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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 34 August 13, 2016 [Independence Day Special 2016]

Grim Scenario on Eve of a Milestone

Monday 15 August 2016, by SC

Editorial

As we approach yet another Independence Day, it has a special significance for all of us. For, next Monday we shall observe our seventieth Independence Day.

Ever since the BJP, headed by PM Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah, came to power at the Centre with absolute majority in the Lok Sabha two years ago, that is, in May 2014, there have been concerted attempts to attack minorities turning them into ‘outsiders’. First came the spate of communal riots in UP, most notably in Muzaffarnagar; thereafter communal violence was reported from Haryana’s Ballabhgarh. Subsequently a Muslim gentleman, Mohammad Akhlaq, was lynched near his residence in Dadri, quite near our Capital city, on the mere suspicion that he had stored beef in his fridge. These incidents, constituting a direct and frontal attack on our secular democracy, have caused irreparable damage to the pluralist culture guaranteed by our Constitution. What is more, these have engendered a sense of insecurity among the minorities that are proving difficult to dispel.

Lately the Dalits have become the targets of the Hindutva forces. This was magnified by the public flogging of Dalits in Gujarat’s Una district for having skinned a dead cow. This sparked massive Dalit outrage all across the State. Hindu majoritarian attacks on Dalits in UP (and on Muslims in Madhya Pradesh) on similar lines have generated deep resentment among the Dalit community. The PM, who remained silent over such incidents when those first hit the headlines, has lately denounced those attacks in no uncertain terms. But this has deeply antagonised the so-called gau-rakshaks much to the discomfiture of the BJP-RSS. Yet Modi knows that if he continues to adopt the same mauni -baba stance he had taken earlier, it could be disastrous and deleterious for the BJP in the forthcoming State Assembly polls. It is also not fortuitous that Modi’s denunciation of the cow vigilantes came the day the New York Times carried an editorial asking the PM to break his ‘shameful silence’ on the misdeeds of the perpetrators of such crimes.

However, what is most reprehensible is that influential sections of the media, primarily the corporate-driven electronic media, are playing a despicable role in this regard: instead of condemning the cow vigilantes in unambiguous terms, they have adopted a posture of silence emulating the authorities, at least till the time Modi decided to speak out on the issue. What does this indicate? Watchdog transforming into lapdog for selfish interests?

Meanwhile the situation in the Kashmir Valley has lately worsened primarily because of the mishandling of the unfolding events by the authorities, both at the State level and the Centre. Former J&K CM Omar Abdullah has aptly pointed out that the prevailing situation was not the handiwork of Pakistan which was only fishing in troubled waters. However, the Centre and strategic community alongwith sections of the media are hellbent on plugging the jingoist line without any trace of a self-critical attitude.

Independence, like democracy and peace, is indivisible. If freedom in any part of the country is imperilled, it cannot be secure elsewhere. Hence what is imperative is that the situation must be brought under control forthwith by revoking all strong-arm measures employed by the security forces and resuming the political dialogue. But for that to happen the government must bring about a qualitative change in its approach. The question is: is the present government under Modi at the Centre capable of taking such a step? If it is incapable of doing so, it must be removed from power through the united endeavours of all secular-democratic forces. There is no alternative to this course of action if our national unity and social cohesion are to be preserved.

Indeed a grim scenario stares us in the face on our seventieth Independence Day.

August 11 S.C.