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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 42, October 9, 2010

Eye of the Crisis - Where are we heading to?

Thursday 14 October 2010, by Nikhil Chakravartty



The government introduces a bill in Parliament without bothering to enforce the whip on its supporters to be present in the House. Equally shocking is the conduct of the Opposition which, while claiming to be the largest party in Parliament, goes back on its own word without the least scruple and does not vote for the amendment that earlier on the very same day it promised to support. And this was followed by a sordid exhibition of exchange of abuses, in which the Prime Minister’s critics within his party shared satisfaction with his adversaries in the Opposition. Ironically, the leader of the very same Opposition party goes out next day on a demonstration preaching sadbhavana (goodwill) to the public at large.

To cap it all, the anniversary of Gandhiji’s birthday was marked in the Capital of India by an outburst of hoodlum violence by anti-social groups brought in by not-so-unidentifiable elements interested in toppling the present government: the outcome of it all was the physical takeover by such anti-social gangs of a students’ rally protesting against the government’s reservation policy, and a good part of the Capital was left at the mercy of the hooligans. In fact, the happenings in the Capital on October 2 serve as a grim indicator of what is going to overtake the nation, if the present drift is allowed to continue. Those who are annoyed with the government’s policy of job reservation for backward classes and persist in preferring public protest to persuasive negotiations—choosing the maidan to the round table—are bound to be overwhelmed by the gangster elements interested in unleashing anarchy, as it happened on that day. This is a matter to ponder over particularly by those well-known personalities who associated themselves with the function, and it is their task now to help in restoring orderly discussion for settling the dispute.

This is the distressing scenario which faces the nation today. The government is sought to be paralysed by a desperate and determined Opposition which makes no bones about making a target of the Prime Minister in person—with no holds barred—and a ruling party in which a prominent section is openly clamouring for the displacement of the very same leader as the Prime Minister with a number of Ministers choosing an indifferent posture as if it is a gladiators’ duel between Vishwanath Pratap Singh and Rajiv Gandhi, for the others only to watch from the amphitheatre.

Meanwhile, violent disturbances have spread to many parts of north India. What is becoming more and more evident is that a protest campaign against a specific announcement by the government is being calculatedly sought to be turned into a massive assault for the breakdown of the administration so that Vishwanath Pratap Singh is forced to step down from Prime Ministership. So, the anti-reservation protest is being made use of to bring the present government down. In this big-game hunting, many forces, disparate and even conflicting, seem to be making a bid. Not surprisingly, the goons who led the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination are once again over-active. Also to join in the kill has come Mahendra Singh Tikait’s brigade, with the chieftain himself making fiery incitement to violence which normally would attract the arm of law. The objective is clear: how to get rid of Vishwanath Pratap Singh.

It is also to be noted that if the appeal for understanding through negotiations is rebuffed, and the anti-reservationists are persuaded to go in for renewed street violence, there is little doubt that the backlash will soon come up. The backward classes, who are no inconsiderable force in the countryside, are bound to come out in equally angry demonstrations, and the situation of virtual civil war will soon be reached. Today the removal of V.P. Singh from the Prime Minister’s post will not bring peace. Rather, this may itself worsen the situation.

The anti-reservation agitation is not the only problem that besets the nation today. The Ram temple controversy looms large in the background. Although the talks for a solution have not yet been exhausted—particularly after the appeal made by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi and Ali Meah of Patna for a get-together of religious heads—the mere insistence on the court verdict seems to have so far had a marginal impact. The real sanction for a settlement has to be the active involvement for a genuine understanding in a spirit of mutual coexistence of the temple and the mosque. One cannot help having the impression that too much time has been frittered away in seriously searching for a solution acceptable to all. Meanwhile, Lal Krishna Advani’s rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya is being watched with great anxiety by all concerned. One has the feeling that the BJP leader undertaking this pilgrim’s progress has been dictated by the eagerness to pacify the hotheads in his own camp who might result in another form of brinkmanship. One more proof of the preponderance today of the sectional approach in politics and the fragmentation of the national ethos.

This is the grim perspective that faces us all today. It is at such a critical moment in the nation’s history that the wise and perceptive elements from all sides must assert and pull the country back from the brink of disaster. Above the pandemonium of petty politicians must be raised, loud and clear, the voice of reason so that the nation can be steered into the safe heaven of sanity.

(Mainstream, October 6, 1990)

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