all?
Or shall we get used to the idea of such riots being a part of our daily lives?


kaveetaa kaul said...

Interesting and plausible.

However, with reference to this particular incident of dalit uprising, I read this morning in the TOI that majority of dalits are stationed in Maharashtra, about 12% of the 16%..which is huge. Thanks to the electronic media its reach and its irresponsibility in broadcasting details of the vandalisation, the reactions were bound to occur..Even if it was a politically motivated agenda or guests from across the border, or LEt who was responsible, the gullible, mindless masses just have to rise up in senselesss rebellion.

Anant Rangaswami said...

If enough people (in power) and enough media houses think this is plausible, I wouldn't have such a gloomy vision of the probability of being ready to get used to it.
And Dalits was just an unfortunate example: it could be political parties (we saw the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray's supporters clashing just some time back), cultural groups, religious groups, anyone.
And we keep blaming the police force. What on earth can they do?

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

recently an MP from kerala was unseated for using religion as a vote catcher.

it's these politicians who make life unsafe in India.if there is some mechanism to ban even a mention of caste and creed in political speeches, i think india will become a much safer place. no violation of freedom of speech, this. freedom imperatively implies no trepassing on the freedom of others.

regarding the issue of dalit violence mentioned in yout blog:i had occasion to talk to someone from marathwada belt. she seems to fel that nature and atrocities on dalits on a routine basis in many parts of india is unbelievable. the incidents such as shook mumbai are the dalit way of flexing their muscles in an effort to show they too can hit back - these are calculated preemptive measures for prevention of viloence against them.

we denizens of metros mourn about occasional disruptions. the dalits fight to be liberated from a hellish existence.

diversity is no obstacle in the way of peace. if all have a level playground, assimilation is no issue.