Why do 'nationalists' hate democracy so much? They want to make Modi's India an autocracy
This is an undeclared state of Emergency.
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I recently came across a pamphlet titled, Cheen ki chunauti aur hamara kartavya (The Chinese chalange and our duties), published by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. The pamphlet highlights the fact of trade balance heavily tilting in favour of China and its adverse implications on the economy, industry and employment opportunities in India. The author of the pamphlet is Satish Kumar, who is associated with the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the RSS.
The pamphlet suggests that we need to take several steps to reverse the trend and reduce trade deficit with China. This is something aimed at enhancing national interest hence, there can be no conflict with the objectives of the pamphlet.
The problem, however, is with something which is hidden in the maze of words in pages 13-14 of the pamphlet. The author while comparing the political systems prevalent in the two countries, states to the effect that the decision-making process in India is hampered because of the democratic system and resistance by “political parties, especially the opposition that obstructs the matter from reaching finality”.
The impatience with opposition is reflected in the manner in which 'any kind of opposition' has been dealt with during the last three years and any number of examples can be quoted to buttress this claim.
Swadeshi Jagaran Manch is an affiliate of the RSS, the parent body controlling the BJP, the ruling party of India. The impatience with any kind of opposition implicit in above statement is reflected in the manner in which "any kind of opposition" has been dealt with during the last three years and any number of examples can be quoted to buttress this claim.
The statement also reflects the disdain that these rightist neo-nationalists have towards the democratic process. This was also on display when as opposition, they resorted to continuous boycott of Parliament for several sessions, a tactics they now denounce when rightly or wrongly adopted by the present opposition. They obstructed several reforms like the GST and Adharetc, which they now are implementing and trying to appropriate credit too.
Their contempt for opposition and democratic norms and institutions of democracy is on full display. They have repeatedly undermined the relevance of Parliament, and more specifically the Rajya Sabha, by ensuring that several important bills do not get voted there by terming them as money bills.
In fact, the finance minister is learnt to have voiced this disdain by stating words to effect that “tyranny of the unelected must end”. Ironically, he himself had lost LokSabha election and thus would he like to be termed is an unelected tyrant?
Impatience with the opposition and constitutional norms was manifest in the imposition of President's Rule in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand by dismissing duly elected governments. The imposition of President's Rule in both the cases was overturned by the Supreme Court.
The media, an important pillar of democracy, too has been repeatedly attacked by terming prominent channels and news anchors as anti-nationals. The rhetoric has gained special momentum after the February 2016 incident in Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. Some journalists were called names and threatened with rape and violence by the army of trolls let loose by pseudo patriots.
The one-day ban imposed on NDTV (subsequently stayed by courts) was a crude attempt to subdue a channel which does not fall in line through lure of advertisement revenue. The attempt is to totally throttle the media so that if any channel appears to be even mildly critical (like the NDTV) is dubbed anti-government, and hence, anti-national.
After efforts to impose the ban failed, the NDTV promotors were raided by the CBI for an "offence" which apparently appears to have reached finality way back in 2009. The government and the rightists are trying to justify these raids by quoting allegations levelled by RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy. (Vindictiveness and bias are apparent from the fact that none of the allegations levelled by him find mention in the chargesheet.)
Immediate provocation for the act seemed to be the courageous action of an anchor of the programme in politely asking the BJP spokesperson to leave because he had levelled some outrageous and unsubstantiated allegations against the channel.
Threat of violence and actual violence against the dissenters appears to be the central philosophy of the supporters of the ruling dispensation. They are impatient with any kind of dissent. The methodology of subduing the opposition starts with abusive posts on social media and rapidly progresses to threats of rape and violence.
The cohorts of the ruling dispensation have found the anonymity of social networking sites and applications such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp etc., to be very convenient to perpetuate fear among dissenters.
An elaborate army of trolls is always on the lookout for anyone appearing even remotely critical of the BJP or the government. I have myself been at the receiving end of this after I wrote a piece for DailyO describing my experience as a result of some key initiatives of the government.
Twitter handles spewing such venom are mostly fake and are operated from proxy servers, many of which are located outside the country.
In fact, recently one prominent journalist managed to get one such troll evicted from abroad for threatening violence and rape against her.
The trolls have no sense of decency and are outright abusive. However, sarcasm is one thing that shuts them up as they being either blind followers or paid foot soldiers are not adequately endowed with mental faculties to understand that.
I would, therefore, recommend to the victims of trolling not to get aggressive in their responses and deal such trolls with humour and sarcasm.
People who have been supporters of the rightist ideology, but are now disillusioned at the direction the Indian polity and discourse has taken, come in for special attention.
Arun Shourie, for example, was a strong supporter of the BJP and had taken active part in campaigning for Modi to become the prime minister, has been trolled heavily after he fell out with the policies of the party. His credentials have been doubted on grounds that he was not made a minister. Even his differently abled children were not spared. Every action has a reaction, so said Newton, and we now have an army of trolls of opponents too.
The trolls even resorted to planting stories and adverse tweets against genuine grievances of agitating farmers in Madhya Pradesh and in other states.
Outrageous responses to targeted violence against minorities by so-called gau bhakts and lack of any action against these hoodlums are further encouraging them and the fabric of the civil society is in danger of being shattered.
The prime minister in his “Man Ki Baat” on June 25 said that the Emergency was a dark era and the night of June 25, 1975, was the darkest night in the history of independent India. Well, that may be so, but whatever Indira Gandhi did, she did it by using the provisions of the Constitution.
What this government and its cohorts are doing is much more sinister because it is doing so surruptously and by undermining the democratic institutions and civil discourse.
I have no hesitation in saying that this is an undeclared state of Emergency. The silver lining, however, is that voices of dissent, although feeble are increasingly being heard.