Dangerous Delays


While not denying the value of opposition dramatics at Parliament,one might yet worry that activities at the ground level are at a low ebb.Particularly because the saffron camp is in a furious but orchestrated drive to unsettle minds and in the chaos start divisive fires all over the country.Right from riots to vicious communal campaigns to camouflaged religious armed drills.Thus also distracting attention from hectic and glaring rise in prices and costs of food items and services,which affect and agitate people the most,as well as rampant corporate plunder of primary resources of the State.

The Assam Chief Minister has been incurring enormous government debt to pay for blatant extravagance,including holding an entire assembly session in Delhi! According to latest press reports the plan to hold the Assembly session has been scaled down to holding the cabinet meeting,though that too is an unreasonable wasteful decision. At a time when the government debt has run into one lakh crore even before he has run half way through his term.At a time when the world has woken up to the danger of depleting water-level and ruining the soil from plantations of oil -bearing palm trees,he has gifted Yoga Guru cum astute businessman Baba Ramdev initially something like 35000 hectares of fertile land for planting this species in Assam in areas where traditional agriculture still sustains people.Two and half lakh hectares of land are in the pipeline.There are also lakhs of landless farmers leading miserable lives.The Chief Minister shows no concern for them.The Lok Sabha constituencies have been delimited in a bizarre mechanical fashion to ensure results favourable to the ruling party.There is a huge outcry from press and public platforms.But the opposition parties are content to record vehement protests,and little else on the ground.This shows the opposition has not yet mustered the strength and the resolve to pose a serious challenge to the reckless government with well-aimed criticism and success in rousing the masses.

These are bad signs.What troubles the opposition is not a lack of will to fight,but a lack of proper strategy to enlist active public support despite the scope for arousing such support.One sees various parties in oposition holding their programmes as devised from a centre far away.The party members show much spirit and dedication in such demos,rallies and protests. But the common people do not get involved.And unless the common people get involved the impact of such programmes is bound to be marginal.

Karnataka election was won because the Congress had been active among the people,had grassroots support,and energized spontaneous mass participation in the campaign against the BJP. West Bengal trounced the BJP because the Bengalis rose in a body to resist and overthrow crass Hindutva bid for homogeneity. Where such conditions are absent there must be planned and concerted efforts to reach out to and mobilize the people in this critical period in the country.How and where to begin?

The civil society groups,most of whom are disillusioned and disgusted enough by the present regime,should be drawn into the opposition groups,united,and supplied with funds and trained volunteers to carry the campaign into the common people.Plenty of youths are already incensed by the steps of the government to increase people’s hardships,favour rampant corporate loot,and cover up its anti-people policies with breath-taking lies and deceit,but they as yet lack guidance to focus their concerns and voice their anger.Some have been lured away by the ruling forces to deceive the nation with communal propaganda.But there are still plenty of young people around with a healthy sense of realities,a passion to oppose the enemies of the people and a tremendous reserve of energy as yet untapped.They could be active as agitators,for example,armed with leaflets on the price-rise at the marketplaces, normal religious assemblies with rational and humble pleas for communal peace and harmony, political rallies with graphic posters and pictures on flagrant violation of human rights,and so on.People must be encouraged and helped to become active agents of change.This will create an atmosphere that will dissipate fumes of taxic communal propaganda.

In sensitive areas inter-community committees may be formed to maintain peace and foil provocations and conspiracies. For the saffron camp is bound to incite communal passion in such regions from time to time.Given the services of the most suitable people who have the flair for such work such centres are likely to become vibrant. Pamphlets that use simply written texts,vivid pictures and graphic isotype illustrations to drive home the bitter truths about the present regime should be imaginatively written by bands of journalists and canny publicists for mass distribution.

There is no other way of getting people animated to take steps to shape their own destinies.Bureaucratism will ruin the campaign.While there are happy auguries of welcome change there is also much to confuse in the present environment.While the Supreme Court has roused itself from slumber and energetically intervened to uphold rights of citizens,like granting Teesta Setalvad interim bail and restoring Rahul Gandhi’s status of an elected MP,it has troubled the saner public by apparently allowing the government to ride roughshod over longstanding norms and conventions with what seems to be legalistic dogmas.

For example,much was expected from the Court in the case of abrogation of Article 370.The CJI during hearings on this case not only put searching questions to the counsels for petitioners but also seemed to be laying down inflexible glosses on law and constitution.For example the CJI seems to have ruled(as reported in the press) that Kashmir had merged itself decisively and finally to India and ceded its sovereignty too to the Indian state,because after 1957 the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir had ceased to exist.But even if such seems to be the result of its dissolution, that had been far from the intention behind the provision.The mandatory obligation to consult the Constituent Assembly of the state in every instance of application of the Parliament’s laws to Kashmir would seem to bear this out.That the Constituent Assembly has now become defunct does not do away with the weight of that original intention. (Of course I might have misunderstood the CJI’s observations as reported in the press,in which case I apologize unconditionally.)My point is that concessions to legislative supremacy might at times make for legislative licence.Further,the steadfast support to civil rights may be cancelled out by investing too much authority on the government in power.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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