RIGHT ANGLE – Double Standards of Political Vultures
I have been provoked to write this piece after coming across a post on my face book wall by a friend. Her question is whether our political leaders treat all lives equally or they indulge in vulture-politics depending on the strategies against their opponents. In vulture politics, deaths are treated selectively – some deaths are magnified and some deaths are totally ignored.
This friend was wondering if some prominent politicians (in fact, I would add here the media too) have decided to visit the relatives of the farmers who were crushed under the wheels those dead in Lakhimpur Kheri , should they also not go to Kashmir where the terrorists gunned down five innocent civilians, including a Sikh principal and Pandit teacher.
I am sure all right-minded people will see merits in the question my friend has asked. There is sheer double-standard in the behaviours of our politicians over unnatural deaths. If a Dalit is killed or raped in Uttar Pradesh, a select group of politicians and, of course the media, will make a hue and cry. But if a Dalit is killed or raped in the neighbouring Rajasthan, or for that matter in Maharashtra, then it is a non-issue for them; their standard argument is that the law will take its own course. The vice versa is equally true for the politicians of opposing hue – for them Rajasthan tragedy is the real one but the one in Uttar Pradesh is well under control. Only difference between the two cases will be the relative silence of the national media over the tragedies in Rajasthan and Maharashtra, but then that needs a separate treatment.
However, what astounds me the most are the double standards being displayed in the tragedy at Lakhimpur Kheri itself. Here eight people were killed, four supporting the farmers’ cause and four others, including two drivers and a journalist named Ratan Kashyap. And these four non-farmers were lynched by the agitating farmers when their comrades were run over.
True justice demands all the guilty must be punished. If the person responsible for crushing the farmers deserves severe punishment, so do the farmers who lynched also four; they must be identified and taken to task under the laws. In a democratic country, we cannot allow Kangaroo courts to be set up to give speedy justice on the spot.
At least, from the point of view of morality, our ‘crying” politicians should have also gone to the houses of the non-farmers to consol the relatives. After all, they had nothing to do with the politics over the farmers’ issue( in fact, I have heard some friend quoting the mother of a dead driver that he lost balance when the agitating farmers blocked his vehicle and started throwing stones at it). And the poor journalist was doing his job. Here what worries me the most is that the otherwise hyperactive Press Club of India or for that matter the Editors Guild of India has not deemed it fit( as yet to the best of my knowledge) to express few words of condolence.
Imagine if Mahatma Gandhi were alive (all these politicians take his name effortlessly to prove their humanitarian values), would he have made a distinction between the lives of the four farmers and that of the other four (even if they were enemies)? Would he have selectively gone to the relatives of the first four only? No.
That is precisely the reason, and I have written about before, India today is full of political vultures. They have no concern for the dead or for their cause; what interests them is their politics and careers.
No wonder why these politicians and their “intellectual supporters” do not see the difference between dissent and disobedience.
If you are against some laws, you have got every right to protest peacefully against them as you think those are wrong. But if this protest leads to violation of these laws, then it becomes defiance or disobedience and you should be prepared for its consequences as envisaged by the legal system of the country. You can peacefully assemble with others and express your dissent. That is perfectly legitimate. But when your mass demonstrations obstruct the free passage of traffic, when you do not allow your political opponents to move out and address the public, the state has a legitimate public concern in regulating such demonstrations. Similarly, if your dissent through the freedom of speech become an incitement to riots and lynching (as has happened in Lakhimpur Kheri), than that is not sanctioned by laws and you should be punished by the state.
The point is that if you have a right of dissent, the government has a duty to ensure that your right does not adversely affect the rights of others. The government or state has to insure rule of law and order and ensure the unity and integrity of the country. In other words, whatever the source of your dissent, it is certain that limits must be imposed. These limits must not unduly hamper free expression, but must protect the rights of the non-dissenters, that is, the majority.
In a democratic country such as ours, the courts are entrusted with the job of striking the balance between the government’s right to protect its citizens and itself, and the individual’s right to dissent. Neither right is absolute. Both rights have their source in the Constitution.
Unfortunately, it has become a fashion now by some to suggest that people do have a positive obligation to disobey what they think to be unjust laws. And they ask others to join them in disobeying or violating such laws, though ironically in many a case they themselves do not participate in that act. They only incite. Ant they succeed because persons unjustly aggrieved by rules and laws, especially in our society today, are generally able to provoke the sympathy of others and thereby enlist aid to their cause.
However, such disobedience is dangerous on many counts. One, disobedience tends to encourage a general disrespect for law and order, particularly among the young. Two, it suggests that each citizen has a right to determine for himself or herself which laws should be obeyed and which not. Three, disobedience escalates or incites mob rule and results in violence. Four, if everyone has his or her own ideas on which laws are just and which are not, then there can never be any law that applies to all, the uniformity of which is the most important yardstick of any civil society or country. Basically, it leads to jungle- raj where few with might become right.
And this is precisely what we are seeing in India today. Dissents inside our legislatures earlier were classy arguments by our opposition leaders, voting against the government and in some cases walk-out. But today, in the name of dissent, they gherao the presiding officers and assemble in the wells, forcing the adjournments. Outside, as we see the so-called farmers agitation, public roads are blocked for months. And the worst we saw few days back when a BJP MLA was bitten mercilessly publicly by the agitators in Punjab. All these are precise acts of disobedience, not dissent.
It needs to be highlighted that those who cause or incite disobedience in a democratic country are invariably a tiny minority. They call themselves to be democratic, but they think that overwhelming majority not sharing their views must “agree” with them. The government must listen to what they say. The bureaucrats and other officials must act as per their dictates. And the courts must give verdicts as per their petitions, irrespective of their merits. In other words, they have got the divine right to rule over all of us, the overwhelming majority.
Their total number in India (a country of 1.3 billion) must not be exceeding few thousands, but they happen to be intellectual elites of the country who for more than 70 years have been totally dominating the media, educational institutes and cultural organisations. They were systematically aided and promoted (in jobs and perks), by every Indian government till 2014. They are still a formidable force even under the Modi-rule; they reject everything that is new; they are against any change in the system that will lead to greater good in a rapidly changing world; they are the biggest threats to those who have dissenting views. And yet, they call themselves to be progressives, liberals and seculars.
In reality, today’s so-called progressive liberals are often intolerant, calling for official censure against anyone perceived as uttering “non-progressive views.” Free speech is carelessly tossed to one side in order to silence views and people that these so-called liberals label as intolerant.
A sorry spectacle indeed!