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When People Go Rogue, the Nation's Rulers Are Bound to Think of Changing Them

government
The Indian republic is saddled with a madness that, if not curbed with an iron hand and by loyal institutions, can rapidly drag democracy into anarchy.
Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty
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An unconstitutional madness seems to have overtaken large sections of citizens.

Here is what they say:

That the laws of the land must apply equally to those who are in charge of government, its supporters and its agencies; forgetting that elections are not won to unleash self-indictments;

That justice must not only be done but be seen to be done; as if law officers must be equipped with special binoculars for the purpose;

That judges who have been long adjudicating particular cases must not be transferred mid stream; as if any judge has a right to administer full and impartial justice;

That investigations must not be tainted by the eager involvement of ruling party elements; as if those who rule do not have the people’s mandate to do as they like;

That the media must be allowed to report and analyse news without fear or favour; as if an independent media is not a threat to national security;

That facts must not be allowed to be compromised by patriotic interventions; as if all facts should not be conducive to the mandate won by the ruling party;

That all political parties have an equal right to engage in politics; as if politics has any role in a democracy, damaging the course of apolitical governance;

That it is the democratic responsibility of political parties to make contact with the masses, especially when atrocities happen; as if, once defeated in elections, political parties can continue to pretend to represent any people at all;

That the most notable instance of “political tourism” in recent years was that of foreign lawmakers being taken to certify conditions in Kashmir while our own parliamentarians were held back at the airport; as if the world, rather than our own people, did not need to be told how everything there was hunky dory;

That the investigative agencies of the republic must be left free to go where the facts lead; as if such agencies can be trusted to be fair without governmental instructions;

That cutting ribbons and laying foundation stones as elections draw near do not constitute development; as if, like justice, development should not be seen to be promised to be done;

That a soaring stock market does not tantamount to a prosperous economy or the people’s real welfare; as if the Indian republic can look down upon hot moneys that enhance the prestige of the economic system among the G7;

Also read: Why Amit Shah’s Versions of ‘Patriotism’ and ‘Development’ Are So Troubling

That unconscionable income disparities should not be allowed to happen, as per Article 39 of the constitution; as if such disparities do not result from people’s karma rather than from government policy;

That opposition MLAs and MPs should not be enticed away from the parties on whose platform they may have won an election; as if the republic does not need a strong, one-party dispensation in order to achieve freedom from taxing debates and needless controversies;

That the education system should be geared to inculcate critical thinking rather than conformism; as if such a vast and diverse country does not need a single-minded populace that can be trusted to do as they are told;

That alleged wrong-doers must not be l liquidated without due process; as if the scant resources of the republic can afford to conduct trials forever or allocate funds for an endless appointment of judges;

That children below the age of 14 must not be allowed to be used on media channels to advertise goods and services, and “policy bazaar.com”; as if it is not desirable to train such children early on in the intricacies of capitalist development;

That men, especially those in power, must not pass on their moral/ethical onus to others, particularly to women; as if moral/ethical onus is any part of good governance;

That the state must let people follow what faith they like without being drawn into religious contentions; as if all religions can be said to be a patch on sanatan dharma which came down to humanity with creation itself;

That a democratic system does not comprise merely elections or electoral i victories but a permanent regard for constitutional practices; as if constitutions are not best interpreted by government only;

That people’s right to peaceful protest on behalf of issues that affect them must remain sacrosanct; as if public protests have ever contributed to good national causes, except when they strengthen the Executive of the day;

That money spent on building grand statues/vistas, and unjustifiable demolition of old structures to build new ones for glory should be spent on schemes that bring succour to the impoverished, and on filling potholes; as if national glory is not a time-honoured goal of patriotic policy, all the way from the Roman empire, reason why we still remember the Caesars and the Caligulas and the Neros;

That public utterances, especially by those in power must be such as cause trust and healing in the populace; as if spades must not be called spades, especially to demoralise and weaken political nuisances inimical to social and cultural beliefs held by the true nationalists.

The Indian republic is thus saddled with a madness that, if not curbed with an iron hand and perpetual motor mouth, and by loyal institutions ever on call, can rapidly drag democracy into anarchy.

Indeed things may come to a pass where the only good nationalist option left to save the realm will be to change the people – at least some two-thirds of them, so that purity of thought and commitment is restored to the republic.

Badri Raina taught English at Delhi University

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