Reason Bewitched

Rahul Gandhi

There are philosophers who can argue you into a corner where meaning itself becomes meaningless and reason an endless self-deception,to their own vast self-satisfaction.In this country current turn of events has brought us to a situation where you find reason itself being put to tasks that cancel one another out.

Rahul Gandhi on his return has been the target of violent abuse for having defamed the country abroad.One finds the charge rather bizarre.He does not appear to have said anything that he had not said at home.He had counted on his fingers the typical features of democracy like free and fair elections,independence of institutions,free press and free speech etc.and asserted these are wanting in this country.He did not say anything else,say like ‘Indian culture is stinking mess’ or like ‘India has always been a rotten country’.And what he had said in UK is what he has said here too.And in all fairness it seems to be the case that many other people in this country have said the same thing,and some have said it before him and much more acerbic tones.

Then where is the catch?Where the grave lapse that he should be expelled or suspended from Parlianent?I remember that once lionised and now almost forgotten,Nirad C.Choudhuri,a Bengali author who had found his last refuge in Oxford,had expressed his arguably ‘anti-Indian’ and patently pro-imperialist views with resounding and rasping language in India but that had not at all disturbed the sleep of freedom fighters like Nehru and others who were around at that time.Incidentally,at one time he used to figure among the icons admired by predecessors of Hindutva.He was never deprived of his rights as a citizen,though thrown out of his job in the All India Radio.

Now there is also the position that such things can and perhaps should be spoken at home but doing so abroad is pretty much like washing dirty linen in public. But a government is not the country.And the vices of a government do not constitute the features of the country.And since these are very much public events or matters defamation applies to them minimally,if at all.The mind-set at work behind such pack-like howls about defaming the country is the same that once inspired the infamous McCarthy Era ‘anti-American’ tirade.

But the same charges have been levelled against an umpteen number of ordinary citizens, journalists,writers and civil rights workers and legal activists for at least a decade.And even before a toothed and clawed beast had emerged in full armour of the state to mount the attack.I mean the Bhima Koregaon case now packed into thousands of pages of elaboration of a mind-boggling convoluted conspiracy, involving lawyers and journalists accused of humongous arms deals and murder plots.The prosecution case had been exploded quite sometime back by analysis of key evidence by Arsenal Forensics and by one more competent foreign laboratory.These had been summarily dismissed for not being as ‘reliable’ as the Pune national forensic lab.However those foreign labs are yet to be put on the black list for being ‘anti-national’.We are waiting for the time when Indian and Foreign science,Indian and foreign technologies might declared as quite different and antagonistic sciences.

Meanwhile hundreds of ordinary citizens have been booked on charges of being ‘anti-national’ for simply saying or writing something critical of the present government or its leader or for simply attacking its ideology.Or for criticizing Hinduism or some aspect of traditional Indian culture.All such views are put down to a colonial mindset or some foreign agency. Leaders deplored such attacks but seldom raised thunderous protest against such bulldozing of ordinary citizens’ rights.It is only when some prominent leader is harassed that it tends to become a national issue.

We find it rather unsettling when such straitjackets are plonked upon other fields of operation of reason.The CJI is quite justified in observing that the Court cannot re-instate a Chief Minister who resigns before facing a trust-vote in the state assembly,for that is the given and designated place where such things are decided.

But consider a broader context where a governments falls because the assembly cannot and does not approve of a major policy issue,part of the treasury bench having gone over to the other side on this matter.This is not what happened to Uddhav Thackeray’s MVA government in Maharashtra.A large number of MLAs of his party canp elsewhere beyond access,dangle baits from there to attract more defectors and eventually come to assembly under police protection and face their own previous leader in a confrontation.Is that a mark of healthy,lawful and functioning Constitution or democracy?I leave it to the readers and their lordships to consider.

Reason under such circumstances is held captive in a labyrinth.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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