Agnipath Protest 1

Thousands of youths upon the streets.Mainly but not exclusively BJP-ruled states. On their faces a burning desire to avenge a wrong.But not necessarily a maniacal rage with indiscriminate targets.Buses and trains in flames.Youths storming at everything associated with government with sticks and pelting stones at police.Police trying desperately to stem the tide.Lathi-charges and in one incident bullets.

Frightening and disturbing scenes.Protests of such nature are neither contemplated nor sanctioned by the constitution.We regret and deplore such violence.But also wonder how these acts have been perceived by the ruling power.For the ruling narrative of the ruling power is that the nation is one indivisible whole and the only exceptions—-apparently indigestible alien elements—- are the Muslims and sundry ‘anti-national’ outfits like Maoists.

But these thousands of youths obviously fit neither label.They are unmistakably Indian citizens,only stirred into violent rebellion by some perceived rank injustice.They are out to vent their fury against a government that to their minds pay no heed to their concerns.

The last decade has seen a record loss of jobs,failures of small businesses and precipitate descent of millions into abject poverty.These millions include previously middle-class families.Hence jobs are their primary and over-riding quest at a time of jobless growth or no real growth at all.These troubling facts have been unearthed by several credible national and international agencies.

Yet the political elite and the military brass have no inkling of the reason for this rage.They regard it as indiscipline or irrational hostility to a splendid management initiative. Recently a report has appeared about the navy chief’s ominous warning that the ‘rioters’ may suffer dire consequences.They are being put down as idiotic and/or insane plotters who fail to see the beauty of the ‘Agneepath scheme’.There is no awareness of either their desperate situation or their frustration at the ruling power’s callousness to their despair and bewilderment at bleak prospects in employment.The Prime Minister had promised two crore jobs in five years.After apparently forgetting about it he has now come up with offer of 10 lakhs in a year and a half.And the Agneepath scheme is allegedly part of these 10 lakhs.They find it a travesty of their hopes.

Hastening to control the unexpected response the armed forces and the government have patched up glaring holes in the scheme with some prompt patching and stitching here and there,keeping the outlines of the scheme practically intact.Thus in stead of assuaging the hurt sentiments of the youths the ruling power has gone on to threaten punishment,again triggering fresh violence.There is a great danger of the energy getting dissipated and just simmering down.

Since their anger is not understood or ascribed to external causes,the hunt is on for the alleged instigators.No doubt someone or something will be discovered sooner or later.But the youths are unlikely to be persuaded.

It has to be said that the opposition also had no clue to the origin and abrupt explosion of the pent-up rage.They could have organized early unemployed youths pushed into a corner by inhuman neo-liberal policies that make decent jobs a mirage and did not.Hence they were unable to organize protests to some constructive end and the milling youths have exploded in anarchic fury and violence.
In any case they have now rightly come together to call for withdrawal or revision of the scheme.This is much more urgently needed than the choice of a candidate for Presidential election.

This is an instance of what happens when rulers are mesmerised by their own fables about the country under their leadership marching towards ever greater ‘Vikash’ for the good of all and everybody happy to take time off for Yoga.To this end facts and figures relating to the real character and level of claimed achievement as evident from painstaking statistics disclosed by rigorous and objective studies
are systematically suppressed or doctored,and soothing figures from interested quarters like the IMF are parotted.A most dangerous
attitude for any government in a democracy which is supposed to have its ear to the ground.

On the other hand while the rebellious youths have indicated their outrage against the scheme,there is not visible any expression of a reasoned statement of their reasons for rejecting the scheme,nor any alternative set of demands for replacing it.There is no organised leadership to carry a movement forward responding to changing scenario.

Thus the spontaneous militancy wrecks buses and trains putting common passengers and commuters in distress.It has challenged the government,but also put ordinary lives to much inconvenience.The Opposition ought not to allow the ruling power a fresh opportunity to impose more arbitrary sanctions and repression on popular discontent.They may reach out to the youths and bring some order to their anarchic expressions of sheer rage,help them to spell out and uphold rational constitutional solutions.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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