Shafeeq R. Mahajir
This lockdown, unlock creative thinking, from thinking “out of” the box to thinking without any box, eliminate thought-boundaries… think electoral politics, truth vs campaigns, manifestos vs real politics, stated vs unstated, implied vs intended, deified vs demonised…
A major civilization with multi-party democracy and elections, we ought to be an example. Any party, Congress, BJP, whatever, cannot obviously be some devious Machiavellian plot to wreak havoc and destroy India, in which it too lives. Each believes, like Naxalites, that India is not what they want it to be, and they want to shape it their way. Neil Kinnock, British Labour Party acknowledged “They say we want power. Yes we want power, the power to bring about change…!”. I get it, and I agree. We all want power to have some control over our lives, or at least be able to believe so.
The system (via either party) ruled for decades, its flaws laid bare for all to see. Some say the one was not responsible, or not the most responsive, of governments, it didn’t work for everyone. The system morphed from 2014. The one gave way to the other, its flaws also bare for all to see. Some say it was uncaring, irresponsive, even repressive, and positively callous. They called it fascist, majoritarian, exclusivist.
It works well, say its adherents: top businessmen, pseudo-media barons, select film personalities, and, slowly traversing down the spectrum, military and paramilitary commanders, police officials, bureaucrats, university employees (“intellectuals”, “professors”, “academicians”, “teachers” et al, are persona non grata vis-à-vis Establishment) and, electorally the most important segment, zillions of mysteriously funded unemployed “politically active” youths, and small businesspeople whose very existence depends on patronage of one form or another.
“Sabkaa saath sabkaa vikaas” we had been told. How then, did what happened, happen? An ideological poet’s call “jeevan ke aakarshak armaanaon ko dalnaa hogaa, kkhadam milaa kar chalnaa hogaa”, both inclusive and inspiring, yet saw the party demonstrate more than just disdain for minorities. We can explain an exclusionary political policy shift away from promised sabkaa saath, but what explains why ordinary people are the one by whom minorities are being attacked? What brought them to anger, even murderous anger, why against minorities, and for what excuse?
Is it that there was a conscious decision to adopt a “sabkaa saath” approach, projecting inclusiveness, a reverberating “armaanaon ko dalnaa hogaa, kkhadam milaa kar chalnaa hogaa” camouflage a background score subtly playing something else, for electoral success?
Politicians wanting to be elected cannot talk revenge for imagined or real historical hurts, else logic trips them up. Seek badlaa? For Battle of Panipat 1526? Battle of Buxar 1764? Badlaa in 2002, or 2020, from Akbar (died 1605), Aurangzeb (died 1707) et al…? Clearly these must be just expressions of political expedience, y’know, to mobilise the masses, sway the vote…
Facts. What role Tipu Sultan? How many thousands Maulvis were hung by the Brits? Whither the Reshmi Rumaal Tehreek? Identities of those whose efforts and sacrifices got India freedom? Wait! Logic and facts cannot be allowed to intervene. They spoil the show.
So what if those talking of hurt are talking of times when there was no Constitution, wars were fought for plunder, civilization was not what it is today, no international, and internationally accepted, dispute resolution mechanism existed…
Those are facts. Facts don’t win elections. Emotion does. Enchant them, get them to move it, move it, move it! Visible Covid-19 masks today’s official attire, imperceptible political masks camouflaging real intent boast deeper roots.
Masks in place, indoctrinate: “I would be fine, except that as I learnt now, those others savaged me, hurt my pride…I must avenge my hurt. True I need food, employment, hospitals, health, agriculture, industry, schools for my children, my country become vishv guru, but those will take time… while right now at least revenge is mine, a first step towards power to change, towards my realizing my destiny… the Kinnockian “power to bring about change…!” That’s the way to succeed, come election time…? Get the poor to enrich us!
What?! Are you crazy? How will the poor, themselves poor, enrich others?! Listen, fool: in electoral politics, numbers matter, and the poor are the answer ! The poor have nothing: no houses, slum-dog lives, torn clothes, ill-paid jobs, little education, no future, not even hope, man, nothing at all… except their self-respect. So? “So?”? Are you blind? Go for it! Hungry, unemployed, poor, ill-paid, frustrated, angry, emasculated, hopeless people, haunted eyes chafing at their reality of helpless bondage, furious with an unfair system, have a very short fuse: they will leap and grab at anything that suggests any vestige of power, of regaining even illusory control over their destiny… “Sabkaa saath sabkaa vikaas” the line official, self-respect in focus, gaurav yatras organised, inconvenient truths safe, the electorate mesmerised, creates a live EVM: Entranced Voting Masses.
This may seem legitimate in electoral politics, where numbers matter, but having got elected, expectation is elected regimes rise above electoral background scores, towards eventual inclusive politics: a chain as strong as its weakest link, weakening any link proves disastrous. The background score subtle, one needs to be aware to hear it, through surrounding media noise. In silences and pauses, one hears the drums of destiny.
Camouflaged background scores, heard, analysed, furnish opportunities to people on all sides of the spectrum to reinvent themselves for continued relevance, to build a society that can yet lead, judiciously emerging from the shadows of the exclusivist dark, to constitutional propriety and it’s inclusive light. In lockdowns, regimes sensing opportunity in disaster are, under the pretext of control of the pandemic, arming themselves with greater powers, raising the spectre of misuse. Official apathy and disrespectful treatment stories are increasing. Shortages must not bring people on to streets, or matters to a head. Resources limited, hunger strong and supply lines weak, civil strife is something we cannot afford.
India should avoid face-off between judiciary and executive, between power and law. Will only pandemic masks be shed, or political ones too, so real personas emerge? Will prayers of people knocking at the doors of the temples of justice be answered, or will Covid-armed power have its way?
Transcending trances, the nation wants to know.
Shafeeq R. Mahajir is a Hyderabad-based nationally known lawyer