What is wrong in making a so-called political statement? Is making a political statement the privilege only of some particular individuals, groups or factions?
The state is a political entity. Its citizens are essentially privileged to have a political status. Polis is a Latin word meaning city or city state. Today it stands for the state. Political means that which pertains to the state. So, belonging to the state essentially means one has a political status. Your aadhar card does not specify whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Hindu or what not. Nor does your passport to other countries identify you as belonging to the majority or minority community. You are a member of the polis. Hence, a political person! Period.
Now, if one, by virtue of one’s belonging to the state, speaks about the welfare of the State, or the condition of the nation, the statement is a political one because one belongs to the polis. That is simple logic. So, what? What is wrong with it? Why should I feel threatened if my neighbour speaks or writes about the State or gives a public speech as long as he or she does not g o against the country’s constitutional norms? Nor does the constitution of India stipulate that a citizen, whether he is a prelate or a pundit, cannot make a statement about the condition of the state he lives in. For that matter, the Indian constitution has guaranteed to every one of its citizens the fundamental right to freedom of speech (Article 19a). Of course, this freedom is to be exercised within ‘certain reasonable restrictions.’ The concerns are: sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with other states, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Now, tell me, which of the restrictions attract the statement of a Christian priest or a minority religious leader when he advises his followers to pray for the nation’s welfare or even to vote for a party according to their conscience while keeping in mind the interest and welfare of the nation?
Just because I belong to a minority community, religious, linguistic or cultural, should I be barred from exercising my fundamental rights? The very fact that I vote for a particular party while exercising my constitutional political freedom I am opting for a political party. It is my avowed political statement. Isn’t it sheer double standard that some who are pujaris and mahants and temple administrators are accorded the privilege to arrogate to themselves the right to make political statements even if they hurt the sentiments of other religious or cultural communities? On the other hand, when a Christian priest or a Muslim Maulvi exhorts his community to show devotion and affection for one’s country’s welfare and its constitution, it is perceived by some as if India’s Red Fort has been carpet-bombed.
It is also noticed that forming and holding a personal opinion or enunciating a critical statement against the rulers or lawmakers of the State by a citizen is seen as anathema. Why should it be? The days of totalitarian State or authoritarian rule should be a thing of the past. In a democratic state, Neroes, who fiddle while common man’s stomach is empty or farmers are agitating or prices of essential commodities are shooting up, should be questioned. Such questions demanding appropriate answers are integral part of a democratic set up. Make no mistake!
Time and again the nation has watched with consternation sadhus and sadvins, pundits and pujaris campaigning for political parties or making blatant political statements against other religious communities. What harm is there if the Mahant of the Gorakhpur matt is presiding over an Indian state as the Chief Minister of UP, ask his ardent supporters. Wikipedia describes Yogi Adityanath as ‘an Indian monk and Hindu nationalist politician who is the current Such dabbling in politics is written off by their political patrons as normal. of .’
In the most famous twentieth century political allegorical novella of George Orwell’ (Animal Farm, 1945) the animals adopt the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is, “All animals are equal.” Later on, the smart ones abridged the Seven Commandments to a single phrase: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
The crucial problem the Indian state is facing is that it is divided into the Majority community and the minority communities. This is a politically motivated division and a politically convenient tool to keep under check any dissent, any criticism or any honest opinion on the Indian State or about the rulers of the State. Today, the argument of some to construct nationalism on the lines of people or community is based on such myopic view.
No wonder, there is a serious campaign to din into people the need for re-writing the constitution of India by certain advocates of nationalism. The Constitution as presented to us by Ambedkar, Nehru, Patel and others is delegitimized by them as ‘a document full of imported western ideas written by anglophile lawyers in the wrong language.’ The constitution of India is also being described by some as one which ‘rests on a flawed premise, a wrong definition of what is a nation.’ It is also being propagated that the present constitution assumes the ‘nation as a territory called India and all the people living on it.’ Here is the crux. The Hindu nationalists see this as a wrong precept and do not accept it. According to them the nation is not the territory of India but the people of India and, that too, the majority community, the Hindu community. Hence, the clamour for rewriting the constitution! It is no secret that many rashtravadis have openly come out with such statements about the constitution. Hence, the vision of India is not underlined by inclusiveness, but by an aggressive exclusiveness.
We often hear some politicians telling people of other communities to get lost in other countries like Pakistan or Vatican. Just the other day Subramanian Swamy reportedly issued a statement that the Archbishop of Goa, who instructed people to uphold the integrity of constitution, should go to Vatican. Swami’s ‘Wake up Hindus’ clarion call is intended to go viral to enthuse hearers and animate adherers. Surendra Singh, BJP MLA, UP, declared: ‘Muslims who assimilate into our culture will stay in India. Those who will not are free to take asylum in any other country.’
Reuters reports that “the government of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed a committee of scholars to prove that Hindus are descended from India’s fist inhabitants. Members of the country’s Muslim minority worry that the government wants to make them second-class citizens.” (www.reuters.com, March 6, 2018). Caution: here you are warned not to read between the lines.(Published on 11th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 24)