salt march mahatma gandhi

One disturbing and intriguing aspect of current opposition politics is the persistent illusion that but for a few exceptions it is business as usual in politics.It is not.There is a vast,far-reaching but insidious and unobtrusive plan at work to change the character of the state.The campaign is two-pronged,both from the level of the state and the level of popular mobilization.Every step of this campaign should have been understood to be what it is,resisted and fought.But the general tendency is to avoid a fight and,however unwillingly,yield ground.Thus the war is being won without there having ever been any battle.The farmers’ movement was an exception.But it was not taken advantage of in appropriate ways to widen the front.

Consider the puzzling frequency of campaigns against disturbing public peace and tranquility.The assumption seems to be that society and politics should move forward without any conflict whatsoever.Obviously it is false.There are bound to be major or minor conflicts,as any observation of ordinary social and political conflicts,and society moves forward by meeting and resolving them.Some evidently elude easy and early solution.

So also public tranquility. Even a protest against untouchability or some of its relics might disturb public peace and tranquility in certain areas.Should it therefore be considered a crime?When Raja Rammohan Ray denounced and demanded abolition of ‘Suttee’ or widow-immolation with the dead body of her deceased husband,there was a great outcry and unrest among orthodox Hindus.Should he have therefore held his peace?This is bunkum.If he had not struck then this vile custom might have hung around our necks till today. Besides, what worth is freedom of opinion if the right of criticising and condemning political leaders by their critics is curtailed?

The other thing that passes without notice are the programmes of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav,the year-long celebration of the freedom struggle.All sorts of irrelevant of marginal issues have been brought under the limelight.Like the Bangladesh War of liberation of 1971.However noble,India’s part in it has little to do with the freedom struggle,unless the concept of freedom is stretched far beyond its ordinary meaning.

The great events and moments of the freedom struggle,like the tumultuous Non-Cooperation movement that first saw the peasant masses of India on the march, the Dundee March and the Quit India movement that found the nation convulsed,should have been parts of programmes of exhibition and commemoration,so that people should awaken to those forgotten but most significant episodes of the freedom movement.The role of such leaders as Nehru,Patel,Azad and Netajee Bose should have loomed large.We see nothing of the sort.What then is the real and implicit meaning of freedom in this campaign? Freedom from Moghuls?Or from the Congress?God only knows.Or may be we have the lineaments of a revisionist history that alters the very meaning of freedom and the state.Collective memory is in the process washed clean and etched with an as yet unclear but alien image of nation and history.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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