Who or what is a "courage" or "risk", Mr. PM?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claims that "strong and inclusive growth" of India's economy is possible, but requires "courage and some risks" - referring, of course, to FDI in retail. It should not be a surprise if the words of the Prime Minister in this context appear to echo those of the chief executive officer (CEO) of a commercial venture. But then, it is not altogether wrong if one considers the Prime Minister of India that. After all, the Prime Minister is the de-facto head of the executive, and the Indian nation, like all nations, is a commercial venture.

Now, the difference between other nations and the Indian nation is that the souls in the latter are very diverse in their ability to venture commercially. In fact, entire linguistic peoples in India possess none of it. The Kannadigas, who are a nation by themselves going by the universally accepted definition of the word, have not had much to contribute to this whole venturing thing, commercial or otherwise, from a few centuries, if only because there is more to life than it. There are no great Kannadiga commercial ventures to write home about; nor have the Kannadigas had much opportunity to write anything home in the first place. Home is where the Kannadigas have always lived; the English word 'travel' has no native Kannada equivalent. So much about the great Kannadiga venturer and his ability to display "courage and some risks" in the new battlefield into which the Prime Minister wishes to draw the Kannadigas.

Even history tells us, if we care to listen, that the very concept of a vaishya - the businessman varna - is missing from Karnataka in particular and South India in general. This varna has, however, been very much present and very much active in North India. When India was not a nation, i.e., when it had not yet incorporated itself as a commercial venture, this difference mattered little, for the vaishyas of the North largely stayed put there. But consequent to the disaster, these vaishyas have had an entire nation to wander into and graze, including Karnataka, without caring so much as two hoots for the language or culture of this state which are, among other things, vaishya-less. The British came close to creating a Tamil version of the vaishya by establishing the so-called Madras Presidency. But this is, however, not vaishya enough from northern standards because of its sheer infancy and inexperience, if not because of its racial composition.

But pity the Kannadigas that even the British did not think it opportune to set up a Bangalore Presidency so that they could have basked in its splendor! While it is too late to blame Fate for this historical injustice, it is imprudent to forget the lack of venturing ability of the Kannadigas. This shortcoming, of course, is opportunity for the northerners. A vaishya-less Karnataka is an unguarded field for the true vaishya, true in all senses of the term. They have already come grazing, and there is not a little that they have already taken from Karnataka. There are not a few hurdles, either, that they have created for the Kannadigas as a people to cross before they can claim any reasonable claim to possessing a vaishya varna.

Now, with the coming of FDI in retail, northern grazers will come to possess the added force that comes with foreign investment. The foreign investors are not going to wait until a Kannadiga version of the vaishya emerges - something that hasn't in the last few millennia. No, they want profits in the next quarter. Therefore, it is a given that they are going to place their bet on the vaishyas that are already there, alive, and kicking, and migrating, complete with a word for 'travel' in their language, and whose race has been known for migrating southwards from the known beginning of Indian history. That is, they are going to shake hands with the northern vaishyas most, and at most the Tamil vaishyas of the lesser Cosmic Being. The Kannadigas, as usual, will be left to do their usual shudra jobs of keeping everything spic and span, nice and tidy.

So much for strong and inclusive growth, Mr. Prime Minister. We'd like to opt out, sir, because the growth may be strong, but it can never be inclusive - we Kannadigas need some time to get included. I only hope you have not already excluded Kannadigas from this whole existence thing.

FDI in retail and a not-so-small detail

Get on to any news channel debating about FDI in retail, and one point makes itself stand out if you’re a discerning Kannadiga. And that is: the entire debate is conducted in such a way and by such people that we Kannadigas are not even part of it.

We are not even deemed necessary in a debate whose pre-decided outcome—viz., the ‘coming’—is going to decide our existence on the planet. This is the how genocide works: it starts by denying any effective role to the victims in what matters to them, i.e., by removing them from the scene. Kannadiga Removal - akin to (Red) Indian Removal during the European colonization of the Americas - cannot but be lucrative to those waiting to come to Karnataka for much needed room. The colonizer always fantasizes about empty colonies which his ilk can milk. Until the last native is removed, he even speaks of his unyielding concern for them.

One may find some solace in the fact that the final call on FDI in retail is to be taken by the State Govt. and that the BJP, which heads it, is opposed to the move. But such is the depth of political insignificance to which we Kannadigas have allowed ourselves to sink in India that it will be na├»ve for Kannadigas to claim authorship of this opposition. Its authors are the Nitin Gadkaris, the L. K. Advanis and Narendra Modis with our own B. S. Yeddyurappas and Jagadish Shettars nodding their heads in silent reverence and cultivated awe at everything authored by them. But what we are not the authors of, we cannot expect constant benevolence from. Therefore, in the ultimate analysis, Kannadigas do not have the power to stop the BJP from changing its stance when it appears politically lucrative—which it will appear, going by the definition of politically lucrative, very soon.

The Congress government at the Centre is selling FDI in retail as an employment scheme. That it sure is, but for whom? For the more populous and more closely packed North Indians, who else? And where are they going to be employed? All over India! Retail outlets in Karnataka’s cities are already teeming with them; they’re even found blatantly refusing customer service in Kannada. We Kannadigas are not even being requested to martyr ourselves to employ the northerners; it is assumed that we possess the ‘good nature’ to lay down our lives for what is being described as the ‘national interest’. “You’re good boys and good girls,” we’re told, “so be good Indians and make way for your brethren from the North.” Anyone who has dug deep into Karnataka’s history realizes that not a few centuries have elapsed with us making way for the northerners in every field imaginable. So much so, that there must arise no doubt in the mind of the discerning thinker that an Aryan Migration to Karnataka is happening right under our noses.

It is prudent, on the whole, for the Kannadigas to recognize that the BJP cannot be expected to uphold their interests when push comes to shove and a politically meaningful decision has to be made about FDI in retail. The Congress has already let us down. In India, political advantage to the so-called national parties comes from placing North Indians at an advantage. And the overall scheme of things is such that this advantage cannot come but at the disadvantage of politically insignificant peoples like the Kannadigas. It is high time the Kannadigas make themselves politically significant at the all-India level. And how is this to be achieved, save by indulging in a process which draws quite some bad press today—the so-called politicization of the Kannadiga identity? And how is this process to be made possible, if not by staying away from both the BJP and the Congress?

(Pic: http://www.outlookindia.com)