By Dr Oishee Mukherjee
The ongoing debate about present-day insecurity that we are witnessing in society is growing all the more with elections underway. Whoever may emerge the winner, will the sense of fear and uncertainty disappear is a nagging question. Speaking against the authorities or the party in power is not largely not being tolerated as politicians have become narrow minded and are not willing to accept dissent. Though they talk of ideals and the country being the world’s largest democracy, they are literally unaware of what really democracy stands for and the values associated with it as enunciated by its proponents.
Another symptom that is being manifest in the country is the centralisation of power. This is not just within the government – be it Central or State — but also in most political parties. The impression going is party members or even ministers are not allowed to speak their minds and only one or two persons air the views. This trend has become manifest across the nation, while it is no secret that at the Centre the ruling party has taken control even of academic bodies, universities and autonomous institutions.
According to sociologists, such situations lead to a kind of neurosis where people become nervous and edgy and they tend to blame others for things beyond their control. Similarly, sociologists and psychologists point out that individuals want to enjoy power and authority and are unwilling to trust many persons except their chosen few. Constantly suffering from fear psychosis, they become intolerant even when decisions taken by them backfires and are not accepted.
Obviously, these powerful patriarchs always like to be praised and cannot digest dissent. Thus it is quite natural that there is a robust and healthy democracy is under threat in the nation but also within political parties. Whether it is Narendra Modi or Mamata Banerjee or Mayawati – or in the past, late Jaylalitha — all have been found autocratic in their functioning and are averse to dissenting opinion, even if these are constructive and judicious. It may not be out of place to consider that women political leaders, at the helm of affairs, have been found to be more autocratic and centralised in their decision-making process.
However, the trend is not just limited to India but has become a common feature is most parts of the world given the rise in right-wing politics, though the degree differs from country-wise. It is generally observed that in countries which are marked by inequality, poverty and low level of education levels are low, there is a tendency for the regime to be autocratic.
One is inclined here to refer to a recent order of the Delhi High Court which, while restoring to an Indian-American doctor his Overseas Citizen of India card, which had been cancelled following allegations he was preaching Christianity and carrying out conversions, came down heavily on the government. Given the doctor’s plea that his stated purpose was to provide medical service in Bihar’s Raxaul, the Court ticked off the Government, which claimed the doctor was working against the sovereignty and integrity of the Country. Justice Vibhu Bakhru observed: “It has perhaps escaped their attention that India is a secular country . . .”
While the Modi government is accused of exceeding all norms in violating individual’s right to free living and with dignity, the future does not augur well. Even if in these General elections, there is a coalition government at the Centre, it is hard to believe that it would restore security and freedom in society. Most of the regional leaders too are not much tolerant and, as such, they may not be either.
The present trends of insecurity are further compounded by rising unemployment and political pressure at every step. The youth, even the educated ones, are way laid into activities under the patronage of local goons which help them extract money and earn a living. The law and order situation, business and other spheres all become part of the pervasive rot. This has led to widespread corruption and misuse of power at every level. It is indeed distressing that very few people protest against corrupt practices such as from getting admission to hospitals, schools to getting the minimum support price.
Apart from this the police machinery appears to have become a pawn of the ruling party, taking orders from their leaders. The entire system, many feel is being ruled by unhealthy individuals who become part and parcel of this unethical game. Small traders and business people are the worst sufferers as they end up having to pay up as per calculations of local leaders and their representatives, when demanded. Cases of local police looking the other way are not few.
Sometimes ordinary citizens are harassed and may face false charges, possibly because they may have gone against the ruling party line. Similarly, the rich and the powerful as also politicians owing allegiance to some other party are now increasingly being reportedly harassed by the Income Tax department and Enforcement Directorate to exert pressure to toe line or clamp down.
With quality education not reaching the masses, they remain ignorant about their rights and are not in a position to challenge the political and economic order. Moreover, the clamour to respect religion and the firm impression that the Centre is concerned with the Hindu majority, half educated people get swayed and start to believe that the minority community, particularly Muslims are invaders and destructors, as being prompted by the BJP. Meeting the essentials of life like better health facility or education in villages no longer remains a priority, which is instead overtaken by the zest to have the Ram mandir constructed.
It is indeed distressing that society today has made life insecure for the common man. He/she lives in a state of fear and insecurity as law-abiding citizens as they have no other alternative. Plus, on the one hand, big statues are being constructed and Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated with leaders talking about his life and mission, on the other, they are violating the basic principles of equality and justice. Can we not say that right to life is being violated at every step by the government?
While the Modi government has exceeded in its intolerance, the future does not appear quite encouraging. Though the possibility of the regional parties combine coming to power appears bleak, the situation a number of analysts fear may turn out disastrous if the NDA is re-elected and continues with its present policies. However, another set feels that the aggressive Hindutva and the pro-business approach of the NDA may change as it would eventually have to focus on economic regeneration. How much individual rights, specially of those belonging to the poor and weaker sections, would be upheld remains to be seen.
Finally, apart from freedom of thought and expression, rights of the struggling masses need to be restored and they be given the confidence so they can live with dignity. Thus, a pro-poor approach – not pro-middle class approach – needs to be initiated with a genuine action plan for rural regeneration, more employment opportunities, entrepreneurship development at the grass-root levels along with more power to the panchayats for a real democracy to be functional. — INFA