In the name of People

Democracy for Whom?


From the level of school to the stage of the university, students hear that democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people. The government, however, does not bother to specify who people are. In the government's view, masters who own the means of production, such as lands, mines, factories, lorries, and busses, are people; additionally, those workers who work for wages with such owners and those who are unemployed are also people! Democracy is real only when all the citizens of society have 'collective ownership' on the means of production and political decisions. Without such universal participation of all citizens, isn't the system a democracy for a few? If anyone says so, the rulers will not tolerate. They would argue, 'Don't all people have a right to vote? The candidates who secure the majority of votes representing a party alone are people's representatives. That means people rule themselves by electing their representatives. People have been hearing this argument for the past 70 years in this country. Now it has reached its peak. If anyone questions a political party, which thus won a majority, secured power, and committed atrocities against its own people, the rulers will retort, 'The people have given us the mandate. We rule with the support of a huge mandate.' Though this argument has been there since a long time, it has surpassed all limits over the past five years.

While the previous government, in the name of 'operation green hunt', crushed the organizations that stood for the rights of tribals, the current saffron regime has been suppressing many people in the name of 'operation samadhan'. At least a few administrators admit that tribals have been moving towards Naxalites as the government failed to solve their problems. Nevertheless, the mining companies appropriate the lands and forests that the tribals dwell. The mining companies, not Tribals, enjoy ample democracy. This democracy implies the ownership and control over mines, forests, and many other properties!

In the recent past, the use of force- against those who protest against unemployment, against violence onDalits or religious minorities, against violations of civil rights-is on the rise. The repressive actions against intellectuals who question injustices and irregularities, due to professional reasons or political awareness, are rising to alarming levels. The country witnesses increasing incidences of framing false cases against lawyers, writers, journalists, social activists, and others who take up the problems of various sections of the people. Two years ago, the government of Maharashtra filed a conspiracy case against Dalits, who organised an annual celebratory gathering at Bhima Koregaon near Pune. Filing conspiracy cases is the political plague the rulers of India inherited from the colonial rulers.

Taking advantage of the events of Bhima Koregaon, the government framed conspiracy charges against several people who were not even present there. The allegation was that these people have conspired to assassinate the prime minister! One of the victims of the false cases is Vara Vara Rao. The courts of law have dismissed all the conspiracy cases filed against him in the past that they were all fabricated. Based on the indicators, the present case is also heading evidently in the same direction.

Nevertheless, the intellectuals who stand on the side of people have to lose their freedom and valuable time and endure the pathetic conditions of imprisonment due to false cases. These intellectuals stand on the side of people not for job promotions, to bag plum politicalpositions, or to earn bags of money. Take the example of Sudha Bharadwaj; she could have secured a comfortable job thirty years ago, given her educational qualifications. She forsook all such opportunities to work for the interest of the mine-workers in Chhattisgarh all these years. Presently, she is in prison in a false case. The state will not take up the investigation promptly and resolve matters quickly. It has been two years already since the cases were filed, but the legal proceedings haven't even begun yet. The government has been blocking the appeals for bail so cruelly that the 80-year old Vara Vara Rao, who has been suffering from many ailments, is unable to get a bail. In a different case without progress, the government is unleashing vengeance by blocking the issuance of bail to Saibaba, who lost 90% of the use of his feet and has been suffering from many ailments. In stark contrast, the criminals who massacred the Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 or the convicts who have been sentenced in the incidents of communal attacks of 2002 in Gujarat are roaming openly and freely. The activists of Bhima Koregaon conspiracy cases have been languishing in jails without hope for bail.

No state naturally appreciates intellectuals who make efforts to protect the interests of the people in their way. The state represents a system comprising of the parliament, assemblies, ministers, bureaucrats, courts, religious leaders, army, police, and the other armed forces. Historically, the state has come into existenceonly to keep the people and their intellectuals suppressed. The state and its suppression have been perpetuating for thousands of years, beginning from the days of slave-masters till today.

Democrats and liberals must oppose the false cases, however, without any illusion of political leaders. For instance, some intellectuals and writers recently appealed to K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), Chief Minister, Telangana, to try for the release of Vara Vara Rao since he previously struggled for the formation of the State of Telangana, and KCR himself used to seek the advice of Vara Vara Rao during those times. Some others lamented that some 'revolutionaries' who previously were disciples of Vara Vara Rao are not paying heed although they are occupying positionsin KCR's government. Appeals of this kind are a political-disgrace to the self-respect of activists! Indeed, it's a matter of anguish for sympathisers to find an activist struggling in old age helplessly and in ill health. However, there is no choice; one must stand firmly. While exploring legal options regardless of how limited their use is for people. Human Rights bodies have to mobilise the public opinion. Though, statements of protest are part of the mobilisation; such acts alone, however,are not adequate. All the organisations of the urban and rural workers, peasants, students and women should try to exert pressure on the government. Such efforts may not bring desired results soon. However, people will realise the facts if attempts are made constantly and in sustained manner for a long time.

The fact that the state is not hesitant in the least to frame false conspiracy cases is indicative that both past and present movements suffer from some fault! As a result, people do not protest or fight back when intellectuals are arrested under false charges and subjected to brutality or when revolutionaries are killed in fake encounters; Transportation does not remain standstill, production in the mines, factories, or other workplaces does not stop. But no word of strikes!

Sympathisers of the social activists must deliberate on other ways of mobilisation against the false cases. The activists will have to suffer until such a time.

(Translation from Telugu: Ranga Udaykumar)

Vol. 53, No. 16, Oct 18 - 124, 2020