Inspire and Guide Young Students, Not Beat Them Up
It is important to enter into the world of youth these agitated times and be helpful. On the average 28 students committed suicide every day in 2018, the highest rate in10 years. A hasty explanation for student suicide is their addiction to alcohol and drugs. Many attribute it to depression, but very few enquire why that ‘depression.’ Social tensions and uncertainties about the future sap the biggest proportion of youth energies in the country. The divisive policies of the Ruling Party have added to the present measure of youth tension.
The recent events in the JNU is likely to leave a scar on the memory of the nation, especially when one remembers that the RSS-sponsored ABVP activists who attacked their colleagues turned accusers in a short while. Their voices were accepted by the authorities, as it happened in the case of Pehlu Khan and Tabrez earlier. However, all evidences point in the opposite direction.
In any case, Hindu Raksha Dal has already claimed responsibility. The message that goes through to the promoters of aggressive nationalism through selective targeting is that violence will be rewarded. The present situation in JNU is described by a student as a “civil-war like situation.” After all, Shah’s polling booth-level workers are called “senapatis.” A warlike situation is always around as long as Shah is in position.
“Go to Pakistan” Formula is Anti-National
What young people need today is a leadership that keeps close to them, shares views with them, listens to their anxieties and dissenting voices, and helps them to think…and shows an example of doing so themselves. Everyone is fallible, leaders and followers alike. But if they have leaders who merely want to impose their whims, fads and fixed ideas on them, who tell them to “go to Pakistan’ the moment they differ in opinion, their tension mounts. Asking a fellow citizen to exile himself to another country should be considered a violation of human rights, and such vocabulary should be declared anti-national. Every citizen has a right to remain in his own country and be respected for his/her individual dignity and rights.
Manish Sisodia, the deputy CM of Delhi lamented, “The narrative of patriotism has a very narrow scope these days. People are in love with the name of the country, its symbols and the Army, but they don’t question or rise when a bribe is asked for.” Patriotism is made to consist in shouting against Pakistan during a match. What about cultivating a civic sense, he asks. Young people today are angry because they are missing a leadership that responds to their anxieties. They are looking for quality education, affordability, jobs. Sisodia says, “Let’s do constructive politics. Let’s do positive politics.” Not merely be at each other’s throats!
The BJP is Putting the Entire Country on the Streets
Unfortunately that is not what is happening. Aishe Ghosh, a JNU student, was brutally attacked by the night assailants because she had the image of Ambedkar on her door. The RSS-student wing, ABVP specially targeted people from Kashmir, Northeast, Kerala, Left thinkers and Muslims…in other words, those from the margins or thought differently. However, students who had the images of Hindu deities were spared. No wonder Hiren Gohain exclaimed, the authorities are determined to “forcefully Hinduise the JNU campus.” Aishe’s only response to the dastardly attack on her was: “every iron rod attack will be replied with a ‘democratic debate.’”
But a democratic debate is not part of BJP’s political culture. They are only used to repeating slogans coined by the Hindutva leaders and go into action. Modi, Shah, Yogi and others have launched a mass-support drive called Jan Jagran to defend the CAA. They have begun door-to-door campaigns, conferences, and meetings with the media. But other citizens choose to differ. Tarun Gogoi, the former Chief Minister of Assam, accuses Modi of being another Jinnah, believing in the two-nation theory. BJP is bringing, he says, the entire country on to the streets, and the Government itself is busy in “show of strength” rallies. Gogoi’s security has been downgraded like Profulla Kumar Mahanta’s because they have been critical of Hindutva policies.
The BJP has Placed an Entire State Behind Bars
The public perception is that Modiji has put Kashmir, an entire state behind the bars, after dividing it to manageable sizes. Prabhat Patnaik says, “BJP’s worldview does not admit making enduring concessions to the popular mood.” The Supreme Court pronouncement has been categorial. It said, Section 144 cannot be used to suppress expression of opinion and grievance. Kapil Sibil was more forthright in condemning the Government for acting like “irrational emperors.” “They can’t pass orders like sultans,” he argued. And yet that is what is happening. The economy of Kashmir has suffered a loss of Rs. 17,900 crores.
Paresh Malakar contends that the BJP won the 2019 elections merely on the fear generated by the Pulwama tragedy and the surgical strike in response. Winning a crude majority, Modi has been deciding issues arbitrarily all by himself. There was no discussion before dividing Kashmir into Union Territories, affecting millions of people. “Icy silence” reigns in Kashmir. Earlier, demonetisation and GST had hit very badly the unorganized sector. Ever since the economy has been on a downward path. ‘Good Governance’ cannot surely mean taking growth rate down to 4.5.%. But Modiji is not convinced. He boasts that the fundamentals of the economy are in position. They are not. Malakar goes on to describe India in an “unprecedented upheaval.” The Government in unable to handle the “volcano of protests” that they have stirred up. They keep cooking up cases against protesters that shake the confidence of citizens in the justice system.
Khelo India has Turned Bhago Modi
Patricia Mukhim interprets the situation in this manner. The present anger is not merely against the CAA, but against the Hindutva ideology of Savarkar, Hedgewar, and Golwalkar which the BJP is pushing ahead relentlessly…never mind the economy, never mind the disgraceful image they are creating for the nation. When we remember that the Ruling Party has won only 37.36% of the votes, it is truly embarrassing that the vision of a tiny minority should be pressed on the rest of Indian society. This is the travesty of democracy.
Meantime Assam Students’ Union continues to protest most creatively in music in every part of the state, singing Assamese patriotic songs and recounting the community’s ancient glories. Demonstrations increase day by day. For them it is about the survival of their society. The protests, if they are peaceful…they are ignored altogether. If they should turn violent, the army is in position. The message from the Home Ministry is, “India is under control.” That is the measure of our freedom!
In any case, when the Prime Minister seemed determined to come to Assam for Khelo India, the song changed to Bhago Modi. None less than the writer Nagen Saikia, holding great moral authority in the Assam Valley, expressed fear that the present form of Fascism could lead to the “breakup” of the country. He said he would first hail Mother Assam, and then only proceed to cry ‘Bharata Mata Ki Jai.’ There is truth in what he said; over-centralization by the BJP Government provokes a reassertion of strong regionalism all over the country.
Move Away from ‘Amoral Politics’
Modiji has denied the existence of detention camps in the country. Everyone knows that it was a false report to the nation. The death of Nareswar Koch in Goalpara camp alerted society about the tragedies that are taking place in those already existing, six detention camps in Assam: at Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, and Silchar. And the biggest detention camp in Asia is being built at Matia which will accommodate 3,000 detainees. Rs. 46 crores have been allotted.
The biggest embarrassment for ‘thinking’ citizens is the BJP MPs who spoke against the CAB and voted for the same. The hunger for power is insatiable. If the Ruling Party is giddy with power today, the Opposition is hesitating to come together since they too are competing for power. The Maharashtra regime is as shaky as was the one in Karnataka.
A recent reflection identified two major forces causing anxiety in world politics: “amoral political lobbies and profiteering corporations.” Perfectly true in India. Our economy is the victim, and poor people suffer most.
Kaushik Basu, the economist attributes the present economic slowdown to ‘lack of trust.’ The Founding Fathers of the nation built up a ‘political capital’ in bringing communities, regions and religious groups together. ‘National Integration’ was the call; today ‘National Disintegration’ seems to be the strategy. The national togetherness that was built up over half a century is being dissipated in less than half a decade. With the inter-community distrust that has been systematically constructed with the use of ‘pro-Hindu, anti-Hindu’ slogans, lynching, and other provocative activities, mutual trust has been irretrievably damaged. And with regard to the economy, if the Government keeps bulldozing and interfering with economic actors continuously, the economy stumbles. When investors cannot trust the immediate future, they do not invest. See the result of jerky initiatives: demonetisation, interferences, fractiousness, divisive politics, bureaucratic meddling and bossing!
The CAA-related agitation has brought the nation to the brink of disaster. Vikas has turned truly Vinash. A highly respected US consultancy has called India of 2020’s one of the major ‘geological risks.’ It will be a yeoman task to rebuild the “political capital” of co-feeling once again. Those who contribute to it, build up our future.
(Published on 20th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 04)