Twenty years, still relevant…

This is a reprint of a write up contributed by Cyril to Himal, 1995, Jan-Feb edition – full five years before formation of Uttarakhand state. Almost twenty years from now. And the one question which looms large, as the reader goes through it – Has anything changed? (Thanks Aditi for finding it!)

Manisha Aryal’s “Angry Hills: An Uttarakhand State of Mind” (Nov/Dec 1994) should be accepted in Dev Bhoomi as a good chronology of our loss of innocence, laced as it has been with the deadly ingredients of government intransigence and ambivalence, peddled propaganda, rumour­mongering, damaging exaggerations, opportunistic leaders, irresponsible press, puffed-up egos, haywire priorities, and ill-considered demands. The good and gently brave people of these hills have been deflowered.

In many ways, we only have ourselves to blame for being so poorly informed about the world around us today, and for not knowing how to participate in it. Of course, we hope that history-will not judge us too harshly, but will consider that by our very nature, we mountain people are hermits—aloof as are our peaks from the rush and tumble of life down there! One cannot be blamed for believing that, somehow, we are untouched by travails of the cut and thrust of today’s society.

All of this now seems to have changed, and the silver lining to the apparently dark cloud of the past few tumultuous months in Dev Bhoomi is a growing pragmatism—god willing!

Instead of the unplanned, angry and single-point agenda of a demand for statehood, which saw us led like lambs to slaughter, people everywhere in Dev Bhoomi have begun to sit down to explore what we ‘know’ we want—economically and culturally. In the larger scheme of affairs, the Dev Bhoomi may be geographically too small to counter overriding interests and concerns of the Uttar Pradesh State and Centre, but the emotional and spiritual support it has throughout the Subcontinent can give it a clout that could surprise many a Goliath!

A dominant and spontaneous theme of the agitation has been the total rejection of current political leadership and a disenchantment, expressed vociferously by the young, of the goals and values of the sort of progress they stand for.

In the process of getting to know what kind of Dev Bhoomi we want (and currently there is a great deal of introspection going on), it is just possible that this ‘Abode of the Gods’ may lead the way—inspiring the rest of the apathetic national policy to think and act for themselves in partnership with the leaders of the country.

The UP hills, historically famous for not taking things lying down, could usher in an era of genuine participation all over the country.
It isn’t time to be fooled anymore by the politics of subsidies. It is time to move away from the economics of welfare towards the economics of empowerment. The UP hills will not be interested in accepting truncated sops to ‘bachao’ its ‘izzat’. They will speak and negotiate through a group of representatives (recently agreed upon at a meeting in Kausani, Almora) with earthy wisdom which appreciates the constraints of its tormentors. We will demonstrate that the andolan in this pristine, last-bastion of peace and good neighbourliness is not just another fanatic effort of a region trying to splinter the nation asunder, but is rather a movement of sincere nationalism designed to achieve the goals of equity and justice in a world that has for too long forgotten what such a concept means anymore.

Cyril R. Raphael

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