In Despair Lies Hope

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A few weeks ago, communication from a friend who, citing a few immediate reasons which were widely known, suggested that he was in depression. In the last several months, there have been other similar personal mails or sharings in private conversations. Let me confess that I too have not been free from this mood visiting me occasionally. And I can only presume that there are many, many more in the society, passing through comparable low mood. The mental state I am referring to is majorly a consequence of the political climate and its socio-economic-cultural impacts in the country. And it is not just depression cornering the people, but a whole lot of forebodings cumulatively enhanced and made severe with persistent sense of disillusionment, frustration, anguish and personal and collective helplessness – and fear.

All this because we are witness to rapid disintegration of almost everything around us, everything that we had hitherto cherished and held sacred as citizens and communities, the values and principles that had guided us in our personal and public lives, the institutions that had helped us find our way in good or difficult times, and the constitution pillars that had held the country together as a diverse whole. Almost every single one of these today is being or has been felled by the side – through every right or wrong, good or bad means.

The political opposition and the people are at their wit’s end, are either in a cult-like trance or paralyzed through confusion and fear. Using deception, misinformation and disinformation – half-truths or outright lies, cautionary ‘advice’ or outright threats – executive decisions are being taken at unnerving speed and followed-up by equally swift, ruthless execution with which wholesale and elemental changes are being committed. Such is the barrage of onslaught that even before the opposition can blink its eye, there is the next onslaught to contend with.

What the country is facing is the “shock and awe” policy – the doctrine of rapid dominance, formally devised by the Pentagon (USA) in the mid-1990s and used in Iraq. (Actually, Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been the original “shock and awe” action!) Mainly a military tactic, this doctrine is based on overwhelming display and use of force to intimidate and stun the enemy, thereby incapacitating the latter’s perceptions of events, doubting its own resources and capability and thereby rendering it incapable of any resistances to the extent of even destroying its will to fight. All this through always threatening, always denouncing, never showing weakness. Harlan K Ullman, one of the architects of this Pentagon doctrine, stated that the tactic seeks to stun, confuse, overwhelm and paralyze the enemy into believing and realizing that the your might is so huge that the fight was as good as over.  Essentially, he explained, “shock and awe” was designed to collapse the enemy’s ability to resist.

This mainly military tactic is now being put into practice in the political and social arena in the country.

What this does or has done is that with no respite or breathing space, one is absolutely unable to digest the actions or decisions and comprehend their immediate and long term implications; two, one cannot decide exactly which decision to stand up or raise voice against because there are so many down the line steamrolling; and three, one cannot keep track of decisions or actions taken three days ago, last week, last month, thereby allowing the authorities to turn a blind eye and the executors to happily go about doing things without any checks and balance. Do we remember, for instance picking at random, that the State Bank of India was asked (read, was told or ordered) to fund Adani’s proposed coal contract in Australia? Or that there were five institutions in the country designated “institutions of excellence” with promise of major government support (and more such institutions were to come over  the years), and one of them was Ambani’s Jio’s institution which was at the time not even beyond the “intent” state? Or, the Central Vista project? Or…. Has anyone kept track of any of the numerous announcements, promises, decisions and changes….. while all around, the pillars that had kept the country standing with its held high, keep getting hammered down.

Indeed a despairing situation. People are not readily articulating their doubts, worries and fears, but these are palpitating just beneath the surface nevertheless. As is being suggested from the mails or communications referred to above. So is there any hope?

I am quite reminded of the crime thrillers that are part of many a youth’s staple reading diet. During out times, the nineteen sixties and seventies, one particular writer I was hooked on to was James Hadley Chase, with tightly written scripts. In almost all tales, the early chapters, always made you feel that the criminals had committed the most “perfect” crime. And reading those passages, one was invariably on tenterhooks, wondering, okay, how was this one going to be solved? But solved it got – and the lead came from a very small opening – one small error the criminal committed in his execution or one unwanted mishap happening at the critical moment, an unwanted co-incidence occuring. And that tiny opening, eventually widened to unravel  everything out.

So, may be there is one small error, one small misstep here, and we may just be begining to see a hint of it.

I also think back on the last years of the freedom struggle. Until then, for almost the entire part, with one glaring exception, this was an all-people united uprising. But as the struggle seemed nearing its fruition, real and imaginary Hindu-Muslim differences began taking centre stage. The rulers and the pretenders conspired in scheming the cracks no doubt, but the division in the society was projected to be real, with tragic happenings amidst what should have been a truly festive milestone.

2024 is not far. Even more important, 2025 follows close on its heels. The former is  important for the party in power and the latter for the RSS which would be completing its hundred years of working towards achieving its Hindu agenda. But with the finish line in sight and the fruit at plucking distance, impatience is creeping in and both the government and the RSS are showing signs of becoming jittery. In their rush to achieve everything, as if, yesterday, blatant errors of omission and commision are being committed, throwing all norms and rules to the wind. All this is happening within everyone’s sight. And the first tiny boil between the two has possibly just erupted!

The people may still not be speaking, but there is no doubt, they are getting less and less blind-sighted. They may as yet not be questioning, but the questions are whirring in their minds. Was it Abraham Lincoln who said – “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”!

This may be the tiny opening that I am referring to. Will it be?

Biju Negi, Hind Swaraj Manch & Beej Bachao Andolan


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