9th Anniversary Special
The most subversive factor in Gujarat is not so much its polarised society, but the use of organs of the State to cultivate this polarisation
BY ARUNA ROY AND COLLEAGUES
There is a sense of anxiety and bewilderment when we look at the current crisis in the Indian State, and in our own lives. There is increasing corrosion of the secular commitment in politics and a loss of trust in authority and their intent to maintain the rule of law. The enormity of the problem lies in the casualness with which these principles, once held so sacrosanct, have been so easily compromised. What has happened in Gujarat is a stark example of the subversion of democratic institutions for the pursuit of sectarian power.
"Hindu Rashtra Karnavati mein aapka hardik swagat hain!" An audacious, unconstitutional and anti-national signboard symbolising an open challenge to the nature of the Indian State was placed prominently on a bridge over the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad. Proof of official sympathy and complicity came from the fact that the signboard was not even taken down for weeks, let alone attempts to prosecute those responsible.
Similar signboards had been appearing in villages and towns across Gujarat, well before the orgy of planned violence that was unleashed in Godhra and in post-Godhra Gujarat. They have been multiplying ever since. Do these signboards not amount to a call for civil war? And yet this pernicious message spreads and a government which has taken an oath to protect the secular Indian State deliberately looks the other way.
The success of communal forces in dividing the social fabric of society along sectarian lines is a cause for comprehensive introspection. However, the systematic and deliberate agenda of a government acting counter to its oath of office raises fundamental questions of its accountability and legitimacy. The short history of independent India has had several sad and shameful chapters of sectarian violence. Larger numbers of people have died in some of those incidents. However, not even in the Sikh "riots" of 1984, (where similar action and reaction theories were shamefully trotted out) was there such a deliberate, comprehensive and sustained plan to subvert the rule of law.
There have been many moments of despair since 1947, but the minorities in India have never been made to feel so conclusively that they can have no faith in the State and its machinery. The government that allowed aggressive and lawless mobs a free a hand has indicted itself. And the confidence in a civil service, which abides by the Constitution and the law, has hit an all time low. The institution of the civil service, including the police, created to prevent the laws of the land from being violated, has failed its own people and the reason for its own existence. It should, if nothing else be ashamed of its incompetence and inability to ensure law and order and quell the violence.
Even a newly appointed sub divisional magistrate with a conscience and a sense of duty, could have restored peace within hours. The police continually accused for its communal and criminal nature will not be able to live down this shameful period in its history. Countless people prayed for help from the police in Gujarat, and learnt while being raped, looted and killed, that a partisan police force will not perform its duty.
The most subversive factor in Gujarat is not so much its polarised society, but the use of organs of the State to cultivate this polarisation. It is for this reason that it must be understood as a State in an undeclared war against itself. There has been no indictment of the state by the central government or of the civil servants by their own community. What does this portend for the country?
What should also frighten the common woman and man in this deliberate and naked connivance of the State in these crimes against humanity is their own future. If the State can encourage these acts against a minority community, it does not take long for these to be perpetrated against any group that threatens the political party or a dominant group’s vested interest.
What has given the victims of the Gujarat carnage and citizens alike some hope for the rule of law has come from the action taken by bodies like the National Human Rights Commission and the Election Commission of India. They have acted to protect constitutional rights, profiling the positive potential that can be exercised by institutions of the State.
The Constitution with its basic features of egalitarian democratic values, with special attention for the disadvantaged, has been responsible for our strength and resilience as a nation state. This was the result of a long struggle for independence and has the sanctity of the approval of its people, who fought for and cherished the idea of a pluralistic and inclusive India. There have been groups which have questioned this sanctity, through direct conflict and confrontation. Their conflicts have been openly placed in the public domain, and many such movements have engaged in violent struggle with the state machinery. The State used its own powerful tools of reprisal and often invoked constitutional authority to quell these rebellious groups. The danger in situations like Gujarat arises when a set of people are elected with a declared allegiance to the Constitution, but who in fact are committed to an agenda of subverting its basic principles. It is imperative that this be recognised.
Communalism of any colour is unconstitutional, and anti-national, and its worldview runs counter to the principles we have set for ourselves. The hidden agendas must be exposed and fought openly on the political plane. This uni-polar nationalism advocating an ‘Akhand Bharat’ by threatening the pluralistic nature of our country, will be the reason, in fact, for its balkanisation. ‘Peace’ alone, is not the critical factor in Gujarat: it is what kind of peace. We have seen the vision of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in Gujarat .We have to recognise that communalism is the biggest threat to the Indian nation state. Communal acts within government are an insidious, subversive, and even greater threat.
What we have to understand as ordinary citizens is the unholy alliance between political aggrandisement, personal gain, corruption and the crumbling edifice of institutions created to maintain the rule of law. It is for us to decide whether we want boards like the one in Ahmedabad to welcome us to a divided India.
(The writer is founder member of Rajasthan’s Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan)..
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