Several courts have tried to reign in states bent on holding religious events during the pandemic. Judiciary must more proactively prevent them as the third wave approaches.
Simple things need retelling when society is in a state of flux. The fact that India is a republic—has been one for more than 70 years—where sovereignty rests with the people and not with scriptures is one fact. That India runs by its Constitution and laws under it is another fact.
The Uttarakhand High Court reminded the state government of these facts when it objected to proposals to live-stream the historic Char Dham Yatra on the plea that the scriptures do not sanction it. The court rejected the petition, saying India is a democracy where the rule of law, not religious texts, govern.
On the 12th of June, the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) celebrated its tenth anniversary with a public lecture by Justice A P Shah and Prof. Upendra Baxi on the topic Courage Craft and Contention: Human Rights and the Judicial Imagination.
[We are posting this piece by K Balagopal, hoping to continue our reflections on violence and non-violence in political movements. – AN]
The public arena is witness to dispirited discussion of the ineffectiveness of people’s movements, which are at the most able to slow down things, and nothing more. The discussion often turns around violence and non-violence, not as moral alternatives but as strategic options. Those who are sick of sitting on dharna after dharna to no effect are looking with some envy at violent options,
while many who have come out of armed groups find the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) fascinating.
It is good that there is some openness in the matter now, for dogmatic attitudes have done considerable harm. To say that one should not be dogmatic about violence may be morally a little unsettling but it is a defensible position even without adopting a relativistic attitude towards the preciousness of life or a casual attitude towards one’s moral responsibility for injury caused in the course of a struggle. More of that in the right context. But the
discussion will unavoidably be based on assessments of the effectiveness of the alternatives, and a distant view is likely to colour the reality with hopes and assumptions, even illusions. A realistic assessment of what each strategy has been able to achieve would better inform the debate.
The plain and stark fact is that while all strategies have been effective in curbing some injustice, none has succeeded in forcing the government to take back a single major policy in any sphere. And none has been able to reverse the trends inherent in the structures of society and economy. Yet no serious political movement or social struggle we know of is only for softening oppression or improving relief. The general understanding is that governance of the country – and may be the systemic infrastructure of society – is fundamentally wrong and needs remedying, maybe overturning. Do we know of any
effective strategy for that? I am not talking of political strategies,
but strategies of struggle that will successfully put pressure upon the State and the polity to stop them in their tracks. The struggle may be built around class or caste or any other social combination. It may in the end seek reform or the upturning of the polity. It may operate mainly or in part within the polity or keep out of it altogether. Whichever it is, the common problem is this: the experience of this country is that governments do not stop doing some thing merely because it has been demonstrated to be bad. Or even contrary to constitutional directives and goals. They stop only if going along is made difficult to the point of near impossibility. No democratic dispensation should be thus, but Indian democracy is thus. Short of that, you demonstrate the truth of your critique till you are blue in the face or shout till you are hoarse in the throat, it is all the same.