Both the central government and the government of my state run on increasing debt,and annual expenditure far outstrips the budget.In the case of the Centre deficit runs into lakhs of crores.The CM of the state announces every heavy loan with flourish breathing the intoxicating mantra of ‘Vikash’.And the struggling shopkeeper, worker, contract employee wrestles with an income of ten thousand rupees a month to feed a family of three to five members who require thirty thousand rupees every month to keep body and soul together with food and essential items costing ever higher.The mounting government debt only means that electricity, gas,transport fares and food are going to cost more.The toll it takes on mental health is seen in more suicides,violent quarrels within families and between friends and neighbors and horrific crimes.
How often does this distress get expressed in social demonstrations.Not often as it might be at once tagged as anti-national,not only criminalizing it but also staining it with social stigma.Political parties do not court them as they too have come to dread the stigma.It occurs in desperate spontaneous mass protests and explosions of blind rage,as when bands of people seek to block the progress of bulldozers as these plough through old tenement houses,or as when frustrated youths armed with sticks and stones run amok on streets burning things and damaging public property.
Perhaps such outbursts of fury do not occur often because they get canalised to other forms of blind violence.Consider the recurrence of hate speech and hate crimes that are so frequent that people don’t have time to be concerned with other things.Now it is a shivling,or was it a disused fountain,now it is Mohammed’s alleged impropriety,and then again someone or other’s feelings by a remark two thousand kilometers way against an icon of some group,or defilement of scriptures held sacred by some other group.Almost every day these explode on social media and TV channels,and are echoed and re-echoed by raucous voices in intemperate language.Among assorted teams of opinion makers,seers,retired generals and spokespersons of heterogenous outfits.Thanks to the raw energy of anchors who get them together and put them in the bull-pit.In the next round hordes of policemen rush in like hordes of buffaloes arrest and detain some people called ‘suspects’,hold press conferences to elaborate on fabulous conspiracies,and approach courts for custody lasting weeks.No,they don’t do so under direct orders of some politician,but only in order to uphold laws invoked by some little-known complainant leagues away from the place of alleged offense.There are laws that uphold decency,public order,respect for religion,dignity of traditions.So the police are enforcing the rule of law.
Next we see a lot of action in courts,going into the minutiae of the crime,scores of laws pertaining to the different sections of the IPC,lawyers busy either in getting them booked or at least under continued detention and hours of interrogation.Bail becomes the subject of extreme contention,and no longer a matter of sober discretion and impartial reckoning.The common man is foxed that bail no longer appears in that light,as someone who seems to deserve it eminently is denied it and someone else released from detention with lightning speed even though to ordinary mortals the latter deserved to be subjected to searching enquiry.
Some people like Zubair Ahmed of Alt News try to clear the thick fog of misinformation ,disinformation,lies and vicious propaganda that bury us in hatred,blind anger and insane violence,and they get booked on some old alleged offence which at the time of their first incidence of reporting seems to have caused little damage,but is dredged up now to buttress claims of spreading ill-will between communities.As the charge on one alleged crime seems to founder under scrutiny,some other alleged offence is slapped on the victim in order to prolong his or her detention.Our justice system fails to come to the rescue of the victim of malicious prosecution.
The precious right of bail becomes an elusive mirage and formalities of justice turn imperceptibly into instruments of mental torture.
These trends are too consistent and purposive to be mere accidents or local intrigues.They are too widespread,and productive of definite results tending to distract people’s minds from the ordeals of grim survival in a climate of scarcity and deprivation to be just quirks of popular phobias and manias.They appear to be products of systematic policy executed away from public scrutiny.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator