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The consistently increasing incidents of violent and mindless ‘hooliganism’ being orchestrated by various self- styled groups and outfits of socio-cultural, religious and political ‘hues’ have raised a serious question on the credibility of our ‘legal system’ and law enforcement machinery. In the name of protecting the ‘pristinness’ of Indian culture, religion or regional interests and identity, these self – proclaimed ‘conscience keeper’ of our society resort to almost all the ‘variants’ of salacious savagery with least of concern for the ‘rule of law’ and the basic human rights. The menace of moral vigilantism, religious fundamentalism and the politics of regionalism- all put together- seems to have delivered a new ‘indigenous’ version of terrorism which is equally if not more capable of destroying the secular and democratic fabric of India much to the detriment of its unity and integrity. Unlike their foreign counterparts, these self-styled moral and cultural ‘crusaders’ are not ‘non-state’ actors, rather they are as much Indians as their unsuspecting victims are through with some palpable difference.
The impunity with which socio-cultural and political fundamentalism is expanding its draconian wings in different states appears quite admissible when viewed in the light of the nature and intensity of government’s response. Instead of ‘pre-empting’ such incidents and carrying out decisive strikes against it, our administration seems to have accustomed itself to a ‘self-defeating’ strategy of ad-hocism and reactionary mission, inspired no doubt by the philosophy of a pachydermic state. The enemy seems to be a ‘flattened beneficiary’ of our liberal democracy and competitive politics.
.Successive incidents, one after another have kept on adding entries to the ‘glossary’ of vandalism followed by outrageously hackneyed ‘post-carnage’ response by the governments. The cozy smugness of normalcy regained after every incident acts to the detriment of our sincerity to evolve a concrete and credible set of measures against the menace.
The l’ affaire’Mumbai, Nasik, Mangalore or Cuttack do reflect certain similarities in terms of pervert profanities of faith and values marking a clear cut obliquity from basic concerns of humanity. The egregious defiance of the authority of the state and the complete absence of punitive deterrence displayed in all the cases do raise some serious questions regarding the overall efficacy of the Constitutionally- ordained ‘trinity of instrumentalities’ viz. Executive, Judiciary and Legislature through the greater amount of responsibilities lies with the Executive.
The otherwise usual problem in a vibrant democracy, more particularly in a land of bewildering diversity like India assumes serious dimensions when the state authorities fail to exact obedience to the ‘supreme law of the land and to enforce even the most ‘fundamental’ of the fundamental rights, that is ‘right to life’ and personal liberty, let alone other rights. The response of the political leadership and even otherwise ‘active’ Judiciary presents a picture of despair only, displaying actions ranging from general indifference, deliberate and calculated inaction or neutrality to even tacit complicity.
An emerging political leader in Maharastra,leading a political party, registered under ‘Representation of peoples Act’, supported by a bunch of hooligans (styled as party karyakartas) holds the state machinery to ransom in pursuance of the ‘noblest’ of the objectives that is restructuring of Maharastra and bringing back the lost pride of ‘Maratha- manus’. The ‘modus operandi’which is secret to none and similar to their brethren in even more sacrosanct profession of Bharatiya Samskriti and Hindu dharma involves beating up ‘black and blue’ poor, innocent, unarmed and unsuspecting common people with their fault being anything from ‘belongingness’ to a particular state, religion and profession or in general the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedom in a way contrary to the ‘code of conduct’ howsoever unthinkingly contemplated by them. The self-proclaimed ‘saviors’ of collective Indian conscience aim at protecting Indian samskaras and samskriti by hurling abuses, assaulting and molesting women in full public view.
Nevertheless, I find the story on the other side of the fence far more ‘disgraceful’ and discouraging. If the celebrated Chief Minister of Delhi ‘cautions’ women against moving around at night ,implicitly accepting administration’s inability to provide security against nocturnal hooligans, the state of Maharastra symbolizes the most perverted form of ‘competitive politics’ where the political parties in their unhindered zeal to protect the cause of ‘sons of the soil’ do fight like street dogs to take credit for beating up north Indian students. A law abiding and hard working common man with wrinkles on his forehead, struggling to devise one or other survival strategy in an increasingly competitive world is beaten up, humiliated and sometimes killed by a subversive political and cultural ideology and agenda; political leadership under pressure issues assurance of punitive actions, police makes customary arrests with due respect and honor shown to the grand perpetrator and his militia; the logo magic courts bound by ‘full- of- fallacies’ legal system find it difficult not to release karyakartas on bail though accompanied by a warning which is adhered to more in violation.
And the common is made to believe that he is living in the largest democracy in the world where every second political party is imbued with the spirit of socialism and an inveterate commitment to social justice through some of them have the trappings of all but socialism.
The ‘right to life’ of the little Indian shines in the golden calligraphy of ‘lex suprema’though the constitution remains a petrified parchment and the Law India seems to be a victim of ‘bedlam abiosis.
The rising intolerance, in general, is slowly and steadily bringing within its draconian embrace the socio-cultural, economic and political dimensions of life in democratic India. The conflict of interests and objectives among various groups, deadly disjunction of perspectives on the same issue is not something unknown to the other democracies in the world. To be more precise, the developing countries passing through the state of transition (characterized as Prismatic society by F.W.Riggs) do necessarily have to confront this challenge that is management of conflicts.
But, it is easier said than done because the real challenge lies in displaying an unflinching commitment to ideals and values enshrined in the constitution and enforcing them with a missionary zeal which may require very often to forego narrow political interests to uphold the public interest at large. No doubt, it is expected of the government to display the strength of character by resorting to stringent and even unpopulist measures ( if required) in pursuance of the grand objective of social justice empowerment, work, health, wealth and happiness for the common Indian which is so integral to any functioning democracy. A true democracy necessarily confers rights for the unhindered expression of dissent but not in a manner or by means which assaults the equally sacrosanct rights of others. Therefore, the essence of democracy lies in peaceful coexistence inspired by high degree of tolerance.
A glorious and all-encompassing reform with an element of ‘inclusivism’, a radical vision for the progressive transformation of the society is the need of the hour…—
“because the art of progress lies in maintaining order amid change and change amid order”
Sajjan Pratap Singh Director, IIIASA