Too Much of National Pride is Crushing Constructive Criticism

The people of India are extremely intolerant towards the criticism of certain iconic individuals and incredible institutions of their country. These iconic individuals are known for their superhuman efforts and these incredible institutions are remembered for churning out the most talented set of men and women. Any criticism of these individuals or institutions (be it reasonable or unreasonable) happens to create a stir and is presumed to go against national prestige. All in all, they are considered to be larger than life.

It’s a scenario of exaggerated national pride where we categorically crush constructive criticism. We don’t allow anyone to kickstart any debate which questions Gandhi’s political strategies, his views on sex and his alleged superstitions. We create a huge furore when Shoaib Akhtar questions Sachin Tendulkar’s credentials as a batsman or when Adam Gilchrist raises doubts about his sportsmanship and the entire country collectively condemns Narayan Murthy’s opprobrium of IIT’s after an unneeded controversy. We’ve got to accept the fact that these individuals/institutions are not above suspicion or criticism. ‘Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion’ doesn’t apply to them. We need to stop seeing Mahatma Gandhi as a saint, prophet or messiah. He was a master politician who happened to be just as shrewd as all the other politicians of his time and achieved awe-inspiring success but that doesn’t mean that he did not lead movements which failed or he did not take any wrong step which backfired. There is no denying that Sachin Tendulkar is the one of the best cricketers of all time but the truth is that sometimes he has also failed to deliver on occasions when the team has actually required him to lead from the front. The IIT’s continue to be extremely prestigious and sought after institutions but the IIT’s just like all the other institutes of India can be accused of not imparting technical education necessary for survival in the industry.

What we need to learn is how to utilize opprobrium and critically analyze it for our own benefit. There is no point in banning books and crushing criticisms. It’s always better to have a debating society where factions advocating different view points exist instead of having a society where there are no mavericks, no argument can be countered and there is a unitary centre of power/thinking whose stance has to be toe-ed on each and every matter.

Hypersensitivity Towards Kashmir

Ever since the inception of India, Kashmir’s existence has revolved around scepticism and apprehension. The hypersensitivity of the Indian society towards Kashmir was once again brought to the forefront when three vagabonds attacked Prashant Bhushan, an eminent lawyer of the Supreme Court and a core member of Tem Anna in his court chamber.

The attackers assaulted Mr Bhushan because of his controversial statement in which he came up with the suggestion of a plebiscite in order to determine the fate of Kashmir. Even after being caught the attackers showed no signs of remorse and sounded unapologetic. The organization to which they belonged glorified them in the name of nationalism and patriotism. Shiv Sena, a highly regional, divisive and jingoist political party seized the moment and started using it to its political advantage. They hit out at Mr Bhushan for his comments which they referred to as ‘anti-nation’ outcry and further urged Anna Hazare to remove such anti-national elements from his team.

The Congress too with the help of this incident got an opportunity to settle scores with Team Anna. It stated that Kashmir is, was and will always be an integral part of India and there can be no rethinking or re-posturing of India’s stand on this issue. The spokespersons of the Congress lashed out at Mr Bhushan and he had to face severe opprobrium. Realizing that they were on the back-foot because of the remarks of Mr Bhushan, Team Anna distanced itself from his statement in order to ensure that they don’t lose popular support. This whole fiasco has generated an intriguing question within me. What is the reason for India’s hypersensitivity towards Kashmir? For years India along with Pakistan has been trying to find a landmark settlement in relation to Kashmir but they have always failed to arrive at a consensus.

We need to realize that talks haven’t yielded the kind of results which we thought they could. In such a situation like this the only feasible solution to this impasse is an election where the people of Kashmir get to decide their fate. They have every right to choose the country to which they intend to be associated with and this was the idea which was given by Prashant Bhushan. Logically I don’t find any fault in this suggestion. It’s the most pragmatic solution possible. We’ve got to accept the fact that if we want to settle the issue of Kashmir then we need to take a chance. The settlement can lead to conceding large chunks of the land of Kashmir to Pakistan but that in any case would be far better than the present scenario ie the impending logjam which has resulted into commotion and violence in the valley. I feel that for once democracy should be given a chance to speak. We’ve taken ‘n’ number of initiatives in the past, right from the deployment of forces in the valley for peacekeeping to enacting the AFSPA to counter terrorists. We’ve also taken up this issue with different countries and at various international summits but they have all failed. We haven’t got a result and the most feasible way of getting a result is a plebiscite.