A vast majority of well-intentioned, patriotic Indians believe in the Constitution of India as a sacrosanct foundational stone of the Indian Republic upon which stands the hallowed shrine of Democracy. Not many, however, are aware that the Constitution of India is largely framed on the 1935 British Act of India, an Act passed and promulgated by the British Parliament with no Indian representation whatsoever.
Based on laws and customs alien to the rich and diverse Indian ethos and burdened with the White Man’s civilizing mission geared towards ‘fixing the natives’, India’s Colonial State is infused with the ‘colonial gaze’ that has robbed Indians of ‘accessing their own experience’, to borrow S. N. Balagangadhara’s phrase. So well internalized is this ‘gaze’, that even after seven decades of Independence, Indians still employ it to look at themselves, their identity, their culture, their society and their social problems.
This Colonial State is in fundamental conflict with the Indian civilization and its symptoms are everywhere, in the Collegium System of an elitist Judiciary, in the State sponsored linguistic apartheid, in the deep-rooted corruption intrinsic to every arm of the State and so on. By examining the legitimacy of a colonial apparatus imposed on the unsuspecting millions of India, Sankrant Sanu brushes out one of the most uncomfortable questions from under the carpet – are we Indians truly independent?
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said this British India act is a charter of slavery, and we Indians have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, that very act is what is constituting the government of India today. Okay so this an act which is an act of British parliament, and that is passed in British parliament, there is no Indian representative involved in it whatsoever. There are a few things to also remember of the constitution, is firstly the framer or the drafter of it is Sir Benegal Rao, secondly the constituent assembly itself is not a body which is elected in independent India. And of course, the constitution is never ratified by the people of free India. There is no referendum on the constitution that says you know, do you ratify, do you the people of India agree that this constitution shall happen. Again, as I said, it is not by elected people of free India either. But we start with “we the people of India”.
So, this topic I’ve been playing with for a while, which is India is a colonial state. So, lot of times we have this idea that in 1947 we got Independence. But if we look at the institutions of the state, they are exactly the same as they were before we got Independence. So, the real question I am asking is, are we Independent and in what ways are we still a colonial state. And I am glad we have some people from the bureaucracy and many other different areas. Shri. Mani has written an excellent book also. Welcome him as well. So to get a little bit of perspective, and I have also shared this, a lot of these times in fact, Sir here was asking you know, how do I do the research and what is the way that one gets to write or research a topic. I find the primary field of research is, tapping into one’s own experience. In fact, Balagangadhar who I regard as one of my inspiring teachers. He’s the person who’s in Belgium, who’s written “Heathen in his blindness”. He says colonialism is immoral, because it robs us from accessing our own experiences. It robs us from accessing our own experiences. So our experience itself gets mediated by what the colonial gaze is. And this is what I find all over India that, you know we are, that is the sort of mediator. You know when we talk about caste, it’s like the theory of caste that’s handed down to us, we talk about social problems, again it’s the gaze that is handed down to us and we use that gaze to look at society. So, I think the biggest place for understanding actually to excavate our own experience.
So I’ll start by talking about my own experience, I‘ve lived about half the time in America and half the time in India. So it’s a really nice way to study two cultures, two societies, and two systems. And I’ve been even in the US, I’ve been very, I’ve been kind of pushing the edge of understanding society in terms of what I am experiencing. I am not restricted myself to a very small circle. I actually teach for instance in the prison system, I teach the Art of Living course. So I get to meet people who are in prison and interact with them, and hear their life stories, what are their experiences. So many many different range of experiences through interactions, through my job, through relationships, have been part of my journey. So I’ll tell you one experience that happened to me in the US. My Indian Passport got lost. So I called up the Indian Embassy and they asked me to file a police report. So, In India there is a lot of trouble with police reports etc. So I was like, arrey this is going to be a big hassle, Police report.
So I call up the Redmond Police department and, some hotline number or whatever, I call them. And I say this is the thing. I don’t even know maybe it’s even in my house. I am not able to find my passport. But the embassy says, to get a duplicate one I need a police report. And they said, no problem sir, and within ten minutes there was a police car at my door. He came in, he says what is the thing, he writes a report, and he gives it to me. Done! Okay. So, this was a very dramatically different experience from the experience I had of dealing with the Police In India. So, then I started to say, why is it that the experience is so different. Because it is the British only that set up the system in the US. Because a lot of the people who came initially, English colonies were there. And the same English people set up the system here. So why is it that the experience of a customer service in relationship to the government is so different. And I’ll give you the other example. There was a lathi charge at a cricket match in Faridabad. And many people were hurt. And it was because there were some error had been done by the system themselves. Some duplicate tickets had been issued, so there were people who were protesting. And then the police did a very violent lathi charge. And then later on the police statement came that, “the people needed to be taught discipline”. So what kind of state thinks that it’s job is to teach people lessons. Is to teach people discipline, is to fix the people. And this I find is the basic difference between a colonial state and a non-colonial state. Normally you’ll say that we elect the government or we select the government and the idea is that they are people’s representatives. At least that’s the fib, or that’s the figment. So these are people’s representatives. People’s representatives means that, it should be their job to represent us. To represent our problems, to represent our issues. But the colonial state doesn’t think that it’s representing the people, colonial thing is it’s job is to fix the people. And that is what I see is the basic difference between the colonial state and one which is not organized around that line.
So, you know this is just a brief thing about how, US population in 1790, the second column people will actually show the number of people, based on the origin of the country that they came from. As you see, 2.1 million out of this is people who came from England. And out of the remaining the majority are actually slaves who didn’t have any say in the matter. So essentially, it’s also talking about English common law, it’s establishing English common law in the territories. And they are also considered a British colony. They get their Independence in 1776, and they are having a revolt. So, in some sense it is very similar. But then you look at English common law, English common law is the law that has accrued over centuries in England, based on the customs of the people and based on the sensitivity to what is it that, that the people want. Right, and the same English people go to the US, and they set up something which is in continuation with that law. So, what happens in India? In India, you also say we are following English law in some senses, but this is not our law. It is the law of the English people. It is the law that is built on their customs, it is a law that is built on their history, it has no relationship actually to our history, to our customs, to our system. So, it is completely insensitive in fact. So if I look at the Supreme Court of India, the little motto that they have in the bottom, is the only place in the Supreme Court where you’ll find any use of Devanagari script. This is the entire voluminous instance of Devanagari is all summarized, not summarized, entirely contained in that one phrase. Okay, because in the Supreme Court of India, you cannot use any of the Indian language, you can only use English. So the question is, now when the Supreme Court gives a judgement, we say no no this is the “Law of the Land”. We are using phrases like “Law of the Land”. But of which land is this the law? It’s certainly not the law of the land, of our land. In fact it has no relationship to our land! Right, it is something that is a, something that has come, it has been placed on top of us, it’s roots are not in our land, it does not look at the history of jurisprudence in our land, it doesn’t look at the history or the traditions of our land. It is something that comes from the top. So, the supreme court of course has been very active in civilizing us brown natives in the recent times. So I’ll slightly start to dig into this. What is this Supreme Court, who are these people, because now there is a collegium system. Collegium means essentially, that the supreme court judges will appoint the next generation of supreme court judges. So if you take that seriously then you have to look at the origin of it. You have to say, okay, this means they are following the parampara. So you have to look at the start of that parampara, because that is what is going to keep on being followed. So it turns out that the supreme court is established from the Government of India act. The British India act of 1935. That is what sets up the supreme court. And they say, there shall be a federal court consisting of a chief justice of India, and such number of judges as his majesty may deem necessary. Okay, so his majesty has set up this court. And has appointed the first set of judges. And now we are saying that there is a collegium system where these judges will keep on appointing other judges. Which means that the majesty’s law is being enforced and followed. And the majesty’s mechanism of law is being enforced and followed. What kind of judges, what kind of qualification was needed? You have either to have been a five years a judge of a high court in British India, or a barrister of England or Northern Ireland of at least ten years, or a member of the faculty of advocates in Scotland for at least ten years. So this is the criteria by which you would get appointed a judge in the Supreme Court of India. And absolutely nothing changes when 1947 happens. All they do is, probably there is a little signboard somewhere, somebody comes and removes that, takes of “Federal Court”, and puts “Supreme Court”. That is mostly the extent of changes that happened. Now they say well we got a new constitution. Now we have to look at where this constitution came from. So, the story of the constitution is unfortunately not any better, than the story of the supreme court. So, we will dig into it a little bit in the constitution. But, very importantly, this 1935 British India act, for anybody who’s really interested in probing the history, I would really recommend you to read this act. Because we realize that, pretty much all of Independent India, is being still governed by this act, in all the branches of government. Okay so, this is a act which is a act of British parliament, and that is passed in British parliament. There is no Indian representative involved in it whatsoever. And that is the governing act which is largely governing India. We have some fictions of you know, of having some constitution and some bill of rights were added, and so and so forth. But it is very clear, you know all of the, when this roster issue came up in the supreme court, you know who is going to determine the roster. All this is set in this act. This is coming from 1935 act only. All proceedings of the Federal Court shall be in the English language. This is also, recently some judge from I think UP came and started to argue in the supreme court in Hindi, and the judge scolded him saying, don’t you know this is Supreme Court of India, you can only talk in English. So, imagine, the supreme court of the land where 90% of the people cannot even argue in their own language. What kind of justice is going to be served? Right, the only justice which is going to be served is the justice of the English, which is by the English, and for the English. So, same thing, they also have all the high courts details are there. Similarly all the high courts proceedings should be in the English language. Same kinds of requirements, they must have been a barrister in England or Northern Ireland, and so on and so forth. Or a member of the civil service, that is what the other requirement is there for the judge of the high court.
Okay, so now from high court let’s move on to the legislature. If you look at this legislature, the situation is not that different. Even right now, the state legislature, they’re saying that, two chambers of a provincial legislature, will be known as the legislative council and legislative assembly. This is where our MLAs of today come from. Member of the legislative assembly. And MLC – member of the legislative council. Okay, so all of this is set out in the 1935 British India act, which is again as I said, there is no Indian involved in the framing of this act. And there is no Indianness involved in the framing of this act. Because, even later on when we see, even when Indians started getting involved, Indianness is not involved in anyway. And, what I found very interesting is the little provision for the proclamation of emergency, which is the same provision that was used when emergency was proclaimed in 1975. So, again all of this is set out in the 1935 act. That gets used.
Okay so what was the response from Indians of that time when this 1935 act, which as I said all the current administration, the state of India is largely based on this act. But then what was the response in India to this 1935 act by the Congress party and others, was that this was a charter of slavery. Who made this quote that this was a charter of slavery? A well-recognized figure. So, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said this British India act is a charter of slavery, and we Indians have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, that very act is what is constituting the government of India today.
Now we have to come back to the constitution. Now people might say, no no no this is not true, the British India act was there, but we have a new constitution that the courts started and promulgated, and we became a republic in 1950 after the constitution was accepted, and so on and so forth. So now we have to look at the history of this constitution. Where is this constitution coming from? So if we look at it, who is actually the framer of the constitution? If you ask any child in India, say who created the constitution, what is the answer? Ambedkar. Ambedkar was the chairman of the drafting committee. But the most of the work was actually done by this one person. And this person’s name, also again we don’t even know, but his name is Sir Benegal Narsimha Rao. He’s actually the drafter of the Indian constitution. What does that mean, that means that, he is actually the one that, he had been in the ICS, he had been an employee of the British government for a long time, and he was the one who prepared the entire draft document, which was the constitution. All the drafting committee did was, note some comments, made some changes, suggestions, you know then there was a constitution assembly. But he, I would say is really the writer of the Indian constitution. He was later on honoured also. So, who is he? He is an ICS, he was order of the companion of the Indian Empire, he was knighted in 1938. Why is somebody knighted, because of loyalty to the British crown. And, then of course he became the constitutional advisor in 1946 and then in 1948 he prepared the initial draft. In fact, he is the one who travelled to different countries including US and other countries to look at their constitutions, and so on and so forth. Yeah, so I would say that for all practical purposes, he is the drafter of the Indian constitution. And then of course other people gave their inputs, and so on and so forth. What is the use again, the template, he is a long loyal servant of the British Empire. And the template mainly comes from the British India act, which is what he uses as the core template. Which is, by the way, the British India act is the biggest act that the British parliament has ever passed till that date. It is a 4000 pages act. In which, pretty much like every single thing about India. 1935, yeah, the British India act of 1935 is the longest act passed by the British parliament. So, yes yes, because they, some master is going to figure out how to manage the servants, then lot of regulations need to be there. If you compare with the US constitution, US constitution is a very small, tiny booklet. Because the power more or less is vested in the people. You don’t need big framework of somebody telling you what to do if the people are considered moral and intelligent enough to figure it our for themselves. Right, all you need is some guidelines. But when, you are you in a civilizing mission, then you need to specify everything, as much as possible. So this Benegal Narsimha Rao actually framed it, and then there is another quote, which might be familiar with, who’s saying, “I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out and do not want it, it does not suit anybody.” This is a quote about the constitution by another well-known figure.
So, of course, I think to be fair, we have to look at that in a little bit of a nuance. He is talking about a particular, you know, in a particular context, he is speaking about. But in any case, it is a, there is few things to also remember about the constitution, is firstly the framer or the drafter of it is Sir Benegal Rao; secondly the constituent assembly itself is not a body which is elected in independent India. Where the constituent assembly itself comes form an election which is happening in pre-partition India. In terms of who were the representatives? And after the partition, they kind of sorted them out and said, This representative is from India and this from Paskistan. So, the constituent assembly itself is a colonial institution coming from the pre-partition India, the drafter is clearly taking on the colonial act. But then we start with, and of course the constitution is never ratified by the people of free India. There is no referendum on the constitution that says you know, do you ratify, do you the people of India agree that this constitution shall happen. Again, as I said, it is not by elected people of free India either. But we start with “we the people of India”. Now how did “we the people of India” come in this matter, which has nothing to do with the people of India? It should in fact say, we the colonized elite who have thereby subservient to the British Empire, now deem to put this structure on the Indian people. I mean that would be a fair and honest preamble to the constitution. But now that’s not how it is.
So, now, it’s actually a good question. There is a long, different histories are there, in terms of ratification of the constitution. For instance, in Brazil, there was an entire referendum for that. In the United States, it was ratified, see one of the other things is, very strange thing happens in India, which is, the constituent assembly actually makes the constitution. And it also ratifies the constitution. Right? It is like saying, the one who has done the homework will grade it too. So, in the US what happened is that, the framers of the constitution framed it, but then it had to be ratified by each of the states. Right. So each of the states, the framers and the people who are ratifying it are different. That means, there is some check on the people who are framing it, because somebody else is going to ratify it. You’ve to make sure it is going to be acceptable to those who’re going to ratify it. Right, so this process never happens in India. Because those two entities are the same, the people who are doing it. And the other thing of course we have to remember is, like if you look at the French history, they went through several constitutions. Didn’t just behead people one time, they beheaded people several times. So the first time around there was a constitution because you know there was a, the royalty was thrown, but then that constitution was not suitable, and a few decades later another, so there’s a series of revolutions that takes place, till they actually get to a constitution that they are satisfied with. So, this idea that there is some “holy text” is coming from above, that cannot be changed and now, our morality is going to be defined based on constitutional morality, this is all complete bunkum. Like, this is a colonial document, this has come from colonial times, it is imposed on the people of India, who have never accented to it. That is the summary of it. Of course people say, no no, they accented to it, because later on there was an amendment to it, that means that you are agreeing to the original document, and therefore if parliament is amending it, therefore there is an accent. But, I mean all those I think are stories in a way, but explicitly, I think what happens is, there is a small group of elite people, these people have been trained in London, they are barristers, they are all kinds of people, they have gotten together, some transfer of power has happened, and these people have got the power, and then they frame these documents. And the public at mass is really not involved in this process, whatsoever, in any shape or form.
So, we looked at a few instances. We looked at judiciary, we looked at legislature, looked at the constitution, and the same thing is true of the history of the academic institutions as well. So, the Punjab University is set up in 1882, and all these are the British parampara academics. So our entire academic system is the academic system of the British parampara. Just like the judiciary is the judiciary of the British parampara, our academic system is also an academic system of the British parampara. Very simple example I’ll give. So I wrote this book, some people might be aware, called the “English medium myth”. If I look at contemporary India, I would say linguistic discrimination which is pushed by the state, is probably the most direct and severe discrimination that ordinary people experience in everyday life. They experience this in applying for jobs, they experience this in the government, they experience this in social hierarchy. In fact recently a girl in Lucknow committed suicide, because her seniors were teasing her because she doesn’t speak English properly, or she doesn’t speak it with the right accent. Okay, so we look in our own life, linguistic apartheid is what I call it. And this linguistic discrimination is pushed directly by the state. The state requires the supreme court has to be only in English, most high courts have to be only in English, army interview has to be only in English, the IITs will be only in English, IIMS will be only in English, AIIMS will be only in English. People say they have no option, parents want English while the Govt is forcing Hindi but in fact the Govt is forcing English in every sphere. And people have no option, their wishes have value only when they have option. I have no option to do Engineering in Hindi, because there are no options. I cannot do Medical in in Hindi or CAT in Hindi or in any other Indian language. I cannot do Medical or Engineering in Tamil or Bangla or Malayalam. So it is coming from that. So in academia, when I started writing the book, I though there would be a, because this is such a burning contemporary topic of very clear state based discrimination. This is not some hypothetical thing, oh maybe there is structure of, you know we talk about structural discrimination and all these things. This is not some idea or some postmodern thing that there is a structural discrimination. By law we can say each institution of the government there is clear discrimination. But there is almost no study in academia or there’s very little studies about this discrimination in the society, or from the state. Very strange. Because you have such a big social issue and how come people are not studying it. Because they have been studying what they have been told to study. They have been told to study caste discrimination for 100 years. So you will even find that today they are studying that same thing, and they keep on studying it, because hai na, ek baar charkhi wo chala di hai, aur wo wind up coil ki tarah wo chalte rah rahe hain. Aur usi ke upar wo kaam kar rahe hain. So the entire, pretty much all the entire academia, university system is following the parampara of the British masters. What they were told to study, how, the gaze that the masters brought to Indian society, is the gaze that they today look at Indian society. Like when that IPS officer is saying, I wanted to discipline the people, in fact even in popular conversation, you’ll constantly find that the problem are the people. Our people are like that, our people are corrupt, al the problem is in people. Nobody says that the structure of the state is colonial, it has no relationship with to us, it has been imposed on us, and I’ll talk about that in a little bit. That is the problem, that is not considered as the problem. Problem is that the people are lazy, they are stupid, they are corrupt, they are immoral. You know, our customs are bad, our society is bad, is very backward. Right, all this are the descriptions of society, which is the colonial description of the society. Which is why the masters came to save us, from ourselves! So, they can save us from ourselves, to save us from our customs, and so on and so forth.
So, I wrote an essay a few years ago, called, “are Indians corrupt?” Where is this word “corrupt” coming from? What does it mean when we say “the people are corrupt”, what does that actually mean? Very interesting, when the British initially come, and they set up their courts they are very surprised that people come in courts and they give a true testimony. They say, oh I have committed this crime. They come and many people are going straight away to the court and they are admitting it even if they have done something wrong, they are admitting it. They are very surprised, because this is not how the English system works. Right? So, in the beginning they are doing this. And also, the corruption is firstly, the first use where they start using this corruption is actually in relationship to the offices of the East India company. Where there is corruption. And then the second use is from the missionaries, from which point of view, of course the Indians are corrupt because they are immoral people, because they are held in the sway of Satan. Versus people who have been saved by Christianity. Right? So, these are the kind of early places where you look at where corrupt word is coming from. This is where it comes from. Now if you look at what happens today. I’ll give you a simple example. So let us say, a few, couple of decades ago there was a fixed telephone lines were a big thing. So there was a problem with your telephone line, then you couldn’t get it fixed, so you called this guy, and this guy expected some service charge, which was not in the regular suvidha shulk. Bhakshish, to fix your telephone line. So now the problem is, obviously this is corruption, because he is, this is not supposed to be done according to law. But if you look at it in another way, is this person going to take your money and run with it, or is he going to fix it after he takes your money? Is he going to deliver on that contract when you pay him the money, is he going to deliver the good? He is going to deliver it right? Balki agar wo nahi karega to you have the right that you are going to scold him. Arre kaam to kiya nahin. And he’s also going to feel bad. If he is feeling bad, because he doesn’t do the work means he is not an immoral person. Right, he is actually a moral person. So if he not a immoral person, then what is the corruption? The corruption is the corruption of the state, What does that mean? The state has created a system by which it doesn’t have any of the characteristics of a healthy functioning system. What are the characteristics of a healthy functioning system? Healthy functioning system has accountability, healthy functioning system has pay for performance, if somebody doesn’t work they shouldn’t get paid, if somebody does work they should get paid . Healthy functioning system has customer service. If customer is asking something. The colonial system has none of these attributes. So what the Indians have done is, they have made a parallel system, that restores some of the functioning attributes, that the colonial system is missing, which includes customer service. I am giving this guy a “bribe”, but he is going to do my job. It includes reward for performance. This officer who, this worker who doesn’t do anything, and the worker who does something there is going to be a differential. I am not talking about your big corruption, like this scams, you know, this helicopter scam and all this defense corruption, not that. I am talking about very ordinary situation very ordinary people. So the ordinary people have created a parallel system which is a functioning system for them just to get around this colonial system which does not work for them. Does not work for them in any way whatsoever.
And the same thing is where this informal economy comes from. Now we keep complaining why is India having such a big informal economy. 80% of the employment today is being generated in the informal economy. Now what is this informal economy? Informal economy exists by somehow avoiding the colonial state as much as possible. Because the colonial state is very difficult to deal with. Registering a company is a nightmare. I have gone through it in the last couple of years, started Garuda Prakashan. Just you know, since I started startups in the US, I got a very good sense of what does it take to do a startup in the US versus what does it take to do in India. And this is despite the government’s efforts to so called ease of business and all this stuff. It is still a nightmare in comparison. So, this is me, who is like an elite member of society, who is an English speaking member of the society, and I find it like, arre I have to bang my head against the walls. Stupid requirements, Get the electricity bill, do this, do that, provide location proof, provide this contract, submit this…do we need all these? In the US I can literally go online, get a certificate of cooperation in line with in an hour I have it. Next day I can open a bank account and just take the number there and it’s done! Nothing of this is involved. So, what is the informal economy? Informal economy is the economy that tries to avoid the state as much as possible. Right. So, this mandi can exist, aur us mandi ke andar bhi state aa gaya hai, lekin, the road side vendor can exist. Usne kahi se goods le liya hai, wo road side ke upar aake bech raha hai. Koi kisi keg ghar me jake kaam kar leta hai. Uske liye koi paper work ki zaroorat nahi hai, koi employment ki zaroorat nahi hai, koi angrezi samajh ne ki zaroorat nahi hai, aap jake kisi ka kaam kar lo, apko paise mil jaate hain. So, 80% of the economy is existing like that. 80% of the employment is existing like that. And it is a direct effect of the colonial state. And now you say, no no, we are going to drag everybody into the formal economy, but you’re not going to fix the colonial state. So, like for instance GST is trying to do. Right, you have created this system, and GST is the only. You say, no no, we have IT enabled it, so it has become very easy. So, of course now the road side vendor is going to be IT enabled, and everything. They’re going to do all this using IT. English only IT by the way. GST only operates in English. So, and then you are saying, no no, we are making a lot of progress, we are bringing people into the formal economy. Unless you dismantle the colonial state, trying to bring people in the formal economy is actually oppressing them even more. Because the only reason they are on the informal economy is this, you cannot deal with it. You cannot deal with the court system, you cannot deal with the administration, you cannot deal with the Police, you cannot deal with any of these arms of the state as an ordinary person of India. Right, it is an oppressive system. So, we cannot really say that we want to create a system which is going to function for the people, bring people into the formal economy. Some people you know, I was tweeting about this, no no no, I know about this businessman, he is selling Pakodas, he is got a big house. You know, he is not paying any tax, I am a salaried person paying tax. But I mean the fact of the matter is, main apne CA se baat kar raha tha, Haryana main. I was talking to a CA who said a villager had come and took more than one. He spent one week in registering his company, he could not understand the English form. He then left saying his work is going fine and will continue. So, now you say, no no, we are going to, this is all black money, we are going to take. In fact, what I say is, the black money by the business community to some extent, especially during British times, and since we know this is a continuation of it, is to say the state is not mine. I do not want to give the state tax. Because say the state is not mine. It is not functioned for me. So, this idea that this is a moral responsibility to pay tax to an immoral state, is a problem. So, we cannot, if we try to fix it simply by looking at the enforcement problem. Then we are missing out the fact that the state is not servicing my needs. So, much more the idea should be around the state servicing needs rather than the state imposing requirements on me.
And one of the most important aspects of that, and we’ll start, I don’t have too much time here to talk about solutions, but one of the most important solutions is radical decentralization of state. And again I’ll give you one example from the US. I was starting this example with saying, ki wo jo police ka tha, officer, wo aaya, usne mujko report deke chala gaya. Now, that police officer reports to a sergeant, who reports to the chief of police, who reports to the mayor of Redmond. That is the end of chain of command. There is no state level Police structure. There is no hierarchy that goes all the way up to the state. And Indian states are so big if you think about the number of people. There is no hierarchy like that whatsoever. It is in that city, the police is there, the fire people are there, the mayor is there, mayor gets elected by the people. So the accountability loop is very small. I was talking to a senior bureaucrat in Rajasthan, People say we have power but the right to transfer a peon comes from the chief minister. What does that mean? It means that, everything is so highly centralized, that you need to, somebody you need to have a pull at that high level, to get anything to move. You have to create some pull for your transfer, because the state can transfer you anywhere, you know and you can. So, the entire structure because it is set up like this, because the colonial state needs to centralize power, right, it is constantly doing that and, to me that is a very undemocratic way because the longer the accountability loop, the more the corruption is going to be natural. Because, corruption says, I will give you money, you do my work. Accountability and delivery is instantaneous. It’s right there. Right. But the bigger this loop of accountability, the more “corruption” is going to happen. The corruption is not an attribute of the morality of the Indian people. Corruption is an attribute of the colonial state. Where, whatever the state touches, it corrupts. Whatever the state touches, it’ll corrupt. So similarly when the private enterprise come in, you know so I was giving the guy who comes in and fixes your telephone, and of course later on it gets privatized, and now you don’t need to give a bribe to the Airtel guy. You know. Because, so did the morality of the people change? No. The system changed. So, this is what we have to constantly look at. The problem is systematic. Same thing happens in education. For instance in the US, there is a school district that manages the schools. In big cities, there might be multiple school districts, or in very small cities, one school district might cover those. School district is directly elected by the people. Right, and they have complete control over education budgets, and the budget is also directly coming from the property taxes of the people who are living in that area. Again, there is no state level bureaucracy, there is no, are iska transfer us gaon me kar diya, wo waha se ye kar diya, nothing like that. Agar gaon ka school hain to usike, around that people will elect. What happens to that is, that, 95% of the children in the US study in a government school. 95% of the children in the US study in a government school. And those are the most highly funded. And the best schools. In fact, the only, most of the remaining 5% are people who want very religious education, so some Christian schools are there. Other than that the private schools are very minimal. So, you have a well-functioning public schooling system, and the way it works is through radical decentralization and very close, small accountability loops. Now the question is, who’s going to bell the cat. Is the bureaucracy going to let go of its power, are the politicians going to let go of this power? Of course not. Right, because, you can propose the radical decentralization, but it’s not going to happen till there is enormous awareness and people start to say we need to change the system fundamentally. Right, so that is one very important aspect.
One of the other important things is, the traditional Indian system was also radically decentralized. The Indian state never had this much power. In fact, the state today has more power than any Indian state ever had. Whether, even in Mughal times it didn’t have, but in the traditional Hindu kings, they never had this much power. The power was always with you know, the village communities, the jaati communities, the jan sabhas, so many different levels of power, and some little bit of power is delegated to the king. You manage this. Even land records were being maintained through private entities. There is a jaati that maintains land records, and because their entire profession depends on their integrity, therefore, high integrity is ensured in the maintenance of the land records. So, India has never been a big government state. So, it’s not a borrowed idea like you know, sort of right and left of the US, they are arguing for small government or a big government. We’re saying, look at how traditional Indian systems worked. They were much more rooted in the soil, and they were much more functionally efficient.
So, so fat I’ve been, it’s interesting you know, my daughter actually is here, Anupriya from the US, and you know one time, you know I’ve been a critiquing a lot of times, I criticize the west, and people know of my work, you know, I’ve many good things to say about Indian society, Sometimes they’re asking like, have you written as article about the good things in American system. So in some senses, this argument, so far my talk is about that, is about how well functioning from a system point of view, from the government point of view, the US system is, and as I have said, ironically it is the same English people who established it there. But that was for themselves. Here it was to rule over the natives. But then we have to see the flip side. So, what is the strength of Indian society? Clearly the colonial state is a weakness. It is not a strength; it is a problem. The strength of India is the exact opposite as to what the colonial state wants to fix. The colonial state wants to fix society. But society is our strength. Our civilization, our society, our culture is the strength. This is what the colonial state wants to fix. And the colonial state is the problem. So rather than the colonial state civilizing the natives, it’s time that the natives start civilizing the colonial state. We have to fix that. So, for instance, if I look at society from American point of view, and I’ve studied society quite a bit there. Still, the Indian society has a normal strength despite all the problems that have happened, despite colonialism, that American society doesn’t. You know I was talking to a very close friend of mine. In fact, I made a video of it later on. And she has spent some time in India also. And she says that, it is so incredible the relationships you are experiencing in India, even with strangers, and I see the relationships with the family, where people are supporting each other, people are holding each other. And I find that this is, you know the only relationship that is there in the US is the romantic relationship, and if it’s not there, you’re nobody. You know, so you’re desperate that you have to be in a romantic relationship. Otherwise, you don’t have really anybody. So, this is one comment she’s made. And there’s a lot of isolation, and you know, it’s said, one in six Americans are on psychiatric medications. Imagine, a sixth of society is actually taking psychiatric medications. This is the society we are trying to copy, while the state we are not fixing. Right, we are doing the exact opposite. The state is trying to make us copy that society. The popular media, the academia, is trying to say, no no, we will progress because our society is backward. We need to fix our society, we need to be like them. So that means we need to improve ourselves so that one in six at least are psychiatric medications. We need to improve ourselves so that, I wrote an article, “is rape rate a development indicator?” Now we have noticed that, there is a lot of talk about rape, and rape has been increasing over the last 20 years. So, if it’s increasing, is it because more ’modernity’ is increasing, or is it because ‘tradition’ is increasing? Obviously, we are importing a certain value system. So we are not developed. We only have rape rate of 1.8 versus 27, which is the US one. So, we have to increase it by about 20 times, to become a developed country. So, these are the, why don’t we look at these as development indicators? If we follow that model of development, which is where society is following that, then the crime rate has to jump, you know the number of police per thousand has to jump. US has the maximum number of people in prison in any other country in the world. Almost 1% of the population is in prison. So many police has to be kept to keep law and order. Yaha pe to kitne saare gaon hain, koi police officer hain hi nahi aas paas main. How is it functioning? There is “no law”. There is no police. It is functioning within society. So, what we have is, to replicate that society, replicate to state means, we have to replicate all those structures into this oppressive colonial state. And then all those social problems, the more the social problems arise, like for example rape is increasing, the more we will blame, it is because of traditional society. Right, rather than looking at what is the, what is changing. Because if something is increasing, you have to look what else is increasing. Right, what else is changing in the society, that is causing something to happen. So, some things to look at. And then what does the colonial state do? It is on a constant job to civilize the natives. It never gave up that agenda. And so, you have the, you know, tribal youth in Kerala, in Tamilnadu, I just read this news item, they are being thrown into jails under the POCSO act, for rape. Why? Because, a 17 year old tribal girl married an 18 year old tribal boy, they have a family, both their family has approved, they are happily living. But under Indian laws, this is rape! So, what do you do is, the wife is crying, she has an infant son, but you have taken the husband and you have thrown them into jail. Because the NGOs have now found out. Now the NGO systems are not only creating these laws, they are making sure they are getting enforced also. So, they report to the police, that this has happened, this marriage has happened, now you throw them in jail. Right, and this is how we want to fix them. So much energy, of course in the US, there are still states where still, 13 is the age of marriage. And, the fact is that, and the only thing that’s required is parental consent. Of course in India, parents can’t consent because parents are backward, and they need to be civilized. So, parental consent has no value whatsoever. Right, because the state’s view of the natives is that we need to fix them, and we need to civilize them. And so it does, I would consider this, and this is not just one youth, there are hundreds of youth like this, now being put into prison! Just for, I mean, they are peacefully living in the forests. They have nothing to do with the colonial state. Right, they are following their culture, now the colonial state comes and throws them into jail because you’ve violated a law that somebody in Delhi made. And, similarly, I think is the Sabarimala case is also same thing. Some court sitting in Delhi. Is not in touch with the ground. Has not asked the people what they want. Somebody does a PIL, they might be getting funding from some foreign agencies, they do a PIL. And the court issues a diktat, this is, we have decreed, that this shall happen. There is no poll, there is no survey, there is no asking the people, for what they care about.
So, we really have to ask the question, ”is this Independence?” Are we independent? What is the meaning of Independence. Are these our doctrines? So there is no independence. So there is a need to start an independence struggle. And that is Independence from this colonial state, that is a accretion, it’s like somebody is sitting on top of our entire civilization, a state which is in conflict with its civilization. Normally a state would be a continuous of, continuation of our civilization, will represent our civilization, would represent the people. But the state is in fundamental conflict with this civilization. And that is what we have to change. One idea, there are many ideas, this time I haven’t talked about solutions in this talk. One is this, “right to legislate”, which you know, many countries have in the sense of people’s ballot initiatives. Like, in Washington state in the US, I can create an initiative, somebody can create an initiative, and once you have certain number of signatures, that goes on the ballot, the entire people, the citizens of the state of Washington will vote for or against it. And if it gets voted for, then the legislature is bound to act on it. So again we are restoring power back to the people. Same thing happened in India, jury trials were taken out, jury trials used to happen. Because, anything that would return the power from the institutions of the state to the people, need to be removed. “Right to legislate” and “right to adjudicate” has to return back to the people. And, the way, you know, ballot initiatives, referendum. Why is it that the Sabarimala issue cannot be decided on a referendum? Let people decide. We know what the answer is going to be. Right. For so many of these things. So right now you descend into the village, say, no no, you are oppressing, you are doing, two teenagers have gotten married, now we’re going to throw you into jail. So the, everywhere the relationship, and one of the things that happens is, some of the Maoists, or even some of the Kashmiri issues, other things, some of them are rebelling against an oppression of the colonial state. What they don’t realize is that the colonial state is oppressing everybody. It’s not that it is just oppressing Kashmiris, or it is just oppressing people in the North-east, or just oppressing Maoists, it is oppressing everybody. Because a small select set of people are making the laws, and the discussion happens in a very small elite circle, and then it gets passed. So the more the rights return to the people, the more decentralized we have, those are the directions of the solutions. Of course, the solutions have to come from everybody thinking about it, and figure it out. But, the directionality is that, how do we return the power back to the people, and away from the state, which is not our state at all. Thank you. Thank you very much.