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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 13 New Delhi March 14, 2020

Popular Challenge

Sunday 15 March 2020

by Sardar Amjad Ali

A political system is not a gift of nature. It is essentially man-made. The architects of the system build it up according to their faith, belief and object to cater to the services of those who are its ultimate beneficiaries.

But who are those architects? The answer to the question can not be conclusive. Political history had left before us diverse and varied nomenclature of the architects of those system, such as monarchs, fascists, socialists, democrats etc.

Whatever the system may be, the role of individuals vis-a-vis people in the entire circuit, count importantly in building up the system. Yet then, in the process of evolution of any political system, the elementary rule that automatically reflects is that not en masse but a few individuals articulate or propagate a measure recommending its acceptance by the silent majority and such articulation or propagation paves the way for a system to grow. Counter-propagation to reject the measure suggested does not, for the time being, get too much acceptance. Clash of ideology or basic concept to this process of evolution from one to the other, is evident in almost every system.

The political system with which we in India are surviving as of now being democratic, the role of individuals or a group of individuals, like in all democracies, is, in relation to the other components of a democratic system, namely, people, needs a critical analysis.

Our access to a democratic system is of course out of a relentless struggle against an imperial power fought by the common people irrespective of their group identity. The reason being historically, we, Indians, having diverse ethnical, religious or cultural identities were common targets of exploitation and plunder by the colonial regime. We had a common perception of hatred against the imperialists leading to breed a common zeal of emancipation from that orgy. Diversity apart, unity of purpose laid the seeds of nationalism in our psyche.

Nowhere, perhaps in no system, people, howsoever have been tormented and oppressed by those in political power, were seen to have, by their own volition, till they were led by an individual or a group of individuals, risen to undo the regime of oppression or exploitation. With much enthusiasm and sense of unity, braving all evils and dangers have people rallied behind those who led them to usher into a new era. In gratitude people hailed them at all times.

The post-independence revolution in India led by the Indian National Congress under its able leaders, had courted the support of the liberated people en masse notwithstanding ideological opposition by those whose role in the Indian liberation struggle was not beyond controversy. Yet then, a direction as was schemed by the Congress to take the country and its people to, was overwhelmingly accepted. This popular trust in the Congress leadership was as much because of their personal integrity, sagacity and honesty on the one hand as sincere will of taking the nation to its expected destination of peace, progress and unity within and cooperation, friendship and mutual respect for the world fraternity. The trend, with occasional digression however, continued upto the Indira regime. But thereafter, people’s trust in the Congress and its leadership had begun to shrink for which not the people are to be blamed but the ideological shift of the Congress, qualitative decline of its leaders, deliberate neglect of the live issues hitting everyday life of the teeming millions and craze for power of a handful of them played the sinister role of power brokers, were the attributes behind such shrinkage of trust. One Manmohan was not good enough to wrest the greed of those who had the blessings of the big businesses, monopoly houses and socio-religious apostles.

As nature abhors vacuum, so also in a political scenario when the traditional player begun gasping, BJP, a new harbinger of the Indian neo-revolution made a smooth entry into Indian democracy seizing the people’s imagination and wresting political power of governance through the constitutional process.

In a liberal and popular democracy with universal adult franchise, constitutional sovereignty lying vested in a people with limited educational, inadequate financial and genetically religious upbringing, for any astute political player or, so to say, a gambler, it is not too difficult to walk upto the podium. More so, when the political Opposition was suffering from decadence in its rugged mantle. On the face of it the Congress, as a party, was suffering from not only poverty of its socio-economic and politics-religious philosophy but also of leadership in a changed scenario of 70 years of Indian constitutional and representative democratic system. The result was obvious.

During the last seven years of governance in Indian polity, the BJP with its cohorts have, according to their agenda, taken various overt steps (besides covert) which have endangered the very democratic, plural and traditional values of Indian culture, apart from its economic degeneration. Building a New India on the “ruins of the congress regime”, of course with an obsolete concept of theocratic state under the leadership of two individuals resting upon a servile bureaucracy and oftentimes on a seemingly accommodative judicial sanctuary [with limited exceptions], have not only degene-rated the spirit and tenor of democratic values but eaten up the marrow of India’s pluralistic aptitude, endangered stability and cohesive understanding amongst different sects of citizens. That’s the phase of our national life we are passing through at present.

Undeniably it is a notorious fact that Indian citizens have, in the light of the world scenario, brought to their sight through the yeomen services of the electronic, social and print media, successfully made a journey towards new horizons of self-confidence, intellect to identify the offenders for whom degeneration in national life as a whole begun and gripped. It is in such a desperate situation that an atmosphere of public distrust in the entire system has evidently grown.

It is, of course, not a welcome situation. In a similar situation, people in many countries either have taken to the path of unprecedented violence leading to anarchy and in consequence the ruling clique to replace the civic administration by military dispensation or seize all civil rights of people at a given point and concentrate all powers in one all-powerful dictator making people no less than captive sub humans.

In the present Indian socio-political condition, people having lost their confidence on the role of the political leadership to come to their aid and ameliorate them from the arbitrary, undemocratic and oppressive actions of the majoritarian caprice, the situation has no doubt become more conducive for the people to tread to the path of anarchy, violence or armed insurrection. Good luck for India that this did not happen. What happens is not only novel but spectacular have in a sense that it attracts global vision towards the contemporary live issues relating to human rights which people are now addressing. Notwithstanding our domestic economic conditions as on date and tenor of our global relation on various mutual interests which a post-globalisation world lay much emphasis in building up transnational matrimony, the role of the Indian government in its domestic/internal issues have been under the international scanner. A naked truth which none else but the singular exception of the government of the day, would disagree.

Why then have the live humane issues been addressed in unarmed peaceful manner in various parts of the country and that too without the political leadership being visible anywhere? It is the common people, notably the women in large numbers, irrespective of their religious or ethnic identity. Together with the youth and students en masse they have taken the most pivotal role in protest against the calculated conservative and anti-constitutional affront of the government with human values and in defiance thereof, on a majoritarian bias sans any political discourse with the Opposition, a cardinal principle of representative democracy.

Not that the political opponents to the ruling clique were silent altogether. But their dissensions with each other and shady/non-transparent stand of some of them coupled with overt silence of a few for reasons they best know, had left a perception of suspicion about their bonafides. People resolved to take the inclement political waves unto their own sail. Ripe in their wisdom of non-violent resistance to ward off state-sponsored terror and achieve success, an unprecedented political philosophy introduced by India’s Bapu and religiously followed by Nehru, Patel, Azad and their successors, people adopted the grand methods of protest and resistance. People learnt to rely not on dialectics, isms or holy scriptures but on the Rule Book of the Nation, namely, the Constitution of India, embraced the national tricolour than others, chanting slogans of Azadi from oppression, state-sponsored terrorism, savage and religion-based discrimination, decisive nostalgia of the ruling junta and slaughter of Indian pluralism, strangulation of free speech, thinking, faith and belief, import of unscientific concept of nationalism and overall unacceptable authoritarianism.

People could perceive that it is their fight and they themselves have to fight with their heels, Neither the judiciary, nor the vanguards of political parties would be their dependable soulmates in a relentless battle against a government which ascended to power through a democratic process with a hidden agenda of strangulating the voice of protest and dissent, abdicating a culture of deliberation and discourse and reaching to a conclusive point of national consensus and ultimately establish a regime infested with hatred and neofascist objectives.

In such grim situation let us warn ourselves in the language off President Harry Truman as he addressed representatives of the newly formed United Nations...

“Fascism did not die with Mussolini, Hitler is finished but the seeds spread by his disordered mind have firm root in too many fanatical brains. It is easier to remove tyrants and destroy concentration camps than to kill the ideas that gave them birth.”

The author is a former Congress Member of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and a Senior Advocate, Calcutta High Court.

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