Probably, some people find my optimism for Indian government’s pandemic response to be irrational. After all, I have consistently said in the past that the economic mismanagement and a systematic effort to harm the social solidarity of this country will be an unforgivable legacy of this government unless we course correct. I do not trust leaders and governments. But, I trust India.
I guess I see this country differently from most people. For “scholars”, a country is a group of individuals bounded together by a social contract. In that view, India is just another country, yet another mass of people - and a poor, low human development index one. But that’s not how I see India. I see it as a Kumbh, the biggest and the most exceptional Kumbh that exists on the planet. It has a spiritual core that binds the most diverse, heretic and opposing people, in one single strand. No other country has such tremendous capacity for diversity. You won’t find communists winning elections in the USA or UK. The population of religious minorities has not reached even double digits and Europeans are already voting for far right groups. India is different. People have tried to plunder this land for centuries and yet it remains. The Vedas remain. The Buddha remains. The Sufis remain. They need no protection, and hence whatever comes to this country is transformed by their insight, in very subtle ways. Even the plunderer becomes a part of the giant stream. The river moves on, cleansing, assimilating through her grace unconditionally. It is a strange country in that way, because few other cultures can understand how Rama can pray to Ravana after the end of the war. How could Rama request Lakshma to learn the great wisdom of the Lanka King, as Ravana dies. It is strange when you think about it. Ravana is reverred in India not only by heretics, but by Rama himself. That’s why India is a Kumbh. Heresy isn‘t just tolerated, it is welcomed, and it is being welcomed for thousands of years.
The fact that India is more like a Kumbh than a country - as scholars define it - is critical for understanding India’s epidemic response. The Kumbh has no leader. It is a motley, a fair, a circus. It has both fairness and unfairness, it is raw, like an anarchy. Same is true for India. India does not rely on leaders, it never has and probably that is why India is the only true and living example of an anarchic society. It is an interesting fact that Mahatma Gandhi was an anarchist himself, he believed in Swaraj - rule of the self - and was skeptical of government. He thought “Kingdom of God is within you” inspired by Tolstoy. That is also the stance of Indian tradition. It is anarchic in nature. No final authority. It is also diametrically opposite to the modern communist Chinese way of top-down control. Yet India being an anarchy, also has a sense of the crowd. The crowd comes together when it needs to. The government is helpless if the crowd doesn’t want it. Indians rebel not once in a century but everyday. They can not be preached. Heresy is the way of this country, and we need more of it.
India is a mission based, not a system based society. When Indians have a mission, they get things done. When we had the mission of independence, we came together and boycotted the British in one call of Gandhi in 1942. That day, the British rulers had known already that the Empire was gone, because Indians, while fighting valorously for the British in the WW2, had already gained their freedom in their mind and in their actions. Indians had gratitude for the British too, we learnt a lot of things from them, and the river assimilated our plunderers and moved on. When India emerged as a democracy, many wondered if this was temporary. Indira Gandhi’s emergency should have been the death knell on it. Yet Indians got a mission, turned into street marching heretics the next day, and she was kicked out. Democracy was restored. Today, as we fight the coronavirus epidemic, once againt Indians have a mission. Other countries, (except China which locked down draconially), are having a tough time imposing the lockdown. Yet, India with one of the weakest systems of policing and crowd control, is doing it better, because once again Indians have a common mission. Probably the lack of system helps, because Indians know that if we fail in our mission, what we face is doomsday. It keeps us alert, mission oriented. And what is beautiful about this sense of mission of Indians is that it takes everyone along. It is not discriminatory. This land is for all who live here, and who are born here. There is no authority that can provide a precedence on who can call India her home. On that note, those who believe that a piece of citizenship law written in 1986 or 2003 has the power take the jus soli birthright of Indian citizenship, may you wake up soon. This country does not heed to pieces of paper, or proclaimations of leaders and priests. India is a Kumbh, an anarchy, bounded by a collective sense of responsibility, a natural respect for nature. The law that holds this land is deeper than any law proclaimed by man, or group of men.