My Article in Meri News 12 Feb. 2013
M C Raj
Death sentence to please collective conscience is a sign of quiet burial of constitution 12 February, 2013 Quite explicitly, one of the most disturbing events immediately after my recent trip to Europe was the early morning news of the ‘murder’ of Mohammad Afzal Guru. Killing another person and legitimizing it, the uncivilized face of governance was splashed all over me.
I remember the entire week I spent in depressing silence immediately after the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya by Hindutva goons led by Advani and legally supported by Narasimha Rao. I don’t know why such things that happen to Muslims in this country disturb me. I am not a Muslim and have not read the Quran fully. I am not guided by Islamic principles of life. And yet my heart throbs whenever Muslims are handed out ‘second class’ citizens’ treatment or even ascribed quite unjustly ‘criminal’ characters. When Babri Masjid was demolished I was able to take out my pain in two large articles published in Deccan Herald, and they immediately grabbing the chance to request me to be their columnist, I declined.
Taking out my pain is one of the very few options I had. Who will ever be able to take the Indian State on issues like this? That was the helplessness. If it were the State alone, perhaps it would be possible to take it on as did Jayaprakash Narayan, the frail looking ‘total revolutionary’. He took on the might of the Iron Lady of India, Indira Gandhi. It is possible to take on the State. After all we have the history of another frail looking ‘half naked fakir’ taking on the might of the British.
But the problem that depresses me is the people of India. We have not yet matured into a people worthy of democracy. Something seems to be wrong in our fundamental psyche. Otherwise, why would a large section of India still consider the Muslims as aliens in their own land? Just because their forefathers embraced a religion different from Hinduism, how can the people deny them the space that is their due as citizens in a nation state?
These are two different things in a secular nation. This is what disturbs me that just because people belong to a particular religion they are not treated as equal citizens in this country. No, what actually disturbs me is the double standard that the populace at large applies. Different standards for different people in condemnation! If we did that to compensate historical injustices that we have meted out to them, there will be adequate legitimacy.
But the sort of hatred that we have towards Muslims in general is an obvious indication of a psychic perversion in the general public. The State unfortunately is constituted of representatives of such a psyche. That is why perhaps people say that the citizens will only have a government that they deserve.
Instead of learning and correcting ourselves as a nation we seem to indulge in all sorts of self-defence mechanisms that go to construct a perverted nation. We shamelessly adduce adequate legitimacy to our perverted psyche by always blaming the other, perhaps the ‘threatening other’. I cannot still understand why someone should threaten us unless we feel weak. Is there an inherent weakness in our national psyche?
Why would the present Muslims and Christians convert to these religions if there were adequate guarantees for their dignity and right? Any healthy nation should objectively take stock of the history that led to a situation that we do not appreciate today. Let us leave alone for the time being that factor of the high level of psychological intolerance and physical torture of the Dalits and Adivasis that still go unchallenged today.
Such intolerance may be arising from a basic insecurity that the rest of the country has suffered from time immemorial. It may also be an indication of the contemporary psychological inferiority complex that we have as a nation looking at other countries. Otherwise why would our PM go to America and tell the President there that the people of India love him? Or why would we go to African countries and try to colonize them in multiple ways? Or why would we arm-twist many smaller countries with economic non-cooperation if they ever took up the issue of untouchability in the UN forums? What threatens us and at which level? If we are a strong nation why are we touchy about our images? If we have strong communities of people why do we even hate certain other communities of people?
We let go the demolishers of Babri Masjid free while at the same time keep killing the Muslims for ‘terrorism’. What disturbs me is the double standard. If we respected law should it not apply for all equally? Even the communists are very disappointing appeasers. Perhaps political convenience takes the upper hand over ideology. That is what disturbs me in this nation. Are we guided by any ideology at all or are we guided by the whims and fancies of some people who establish their hegemony as majority?
Why bother about ideology? Is not secularism an ideology? Because we do not follow this ideology even flagrant communal forces claim to be secular. Is not nationalism an ideology? Is not peace an ideology? Because we do not believe in peace we take the courage to kill people at our whims and fancies. Is not multiculturalism an apt ideology for India? Can India be guided by a uniform ideology? The blind thirst for the blood of others disturbs me.
Okay, let us leave the question of ideology, as it seems to be outdated. But then what can govern the nation? Many say that it is the Constitution of the country. Fingers go up to our nose in wonder. Are we really governed by the constitution? ‘Yes, of course we have one of the most beautiful Constitutions.’ But where is the Constitution in work when Khap Panchayats can get together and decide on private killing? Where is Constitution when unmitigated untouchability is still being practiced, the upholders of the constitution belonging to the same caste forces upholding untouchability? Where is the Constitution when Dalit and Adivasi women are being raped and killed non-stop in this country? We put up a facade of being morally high by making hype about the rape of one woman in Delhi. Where is the Constitution when the armed forces are let loose on the citizens to frame innocent people and kill them and we legalize such killing and rape through AFSPA? If Constitution was at work why Irom Sharmila should be force-fed for more than a decade for its implementation?
It is very simple to understand. And that is where the pain comes. Some people in this country simply do not exist as citizens to be governed by the Constitution. If they exist they should have no claim to be equal citizens that Constitution guarantees. When the government is conditioned by the fear that its vote share may dwindle if it does not cater to the false ego of a ‘supposed’ majority, it is a clear indication that the nation state is ready to give a quiet burial to the Constitution.
When the nation-state discards the Constitution, the organs of the State begin to take recourse to conscience. And when judges in high places give death sentence to please the ‘collective’ conscience of the society it is a sure sign of the quiet burial of the Constitution. The dividing line between the whims of the ‘majority’ and the conscience of the ‘collective’ can easily be taken for granted. It is no stricter implementation of the Constitution but the appeasement of the ‘collective’ that seems to matter in governance.
What we call the Lakshman Rekha and what the Westerners call the Rubicon, are wiped off at everyone’s glare to appease ‘collective conscience’. Do not ask what this bloody conscience is that kills people without a fair trial, without even giving them the right to have a lawyer. Do not even ask who the majority is and what indeed constitutes the majority in nation-state governance.
It is an inherent insecurity that makes the state intolerant. The insecurity of the state is a clear reflection of a deeply embedded insecurity in the ‘collective’ psyche of the ‘majority’ of the nation. What such insecurity holds out for the rest of the society sends out waves of disturbance that may have far reaching consequences of the national fabric that our national fathers and mothers have assiduously built up. We may reach a point of no return as a nation. A nation that thrives on its inherent contradictions is bound to be buried under its own contradictions. It is illegitimate to make any community hapless scapegoat.