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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 6, New Delhi, January 25, 2020 - Republic Day Special

Mass Resistance to Majoritarian Onslaught

Monday 27 January 2020, by SC

As we approach the seventieth anniversary of the declaration of the Indian Republic on January 26, our thoughts go back to the words of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in his message to the nation on our first Republic Day on January 26, 1950.

On that day, Nehru had observed:

“There is a peculiar appropriateness about this January 26, for this day links up the past with the present and this present is seen to grow out of that past. Twenty years ago we took the first pledge of independence. During these twenty years we have known struggle and conflict and failure and achievement. The man who led us through apparent failure to achievement is no more with us but the fruit of his labours is ours. What we do with this fruit depends upon many factors, the basic factors being those on which Gandhiji laid stress throughout his career—high character, integrity of mind and purpose, a spirit of tolerance and co-operation and hard work. I can only suggest to our people that we should found our republican freedom on these basic characteristics and shed fear and hatred from our minds and think always of the betterment of the millions of our people.”

A year ago it was written in these columns:

“Today large sections of our people are in the grip of both fear and hatred sown by our current rulers in the mind of the people. Those who came to power in 2014 have only sought to divide the minds instead of uniting them. A similar divisive step is now seen in the efforts to legislate the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill as the unfinished agenda of partition. This has already led to disturbances in North-East and, as some media analysts underscore, this is a ‘misreading of history, especially of its several and complex trajectories in the North-East which will not be subsumed by an imposed Hindu-Muslim binary’.”

It is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, now turned into the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, that has snowballed into a major issue causing serious concern among different sections of the people due to its divisive nature. With different segments of the population raising their banner of revolt against this legislation-turned-into-law, the unrest against it has assumed an unprecedented dimension of late. However, there is no move as yet to withdraw this law; rather the government of the day is dead-set on enforcing it to the detriment of public interest. This is fresh testimony to the obstinate nature of the persons running the Union Government from New Delhi.

The country is facing a severe economic crisis. But the attention of those in power is glued to only such ideas as are embodied in the CAA. They are totally oblivious of the dangers ahead and the extent to which the CAA can cause havoc to our polity. Already students of different universities—Jamia, Aligarh and JNU—have come out on the streets expressing their vociferous protests against the legislation-converted-into-law. But those in power are unmoved. They are resolutely determined to implement the CAA, come what may! The public displeasure against the Union Government’s policies on this score is reflected in the mass protests in different parts as in the Capital’s Shaheen Bagh. What is remarkable is that the people at large are unequivocally agitating for the protection of the Constitution (which we gave ourselves on Republic Day, 1950) that is under threat from the powers that be—an unforeseen development in the annals of our post-independence history. Regardless of our present-day rulers’ adamant approach to this problem the mass movement against it is gathering full steam with every passing day. That is a source of exceptional inspiration in the midst of gathering clouds on the horizon.

January 23 S.C.

Before I ever knew anything about politics in my early youth, I dreamt the dream of communal unity of the heart. I shall jump in the evening of my life like a child, to feel that the dream has been realised in this life. The wish for living the full span of life portrayed by the seers of old and which the seers permit us to set down at 125 years, will then revive. Who would not risk sacrificing his life for the realisation of such a dream? Then we shall have real swaraj. Then, though legally and geographically we may still be two states, in daily life no one will think that we were two separate states. The vista before me seems to me to be, as it must be to you, too glorious to be ture. And yet like a child in a famous picture, drawn by a famous painter, I shall not be happy, till I have got it. I live and I want to live for no lesser goal... I remember to have read, I forget now whether in the Delhi Fort or in the Agra Fort, when I visited them in 1896, a verse on one of the gates, which when translated reads thus: ‘If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.’... I should love to see that verse with justice inscribed on the gates of Pakistan at all the entrances. In such paradise, whether it is in the Indian Union or in Pakistan, there will be neither paupers, nor beggars, nor high, nor low, neither the millionaire employers, nor the half-starved employees, nor intoxicating drinks or drugs. There will be the same respect for women as vouchsafed to men, and the chastity and the purity of men and women will be jealously guarded. Where every woman, except one’s wife, will be treated by men of all religions, as mother, or sister, or daughter, according to her age. Where there will be no untouchability, and where there will be equal respect for all faiths. They will be all proudly, joyously and voluntarily bread labourers. I hope that everyone who listens to me or who reads these lines, will forgive me, if stretched on my bed and basking in the sun, inhaling the life-giving sunshine, I allow myself to indulge in this ecstasy.

[From Gandhiji’s address at a prayer meeting during his last fast in Delhi, January 14, 1948]

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