Attack,they say,is the best means of defence.And here we take up two arenas where at the moment this adage is most conspicuously in a frenzy of operation.Though poles apart they show the same entities and ideas locked in mortal conflict. First the sentencing of Rahul Gandhi to two years of imprisonment on the charge of ‘having defamed the country’.
Now it is clear that this is not an unforeseen and bizarre consequence of the uninterrupted ruckus in Parliament by BJP members,which the concerned authorities made no attempt to control.For the barest semblance of justice Rahul Gandhi ought to have been given a chance to respond to the charge.It was ruled out or shouted out.Now someone or rather takes it to the streets and moves a court in Surat which promptly goes ahead to pass the sentence.To a common man uninitiated into intricacies of law this looks like summary justice of the most fantastic kind.
But the way things are playing out it is clear that it was foretold.’The Hindu’ says the sentence ensures that it bars Gandhi from contesting in two subsequent elections!!Of course one fervently hopes the higher courts will take prompt action to scuttle such legal fantasies.
For what is the substance of the charge?Defaming the country/Nation/ Person Embodying Nation?
Whatever the meaning, there is to my knowledge no such law in the lawnook.There is the law of sedition and kindred laws against active conspiracy against the state to overthrow violently the lawfully established government or attempt violently to alter the form of the state.
Defamation means primarily defamation of individuals and has been stretched to extend to defamation of institutions.But it can by no means extend to defamation of a state.Doing so will extend the meaning to a most emotive,hysterical and biased idea of law that stems from the instincts of fear and rage like that of a cornered beast.A critique of a government,however harsh,does not amount to defamation of the state.
To a frenzied imagination ruled by blind fear and rage the country is like an animal with which it identifies totally.Any denigration of this bloated self-image is a mortal blow it must deflect or shoot down in mid-air.
To a sane citizen the country is the people of the land,the institutions and culture they built over centuries and the geography they have been living with and partly modifying for millennia.The primary emotions it evokes are love and pride.
Law in modern democracy has sloughed off the vestiges of religious taboos.It is an entirely rational concept based on a human-formed constitution.Such highly exaggerated and extravagant ideas of the country or the state that take them entirely out of rational discussion is alien to the modern concept of law.Such rationality is not rigidly fixed but it evolves under challenges of circumstances and change.But its rational character remains unaltered.
And now for a close look at the much wider arena of the world.
It is riven with tensions and conflicts that increasingly threaten to rip it apart.More and more regional conflicts roll on and snowball to merge with calamitous global conflicts.
How do we characterize the primary conflict.
More than a century and half ago Karl Marx had most clearly and forcefully put forward an unbeatable prognosis of this prolonged crisis.It is the inherent tendency and inbuilt structural weakness of capitalism as it develops all its productive capacities to a stage when it is no longer able to sustain itself with its normal metabolism.
The capitalist system outstrips the nation and yet is still encased in discrete national forms,which get locked in conflicts over markets,sources of raw materials and technological rivalry for reducing cost of production and raising productivity.But more and more it gets detached from real productive human beings and their needs.For them too it becomes a heavy weight of chains.Production of goods gets more and more replaced by production of phantom money which tends to roll the system more.There is all-round insecurity and escalating political tension.
It cannot,will not find a solution to this lethal disorder and tends blindly to stumble towards an all-consuming conflagration of violence.To many people PRC having learnt its lesson of modernisation from the arch-priest of capitalism, has developed an economy with its ‘national characteristics’ that willy nilly thrusts it into the arena where conflict is the rule.The neoliberal pipe dream of uninterrupted global peace and progress has exploded with the noise of explosions and gun-fire.
The present international political chaos which is polarizing more and more into two bellicose rival blocs of whom neither can afford to retreat for fear of loss of political legitimacy,is the point of no return for such kinds of politics and economics.Marx had laid down the principles of recognition and analysis of this world crisis one hundred and fifty years ago.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator