Today is the 60th anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan. You cant move the radio dial or turn on the television without seeing something which celebrates or discusses this event.
The BBC has gone a bit over board with the whole Indo/Pak thing I feel. A whole series of programmes with the comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar and Saira Khan, the failed “Apprentice” candidate from the television programme of the same name. And all their radio stations have at least one programme a day on this subject.
The reality is that that is the bloodiest chapter in the history of the Sub-Continent. Millions were butchered in the name of religion and the formation of a religious “homeland”. People who lived together for centuries in harmony, were urged by the leaders to separate in the name of their religion. Families were separated and friendships broken. Some who were a bit older , never came back or met up with the people they have left back in India ,as for decades after the partition there was free no movement or trade between the two countries. It was not possible to get a visa to go back. It still is not easy. Suspicion and mistrust exsists between the two countries.
The British people have a great interest in India and all things of that country. There is a whole generation of people who remember their time spent there with affection.
Then there is the cuisine. You cant go to any city or town in the UK, without countering at least two Indian restaurants. The colourful clothes and the recent appearance of the Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty ,who was beautiful and came across as a patient and dignified woman ,and was compared unfavourably with the other contestant Jade Goodey. Who was not sophisticated or has had the training to be on show all the time and behave accordingly, as an actress and media orientated Bollywood actress has.
This love affair of the British people has prompted the media in this country to concentrate on everything Indian. As long as everything is seen and shown in rosy tints, everyone is happy. Dare they say something which is not sugar coated they are labelled as racists. So the media has to pussy foot around and not talk about the shortcomings.They get lyrical about the broadbands and the mobile phones.And the growth of call centeres.
They reality is that there is the un-resolved issue of Kashmir, both India and Pakistan lay claim to that part of the world. An atmosphere of distrust and suspicion exists between those two countries and they posses weapons of mass destruction, in their nuclear capacity.
As big a threat to the world,if not bigger than North Korea and Iran. But the west does lots of bussines with it and the issue of the nuclear threat is never mentioned.It can be argued that India is a democracy and the other two are not,but with a population of nearly one and half billion,most of whom are un-educated and dont understand the democratic process, who can say how much of a democracy it is?
There are religious riots and killings on most major religious festivals, and corruption and poverty is rife. 46% of children are mal-nourished and there is no provision of health or education for the poor. The cities are progressing with high rise buildings and gated communities for the rich, but 80% of the population lives in the villages without provision of proper sanitation or safe drinking water.
So let us call a spade by its proper name! Yes India has made great progress ,but in selected areas only. Internet technology and trade have propelled the economy.
But millions of its villages are still without the basic amenities, the civilised world takes for granted. Corruption and religious tensions are rife, and sexual and cast discrimination is part of every day life.
Those of us who can look from outside in, can see the real face of the country and the blemishes. The poor western media is handicapped ,they cant tell everything as it is. They will be branded racist and their effigy will be burnt.
The truth is that India has just started on the right path but has a very long way to go.