India’s New Colonisers And The New East India Company

It’s been a bad week for me, educative but disheartening, and I need to get it off my less than 56 inch chest. It began with a tweet by a retired DGP of the Kerala police, a Billy-the Kid type whose twitter handle says he comes out “with all guns firing” in the defense of Hindus. He can’t, of course, be bothered to explain why a community with an 82% majority population needs any protection (except from its own self-appointed leaders). Be that as it may, he goes on to tell our protesting wrestlers (whom he describes as “garbage”), that they can be shot with impunity and that he looks forward to seeing them on the post-mortem table. How this gentleman ever came to head a police force tells us a lot about how the law is enforced in India, but more important, it tells us even more about the state of the Indian society today. I’ll come to that later.

My second screamer of the week arrived via a close friend and retired colleague (from another service) who expressed the view that our lady wrestlers deserved all they got at the hands of the Delhi police. Refusing to express any empathy for them, he offered the explanation that actually their protest was a well planned strategy to enter politics in the 2024 elections. You see, he told me, they are all nearing 30 years, wrestling is a very competitive sport, and they have to now look for alternative vocations. Now, I was aware that this gentlemen was a Modi and BJP acolyte, but I had no idea that he had become so dehumanised by his political preferences that he would go to the extent of ridiculing victims of sexual depravation and wishing violence on them.

The week of despair was nicely rounded off at a lunch I attended in Shimla at a friend’s hotel. The folks at my table were all pillars of society- landed gentry, businessmen, a retired army officer and their wives. Tucking into their prawn cocktails and onion consomme, they were unanimous in their conviction that the Indian economy had never done better, that corporate bottom lines looked better than Jennifer Lopez’s bottom, er, lines, and that those who criticized Modi should be hanged from the nearest deodar tree- if one could find a deodar tree in Shimla, that is. They dismissed inflation, unemployment, unequal income distribution, and poverty ratios as leftist propaganda meant to denigrate Mr. Modi.

Do you see a pattern in these three anecdotal instances of the Naya Bharat? I do, and what they tell me is that India is being let down by its elite, its educated, well-off, urbanites, the 10% of the population who have cornered 75% of its wealth and control all the levers of power- the bureaucracy, the defense forces, its economy, its institutions of education, culture and sports, it media. They comprise the new East India Company , and their only concern is to preserve (and enhance) their own wealth, protect their own gated community life styles, retain their political relevance and their grip on power and policy making. They cannot be bothered with the remaining 90% of India which lives outside their privileged cantonments. This had evinced itself during the Covid years, we mistakenly thought as an aberration, but has now become the very essence of our societal character.

Which is why I see the current phase as one of post-Independence colonisation- but this time by our own indigenous, home grown politicians, capitalists, bureaucracy and social elite mentioned above. All the features of colonisation exist in abundance- a govt. which is arrogantly deaf to the public’s demands, interests and even protests, a police as brutal as the pre-Independence force, laws which are bent to suit the ruling interest and personalities, the pillaging of natural resources to benefit a few individuals, the displacement of tribals and indigenous people on a huge scale (the project in the Andamans being the latest example of such rapaciousness), the jailing of dissidents on the flimsiest of pretexts. The Covid period provided perhaps the surest proof of this: while 75 million people were pushed into poverty, the number of billionaires rose from 102 to 142, and their wealth doubled to 720 billion dollars. The Gini co-efficient ( an internationally accepted indicator of inequality) rose from 74.7 in 2000 to 80.3 in 2021. We rank 123 out of 160 countries in the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index. And here is the final proof of our second colonisation: just like the British took the wealth extracted from India back to their country, so do the present colonisers- it is estimated that anything between US$ 500 billion  to US$ 4 trillion has been stashed away abroad by these Indians!

Presiding over this phase in our history of exploitation by the elite is Mr. Modi, who, incidentally, was crowned Bharat Samrat at the very moment we were having the lunch mentioned above and the sports persons were being brutalised by the Delhi police two hundred meters away. Because Mr. Modi too cannot be bothered by the minor nuisances of female Olympians being beaten up by his police, tribals being murdered in a distant state, farmers protesting for months on the streets, minors being raped in Kathua and Hathras by ideological bed-fellows. This govt. serves only the interests of the Directors and share holders of the new East India Company, whether it is by the ruthless denudation of precious natural capital/ resources, or a hypocritical foreign policy that ensures cheap Russian oil for buddies to reap whirlwind profits, or bank loans for those cronies who are not into oil. And, just in case the lucre is not enough to ensure everlasting loyalty, there is the additional super glue of religion, or more accurately, the rehashed brand of Hindutva.

Which is why the format of the inauguration of the new Parliament building on the 28th of May was a perfect symbol for the new elite: the extravagance of Rs. 1200 crores on a new corporate headquarters of the ruling party, the blatant ritualistic domination of one religion, the pomp and show of a defacto transfer of power from a collective to one individual, the protection afforded to one individual while his victims were being brutalised outside. All pretences of democracy, of participation by the people in government beyond the ritual of casting their votes, of the rule of law or constitutional propriety, have been dropped. We shall now be ruled (not governed) by a coterie and its enthusiastic cheer-leaders, that 10% elite comprising the likes of you and me and ours. Seventy five years of political and social progress has just been flushed down the Yamuna like so much e-coli.

One cannot but be reminded of an earlier era, 1804 to be exact, when a French Emperor crowned himself, taking the crown from the Pope (Pius the Seventh) and placing it on his own head. The message was that he did not owe his victory and ascension to anybody, to any Constitution or convention; he had earned it by his own efforts and therefore did not have to share power with anybody. The Pope stood by quietly. Sounds familiar ? History does repeat itself, but whether as tragedy or farce, only time will tell.

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  1. says: Ramprakash

    Shukla Ji, how I enjoy your brilliant blogs and find myself in perfect sympathy with your candid, straightforward comments on contemporary events. It is a sphinx – like puzzle to me how an unscrupulous demagogue has managed to exercise such a sway over the souls “educated” people ! I can see the tragic downward trend of the unfortunate nation.

  2. says: DR K.N.SINGH

    Excellent analysis Shuklaji. Thanks for calling a spade a spade.

    Building a nation is a collective responsiblity.
    Good leadership helps.

  3. says: Chaitanya

    Independence was only a transfer of colonial power to the native sahibs, who exercised that absolute power for the good of the natives, as they deemed fit. There is no difference now, except that a new generation of hick upstarts has usurped that power and the old guard is left snapping and snarling at the margins. For the natives nothing has changed.

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