Someone has posted something about our beautiful forests and the tribals who live there on his blog recently which brought a variety of interconnected thoughts flooding into my mind.
1. In connection with the beauty of our natural surroundings: here in
2. The plight of the wretched of the earth – our tribals prominently among them –
3. Blame it all on illiteracy and the population explosion: that is how the know-it-all ‘intelligentsia’ has been salving its conscience for so long. Well, if those were the only factors responsible (rather than the stupidity, callousness and greed of the most privileged classes), why didn’t we take drastic enough steps early on to ensure that they no longer remained serious issues in 2008? When shall we ever say ‘it’s high time’? Why have we – as a nation – focused so maniacally on only
4. Wildlife will vanish, because they cannot fight back to make a change for the better. Humans, alas, can. I do not find it a cause for wonder that tribals are organizing and rising violently against all the humiliation, deprivation and oppression heaped on them for ages – in the name of development, too (at least the Mughals and the British made no such pretence!), rising all over Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and elsewhere. I find it wonderful, rather, that they are still not rising in large enough numbers, and violently enough, to make a real difference. I also find it sad and futile that they take out their wrath on the least privileged of the privileged classes – ill paid police constables, local level politicos, junior field engineers, very petty bureaucrats and so on. Even killing thousands of suchlike will not change anything in the corridors of power, anything in the mindset of those who make big decisions, those who take away 99 percent of the benefits of ‘development’ every time. The killing fields will only grow bloodier, as the state hits back to wreak blind vengeance on behalf of those who matter: cabinet ministers, tycoons, film stars, cricketers ... and their families. In a democratic country, only "VIPs" really matter (does anybody honestly think that there would have been a tenth of the uproar if the terrorists had attacked a large dharmshala instead of the Taj? Remember, 30,000 plus perished in the Orissa cyclone, and the tsunami of December 2005 killed more than 150,000!) Very many of us non-VIPs and our near and dear ones will perish in the crossfire. Alas, none of us will have the moral right to call ourselves ‘innocent’ victims. Remember, by their definition the British CID was quite justified in calling Kshudiram Bose a ‘terrorist’, because, after all, his bomb killed two ‘innocent’ British civilians, a defenceless woman and a child at that! And if making a prediction like this brands me as an enemy of the people (as defined by Ibsen and Satyajit Ray), so be it. One does not have to sympathize with the 'Maoists' to understand where all the anger is coming from.
5. One last thought. As any social psychologist knows, science itself has a culture and a history: what people choose to study and why depends a very great deal on the social mindset in which they grow up. Perhaps that is precisely the reason why most of our ‘good’ students want to study science, and that too engineering or mathematics or physics, rather than zoology or botany, leave alone history and economics and law and political science and literature and philosophy? Perhaps it’s not just because the first category leads to easy and well-paid jobs quickly, perhaps the more important reason is that in their subconscious they and their parents know that the latter category deals with far more difficult and messy problems which are best avoided? – If that is true, fine, but just how long can we keep running away, how many of us, and how far? Can our 300-million strong middle class migrate en masse to