It is often advised that civil disobedience in the form of breaking a law must not be practiced under a democracy. It is because democracy by giving the space for open discussion prevents a situation wherein people are compelled to think of civil disobedience. Moreover, if citizens develop faith in civil disobedience then that only undermines the rule of law. Such an act doesn’t strengthen democracy but rather helps in diminishing its ethos. People must be discouraged to break laws because in a democracy, it is they who elect their representatives through free and fair elections. These representatives then make laws to which open disobedience must not be practiced. Citizens can also vote for change of leadership in the subsequent election cycle, if they feel their representatives have been incompetent. However, while these provisions fulfil the conditions of a well functioning procedural democracy, what recourse do citizens have, when their representatives don’t act in the interest of the governed continuously but function in an autocratic manner? What if laws are made without following the spirit of democracy? Does that really result in making a substantive democracy?
It may, at first glance, seem odd that students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, are pouring out in the thousands in angry protest against the administration’s move to enforce compuslory attendance. A leading national daily even misrepresents the boycott of this move by students and faculty as a struggle for the ‘right to not attend classes’, suggesting that they are angry over a triviality, which it is not. It is yet another assault by the present University admnistration against proven academic practices that choose not to infantilise students, and rely more on active learning and participation than on mere physical presence. It has been one among other important practices that has set this university apart. The nuances, therefore, of the anger among the students and faculty of JNU need to be fleshed out.
T T Sreekumar, an important commentator on contemporary politics in Kerala — a public intellectual who now qualifies to be an irritant in the eyes of the Kerala police, now that he has openly declared his allegiance to the dalit people fighting injustice and Vadayambady and inaugurated a protest-event there — writes about the issue and its historical origins:
When I visited Vadayambady the other day to express my solidarity with the cause of the agitation, what I witnessed there was an atmosphere of utmost fear and police terror. A big task force of police was stationed at the location. The team that included the special branch officers, had created a situation of terror at the peaceful site. Activists mentioned that a particular police officer continuously hurled abuses, including caste abuses, at the protesters that included Dalit women and children. When the protest began to draw national attention, the ruling dispensation of CPIM that had hitherto remained unconcerned has started to take up some damage control measures. However, when they finally arrived at the site of the agitation almost after a year since the agitation began, the CPIM leaders allegedly refused to address the caste question involved. Dalit activists, including women activists, surrounded them and raised several objections to this attitude pointing to their sheer hypocrisy and lack of integrity.
रक्स करना है तो पॉंव की ज़ंजीर न देख – मजरूह सुल्तानपुरी
Look – beyond the the prison walls, the brilliance of flowers, the vitality of spring
If you must dance, ignore the chains that bind your feet – Majrooh Sultanpuri
Today, the scared Republic that has imprisoned its young idealistic fighter son, Chandrashekhar, is on trial. The Republic, scared of its own offspring, stands in the dock. This Republic Day, we must all answer how it came to pass that a gang of adventurers and marauders simply took it over, submitted it to their command, while all the elderly, wise men and women, watched. Today, when the Republic bondage we must seek answers from all those who watched helplessly – or self-righteously – as marauders took it over.
It is official now. A radiogram from the Deputy Secretary, Home, Govt of Uttar Pradesh to the Superintendent, Saharanpur District Jail, dated 23 January 2018, confirms the slapping of charges under the National Security Act, on Bhim Army founder, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’. Pradeep Narwal, Coordinator, Committee for the Defence of Bhim Army, who met Chandrashekhar in jail yesterday, underlined how the Karni Sena activists attacking school buses and vandalizing schools were being allowed the freedom to do so while Chandrashekhar, responsible for setting up and running of schools (see the video below), is being held in jail for months and has now been slapped with charges under NSA. “Karni Sena are apparently deshbhakts and Shekher bhai and Bhim Army are ‘terrorists’ in the perverted logic of this government,” he said.
I went to Maharashtra as I along with other activists and intellectuals were invited to come there. I along with others was a guest there. And I would remember fondly the love and support that I received in Pune and Mumbai. I would remember the resilience and enthusiasm of the people I met and their resoluteness to fight Manuvaad and centuries old casteist tyranny. I would remember the immense inspiration that I felt, when we paid homage to Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule in Phule-wada, Pune. And, No I will not let two days of media trials by a few TV anchors, who are more of professional howlers, spoil these wonderful memories. I will not let their criminal cacophony and mindless vilification of me, Jignesh & others shadow my beautiful memories of Maharashtra.
The state of Maharashtra as well as the rest of the country is at a critical juncture today. On the one hand are forces in power who want to push our country back to many centuries and on the other are people who are resisting this Neo-Peshwahi, the casteist-communal-fascist regime of BJP-RSS. In my speech at Elgar Parishaad on 31st December 2017, I had said that the year 2018 is going to be a very challenging one. The last 3 and half years of the Modi Sarkar has exposed the BJP’s jumlas of Ache Din and Vikas as hollow, bitter and brutal lies.
As the General Elections of 2019 approach, BJP/RSS will now resort to creating civil strife amongst the people, polarising them on the basis of caste and religion and unleashing attacks on muslims and Dalits. The developments over the last few days vindicate me, a little too soon. Several regions of Maharashtra are in the midst of an acute agrarian distress. Both Marathas and Dalits are victims of this agrarian crisis that has been precipitated by the policies of both Modi and Fadnavis. The BJP/RSS regime has no resolution to offer to the farmers of Maharashtra. Therefore, unleashing attacks on Dalits through their hoodlums and portraying it as a caste clash between Dalits & Marathas will remain their only strategy. Continue reading “Statement about the attacks on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon & the Subsequent developments in Maharashtra : Umar Khalid”→
[A shorter version of this article was published in The Wire on 18 December. I thank K. Satyanarayana, P. Sanal Mohan and Jangam Chinnaiah for their very helpful comments on it, which have helped me to clarify and elaborate on certain points.]
The rise of Jignesh Mevani constitutes a significant landmark in the political configuration in which the Congress has risen, despite itself, from a state of utter disarray to become the point of articulation for a possible political realignment in the near future. The process of political reconfiguration had already begun as a very significant section of the powerful patidar community, long understood to be the bedrock of the BJP’s social base in the state, had broken away from it. But alongside this, the rise of the young leaders Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani together produced the new young face of emergent Gujarat.
There is no doubt that the vacuum that characterized the space where the opposition should have been, no longer exists. The masthead of a new opposition formation is evident on the horizon. This turnaround in the fortunes of the Congress would not have been possible without the re-alignments in the non-electoral arena, facilitated in no small measure by the rise of this young leadership.
Twenty five years ago, on 6 December 1992, the structure of Babri Masjid was brought down by a mob of vandals, presided over by the top leadership of the BJP/RSS/VHP, as the Congress government led by prime minister Narasimha Rao looked on benignly. As did the Supreme Court before which a commitment was made by the Kalyan Singh (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh – to the effect that nothing would be allowed to happen to the structure of the mosque.
Journalist Sajeda Momin, covering the demolition, recalls the scene thus,
I can still see the thousands of saffron-clad ‘kar sevaks’ clambering atop the 16th century mosque and pounding it with shovels, iron rods, pickaxes and anything they could lay their hands on. I can hear the screeching of Sadhvi Uma Bharti egging them on shouting “ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do” through the microphones from atop the specially-built watchtower for the BJP/RSS/VHP leadership. I can visualize the three domes of the mosque collapsing inwards one by one at intervals of roughly an hour on that cold, wintery Sunday afternoon.
Everyone knew who were the dramatis personae at each level – and practically every bit of evidence that would ever have been required exists, captured in videos and photographs. Our present prime minister was said to be one of the key organizers of the of the Rath Yatra that led up to the demolition and can be seen holding the microphone in his hands in the photograph below.
Worse was to follow the demolition. The demolition of the structure of the mosque was over that day but the process of the demolition of the Indian Constitution that had begun with what was called the ‘Ram janmabhoomi movement’ continued. By ‘Constitution’ I do not simply mean the book that embodies the law of the land but rather the very weave that came to constitute Indian society as a result of the new contract that the document called the Constitution embodied. Constitution, therefore in a triple sense. The document called the Constitution too was not merely a book of laws; it was rather, the only existing, largely agreed upon, vision of a modern India. It was a vision which was put in place through the long process of struggles, debates and contestations over the long decades of the anticolonial movement and finally given shape in, in the Constituent Assembly. There was nothing benign or innocuous about it – every bit of it had to be achieved through a fight. And yet, in the end, that was the document that embodied the vision of modern India. The only political current that stood far away from both the anticolonial struggle and had no role in the creation of this vision is the political force that rules India today.
The RSS and its numerous offshoots were neither fighting the British nor joining in the anti-caste and anti-untouchability struggles through the period since they came into existence in the mid-1920s. No wonder leaders of the Sangh combine think the anti-colonial/ national struggle was about cow-protection. That they neither subscribed to the anti-British agenda nor to the anti-caste agenda around which struggles of that period took shape, is not just a matter of historical record but is also visible in the way its leaders and ranks conduct their politics today. Every single step taken by the Sangh leaders is a step out of sync with the vision of the future spelt out by the social contract of modern India. That the Sangh attributes this vision to the Congress is an expression of its own illiteracy about the diverse forces in struggle throughout that period.
Even though it is conducted in the name of Hindus, there is nothing ‘Hindu’ about its agenda. Sangh and Sanghism is the name of a malignant political machine that seeks to destroy the very body of society in the name of an ancient past. That is the political machine we confront today. That is the political machine that we must fight today with all our vigour.