Thursday, December 22, 2011

Will Mahathir ever learn to keep his mouth shut when it does not concern him

This is a letter written by one Siddharthya Swapan Roy based in Maharashtra, India, who was incensed by the uncalled for remarks made by Mahathir about his country. He was in India where he advised that great democracy like India, with a history 8,000 years in the making, to be “less democratic and more dictatorial so that it can be rich like China”. Still, democracy was the best he hastened to add as his Indian listeners glared at him.
He also did not mention his own iron-fisted two decades-long rule which has brought Malaysia to a step away from ruin, but more likely than not, they already knew since his racist reputation precedes him whether he chooses to admit it or not.
Dear Dr Mahathir,
A couple of days back I woke up to newspaper reports which quoted you as saying that India’s democracy is a hindrance to its development and, if we did away with the nuisance of democracy, we will become developed.
Well, sir, it is heartening to see your concern about India’s future, especially now that our own elected government has orphaned us. To read that someone from the outside cares about our development sounds so very nice.
But you see, sir, your (apparently) good intentions notwithstanding, your advice to Indians is, well how should I put it… ill-advised.
I’m not really sure if you know much about the history of our nation. Don’t get me wrong.
Going by facts like the general absence of news from Malaysian newspapers; the absence of anything but song and dance in your electronic media; the absence of bookstores that sell knowledgeable books (for example, ones from which you can learn about history and not how to get rich in six steps); the abundance of malls and the stark absence of libraries; the abundance of coaching centres that can make masseurs, air hostesses and a host of quick-fix technicians and the relative absence of centres of higher learning especially in the social sciences; and, above all, the fact that this insanely consumerist and hedonist Malaysia was made under your tutelage, makes me doubt your knowledge of the history of India or any nation for that matter.
So allow me to apprise you of the story of our independence.
We won independence from colonial rulers waging a long and tortuous battle. A battle that sought to replace a discriminatory, unjust and violent regime that had enslaved huge populations with one which was based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.
India was home then, as is now and as will always be, to an immense diversity of people who spoke different tongues, prayed to different Gods, wore different clothes and had different political beliefs. These diverse people said to each other that – we, despite our differences, will strive to live and flourish together and make a sovereign nation which will be democratic, socialist and secular.
We did not anywhere say that we want to be Malaysia or for that matter China or the US.
In India, no one is above the law
We want to become a nation with a system that treats all its citizens as equal unlike your country that officially accords special rights to Malay Muslims calling them first-class citizens while relegating thousands of people of Tamil, Chinese and other ethnic origins.
Despite the fact that they have known no other land than Malaysia as their own, you denigrate them with the tag of being second-class citizens.
We try to work towards having a system wherein a person will grow according to his merit and hard work earning what she or he has rightfully earned.
You may be surprised to know that here in India making cartels based on identity, even if under the name of a holy cow called “Bumipuetra” or son of the soil is looked down upon by most of us.
Here, promoting the selective interests of one’s self or that of his kin is called corruption and nepotism and not, as you call it, development.
We are in fact fighting tooth and nail to arrest the scourge of corruption and (you’ll be shocked to know) get the guilty punished.
Here in India no one is above the law and many a times powerful public figures go to jail for being corrupt or subverting the law.
Now that we are at it, sir, I’m sure it would be interesting to know what the minorities of your country have to say – especially the jailed and beaten ones – about the development-democracy debate.
In fact, sir, your idea of development is largely at odds with many of us here.

Development is no substitute for values
What you did to the tropical forests and water bodies of Malaysia (that is, raze vast acres of them into oblivion to make way for big-buck oil palm plantations and piggeries and so on) would cause huge outrage among many of us who are looking for sustainable development.
We are yet to be unanimously convinced that making cemented roads – however broad, lining them with buildings, even if glass-covered and glossy, and putting cars on them, however fast – is a substitute for our valued bio-diversity.
Many of us are very convinced that displacing huge populations of native people for useless things like racing tracks is a blot on the word “development”.
There are many of us who find it a shameful and cruel hypocrisy that while your country has abundant and openly advertised sex tourism, it still whips women for being licentious!
Thanks to the culture of reading here, many of us know of your penchant for cruelty in your personal career.
A career during which you enacted despotic and violent acts at times in the name (your contorted version of) Islam and at times in the name of security and national interest.
We could recount how you rose to power annihilating huge numbers of your opponents and stayed there for over two decades, continuing your devious rule using tactics and schemes which are far beyond Machiavelli.
Many of us know about your vile Internal Security Act, which you used to crush political opposition – jailing them and putting in place a frail and near-sham democracy and placing the entire nation under a one-man rule of Umno for over two decades.
You will note that I have used words like “most of us”, “many of us” and have tried to stay away from absolute claims.
Misconstrued understanding of ‘development’
Besides the age-old Indian practice of accommodating different opinions, it is meant to recognise that there are people in this country, too, who think like you and will have applauded you for saying what you did.
They, too, think that roads are all that important and not the humans who walk on them or the ones who sleep beside them.
They have misconstrued the word development as development of personal wealth and that this “development” is a holy cow and everything including the rights and lives of fellow humans is of lesser priority.
Their money power helps them buy a lot of print space and electronic bandwidth so they may appear like the majority, but thankfully the truth is they aren’t.
The majority of us recognise and are willing to admit – and even discuss at length – that there are problems in our nation – including bad roads.
But they’ll quickly add that we intend to solve those not by lessening democracy but by ncreasing it.

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