By Nijam Gara:
Just a few weeks ago, the Al Jazeera English news channel interviewed Ram Madhav, General Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Mainstream media picked up on his foolhardy comments about “Akhand Bharat” but conveniently ignored his other remark that gave a much deeper insight into the fundamentalist’s mind. When asked by the interviewer, “Why does the citizen of a country not have any rights?” Madhav said, “We don’t look at it that way!” He elaborated that the citizens “must earn the goodwill” of the numerically strong majority groups and implied it’s not the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens’ lives. This stream of thought comes from the same right-wing locus (‘lotus’, rather) that made the venerated ‘moderate’ Atal Bihari Vajpayee say “Who lit the fire? How did the fire spread?” in the wake of Gujarat carnage of 2002 and made Narendra Modi invoke Newton in the same context saying “for every action there is an opposite reaction.”
It is noteworthy that all of these comments are made by people who are running a government at the time they were made, and not by mere fringe elements. That speaks volumes about their attitudes towards the ideas of government and governance. Their thrust is on the ‘duties’ of an individual as a member of a group (religious in this context) but not on the inalienable rights that a citizen of a nation-state possesses by virtue of being born in a country. In other words, you are on your own if you ‘offend’ the sentiments of the majority, do not expect your government to safeguard your lives. This explains why Mohammed Akhlaq was ‘rightfully’ lynched for eating mutton, M.M. Kalburgi was murdered in cold blood, and maybe next time Sriram Sena will run amok on Valentine’s day thrashing teenage girls on the streets of our “next gen” metros.
Let us apply these same principles laid out so eloquently by Ram Madhav in other contexts. Why does the Modi government not let the corporate companies “earn the goodwill” of the majority farmers in the country rather than trying to tinker with the Land Acquisition Bill? Here, the government is more than pro-active in pursuing the interests of the corporate cronies in the name of ‘development’. Guess the majority here is the moneyed corporate and not the pauper farmer!
Why is the central government so keen on enforcing its will in making Gajendra Chauhan the chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) against the persistent protests of majority of the students of the institute? Again, what happened to “earning goodwill” of the students?
The ideas of “Swacch Bharat” and “Beti bachao, selfie kheecho” can also been seen of this same mindset that puts the onus on the citizen rather than striking at the root causes with the help of the enormous clout and constitutional machinery that is in the hands of a democratically elected government. Both problems will solve themselves if governments sincerely work towards poverty alleviation through meaningful welfare schemes rather than constantly harping on failed capitalistic ideas.
In essence, Article 21 of our constitution guarantees the right to “protection of life and personal liberty” and it is the duty of the government leaders to abide by their sworn oath. Too bad, our current heads the State seem to think otherwise!