Bharat Jodo Yatra undertaken by Rahul Gandhi is receiving a popular response and large numbers are seen joining it including eminent citizens. Currently it has passed through the states of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and currently in Maharashtra. The yatra has been interpreted in different ways – as that of protecting the idea of India, building the personal image of Rahul Gandhi, improving the electoral prospects of Congress etc. Irrespective of the political agenda, any development which directly stops the damage to the Indian republic is welcome. The counter response by opposition political parties post 2014 to the damage being done by the current regime has been meagre. The resistance was largely by students, youth, intellectuals, writers, activists, farmers, minorities, dalits etc., and hence this development is welcome.
Post 2014 has witnessed a regressive phase in the country. Agenda of Hindu Rashtra has come to the forefront pushing all other priorities of nation building going to the background. Building of Ram temple, abolishing Article 370, bringing in a citizenship act with inbuilt religious discrimination, weakening of SC & ST atrocities act, pushing of Farm and Labor laws – New education policy without a basic parliamentary discussion has become common. Lynchings of Minorities in the name of cow, forcible utterance of Jai Shri Ram, Vandemataram, Bharat Mata ki Jai has become widespread. Attacks on students are encouraged through state promoted mobs in universities. The houses of minorities are attacked by bulldozers. Display of hate in open spaces, social media, prime time debates have become symbolic acts of display of nationalism. This nationalism is filled with hate, which is completely contrary to the anti-colonial traditions of Indian nationalism built with respect for plurality and a human vision for the republic. Polarized discussions are more open and seen in public meetings, whaatsapp groups of residential associations, families, friends etc. Nationalists and anti-nationalists get defined by how much one is wedded to the ideology of hate.
Instead of focusing on creating an equitable growth which benefits the masses, carrying out an inclusive development, the focus has largely been to benefit a few crony capitalists. The attack on the autonomy of institutions has become widespread. Intellectual dissent arising in universities is sought to be crushed. Universities are being targeted such as that of JNU, HCU, JMI, AMU, Jadavpur etc. Many writers and activists get imprisoned under false UAPA charges. Institution after institution loses its autonomy. CBI and ED are used to threaten the opposition. Demonetization agenda gets pushed without considering RBI and Bankers view on the same. Election commission is sometimes seen subservient to the BJP government at the Centre. Questions are also being raised on the autonomy of the Judiciary, the last resort to seek justice. Academic bodies are being taken over and filled with people from RSS. Hold of scholars are replaced with hold of RSS. History lessons get rewritten to promote hate.
Inclusive agendas are threatened. The protective laws in favor of dalits, Adivasis, workers are endangered. A decline is seen in all parameters such as growth, employment, human development, rankings related to hunger, press freedom, women safety, environmental parameters etc.
Despite the damage being done by the Hindutva agenda to the Indian republic, the ideological hegemony of the current regime seems to still persist. The large number of Bhakts who continue to buy into the divisive agenda and spread the poisonous venom continues, including among the well-educated and professionally well placed. Due to a divided opposition, the counter response by mainstream political parties seems to be less forthcoming, as a united opposition. Opposition parties sometimes are willing to ally with the BJP either to remain in power or share power. Sometimes opposition also tends to come up with majority appeasing agendas for possible electoral prospects.
While the core agenda of Bharat Jodo yatra is to unite a divided India, it should go beyond being a congress program and possibly unite all opposition parties, representatives of civil society and all ideological opponents of the communal agenda. The focus also needs to be more on geographies where the damage of divisive agenda has been more penetrative and threatening. Hopefully the Bharat Jodo Yatra is able to revive the opposition space necessary for ideological dissent and reclaim the republic.
Autor: T Navin is an independent writer