Paradoxes of Indian Democracy

Radhakanta Barik

Indian leading economists working abroad or here are of the same opinion that the central government has resources and they should invest in people. Today speaking to the media the leader of the leading opposition party the Congress Party Rahul Gandhi has put it straight that the central government must invest in people. But will it work over Modi as the Prime Minister and whose government controls all resources whereas the State government depends on sharing the resources with the centre. This is high time that millions of workers have lost jobs and without any income for last one and a half month and today they are in a desperate mood. Hunger haunts them and desperation pushing them to walk thousands km to their homes. On the way many of them are dying without food and water. Exhaustion and lack of food have killed them. The modern state is a silent observer of the situation. They are walking on the road and district collector can provide them food and water and if necessary medicine. District collector is the symbol of Indian state who can act on their own to help the worker while walking from one district to another. District administration can coordinate among them and try to help the workers. Indian administration must stand on its own for which they belong to Indian Administrative Service. In discussing with many collectors one finds that they acted bravely to confront the reality while handling communal riots or drought and famine and they can stand for the workers today. Modi is failing workers and failing with each section of a society.

After the death of a terrorist in Kashmir the story of Modi government that removal of democracy will help in removing terrorism is not coming true. On the contrary the information regarding the terrorist group tells us that a new type of terrorism has grown on the soil of Kashmir. India's handling of Kashmir by providing autonomy under Art 370 and allowing democracy to function certainly tackled the problem in an effective manner. As teaching as a teacher with the civil servants and military generals one feels that they were too careful while going for an operation in Kashmir. These civil servants who worked with me and pleaded for more autonomy for Kashmir. His dissertation was appreciated by the former Governor of J and K who invited him to join as the Secretary to him. The generals worked so hard to confront the terrorists without violating the human rights. If any army personnel violate the human rights he was punished by the army including the many officers. Today as political democracy has disappeared with the abrogation of Art 370 this brings us to square one where the government has to start a fresh start. As Hindutva does not believe in democracy for them democracy is the real problem in Kashmir, today they may be realizing that no democracy means total alienation of people which has never happened in Kashmir valley. No terrorism is fought without support from people. This is a lesson to all of us. Modi has gone abrogation of democracy in Kashmir in the name of nationalism. The nationalism is like Corona has a widespread network which got recognized by Tagore long back.

Tagore a greatest creative person from India whose works have got recognition for which he got Nobel prize. His humanistic consciousness made him a thinker and poet. He got involved in art, painting and gardening activities. He built Shantiniketan which is a monument by itself. People from all over world came to learn from this place. His writings influenced all of us. His writing specifically the poem: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free" turn out to be intellectual agenda of Independent India till 2014 when Modi came to power. It has been removed from the public places. Perhaps this is one of the first actions implemented by Modi government which did not get a protest at that time, although I raised in various forums of Delhi regarding this. Today no dissent is being tolerated by the present regime. Most of the dissident intellectuals are either in jail or suffering in the hands of the government. He is one of the leading intellectual who questioned the concept of nationalism against humanism which is a profound observation by him at the time of rise of nationalism before his death. Today India is divided into two groups: one group who are ruling known as nationalistic and another group who opposing him are known as anti-nationalistic. This is their binary thinking which tries to control our intellectual world which is a pathetic statement over the present crisis. On his anniversary we remember him who provides strength to all of us at the time of Corona.

Karl Marx was born in the most creative age of modern history. That is 19th century where he along with many more in different fields created a creative phase. We live in 21st century a barren decade where no intellectual production is possible. The rulers have turned into kings and libraries and laboratories and universities are closed. Students and teachers are harassed. This is the barren decade we have to live in and confront the reality that is the lesson Marx taught us. He analysed Capitalism in his volumes on Capital where he looked at each unit of it that is commodity and finds it embodies the labour. Human labour creates wealth that is what our ancient wisdom to medieval Bhagvat teaches that it is labour creates value. Marx provides clarity on the process of creation of value based on labour. This expanded our imagination. He is the first public intellectual who moved from place to place to enjoy his freedom. He sat in the library of London and produced his books. His books create fear in the minds of the rulers. He spoke boldly and wrote intelligently and his profundity lies in an observation that we the workers have nothing to lose but our chains. Today it is workers are moving place to place without freedom to work and food and to back their homes. On his birth anniversary we remember him as an intellectual who spoke boldly and wrote lucidly and predicted the world will face crisis. The crisis today is being experienced by the world. His prediction has come true. Will it help in creating revolutionary change?

Satyajit Ray is a film maker who adopts great literary classics into film making. He has a deep understanding of Bengal society. He has captured the problems of poverty and education and health of post-Independence Bengal in an artistic manner. He wants to be true to novels which he adopts these into making films. The story has to be told in a slow and lucid style. This brings out the poetic layers in the film making that you may not use poems but there is always lyricism in a film. All his films still inspire the young and old film lovers. He brings the status of a creative person in the world of film making. He has inspired many great film directors of today. On his birth anniversary one feels to see his films once more.

After seeing Anari film of 1950s by Hrishikesh Mukherjee one can dare to dream against Hindutva background today. That Anari an ordinary person who has been staying in rented place owned by Christian lady and she looks after the Hindu person just like her son. She says that god, Bhagvan and Allah are the same. He looks for work as an unemployed youth where he says that he is unemployed but not a beggar which indicates the importance of honesty and merit. He is caught in a false murder case but without evidence the Judge makes him free. All these issues related to story bring back today a challenge from Hindutva and human identity based on religion and caste and justice can be manipulated.

Migrants are without money as a month without any income or any work and any food. They live in a precarious situation. They want to go back home. They were not allowed. After a month they are being allowed by Modi government as the trains are allowed to move. But it is interesting to note here that cost of each ticket is more than double today and they have to pay. Modi has started a PM Service which has got from the Indian Railways Rs 151 crores and the fund which is not going to be audited. This will be used for private works of the party it seems. But the Railway cannot pay the ticket of each worker. It is a smart move by the Congress Party to pay the fare of each worker from its own fund. It shames the rich and powerful and ruling party flushing with money under its control the election fund of Rs.6000 crores.

Today's global politics is more about politicking and to win the election rather than saving people from Coronavirus. Trump says that this is Chinese virus to create a hysteria against the Chinese people which has resulted in xenophobic attacks on Chinese students and workers. Here in India the Hindutva campaigned some time back it is virus from Nizammuddin which resulted in a campaign against the Muslims. Modi in 2019 general election campaigned against Pakistan and Phulwama for which he got 30 percentages of votes and today he is power in Modi-2. As an autocratic ruler he speaks against the intellectual activists and political leaders and many of them arrested under the National Security Act and put into jails without trials. This is not happening in USA as the Judiciary is a strong public institution but the politics of hatred against Mexicans, Muslims and migrant labour is going on as Modi did before the 2019. Today's politics is more about to create fear in the minds of people and win the trust, As Modi created fear against Pakistan, Kashmir and Muslims and Trump is creating fear against the migrants and Chinese now. Both are teaching each other and helping each other in Covid 19 in political sense not fighting against a health disaster.

The government of Karnataka has taken a decision to cancel the trains carrying the migrant labour to their respective states. This brings the question of the famous Kannada writer Kuvempu whose story regarding the bonded Dalit labour that in a day of heavy rains the boy has been forced to go in the night to catch the fish and who has not returned back. On the next morning the Landlord goes for searching him and finds him dead. This is a story creates melancholic feelings in readers minds. The same thing is happening now by the announcement of the BJP government in Karnataka who cancelled the trains carrying the migrant labour. They have been treated so badly for last forty days without work, money and food. Nobody bothered of them. The industrialists and the government did not bother of them. They are starving and they do not have strength to work in the factory. They want to go back home to recover from physical and mental distress caused by the Lockdown by Modi government. After some days the pressures mounted on Modi and for which the trains started moving from Banglore.

Prof Amartya Sen argues that Kerala model is much superior to Gujarat model. He is talking of Kerala model from 1950s because of the health infrastructure. This is absent in Gujarat.  This is an interesting observation by a reputed scholar who is concerned of welfare of people of India. In Kerala people do not have fear and one can visit the house of a tribal in the forest or a house of Dalit or any working man and woman. One visits the house of a Dalit in the city of Ahmadabad today he feels scared of any outsider's shadow. Dalit Professor in the university tells me that no caste Hindu Professor belonging Gujarat talks to him. This issue raised by Gandhi when he started the Kheda agitation and inquired from his upper caste supporters, ‘Have you visited the house of a Dalit?’ They usually say 'No'. This disappointed Gandhi. [See, Judith Brown, Gandhi's Rise to PowerIndian Politics 1915–1922 (Cambridge South Asian Studies)] Lack of self-respect is the critical issue affecting human right of an ordinary citizen in Gujarat which is the model for which thirty percentages of people voted Modi. They lack critical consciousness for which Indians today suffer.

The story of Corona has pushed the middle class into their cocoons and they do not come out as if the Corona is in the air, in trees with birds and on the playground and in the parks and flowers. The parks are empty and the trees without birds and the trees being loaded with flowers but nobody is there to enjoy these aspects of nature. They are busy in seeing the Ramayana and they think that Lord Ram in Ayodhya will save them. This is like the story of The Plague by Albert Camus who says, "The plagues bacilus never dies or vanishes entirely. IT can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing ---- it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers and perhaps the day will come when for the instruction or misfortune of mankind the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well contented city."

Modi as the Prime Minister has announced the third Lockdown which brings the story of Abhimanyu who knows how to enter into Chakravuya but not having knowledge of how to come out .His father has not educated him to come out of the Chakraavuya. All information regarding deaths because of Corona virus are the lowest in India in comparison to any country in the world but most of the countries have allowed their industries to work as industries are life line of any economy, he has gone for the third lockdown which is going to ruin the economy. After a month he has decided to send the trains to transport the migrant labour when they must be boiling in anger against Indian state. Modi has ulterior interest in declaring the Lockdown three by arresting some left wing students and workers and some minority leaders and allowing the RBI to pardon some more smugglers who have fled away to foreign countries. This is the best time for him as no protest happens here in Delhi and he has sound sleep in his palace.

The way the rulers of India after getting just 30 percentages of votes are able to ignore two most important social groups such as Working class and Muslims and Dalits to some extent  I personally feel that the 1935 act created provision for the representation of workers and Muslims which was better than the present representation system based on based single vote and single person . Yes our democracy could not be social democracy as the representation of this may help the Hindutva to grow as the upper castes are able to mobilize in the name of nationalism today. They have ruined the working class and their governments of UP and MP have decided to remove all rights of working class. They are trying to disfranchise the Muslims and working class. Let us reconsider the representation system in India which is not democratic as it speaks for the high caste Hindus who monopolize the bureaucracy, capitalist class and political executive and judiciary and academia and lawyers.

After seventy years of Indian democracy we are experiencing the paradoxes of the democracy. The elected government on the basis of 30 percentages of voters whereas almost 70 percentages voted  against him. But his government is the most authoritarian government and has successfully manipulated the public institutions. His dictates are working without getting stopped by the legislature and Judiciary and media. All these public institutions are experiencing the exasperation moment. They are unable to function in an effective manner. It is the time of Corona but his government has not declared a package for the migrant labour as demanded by the opposition and public intellectuals and even the calculation has been made by the leading economist that the amount will be Rs.65000 crores which is a faction of Indian GDP. Will Indian democracy be able to come out of these paradoxes?

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May 13, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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