Ram Nath Kovind, 14th honourable President of India! Will he deliver or will he not, is a big question in the minds of many Indian citizens.
True, Kovind was put up as a BJP candidate. Given the steamroller majority of BJP’s vote share, his landslide win was a sure conclusion. But, given his erudition and statesmanship, the nation should expect him to be a man who will rise above petty sectarian politics and to refrain from playing second fiddle to the ruling dispensation.
In parliamentary politics the President may be described as a rubber stamp. But, one should remember that he is the First Citizen of the country and holds the highest civilian post. He is the guardian, defender, and protector of the Constitution. He has to uphold democratic traditions. He has the most enviable distinction of being the supreme commander of the Armed Forces.
Therefore, Kovind represents the nation, not a party, not a religion, not a community, not an ideology. Rising from the humble origin as the occupant of a thatched hut in Kanpur to be the occupant of the 200,000 ft. sprawling Rashtrapati Bhavan with its 340 rooms is no minor achievement. And, on hearing his election victory, he did go on record by recalling that humble origin and by addressing the ‘Kovinds’ of the nation who have the ill fate to struggle in society and by vowing to them that he would pay justifiable attention to people like them.
After K.R. Narayan, Kovind is the next Dalit to ascend the throne of the President. His rival candidate Meira Kumar too comes from the dalit community. The BJP may have wanted to showcase Kovind’s Dalit identity as his ‘calling card.’ The opposition party was second to none in doing the same with Meira Kumar.
All this drama comes in the wake of Dalit baiting, lynching and killing of Dalits for their only ‘sin’ of being Dalits. Even as the victory of BJP’s Dalit candidate was aired, a video went viral on social media showing a Dalit minor being urinated upon by hooligans after stretching and tying his hands as if on a yoke and bashing him in front of a pre-arranged camera. Kovind is not unaware of such heinous acts of atrocity perpetrated against his fellow citizens even in this new millennium, even after six and a half decades of the declaration of the Indian Constitution guaranteeing fundamental rights to life, equality, freedom of religion, freedom from exploitation and the like.
Kovind is not blind to the dance of death played out on Indian streets by the lynching mobs in the name of animal protection. To put it plainly, human beings are killed, hanged or quartered in public gaze by lynching mobs in the name of the cow. To put it more bluntly, human blood has to flow to satiate the blood-thirsty pangs of the cow worshippers. Will Kovind remain a mute spectator or defend the sacred Constitution by calling for sanction against such irreligious fervour and inhumanity in human dealings?
As the First Citizen of India he has to walk before us to lead us by his life and example, words and actions to guide us, prompt us, protect us and even chastise us so that we may not tread on the unholy ground of revenge, communal fervour, sectarian loyalty and visceral invectives. Some of his predecessor Presidents have walked tall as exemplary citizens and he has recently named a few of them as his models. One only hopes that he would follow these role models to defend and protect the sanctity and inviolability of the Constitution against fundamentalist predators. Unfortunately, the number of such predator politicians is on the increase. Their open support to the lynching mob is a sure indication that all is not well in Republic India. It was widely reported in the press that before Modi’s visit to Hyderabad, BJP MLA Raja Singh gave free rein to his venom by calling the Dalits ‘galeez’(filthy). He justified cow vigilantism by praising the vigilante groups saying that ‘it was a very good thing to happen.’ It is no secret that Hindu sadhus and sadhvins, religious heads, and politicians alike have openly expressed their aversion to the Dalits. The call to scrap reservations and constitutional privileges for Dalit groups is in the air. So, the propping up of a Dalit as President of India should be seen as act of hypocrisy and contradiction on the part of the Sangh Parivar. However, since our politicians of all hues thrive on opportunism, this U-turn act is understandable as a window-dressing slapstick operation to project a pro-Dalit image.
Whatever be the political gimmicks the BJP ruling dispensation has played, there are sensible citizens and democratic vigilante groups who will be on the watch to scan the performance of the present Indian President. He will not be judged by the largeness of the space his administration occupies at the Rashtrapati Bhavan but by the largeness of his heart and head, in the way he will stand for the democratic principles and secular values enshrined in our Constitution.
It is not just the Dalit issue that should be the concern of the President. Unfortunately, the festering atmosphere that has been created in India by the Hindu Rashtravadis is a burning national concern. The way our enmity towards Pakistan is skyrocketing, the way Muslims are told to get lost in Pakistan or be satisfied with non-citizenship or the way the Christians are made the target of attack by Hindu fanatics are indications that all is not well in our country. The way tribals are terrorised to believe that they are fallen away Hindus shows sinister agenda. One wonders how a scholar like Kovind would absorb the latest Hindu DNA theory dished out by unscientific and illiterate politicians! Or, for that matter, the theory of a High Court judge that a peahen gets pregnant by swallowing the tears of its male counterpart! Or, again, the theory that 33 million gods and goddesses dwell in the belly of the cow! Where is the nation going to after throwing out logic and reason, science and scientific evidence? Even if some were to hold such cultic beliefs, why should they thrust their belief, their ritual, their eating menu, and their worshipping habits on others who are of other belief systems?
Let the President take note that violence is on the increase due to the above factors. Open air murder or lynching cannot be swept away under the carpet by saying it is a law and order problem. Let us not be fooled to think that some groups and factions have every right to think and act as if they are above the law of the land and can make human blood flow without any provocation. The honourable President knows very well that every action has a reaction. When pushed against the wall and stretched beyond limit a kick-back effect can set in motion a spiral of violence. Will any sensible citizen of India want such tsunami-like internal ‘disturbance’? God save the nation from such a dastardly calamity! But, God also needs our brain, our hands and minds to operate! The First Citizen should know it better than anyone else! Will he or will he not deliver!
(Published on 24th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 30)