Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's pep talks to the civil servants to work hard and honestly is of no avail. The most contaminated lot is that of civil servants. They have lost the awareness of what is right and do not realise what is wrong. On the other hand, people are finding the dividing line between right and wrong, moral and immoral, sinking in the sands of opportunism and oppression. They are confused. No wonder, they are taken in by promises of a demagogue, or the gun shown by the so-called deliverer. The Economist, an influential weekly from London, recently ran a cover-page story to point out that the 100-million-strong civil servants in India are the biggest barrier in the way of faster growth and equitable distribution. The ethical considerations which once guided public servants have been generally dim and in many cases beyond their mental grasp. The desire for self-preservation has become the sole motivation for their actions and behaviour. Political parties still do not realise that an appeal to violence is dangerous because of its inherent disruptive character. We have too many fissiparous tendencies to risk the use of force. Violence, even otherwise, produces an atmosphere of conflict and disruption. It is absurd to imagine that out of the conflict the socially progressive forces will win, as the Left in India tends to believe. In Germany, both the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party were swept away by Hitler. India may face this danger because of its diversities. The consensus, the corner stone of democracy, has become so difficult that even simple proposition cannot get parliament's unanimous approval. The escalating violence in the country is frightening. Still more frightening is the shape it is taking. Somewhere it has turned communal, somewhere regional and somewhere ideological. Whatever the direction, it indicates a trend where the rule of law is lessening and where the use of force is gaining legitimacy. So wide is the compass of violence - from Kashmir to Kerala, Gujarat to Kolkata, Guwahati to Imphal - apart from individual killings that the tainted security forces cannot provide an answer. In fact, a thana is no more a police station. It represents a centre of excesses. Can an ordinary person go there and expect even a fair treatment, much less a fair trial? Still Home Minister Shivraj Patil announced the raising of more battalions as if force can solve all problems. It is obvious that certain issues have been awaiting serious tackling for a long time. By letting them fester is not going to help. The nation is a witness to this for years. Some basic decisions have to be taken to sort them out. This is not peculiar to India. The entire region suffers from this malady. Problems are allowed to pile up. Then comes the time when the governments - and people - begin to live with them because touching the status quo is considered disturbing the hornet's nest. Yet another layer of delay is laid over the problem. India has a National Integration Council, drawing members from political parties, including the regional ones, the chief ministers and some intellectuals. Jawaharlal Nehru created it. I imagined Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have convened its meeting, particular when it has not met for years. It could have discussed eruptions or mini-mutinies going on here and there, with a view to adopting some ground rules in the spirit of consensus. Parties should not at least stoke the fires if they cannot douse them. Instead, I find some parties arming their cadre for jumping into the fray to make space for themselves. The naxalites, however misdirected, are at least open and say that they do not believe in the ballot box. Their trail is marked by blood and it is visible. But what is disconcerting is that others who avow faith in the parliamentary system are equally violent when it comes to their own interest. They may well sing the song of democracy, but they are behind none in resorting to the worst type of methods to achieve their ends. Take UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh or even West Bengal: little do they realise the harm they are causing to India's parliamentary system, the very strength of the country. Had they been carrying out their exercise in some hideouts, they would not have harmed the society. Their doings are having ominous fallout. The public is beginning to equate violence with the democratic system. The confidence in order is turning into cynicism. Indeed, the machinery to enforce law has become an instrument of tyranny in the hands of rulers. The opponents know it to their cost. The worse is that the security forces stage false encounters to eliminate the opponents and trump up cases to justify the killings. Whether it is a single party government or a coalition, the methods are no different. Yet, there is inherent unity which marvels foreigners and even Indians. I recall that when I was India's High Commissioner at London, the Soviet Union was tottering. Margaret Thatcher, then the British prime minister, told me about the advice she had tendered to Moscow: Learn from the example of India which had stayed together for hundreds of years despite people professing different religions, following different castes and speaking different languages. She asked me what I attributed it to. It took me some time to explain to her that we in India did not divide things into black and white. We believed there was a grey area which we have been expanding for decades. That represented India's pluralism. Seventeen years later I feel what I told Mrs Thatcher is changing perceptibly. The spirit of tolerance or the sense of accommodation providing glue to our integration is drying up. Such parties which are trying to deny or defeat the ethos of secularism are harming the country's unity and catholicity. They have their own agenda and want to pursue it even at the expense of nation's togetherness. India can disintegrate like the Soviet Union if the nation does not awaken to the dangers of conflict and clash. Political parties should not only eschew violence but also the language of violence which instils division and hatred. The situation is too disconcerting to be left alone. Take Gujarat. There is still no repentance in the state. Madhya Pradesh government takes back cases of violence against the RSS men. However, the respect for the Supreme Court of India goes up when it sets up a committee headed by the retired, respected police officials to look into the cases in Gujarat where there was no adequate probe to identify the guilty. I wish that political parties like the BJP would appreciate India's ethos of pluralism because law courts cannot go beyond a point. 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