It’s high time we got back to serious business

It’s difficult to deny that the number of persons who can talk courageously to those in power has shrunk in the past months.

Published: 22nd July 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st July 2018 05:52 PM   |  A+A-

Relatives of the victims of the Dhule lynching

Much has happened in the last few days to distract us from things that should have caused serious concern. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has cast himself in the role of Neelkanth aka Lord Shiva after swallowing Halahala, the lethal poison—read Congress, in this case. He should better ask himself that what stops him from spitting out the corrosive substance? Then there is the Niti Aayog chief who has challenged Amartya Sen to debate on the real state of Indian economy without realising that there is a limit to punching above one’s weight. Sen may have totally lost touch with India due to his extended sojourns abroad cloistered in Ivory Towers but his comments still carry greater credibility for Western audiences and can burnish or tarnish India’s image much more than the bravado of a person elevated from anonymity to eminence.

Similar gauntlets have been thrown by many for RaGa to pick up. Shashi Tharoor, true to form, has courted controversy making statements about Hindu-Pakistan. (Though some have snidely suggested that this is not a faux pas to embarrass the INC High Command but a short-sighted strategy to deflect adverse publicity likely to be engendered by charges being framed in the controversial Sunanda Pushkar case.)

Ex-chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti keep warning us all that how heavens are going to fall if the Government of India doesn’t stop ‘interfering’ with the peace process initiated by self-appointed interlocutors and sundry busybodies with their own axes to grind. Now that FIFA spectacle is over and the hype over Sanju Baba’s biopic has died down, one can find some time and media space for bloodshed on the streets.

Lynchings continue unabated. Those targeted aren’t only beef eaters or child lifters. Those suspected of an iota of anti-national sentiment can be dealt with similarly. The states, whose responsibility it is to maintain law and order, have completely failed to protect the lives of innocent citizens. And when the Home Ministry flexes its atrophied muscles, it’s accused of subverting the federal structure of our polity. If the Chief of the Army Staff sternly warns terrorists to desist, he is accused of shooting his mouth out of turn and reminded that in a democracy the military is subordinate to the civilian authority—elected representatives of the people.

It’s difficult to deny that the number of persons who can talk courageously to those in power has shrunk in the past months. No one is willing to risk one’s neck or job expressing dissent or protesting against gross abuse of power. There are exceptions like Justice Gogoi—next in line of succession to the post of CJI—who speak out their mind, but they are exceptions.

It isn’t just the domestic scene that is disturbing. In the international arena the shockwaves sent out by Brexit continue to destabilise Europe. Disruptive Donald hasn’t stopped behaving as if the US owns the planet. His words are loaded with racial slurs, gender bias and his belief in his own destiny remains unshaken. His ‘summits’ with Kim Jong-un of Korea to Vladimir Putin of Russia are full of bluster, lacking any substance. But this bumbling man is the POTUS and when he rides roughshod over advisers and saner counsel, declaration of trade war against China and stringent sanctions against Iran threaten to wreck the entire World Order painstakingly put in place brick by brick in the past decades. The raging bull in the proverbial china shop doesn’t care what ‘legacy’ he leaves behind. As long as the scared spectators yield the way to the hoove-stomping and snorting terrifying creature, his self-assigned purpose is served.

No one in India has had time to speculate about how these changes are going to impact us. Will China now be constrained to deal with us realistically and accommodate our legitimate interests in South and South East Asia? Or, will Russia and China forge an alliance to block an aggressive US? What about Europe? Can its fragile unity bear multiple stresses? Are our relations with Iran going to improve or deteriorate due to our proximity with the US?  

We rejoice that Mukesh bhai has dethroned the founder of Ali Baba Corp as the richest man in Asia, but are tongue-tied about asking how this achievement has improved the lives of his compatriots living below the poverty line. We are also happy celebrating the inauguration of ‘largest smartphone factory in the world’, conveniently forgetting that we are far behind much smaller Asian nations in the field of IT. We can at best hope to ‘assemble’ what others have invented or innovated. We should be grateful for the jobs created by such ventures, but shouldn’t we ponder on our chronic inability to demonstrate our prowess? How long do we have to wait before performance matches the promise? 

Pushpesh Pant, former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University

pushpeshpant@gmail.com

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