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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 23 New Delhi May 25, 2019

"Indian Democracy: Long Dead, Now Buried”

Sunday 26 May 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen

The eminent historian, Ranajit Guha, summed up the precarious state of Indian democracy during the Emergency, beginning since the early hours of June 26, 1975, in his text published with the above title. He wrote: “...it will be fair to conclude that democracy in India has long been dead, if it was ever alive at all...The corpse, however, might revive, rise from its grave and walk our parched plains and dusty streets yet again.”

In his deliberation on May 13, 2019, in a convention on “Right to Protest” held in Kolkata, the noted political theorist, Partha Chatterjee, reminded us why subversion of democracy at present is more dangerous than at the time of the Emergency. He argued that now the state onslaught on human/civil rights activists and political opponents is accompanied by multiple forms of violence engineered by non-state actors/forces. Coincidentally, what happened in Kolkata on May 14, 2019, bears testimony to Partha Chatterjee’s political observation on the contemporary subversion of democracy.

On the occasion of BJP President Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata (May 14), the BJP supporters were heard shouting slogans like Jai Shri Ram and Narendra Modi Zindabad. Some people dressed as Lord Ram and Hanuman were also seen walking in the heart of Kolkata as part of the roadshow. Reportedly, violence broke out after BJP supporters clashed with Calcutta University students, allegedly supporters of the Trinamul Congress, who were showing black flags and shouting “Amit Shah go back” slogans, when Shah’s decorated convoy was passing by the College Street campus of the University in central Kolkata. Angered by the protest, the BJP supporters rushed towards the protesting students, broke barricades put up by the police, tried to enter the University campus and threw water bottles, bricks, stones and sticks at the protesters. The violence spread to the nearby Vidyasagar College. Stone-pelting incidents took place near the college. The BJP supporters set motorcycles parked outside the college on fire. The college campus was ransacked and the statue of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, the legendary social reformer and educationist in 19th century Bengal, was vandalised.

The street power exercised by the BJP supporters on the occasion of the party President’s roadshow in Kolkata matches with the raw state power being exercised by the party all over India to silence its opponents and human/civil rights activists.

Let us hope that that the corpse of democracy “might revive, rise from its grave and walk our parched plains and dusty streets yet again”.

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