National Interest: Them versus them

The idea that there are two Indias is not new. For intellectual convenience, one is called India, the other Bharat. One is shining, the other declining. One lives in cities, the other in villages. One is generally upper caste Hindu, the other is Scheduled or backward caste, tribal or Muslim. One is white collar, the other in agriculture. But our thinking has become so numbed by these established notions that we are missing another division in India, in fact, in Shining India. Or, the rise of two Shining Indias, in conflict with each other on the streets, as we saw in the protests against the gangrape now, and during the Anna mobilisation earlier.

Let us call one the India of ruling elites, and the other of governing elites. Governing elites are the political and bureaucratic classes, the judiciary, the conventional or rather institutional intelligentsia and media, and, of course, the police and the armed forces. The ruling elites, on the other hand, are the economically "arrived" Indians outside of the sarkari system. The businessmen, new professionals, particularly from IT and banking, the EMI-powered, young, double-income community and, of course, the conventional old rich, and offspring of the earlier generations of governing elites, NRI returnees and the modern foreign foundation-fuelled activists. These ruling elites and our traditional governing elites now have so little in common, so little shared ground, that they have begun to look like two sovereign, alien and hostile republics. Except, they live within the same territorial frontiers. That is why one finds it natural to blame the other for whatever it thinks is going wrong. The governing class blames the ruling elite for insensitivity typical of the rich, inability to understand "real" India and for making unreasonable upper crust "give them cake"-type demands each time they come out protesting. The ruling elites, of course, have the deep belief that all of India's governors are corrupt, inefficient, unskilled, illiterate, insensitive, out of tune with the times and out of touch with the new aspirational India, undeserving of holding the jobs and exercising the powers that they do. And therefore the "system" must change.

... contd.

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