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Mainstream, VOL LII No 34 August 16, 2014 - Independence Day Special

Defending Freedom in Perilous Times

Friday 15 August 2014, by SC

Editorial

Our sixtyeighth Independence Day is being observed in the country against the sombre backdrop of the BJP’s return to power at the Centre after 10 long years.

But it is not just the BJP’s return to power that is a matter of alarm. It has secured absolute majority in the Lok Sabha—the first party to do so after 25 years. That is doubtless a source of grave concern.

Of course, the party used the twin planks of ‘development’ and ‘governance’ during the election campaign to storm back into power (and in the process decimated the Congress). But it would be a gross error of judgment if one were to believe that its resounding success at the hustings was entirely due to its capability to convince the people that if voted to power it would ensure ‘good governance’ and engage in real ‘development’ for the people’s benefit. Its victory, especially in UP and Bihar (the two States that together gifted it more than a hundred seats), was the result of (a) the communal polarisation of society on account of the rabid anti-minority propaganda resorted to by the likes of Amit Shah (entrusted with the party’s campaign in UP); (b) the whirlwind tour of Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, that gave the electorate across the country an opportunity to savour his rhetorical statements alongside the countless promises leaving the public spellbound and deeply impressed; and (c) the extraordinary role played by the corporates and corporate-driven media by standing solidly behind Narendra Modi and his team during the elections as they felt Modi was best suited to serve their short- and long-term interests.

The seizure of power in South Block by Narendra Modi, with the full backing of persons like Amit Shah, his close aide-and-protégé now the rulling party’s President, is much more significant than the simple ouster of the Congress from the seat of governance in the Capital and its replacement by the BJP. It marks a distinct departure from the values cherished and upheld in the entire post-independence period, values that were shaped in the flames of the struggle for emancipation from foreign yoke paving the way for national regeneration. That is precisely why Independence Day this year will carry a completely different flavour as it is to be celebrated country-wide by the BJP-RSS combine running the Central administration (even though the RSS had no role to play in the battle for independence). It would be a criminal lapse of memory if one were to forget that the RSS was banned following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in January 1948 (as it was among the organisations spearheading the anti-Gandhi crusade which resulted in the tragic murder of the Father of the Nation by a Hindu fanatic) before it was legalised only after it gave to the then Union Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, an unambiguous undertaking to the effect that it would never henceforth engage in any political activity. Today it is not only participating in politics but actively offering political guidance to the party in power at the Centre. (This breach of trust on the part of the Sangh Parivar is nothing new—remember how UP CM Kalyan Singh, now back in the BJP after a period of hibernation, had given a solemn assurance to the Apex Court of the country not to touch the disputed structure going by the name of Babri Masjid in December 1992 only to break the promise within a few days.) That too provides a measure of the transformation our polity has undergone since the advent of independence and how far both secularism and democracy have suffered as a consequence.

The Modi Government has been in power for a brief period. In this short span of time it is difficult for any dispensation to reveal its true colours (though it has aheady shown its electoral promises to be hollow). Yet the symptoms are clear even in these few days—the spate of communal riots rocking UP, especially in areas that would go for bypolls shortly, owe their origin in large measure to Amit Shah’s policy of effecting further communal polarisation in order to garner votes for the BJP in those by-elections; the project of saffronisation of educaation has begun in right earnest with so-called scholars owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar airing in public their preposterous views while launching fussilades against distinguished historians of world eminence not prepared to countenance their obscurantist opinions bordering on the absurd; on the pretext of fighting Maoist terror, the Modi Government is determined to repay its debt of gratitude to the corporate lobby, which guaranteed its spectacular electoral victory, by drowning in blood the tribals’ dogged resistance to corporate takeover of their land in the name of ‘industrialisation’ and ‘development’—already the signs of such a policy are quite evident. (True, the PM has till now fared well in his performances abroad; but his record on the domestic front is indeed dismal.)

In this setting it is the bounden duty of all secular democrats, pledged to uphold the provisions of the Constitution in letter and spirit, to unite and defeat every conspiracy by the ruling coalition to further undermine the secular democratic fabric of India with the purpose of ultimately destroying it. Through that process would it be possible for the democratic and progressive forces of the country to reclaim the heritage of the freedom struggle. It is simultaneously imperative to return to the economic policies of the Nehru years that projected the perspective of the nation’s self-reliant economic advance, a perspective which was jettisoned under the directive of the international lending agencies crafted by the world’s sole surviving superpower, the USA. Only by reversing the new economic policies initiated since 1991 can we hope to reduce the ever-widening disparities between the haves and have-nots that have assumed frightening proportions of late.

To accomplish all these urgent tasks a united endeavour by the public at large does not brook the slightest delay. In this forbidding scenario that unity must be built, preserved and consolidated if the nation is to overcome the stupendous problems and meet the multifarious challenges as darkness envelopes the country and our downtrodden yet ever-resilient masses are forced to endure mounting hardships. That unity alone can help us defend our hard-won independence currently in genuine peril from the fissiparous elements occupying vantage positions in the new dispensation’s decision-making apparatus.

August 11 S.C.