By M.Y. Siddiqui
India on the 73rd Republic Day presents a very grim picture with its secular constitutional pluralistic democracy not working. Country has changed politically, socially and economically. Current regime in the Centre has actively participated and aided communal and divisive forces in vitiating the harmony among religious and social groups for the ruling party to reap the electoral dividends. Media and judiciary have caved-in to government pressure, instead of holding the executive (government) to account.
Since the current NDA Union Government took over in 2014, India has transformed socially into an illiberal, majoritarian and intolerant country. Politically, the country has become authoritarian. Prime Minister (PM) is deified, institutions weakening, vigilantism growing and media suppressed, subjugated or become sycophantic that are quite unprecedented. Farmers’ movement and anti-CAA movement that could have been channeled politically came out on the streets. PM, authoritarian that he is, had to concede that politics around his office without processes of democratic consultations could not in the long run provide the kind of governance the country needs.
Indian democracy is facing existential crisis simply because opposition is not united, scrutiny of the government by media, those disagreeing with government, scrutiny or critical appraisal of government are considered anti-national. Even in ruling conglomerates one can’t say to the PM tat he/she disagrees because of fetters by anti-defection law. Democracy under the current PM has diminished. PM has emerged authoritarian, discussions/ debates ceased. Parliament barely functions, select committees/ standing committees do not even operate, and indicating country’s democracy has shrunk. As a matter of fact, Parliament has been made irrelevant.
Hate speech attacks by RSS Pariwar are on the peak with genocidal calls for ethnic cleansing of minorities. Hate crimes attack individual dignity and threaten national unity. Public governance has turned Hitlerian. Unless majoritarian hate is stopped, it will destroy India of our dreams. India has now entered genocidalism, the most advanced stage of nationalism. Silences of PM have enabled hate speeches, genocide and online abuses. Hate speeches and online abuses have emerged as growing extremism in the country.
For the first time IIMs students, armed forces veterans, leading lights of civil society, lawyers and people of goodwill, substance and trusts have addressed open letters to PM, President and CJI demanding action against hate speeches. Besides, more than 50 open letters have been addressed to the PM urging him to stop communal, divisive politics and misgovernance to ensure social, communal, inter-faith harmony, peace and progress of the nation. Video showing Hindu religious leaders calling for genocide of Muslims sparked outrage and prompted demands for action. Ruling BJP stands accused of encouraging the persecution of Muslims and other minorities by hardline Hindu nationalists since 2014. BJP’s agenda is to turn officially secular and pluralistic India into a purely Hindu nation. Muslims maintain they have been increasingly subjected to attacks and threats. Muslims together with other minorities live in fear and insecurity with their livelihoods under attacks. There has been a sustained dehumanizing narrative against them.
Even father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi in place of being revered and deified by all citizens continues to be killed in a million ways in today’s India. His assassin is glorified, lionized, idolized and worshipped. RSS Pariwar is willfully destroying the Mahatma’s legacy. The Mahatma is revered and honoured worldwide as one of the greatest men of peace and hence, called the apostle of non-violence and peace. It is for such exalted stature that the UN General Assembly has designated Mahatma’s birthday on October 2nd as the World Non-violence Day. It’s a sorry state of affairs that the current NDA Union Government is allowing such despicable treatment of the Mahatma.
Another worrying signs include unprecedented massive action by Central agencies like CBI, ED, Income Tax and NIA against the BJP Government’s rivals and critics with the highest ever spike since 2014, targeting a whopping 570 of government’s rivals and critics. Massive sweep included opposition politicians, social activists, non-NDA politicians, lawyers, independent media houses, individual journalists out to show mirror to the government who scrutinize government’s functioning, members of the film fraternity, even government officials who questioned the ruling party’s conduct.
Such action was also taken by governments in past but those actions were few, not at such a massive scale. State Governments, mostly BJP ruled ones, increased the use of sedition by 165 per cent against journalists, cartoonists, historians, students, actors, directors and little children. In India what counts is not freedom of speech but freedom after speech. Added to this, this regime converted India to a surveillance state. Government used unauthorisedly Pegasus surveillance on leading journalists, civil society activists, lawyers, judges and others making a bonfire of fundamental right to privacy decided unanimously by the Supreme Court. A committee of experts appointed by the apex court is investigating the matter. Further action will be taken by the SCI after the report is received.
Media in the country is in bad shape. Largely dependent on government for advertisements revenue and arm twisted by the government under various economic offences laws, mainstream media are functioning as official mouth piece. Only few media houses and individual journalists who are bold and who through their scrutiny of the functioning of the government are critical have been subjected to raids by official agencies and related repression. However, mainstream media, not critical of PM, take and promote further the very communalism that the PM symbolizes. PM at some time will leave office, the damage happening to Indian democracy and Indian civil society is pervasiveness of communalism and its open legitimization in the media that is something quite unprecedented. Media is guilty magnifying communalism and divisive politics.
Coming to economy, downturn is the lowest since Independence with 23 crore people rendered unemployed and pushed to poverty since demonetization in November 2016 followed by ill conceived implementation of GST and subsequent coronavirus induced prolonged lockdown. Besides, 14 crore unemployed youth are now available for jobs. Inflation is all time high not in sync with the ground reality. Official data is fudged losing its public credibility. In worldwide hunger index, India ranks below its neighours like Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. There are all time high crimes and social tensions. Country’s foreign policy is all time failure with all our neighbours turning hostile. Western liberal democracies are looking down on India as electoral autocracy notwithstanding India’s Constitution being one of the best in the world enshrining Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity for all citizens. Foreign media is adversarial in its reporting on India. Regime does not accept people as citizens with the right to differ. India may not have official Emergency, but it may have an insidious Emergency where opposition is treated as enemies pushed beyond the pale! (IPA Service)
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