November 1, 2007

The coming mutinies

Raj Cherubal

Most of our disputes, festering for ages, are the result of persistent inability of locals and their democratically elected local representatives, if any at all, to deal with them promptly and effectively. In practical terms, the system places locals at the mercy of distant rulers for most solutions. Since these rulers—state and central ministers for example—have a million and one things to do, and because even a small state has hundreds of cities, towns, villages and a myriad of issues to deal with, even the most energetic man cannot minister his flock promptly, resulting in festering wounds and growing resentments on the body politic.

Centrifugal forces in action in India, despite ideological, ethnic or religious veneers, are the result of over centralisation of power, resources and accountability. Centralisation has sucked away power and responsibility, leaving behind local vacuums for trouble makers to fill, who end up representing the genuinely resentful.

Our coming mutinies will be noble and peaceful and they will succeed. India will evolve into a confederation of ‘city-states’, whose members recognise the benefits of collective security and common foreign policy. City-states left alone to evolve their respective culture and economy while the central authority, strong but limited in scope and size, douses conflicts among members and prevents barriers to free flow of ideas, people and commerce.

A day may come when cities of our neighbours will be tempted to join this union. Lahore, the past Paris of the east, for example, may find it beneficial to join and rediscover its lost liberal glory, rather than be bound eternally to perennial lawless and illiberal lands. That may not be repetition, but a welcome reversal of history.

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