One thing the opposition may learn from the RSS/BJP combine is that the latter has always the big picture in mind in planning its course of action and making its tactical moves.Something the fragmented opposition fighting among themselves and used to moving down the beaten track have not been able to do. It knows that by renewing the furore about Muslim Peril it can ignite riots in some distant nook of the country, mobilize opinion elsewhere in favour of CAA,bulldoze Mulim homes as a just reprisal against ‘suspected foreigners’,and start a campaign to rush through CAA in still another place.Whether it succeeds in all such ventures or not they will at least succeed in pushing their narrative and agenda one more step ahead.
To this end they have centralized and concentrated power to an extraordinary degree beyond any constitutional limit and made meaningful resistance extremely difficult.They have raised a vast digital network ready to provide information and communicate messages,and co-ordinate moves from cells far apart.They are ready now to make a preemptive strike against democracy.
It is nearly impossible for a fragmented opposition to match such a behemoth what with squabbling parties and particularly, and the parties always differing on details.Nor is there time to build up another huge monster to counter it.
But there is a slim chance for the opposition in the fact that it is also possible to distract the monster with small guerilla strikes here and there with a clear strategy of defence.That will delay the offensive and confuse the plan of campaign. Besides,however foolproof the plan, the role of chance and exigency in human affairs always leave a scope for intervention provided there is a united watchful opposition to intervene at the appropriate moment with well-considered timely strikes.
A Hotspot for such conflict now happens to be the paradoxically sedate Supreme Court.Though it is hard to imagine the Court in a situation of conflict,it has become willy-nilly a zone of mortal conflict owing to its reluctance to accept the biased role that the centre wants to bend it to.As always the devil is quoting scriptures as a pretext for suborning the Court.
Their lordships are not happy to find themselves in such a situation.The Court has bent backwards as much as possible to signal terms for accommodation.But the behemoth demands total surrender,not adjustments.The Court appears to a legally naive mind to be frantically signaling to the adversary that on many other constitutionally basic questions it could temporise,procrastinate and equivocate.But on the crux of fundamental rights it wants untrammelled power to decide on its own.The centre is not amused.
The judiciary at all levels are at the moment facing the greatest threat to their existence as independent arbiter of justice. The highest court has been under tremendous pressure to perform or face consequences.The tug of war is in legal or constitional lingo,but it’s actually about the degree of power the Courts are entitled to for enforcing their decrees and decisions.Helpless against the the power the Behemoth enjoys,it is using all legal means it commands for stalling its peremptory moves.But it is an unequal fight and the enemy is unmerciful, unbelievably unscrupulous.
The degree to which the SC has bent backwards is seen not only in the cruelty with which a court had handled the appeal of the ailing Stan Swamy,but also in the already unravelled heartless drama of Elgar Parishad conspiracy.It is now being perceived nationwide that more and more, the complainant appears to be the actual conspirator.But the deadly farce continues.
The latest case in point appears to be the summary dismissal of the Bilkis Bano appeal against the Gujarat government’s decision to remit the life sentence of certain thugs convicted of gruesome murders.The horrifying part is the unconscionable glorification of the monstrous criminals by garlanding them as soon as as they emerged out of the jail gate. No doubt it will inspire other criminals biding their time to plan other monstrous crimes at opportune moments.
It is hard to understand why the eminent judges failed to anticipate such dangerous consequences.The judgment on the murderers has thus ceased to be a deterrent and in fact become rather like an incitement.And the consequent loss of support among at least some section of citizens may weaken the support the Court could reasonably expect in the deadly combat mentioned earlier on.For no question, ultimately its authority is derived from the people rather than the Constitution which is already denuded of much of its sovereign authority.
Yet another Flashpoint happens to be the two constitutional issues of the validity of CAA and the NRC,which are of extremely serious import for Assam with her large Muslim population, constituting 34 % of the total population of the state. They run together as the base year or cut-off year of the NRC project is 1971,whereas the CAA in essence requires its erasure so as to accommodate Hindu refugees or migrants from Bangladesh which in turn will surely inflame the Communal situation to a flashpoint to the advantage of the Hindu extremists.
Already the propaganda machine for the latter is running full throttle to the point where the former NRC Co-ordinator Prateek Hajela who had brought the project to a conclusion is being accused of rampant corruption.There were headlines in the press about alleged corrupt deals in purchase of electronic equipment,payment to contractors and downright cheating of workers reportedly figuring in the CAG’s report.Unless the actual report is at hand one cannot comment on such allegations.But there is the rather piquant fact that Hitesh Dev Sharma,who had to resign as financial director of the the NRC project on having been caught red-handed in attempts at sabotaging the project,had from the beginning tried to defame it by unfounded allegations of granting citizenship on 40 to 50 lakh illegal foreign migrants.He moved the Supreme Court several times to impugn the process of ascertaining citizenship status of the residents of Assam but was only sternly rebuffed.The present public indictment has seen him leading the campaign citing the CAG report as foolproof evidence. of his earlier allegations. Apparently the former Co-ordinator had blocked access to all data in the computers and has refused to allow access in view of the alleged unreliability of Hitesh Dev Sharma who had succeeded him at the pleasure of the BJP government in spite of the standing charges against him.Nor is it known if his views on the charges were considered by CAG’s office.
There was a virtual campaign against NRC by civil society groups in Delhi.But these good people simply did not look at the origins and unanimous support for NRC in Assam.Amit Shah’s threat to prepare a national NRC to exclude ‘termites’ from India had nothing to do with the Assam-specific project,which was meant to bring about permanent social peace in Assam among communities harried by an unending internecine conflict leading to blood-spattered chaos. The demand was eventually supported not only by Bodo leaders but also clerics who represented immigrant Muslims. The idea was to settle the vexed question of citizenship once for all.1971 was unanimously accepted as cut-off year.That year was used as a milestone as Bangladesh became an independent country in that year, conceivably one that could take responsibility for detected foreigners.If the Court were now to rule it out Assam will once again plunge into sanguinary chaos.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator