There are some very distressing incidents that have swiftly been air-sprayed from headlines due to manufactured excitement about the elections in Karnataka. Suddenly no one seems to be worried about the ugly tug of war or battle of nerves between the Supreme Court and the Central Government. The Kashmir Valley continues to be perpetually on the boil—belching fumes and periodically expelling scalding lava from its belly—but those at the helm have their minds distracted. Wrenching Karnataka from the Congress appears more important to them than retaining J&K.
This isn’t all. News from Uttar Pradesh continues to be depressing. The latest in the series of inane orders is about Dalit families ‘informing the police before celebrating a marriage and taking out a procession so that they could be provided with adequate protection’. There have been ugly incidents—often violent—where Dalit bridegrooms have been restrained from riding the ceremonially prescribed mare. This, the members of the so-called upper castes believe to be their exclusive birthright.
We must hang our heads in shame, if 70 years after attaining Independence we allow those with muscle and money, and a feudal mindset to flout the rule of law so brazenly. The ‘police protection’—even if it is sought and grudgingly provided—will be more than a cruel joke, a humiliating badge of shame for those who are constrained to accept their helpless, inferior status.
It was in Gujarat where Dalit youths were almost lynched for sporting a moustache and twirling it. The BJP’s inability to discipline and expel its members complicit in such hooliganism cost it dear in the elections in the state. The party managed to return to power after a bad scare and had to give chestthumping a rest for a while. Atrocities against Dalit may not have increased under the NDA-BJP rule but they have certainly not decreased. The apprehensions of the exploited and deprived about the ‘dilution’ of laws protecting them are real not imaginary.
Recently, it was reported that hundreds of Dalits have converted to Buddhism administering a stinging rebuke to their intolerant upper caste compatriots. ‘Upper caste’ leaders from all political parties vie with each other to collect brownie points dining at a poor Dalit’s house. The stage-managed reality shows can only prove counter-productive. While the BJP and Congress remain engrossed in permutations and combinations to forge winning alliances.
Crimes against women and small children continue unabated. The conscience of the nation is shocked routinely but fails to stir anyone to action. Examinations have been devalued due to the epidemic of paper leaks. The rupee is in a tailspin and implementation of GST continues to unravel in an excruciating manner. None of this seems to matter to those whose blinkered vision is fixated on 2019. For them, polarisation is the magic mantra promising guaranteed return to power.
Jinnah’s portrait in the Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union office triggers a JNU-type crisis where slogans of ‘azadi’ provoke the vigilantes on the ‘other side’ to take care of the ‘seditious types’ on their own. Others are busy protesting against ‘prayers’ (read Namaz) in public places. No one can justify arbitrary encroachments in the name of fundamental right to freedom of religious belief and worship but the government turning a blind eye to rabble-rousing conspiracies smacks of partisanship. As long as India remains secular, nation-state can’t be partisan.
There are motormouths who just refuse to zip their lips after repeated admonition from the Prime Minister—be it the Tripura Chief Minister or the junior minster in HRD in the Union Cabinet. Their views on scientific matters have only provided fodder to allegedly ‘mischievous’ media and made India a laughing stock abroad. The doctors at AIIMS go on a flash strike after a senior doctor slaps a junior and patients suffer silently. Some of them are in need of urgent critical care. This institution once the pride of the nation appears to be chronically sick. But isn’t that the case with other jewels in our crown—the IITs and premier universities such as JNU and Bombay?
The BJP can no longer pass the buck by saying that the mess is not of its making. It can’t keep blaming predecessors for stoking reservation politics and appeasement of minorities, tolerating corruption—petty bribes to mega scams. Four years is a long time to show that you mean business and you are different. Not a mirror image of the adversary. Electoral victories and defeats—however dramatic—can be reversed. Fortunes change. Both the Congress and BJP have risen from proverbial ashes in past. This no longer provides any reassurance or console Indians. They are seething in anger, simmering with discontent and unwilling to watch silently as the slide towards the precipice continues.