13 Apr 2017 11:28pm IST
John Eric Gomes
The electorate has to swallow the dangerous bitter pill of democracy becoming of the elected, by the elected, and generally for the elected. The tyranny of those in power dominates. It’s futile crying over spilt milk. The BJP snatched electoral victory in Goa out of defeat! The nation wants dynamic change and Prime Minister Modi fits the bill by being a 24x7 hard working politician, willing to gamble and take risks. The causes he espouses from Swatch Bharat to war on black money, “acche din” do not happen the way he sells it! The goal post is continually shifted so others seem stagnant and country is on a progressive path. Now the people must walk into a new India, which will be a land of milk and honey but the way, he and the RSS envision it. This can only be done in our democracy by painting as much of India saffron as possible. For this the BJP has active machinery that is radicalised and can move fast as seen in the negotiations and shifting Parrikar from the Raksha Mantri of India to the CM of Goa in double quick time. They simultaneously managed something similar in Manipal!
I recall the movie ‘Born Free’ and the strong message “Stay free, where no walls divide you………..and life is worth living, but only worth living if you’re born free!” The perception of the RSS echoed by the BJP as to what is anti- national and the many reaffirmed judgments of the Supreme Court do not match. Free speech must be unfettered and can be curbed only if there is incitement to violence! Neither do they heed the wise admonishments of the professors, artistes, intellectuals or even the President! Perceptions differ, and democracy is difficult for those seeped in religion, castes or blind beliefs. There is therefore the Constitution and laws, the spirit of which must be also be followed by enlightened citizens. This requires tolerance, ability to discuss (not argue) every point of view patiently, without violence or anger against the person, and finally if not convinced, agree to disagree! Seminars in learning institutes should be where ideas collide and freely expose students to every point of view. Anuja Chauhan says “Youth need to explore, push and challenge the status quo. Otherwise they are no better than us old farts!”
Hurting the sentiments is one such restriction which kills creativity and panders to privilege and straight jacket thinking confined to tunnel vision and prejudiced minds. Muslim religion propagated by the hardliners and fanatics, maybe equated to Hindutva of the hardliner saffron brigade. This becomes all the more dangerous when in power with a majority and no worthwhile opposition remaining! Governments permit vigilante groups to run amuck and their police appear hand in glove with these groups! How can historians, film directors and artistes, writers and thinkers excel in fear of hurting the sentiments of this or that group, dam their creative juices to explore realms where no one has gone before?
In Ahmedabad, an artistic collaboration between the distinguished architect Balkrishna Doshi and painter Maqbool Fida Husain, known as the Husain-Doshi Gufa, was vandalised by Bajrang Dal goons with the Gujarat Police looking on. Our greatest world reknown painter Husain had to live and die abroad to escape persecution! Recently the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill prescribes life imprisonment for cow slaughter. Transporting or even storage/sale of beef is non-bailable crime. Their ultra nationalistic and cow protection fervor seems excessive and is dangerously misused, as has been done merely on rumor/suspicion. Gau rakshas and Romeo brigades are judge, jury and emboldened to dispense instant punishment under subtle government patronage in most BJP ruled states. The cow and Hindu rashtra is now priority? It is shameful to see vigilantes beat people and even a man to death with impunity. Parliament tolerates Shiv Sena bullying and arrogance. Open defiance of the law by their MP brings no swift action! The BJP propounds development and sub ke saath, sub ka vikas! Their thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh and the crowning of hardcore Hindutva Yogi Adityanath as CM is a pointer to where all this is heading! However, if Adityanath can strictly walk the talk of his written speech after the swearing in, perhaps Modi can tame the hardcore protagonists to accept national realities. Or will Uttar Pradesh be Hindutva laboratory Gujarat-2?
The radicalised youth via the ABVP, government control of RBI and banks, the digitisation of private information without stringent privacy laws and draconian laws contemplated with inspector raj are retrograde steps. Checks and balances removed under the clever guise of Investment Promotion Boards and utilisation of Finance Bill to prevent discussion etc undermine democracy. However much development and material prosperity comes to India, the slavery of freedom of speech and thought creeping into the soul of India will destroy its unity in diversity and incredible variety. Sab ke saath, sub ka vikas must not only remain a slogan. The nation has by and large reposed its belief in Prime Minister Modi, not the BJP. Goa rejected the BJP but still has its fate in the hands of Manohar Parrikar! Both PM and CM respectively are astute politicians aware of the immense trust of the people in them, our great diversity and their responsibility to safely nurture the Secular Democratic Republic of India that they shoulder.
(The author is a retired naval officer.)