Responding to charged atmospheres

Witoubou Newmai

India’s 2018 passed off with more cases of recalcitrant elements mobilizing the situations to suit their agenda. This is akin to what internationally acclaimed journalist John Pilger attributed as ‘theft of human space.’ Things have become not “business as usual” today and the more worrying factor has been the grotesque abuse of power by the State.

The nationwide crackdown by the government on advocates, activists and human rights defenders in the middle of 2018 continues to haunt the collective psyche, as the government blurred the line between the “armed struggle against the government and the expression of dissent.”

On this matter, renowned historian and activist, Prof Romila Thapar noted: “To confuse the two is again deliberate because it allows the authorities to extend the reach of their control over people to a far greater extent than is normally conceded.” Such crackdowns, according to Amnesty International India and Oxfam, “threaten core human-rights values.”

Another disturbing case has been the persistent over-brimming enthusiasm of the Gau Rakshaks, notwithstanding the heightening hue and cry against cow related lynching. The Bulandshahr violence of December 3, 2018 is a case in point.

But the worst part is what columnist and academic Christophe Jaffrelot called the “collusion between police and Hindu nationalist movements…” He further argued that “not only has the Prime Minister abstained from condemning lynchings, some legislators and ministers have extended their blessings to the lynchers.”

“If the executive, legislature or judiciary does not effectively oppose lynchings, India may remain a rule-of-law country only on paper and, in practice, a de facto ethno-state,” noted columnist ominously postulated.
Expressing his concerns over the state of affairs, Jaffrelot boldly asserted that, “If one day the Constitution of India is amended, it may become a de jure Hindu Rashtra.”

On such situations, Soutik Biswas, a BBC journalist, succinctly stated, “India, clearly, needs more dissent, not less.”

However, given this charged atmospheres, it may not be that irrelevant to connect on the problems of democracy and find out whether the so called world’s largest democracy is acutely suffering from those “deficiencies” of democracy. The impending election to the Lower House of Parliament might further aggravate and fuel the polarized assertion.

According to Prof Ian Shapiro and Dr Casiano Hacker-Cordon, democracy is “too easily held hostage by powerful interests; it often fails to protect the vulnerable or otherwise to advance social justice; and it does not cope well with a number of features of the political landscape.”

As this writer had commented earlier, in the absence of the culture of engaging in intense scrutiny on the “method” employed, the responses will always be inappropriate, skewed and emotional. Self-evidently, our society has been responding to various situations in such manners all along. In short, we need to appreciate the fact that the world is all about who tells a cogent story, and not vague and emotional driven impulse actions.