Political colours and “Azadi”

Shafiq R Mahajir

Shouts of Azadi…are for some, expression of rebellion against a system that is hijacking their country, bringing in oppression, inflation, corruption, economic and industrial collapse, injustice, self-contradictory stands, lies, distrust, frustration, unemployment, auction of profitable public sector enterprises, distortion of history, misplaced focus, political horse-trading, curtailed freedom of speech, political interference in academic institutions, violations of human rights… voices seeking to remove political disharmony, raise important issues, seek answers, demonstrating spirit despite facing harsh repression, unrelenting in their peaceful protest, refusing to be bludgeoned into submission, declining to be palmed off with false promises, demanding ruling politicians honour Constitutional duty, waiting for the judiciary to cease its silence, shaming a sold-out media… in other words, the advent of an all-embracing, pervasive darkness of intellectual shackles which they want to shake off… from which they seek release, demand freedom… and they are revelling in their new-found sense of patriotic direction, of their nascent realization of the power of peaceful mass protest… Why, students are asking, teach us morality, when immoral actions pay rich dividend given political realities? Why teach Constitution, they ask, when it is flouted in Parliament? Why teach it when State violates it?

For others, Azadi…even as slogan qualifies as sedition, treason, waging war against the State, a raising of hostile heads against their private variety of nationalism, indicative of secessionist tendencies, pro-Pakistan, anti-India, creating disharmony, asking awkward questions, demanding answers, pointing fingers, unmoving resistance to the harshest repression, unrelenting in their calling out political blunders, refusing to believe false promises, reminding ruling politicians of violated Constitutional provisions, questioning judicial silent, demanding a free, honest media, an uprising that doesn’t seem to die down, discomfort that is persistent, is insistent, doesn’t go away cold or rain, is act of a “tukde-tukde gang”, obstacles to grand national Hindu Rashtra design, against progress, out to defame government…  puncture-waalahs and terrorists requiring to be put down with an iron hand, crushed, eliminated, destroyed…forget what the world thinks, regardless of Constitutional morality, regardless of law, regardless of themselves violating both Constitution and law… Constitution, they say, is of the people, and if we the people decide to toss it out, out it goes…

There is a third category, political opportunists, leaders, fence-sitters, whoever… the ones secretly thrilled someone did show the guts to stand and face political monsters, yet secretly perturbed, wondering how this protest acquired the dimensions it has, amazed its momentum does not dissipate, wondering what’s going on, where masses mysteriously materialise from even without their leadership… if the trend continues they just might lose out on the mantles they wear… some secretly hoping things collapse so they can get into the saddles again, some from the side-lines wanting to use the situation as a launching pad for fledgling political relevance… These will jump in whichever direction they see temporal political benefit…

A fourth then, wearing black gowns, required to stand by oaths to uphold Constitution and laws, uncertain about the way forward, troubled knowing they must lead, but not understanding enough about the issues, nor knowing how… alert, yet apprehensive, watching, waiting for a cue… these black gowns again divided… some protesting against the government and its conduct, pointing out the flaws that are causes for serious concern… others protesting at the protestors, claiming all is well, buying into the State’s version, uncaring about consequences for the nation…

A fifth, robed in black as well, but positioned up there, to adjudicate, waiting for everything to calm down, peace to return, before they will look into the matter… saying they know how protests happen (how, when no past protest showed similarity?), not considering the material evidence doing social media rounds important enough … never mind what meanwhile happens to social fabric, rights of those locked up, etc… Their Constitutional oaths bind them against acting unconstitutionally, so they vacillate, procrastinate, delay, preferring inaction to…

Sixth, the browns, bound by discipline, acting when told to act, how they are told to, ignoring what their service manuals say, part of the agenda of a very, VERY special type of governance, striving to meet the diktats… oops!, sorry, dictates of their political masters, chasing, dragging, assaulting, locking up…

Seventh, noise-papers, newspapers, television channels blaring away a-shriek-a-second speed, promoting the official spin while those less decibel-endowed remain satisfied with indeterminate insinuation, innuendo, etc… all however, fixated on painting topi-kurta-waalahs, protesters, Shaheen Bagh types, as anti-national…

Now, seven of the rainbow complete, we move on to…  Light. White, personifying purity (no wonder politicians prefer white!). People who swear by the Constitution, act as per Constitution, stand by Constitution and law, honour and observe Constitution and law, talk straight, no vilification, no verbal sleight-of-hand, no winking at violation of law, no locking up opponents … competition welcome, competing claims for seats at the power-table contested for within the law, according to the rules of the game…

The other end, Dark. Solidly black, Dark admits of no illumination, lurking at the negative extreme of the scale, contrasting against white, anything in between necessarily a shade of grey. Here, we smell fear. Fear of not being able to successfully navigate electoral rapids, of losing out, scared of political fall-out as repercussion of unemployment, lay-offs, inflation, collapsed economy, biased laws… mortal fear of being caught out, supportive of brutalisation agencies oops!, sorry, brutal assaults by law-enforcement agencies, locking up all opposing politicians whose light, charisma, credentials, mass-appeal, resonance with their constituents, Dark cannot match… which necessitates Dark taking them out of the reckoning while deliberately delayed processes of eventually…ultimately…maybe…one day… perhaps… possibly…holding elections again is completed so locked-up-opponents have no time, no opportunity, nor enough “current status” to get back into the fray with any degree of effectiveness, destroying their likelihood of winning… real competition one cannot afford, knowing likely losses at the hustings, so brazen lock-all-others-out-protectionism is put to work… and the judiciary happens to be looking away… and does not feel it necessary to call out “the usurpist” Constitution-negaters… who get away with…

Dark. People you simply cannot talk to. Anything not expressing blind unqualified support for whatever Dark stands for reacted to as provocation, as Venkatesh Rao (hereafter V) recently (Internet of beef) observed, either alleged nationalism-based conflict (actually, assault) mode, or terrorise-them-till-surrender: heads I win tails you lose syndrome, The Godfather’s offer-you-can’t-refuse, Dark bracketing you anti-national, trying to bait you into reactive violence… because there they have the upper edge: massive cadres, support of the browns, the blacks and the seemingly all-pervasive Dark… V (he is brilliant) whom I paraphrase below, has an amazing repertoire of phrases: he refers to the “blast radius” around Dark, and students of current affairs cannot miss the sinister connotations, notwithstanding his observation that individual episodes are inconsequential. For the Dark Knights Templar of the Dark Table, their highest honour is being noticed by the Darkest Ones they sold their souls for. Resultantly, majoritarian loyalty established, reiterated, a vergegenwärtigung if you like, occurs, and eventual almost irreversible dehumanization. V brings masterful style to his narrative, which applies equally to political discourse today: “actual patterns of conflict are devoid of …visible strategic artistry that might warm the souls of connoisseurs of the military arts. …is just relentless, ugly, dirty, unredeemed…”Understatement, if anything.

V concludes the only way to end the endless Hobbesian war, all against all, is to reboot history: nontrivial undertaking…

The way to reboot history, says V, is to figure out new beings to be. Do we, can we, drop the baggage of past trauma, events evoking apprehension… in the presently overcast political climate? For the present, all those protesting are just “wrong ones”, “the other”.  In lieu of rebooting history, we see rewriting of history… Gibran’s the Moving Finger writes, and having writ… is now the Dark Pen writes and having writ… erases the truth wherever it finds it.

Light is in hiding. Dark prevails everywhere. Black is vacillating, ineffective. The students are leading the nation. Woman power is unmistakably awake, in the thick of the action.  Facing Constitutional imperatives admits of no moral relativism. No “What I believe is moral, is moral because I believe so”.

Where there is a duty to act, failure to act is culpable.  The representatives of the people cannot travel where Constitution prohibits, cannot fail to do what it mandates, do not have inaction as an option. Neither do Constitutional Courts. The difference is, Constitutional Courts can call representatives of the people to account. There being none to call judges to account, one wonders which is the more apt: “Quo Vadis” or “Quo Warranto?”

Shafeeq R. Mahajir is a seasoned lawyer based in Hyderabad.

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