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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 27 New Delhi June 23, 2018

The Unedifying Spectacle of Educated Indians

In thrall of politics of divisiveness

Sunday 24 June 2018

by M.A. Sofi

The BJP juggernaut now sweeping large swathes of India seems unstoppable. Now with twentyone States out of a total of twentynine under its belt, it redounds to the highly effective and efficient administrative structure of the party that despite having precious little to show for its achievements on almost all fronts including economy and employment, its success at the hustings comes across as truly spectacular. However, it stands to reason if indeed its electoral successes would be ultimately good for the country. Without sounding cynical, I strongly doubt if that would be the case. After all, the party’s track record over the entire period of its history, especially that we have witnessed over the past four years, tells the story of its defining philosophy where the universal values involving pluralism, egalitaria-nism, communal harmony and secularism have no place in its scheme of things.

What is deeply worrying is the fact of the teeming millions, including otherwise right- thinking Indians, rooting for a party/system that is against all these ideals and that fetes itself on the politics of vendetta and polarisation where one caste/community is pitted against another with the sole and solitary aim of clinging to power for as long as it could. That is indeed a sad reflection on how people of India look at their country and at the (low level) politics being played out by those whose vision of a great India merely stops at painting the whole country in its ideological hue. Or else, one wouldnt have had to contend with the grisly prospect where it has become perfectly normal for the political parties to get to enjoy absolute power by resorting to tactics reeking of absolute depravity, without compunction.

For the political party ruling the roost at the Centre, such acts of depravity which have been executed to perfection over the past couple of decades have been one too many to reckon. Leave alone those despicable acts involving the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat, or a slew of fake encounters where the victims were cherry- picked from a particular community and declared as terrorists who were out on a mission to kill the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, or more recently many acts of cow vigilantism and of demonisation of those from a certain community who had ruled the country hundreds of years in the past. Come to think of it, the strategy spun by its spin doctors involving its policy on Kashmir which has nothing in it, other than to exploit the imbroglio in Kashmir for the sole aim of reaping electoral dividends, throws up the political outfit as a party with a difference! A difference that bespeaks its willingness without remorse to resort to all conceivable and highly questionable means of gaining and clinging to power, never mind the consequences of this approach which are going to cost the nation dearly in the long run. For the record, here is a small sample out of a gargantuan catalogue of such devious tactics having been employed by the party vis-a-vis Kashmir.

1. Col Gogoi, who had tied an innocent young Kashmiri to the bonnet of his vehicle and driven him around the village to inspire awe and fear of the Army in the villagers, was not booked for what was clearly an inhuman and unlawful act deserving of punishment under the law. Instead, he was let off the hook and actually profusely awarded by the Army top brass for his ‘act of bravery’.

2. Following an FIR having been lodged against Col Aditya of the Army for his role in killing three innocent Kashmiris during an encounter in Shopian about a month back, the FIR lodged against him by the State government has been quashed in its recent judgement by the SC.

3. Some top BJP leaders had taken part in a march in solidarity with a deviant police officer who had kidnapped, raped and eventually murdered a minor innocent girl in Kathuwa (Jammu), simply because that unfortunate girl happened to belong to a different community which was sought to be hounded out of that area as part of ethnic cleansing.

It should help to contrast these developments with how, on the one hand, the Army top brass had taken serious note of what was billed as an act of indiscipline by a BSF soldier who was suspended for the crime of pointing out the poor quality of food served in the mess and on the other, the whole country had erupted, and rightly so, in an outpouring of grief and shock in the wake of Nirbhaya gruesome rape case. If that does not qualify as rank hypocrisy, what does!

Curiously, there are those who are inclined to take the above facts with a pinch of salt but are quick to draw attention to the sustained drive of the present government against corruption especially that committed by the high and mighty in the society. I wish to remind them that the overblown fight against corruption is motivated less by the necessity to root out corruption from public life than by the desire to pin down certain individuals allegedly involved in cases of graft, and more by the desire to exploit the presumed gullibility of the people of this country who seem to have taken on face value the purported fight against corruption by the ruling establishment, would return the favour by voting for it.

Whether by accident or design, these powerful individuals, who are thus caught on the wrong side of law, invariably happen to be those who belong to the wrong side of the political divide. The point is that such massive scams which should actually have caused a deep sense of unease to those who are ruling the roost right now are instead seen to exult in and to look at these developments as a Godsend. It is a pity that those vowing to root out corruption from the system, and getting votes for exposing it, are the ones who are keenly looking for more and more such skeletons tumbling out of the adversarys closet so as to draw maximum political capital out of them. The unmistakably ecstatic mood in the ruling party on former home minister P. Chidambarans son being involved in a case of graft and an earlier report of the son in law of the Punjab CM having been involved—albeit in a comparatively minor bank fraud—is a case in point. The fact that the so called campaign by political parties against such things as corruption is motivated less by the concern of corruption gnawing at the very roots of a just and equitable society and more by the realisation that the campaign against venality in public life is seen by the public as a people friendly policy, never mind the raucous denunciation of it as mere lip-service for public consumption by these opportunistic, thoroughly unprincipled political parties. The slew of financial scams that had come to light in the run-up to the 2014 elections had come as a windfall to the other party which had milked these developments to the hilt, as we saw it, and which would wish and pray for many more such scams come to light in the weeks and months ahead so as to use them as a poll plank in the 2019 elections.

By way of a little digression that would help put the issue under discussion into perspective, we pose the following question. How would one make a choice between those who may be corrupt and dishonest on the one hand and those who may appear to be ‘clean and honest’ on the other, but who would have no qualms about feting themselves on violence being committed upon fellow human beings in return for the potential of these tactics to promise unbridled pelf and power? The choice is clearly between the devil and the deep sea. What is extremely worrying is the realisation that while making no allowance, and rightly so, for those who have looted and lived off public wealth, a significantly large section of educated Indians have quietly accepted the recourse to divisive politicsand the attendant violence being unleashed upon certain sections of the society —by certain political parties as a perfectly legitimate and normal practice. That is reason enough to continue to remain sceptic about things likely to look up and for peace to return to Kashmir any time soon.

As if that is not disconcerting enough, it is worth sparing a thought for the kind of issues that have come to inform the debate between political parties in the largest democracy of the world. These issues now pertain no more to genuine development, education, economy or well being of the people of the country that would entail a will to address, among other things, grievances of the marginalised sections of the society, reasons for spurt in caste/communal violence and the ways to break the deadlock in Kashmir. On the contrary, the level of discourse has been reduced to milking the opponent for the latter’s off the cuff remarks involving otherwise innocuous jibes like ‘chai wala, neech insan, pakoda wala’ etc. Paradoxically and sadly, it is these latter (non)-issues, and not those involving the growth, progress and development of the country that are going to figure prominently amongst the main election planks of political parties in the run up to the elections down the line. So much for the level of politics that the principal political party at the helm of affairs has helped the system to stoop to.

Alongside the triviality of issues as enunciated above which has been allowed to occupy centre- stage both in print and electronic media and elsewhere, we have this new phenomenon of hyper-nationalism being defined, advocated and forced down our throat by this gang of new age patriots. The point is that as long as ‘coercive nationalism’ being promoted and forced by them is allowed to take precedence over human rights and as long as the police, the Army and the judiciary are treated as holy cows in this land where one is denied the constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech and to question the authority, the common man shall continue to be on the receiving end of gratuitous violence, denial of fundamental rights and gross injustice that is not in keeping with a democratic polity. Democracy has to be practiced in letter and spirit if the common man is to be restored his dignity and the faith that he has now lost in the institutions of democracy.

Last, but not the least, I have never been a great admirer of any political party, much less the Congress party which is to be faulted on countless fronts that have turned out to be the party’s nemesis in recent years. Other than a litany of scams credited to the party which had occasioned its fall from grace at the hustings in 2014, the party has to be blamed for its spectacular failure and gross stupidity in not proceeding against those involved in killing innocents in their thousands by engineering communal riots on the one hand and staging fake encounters on the other. The fact that the law was not allowed to take its own course in this case even as there was massive and unimpeachable against those who were involved in the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat in pursuit of their dubious strategy to polarise the polity and reap electoral dividends, reveals the double standards of political parties across the board. All the same nothing else would suit the electoral calculus of the present dispensation than the policy of dividing the country on caste/communal lines and of the Opposition being portrayed to be involved in acts of graft and corruption. Which is why, the achievements of the present government on the developmental front—both real, if there are any, as well as imaginary—actually count for little as long as those riding the crest of absolute political power do so at the cost of peace in the society by creating conditions for internal strife and hostility between various groups, sections and commu-nities comprising the Republic of India. Tragically, the phenomenon of an otherwise liberal Indian society morphing into one which is increasingly veering towards paranoia and intolerance has been largely facilitated by the vast Indian educated elite which has allowed itself to be swayed away by the raucous propaganda that has been unleashed by those who stand to gain by the politics of divisiveness.

Prof M.A. Sofi is Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics, Kashmir University, Srinagar. He can be contacted by e-mail: aminsofi[at]gmail.com

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