RAM PUNIYANI | 17 NOVEMBER, 2016
Is There An 'Undeclared Emergency' Today?
The decision to put a one day ban on Hindi NDTV, since withheld, came as a big jolt to the country. A major channel was asked to stop the broadcast. The charge was that its broadcast on Pathankot revealed sensitive information regarding national security. On the same Pathankot issue, this Government had allowed the Pakistan authorities to come to the same airport. The channel (Hindi NDTV) pleaded that its program was very balanced and nothing related to national security was relayed which was not in the public domain through other media. It is clear that NDTV Hindi in particular has been debating issues which are uncomfortable to this Government. Apparently, the pressure of all round protests forced the Government to hold its decision for the time being. The issue of “Bharat mata ki jai,” nationalism, the issues related to JNU and Hyderabad Central University (HCU), Una in particular, were debated in ways critical of the ruling party.
Since this dispensation, Modi Sarkar, has come to power -- there is a qualitative change in the political scenario. Right at the beginning, we witnessed many attacks on Churches. We saw the interference in the institutions of national importance like FTII, IITs, JNU and HCU among others. The incompetent persons with ‘right wing’ leaning were installed and have been brought in at most of these. The places of learning are a special target. JNU was targeted labeling it as the den of “anti nationals.” A cooked up video was used to defame the student leaders of JNU. Iin HCU, Rohith Vemula was pushed to commit suicide.
The growing intolerance led to returning of awards by luminaries of our society. The issue of beef was blown up to the sky; the emotive hysterical projections were propped up leading to the death of Mohammad Akhlaq, many other traders and later the dastardly attack on the dalits in Una in Gujarat. Many sections of media have been browbeating the liberals and secular elements while giving a free run to Hindu nationalists.
It is in this backdrop that the Bhopal encounter has taken place where eight Muslim youth alleged to be terrorists were killed in an extra judicial manner. The incident, as it has been presented, clearly shows that the version of the police has lots of holes in it. In JNU again, one student Najeeb, has been missing for last three weeks and his mother was manhandled by the police.
Is it mere emergency, where such blatant violations of human and democratic rights are taking place? Emergency was a condemnable authoritarian regime where from the top a dictatorship was imposed. press censorship was brought in. Surely the present times are different?
To begin with, the dominance of corporates and doing away of the rights of workers and farmers along with undermining the schemes like MNREGA, Right to Food, Right to Health and Right to Education show that the orientation of this Government is to ally with the big capital. The complementary part of this phenomenon is the promotion of Hindu nationalism. Right from the word go; the sentence, “I am nationalist and I am born in a Hindu family” by Modi set the tone of the shape of things to come. With this the targeting of minorities -- on the issue of Uniform Civil Code and beef, for instance -- is there. The ultra-nationalism is manifest in the handling of Kashmir and relations with Pakistan, in particular. The use of Uri and consequent surgical strike to bloat the chest of this political dispensation is very much in the air. The permission of thousands of NGOs working in the social sector has been stopped on frivolous grounds. The attack on Pakistani artists is another instance where the sectarian nationalism is having an unrepentant march. It is to be remembered that we have a bilateral trade to the tune of thousands of crores with Pakistan. With China, similar sentiments have been flashed by talking about the boycott of Chinese goods, despite the fact that the contract of the proposed Sardar Patel statue running into thousands of crores has been given to China. The popular sentiments are being guided into negativity and hate towards neighboring countries, religious minorities and human rights activists.
The stifling of democratic freedoms, welfare of the poor, the intimidation of minorities and human rights defenders is running parallel to the creation of mass hysteria and mobilization of masses to uphold the agenda of the ruling party. Those questioning the state are being put in the dock. In a democracy, it the state which is answerable to the people. Now this formula is being reversed. In democracy, questioning the authorities is the bedrock of the Constitution. So something is seriously amiss; something which is more sinister than the Emergency. Something which has deeper portents for democracy is being legitimized and glorified by the ruling party and the parent organization of the ruling party.
So how does one characterize it is the matter not of mere academic concern. Recently CPM leader Prakash Karat had stated that the present dispensation is mere authoritarian and not fascist. The distinction between two has been a matter of historical debate. The main features of fascism has been centrality of state over people, overarching Leader, dominance of Corporate, doing away with the rights of poor, targeting of minorities, ultra nationalism and aggressive policies towards the neighbors. The crucial point for those wanting to preserve democracy and Indian Constitution is to build up social and political alliances, irrespective of some differences, to fight this raging politics of hate and the politics of sectarian nationalism.
During 1990s, the BJP did project itself as a ‘Party with a Difference’, and that, all said and done, is true. It is the only party whose agenda is guided by the Hindu nationalist RSS, which rejects democracy and secularism as Western imports, and wants to stick to the laws of Hindu Holy Scriptures. These scriptures are the same, one of which was burnt by Ambedkar as a mark of protest against its values of caste and gender hierarchy; the values of Brahminism. Debates can continue but politics to defend the Indian Constitution cannot wait.