Indian ruling class ignores its Hindu constituents – K. Bhattacharjee

Richa Bharti

OpIndiaThe people of India voted to end the days of Nehruvian Secularism. However, since the 23rd of May, it has become clear that Nehruvian Secularism is well and alive and thriving, in fact. Regardless of who is in power, the nature of the Indian State and how it treats its citizens on the basis of their religion doesn’t appear to change. – K. Bhattacharjee

The Indian ruling class appears to be utterly unwilling to heed to the concerns of the masses. Political parties, regardless of their orientation, appear to agree with each other on most important issues. They just don’t happen to agree with the people they rule.

The people of India voted to end the days of Nehruvian Secularism. However, since the 23rd of May, it has become clear that Nehruvian Secularism is well and alive and thriving, in fact. Regardless of who is in power, the nature of the Indian State and how it treats its citizens on the basis of their religion doesn’t appear to change.

It became evident in the case of Richa Bharti who was ordered by a court in Jharkhand to distribute five copies of the Quran as a condition for her bail. It was a clear violation of her fundamental rights to religion. Amusingly enough, she was arrested in a hurry for an allegedly “communal” facebook post by the police of the state which is ruled by the BJP, a supposedly Hindutva party. Muslims, on the other hand, can incite violence and riots on social media without any consequences at all.

The advocate general of the state, who was appointed by the supposedly Hindutva party, welcomed the judgment and asserted that there are indeed provisions within the Constitution which allow judges to issue orders that violate the fundamental rights of a citizen.

In an interview later, Richa Bharti raised a very pertinent matter. She said, “Today they have asked to distribute the Quran, tomorrow they will ask to embrace Islam, read namaz. Muslims who post objectionable post on social media get a free pass as they are never asked by the courts to do a Ramayana or Durga paath or to read Hanuman Chalisa.”

The country crossed a certain rubicon yesterday. For far too long, the judiciary has shielded itself from criticism by wagging the tyrannical law of “contempt of court”. It reserves the right to punish those who “scandalize” the reputation and authority of the courts. However, Richa Bharti dared to oppose the tyranny of the unelected. And soon, others followed.

One of the top trends on Twitter demanded that Manish Singh, who was the judge who delivered the atrocious verdict, be sacked. Numerous comments about the deplorable conduct of the judiciary in recent times was included as well. Most tweets on the trend, if not all of them, could be considered “contempt of court”. It was a mass insurrection. And there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it.

One justice in the Supreme Court once opined, “Dissent is the safety valve of democracy.” Consistent with the judiciary’s conduct in recent times, the case had absolutely nothing to do with freedom of expression. It was related to an alleged plot to stoke riots in the country and assassinate the prime minister. However, taken on its own, there was a certain element of truth in it.

Democracy sustains itself without civil wars because people can register their dissent on the ballot. It works because people believe the policies they wish to see implemented will be if they elect the right people to power. That is why they do not feel the need to resort to widespread violence to achieve their objectives. However, in recent times, across all democracies, it has become obvious that the ruling class no longer cares what the masses want. These are ominous signs for any democracy.

Our textbooks tell us that democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. But recent events prove that it’s certainly not the case. In fact, Democracies are defined by the utter lack of accountability of the ruling class. When was the last time that a corrupt politician was punished for his actions? Lalu Prasad Yadav was found guilty and yet, he spent more time in hospitals than in prison. He even got bail in a couple of cases he was found guilty.

Richa Bharti was arrested for a “communal post” and yet, Akbaruddin Owaisi, who once demanded that the police be withdrawn for 15 minutes so that Muslims could show Hindus who the boss is, wasn’t punished at all for his actions. In fact, he is still an elected representative in the Telangana Assembly.

Historically, the Indian State has treated Muslims as a special class and continues to treat them as such. Huge scholarships are given to the minority, hardly any action is taken against them for indulging in mob violence, no action is taken against them for inciting riots on social media. In fact, it is considered immoral by the Indian ruling class to criticize the Muslim community for anything.

The BJP blames the Congress party for the transgressions of the community while the latter blames Hindu fascism and brahmanvad. Both of them agree on the solution though. More doles, more pandering and even more concessions to the community, including major sections the opinions of which are extremely problematic.

The people of India voted to put an end to it in 2014, and again in 2019. However, it hasn’t changed at all. In fact, minoritarian policies of the Indian State are running on steroids. An important question needs to be asked here if people don’t believe that voting changes anything, why would they even consider voting in elections?

Our ruling class needs to think about the question long and hard. Democracy avoids civil wars by giving people the impression that they are in control, that they can affect policies they do not like by voting in elections. If people no longer believe they control anything at all and the ruling class will do what it wants regardless of its wishes, Democracy in unsustainable. If Democracy is to sustain itself in this country, it must work. If it doesn’t, the consequences can be devastating.

As much as the judiciary is to be blamed for the current state of affairs, the politicians must take the lion’s share of the blame, especially those in power. It is their primary responsibility to ensure that the will of the people is implemented. The case of Richa Bharti was a perfect example of how the political establishment and the judiciary colluded to violate the fundamental right to religion of a citizen. A system cannot sustain itself if its ruling class does not heed the wishes of the people it rules. There will be insurrection at some point or the other.

The Hindu community, as peaceful as it is, recognizes how the toxic elements of the Muslim society has held the country hostage. They threaten the country with jihad, and the Indian state responds by giving them benefits. They run riot across cities over the death of a thief in police custody, and the Indian State responds by giving them scholarships and numerous other benefits.

They incite riots on social media, and the Indian State responds by emphasizing on Sabka Vishwas. The toxic elements of the community indulge in cow smuggling, and the Indian State responds by cracking down and condemning cow vigilantism which is a consequence of the police’s refusal to enforce the law.

The Hindus respond to injustices by making their opinions known on the ballot. What happens when they realize that their opinions are not being heard? What happens when they inevitably come to the conclusion that the only way they will be given what they want is if they hold the Indian State hostage like toxic elements of the Muslim community?

The so-called Far Right gains popularity because mainstream politicians have abandoned the people they rule. The message that the mainstream political establishment is sending out to the masses is abundantly clear: “We do not care what you voted. We do not care about what you want. We do not care what your votes tell us. We only heed the concerns of those indulge in violence and threaten jihad and hold the country hostage.”

Does the mainstream political establishment really want this to be the message that they want Hindus to heed? Because currently, that’s the message Hindus are hearing. Yesterday, a Hindu, Richa Bharti, was forced to rebel against a court order because it violated her fundamental right to religion. Hindus across the country rose up in her defence and even donated to pay her legal fees. This was a mass uprising of Hindus against the tyranny of the unelected, it ought to ring the alarm bells in the highest echelons of power.

There is a semblance of law and order in this country because the majority, by and large, follow the law and order as mandated by the Indian Penal Code. There is a modicum of respect for the Indian Constitution because the majority of people still believe that it is a tool that provides for the peaceful resolution of differences. Yesterday, the judge shattered the faith that people have in the system of this country. Hindus were pushed to rebel against the Constitution itself.

How much farther can the Indian State afford to push Hindus before realizing their mistake? How much farther will they push Hindus before protests transcend the barriers of civility? The Indian State is pushing Hindus to the edge by disrespecting their faith and violating the principles of equality that the country was supposedly founded upon. No state can afford to continue such policies for a very long time before its citizens bring the country to a standstill, or worse.

All that Hindus ask for is the repeal of sectarian policies and the implementation of the law of this land regardless of the religion of the people concerned. It’s not an outrageous demand. It’s an extremely secular demand. By denying Hindus their basic right to equality, the Indian State has now forced them to rebel against a judge. Tomorrow, they may be forced to rebel against someone else. A country cannot run when perpetual rebellion is the norm. By its sectarian conduct, the Indian State will eventually succeed in making perpetual rebellion a reality.

Recently, I read the book Ship of Fools by Fox News talk-show host Tucker Carlson. In his book, Tucker makes the argument that the American ruling class is completely impervious to the concerns of the masses on issues such as illegal immigration and the economy. The masses, in their bid to have their voices heard, elected Donald Trump as president.

However, the attitudes of the ruling class haven’t changed since then and they have been doing everything they can to thwart Donald Trump’s core agenda. Carlson sees it as dangerous and opines that one way to reduce the friction between the ruling class and the masses is to abolish democracy itself which would entail a civil war and widespread violence. The other, of course, is listening to the masses and give them what they want or at least, a portion of it. It’s sound advice which even the Indian ruling class ought to consider. – OpIndia, 17 July 2019

> K. Bhattacharjee is a post graduate in psychology.

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