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India’s never-ending battles

By the time these lines are printed, many battles would have been fought, won and lost.

Published: 09th December 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th December 2018 02:49 PM   |  A+A-

General Bipin Rawat

By the time these lines are printed, many battles would have been fought, won and lost. What we are talking about is not just the elections to state legislatures but also the struggle for temple entry for women of all ages at Sabarimala and the never-ending battles for reservations. Add to this the march of the farmers to the Parliament demanding justice and what is perceived by many as the last-ditch battle to save institutions that safeguard our democracy. 

The Reserve Bank has been brow-beaten into submission for the moment and the Chief Justice of India has ruefully admitted that good judges are becoming increasingly hard to find because the judiciary has lost its aura of majesty. The Election Commission faces a barrage of allegations accusing it of subservience to the government every time votes are cast. The CAG and CVC are inconsequential in the public eye and remain forgotten by the media most of the time. 

The Chief of the Army Staff has acquired an unenviable reputation for shooting from the lip and obviously believes that discretion is not the better part of valour. Governors in sensitive states may exercise discretion at times of constitutional crises or in the ambiguous grey zone. But what is distressing is the manner in which some like the gentleman in charge of Jammu and Kashmir casually lets the proverbial cat out of the bag by sharing details about tremendous pressure he was under to call a particular person to form government. He may have his reasons to demonstrate his independence but then what remains of the oath of office and secrecy? 

Does the dust ever settle? Is there a decisive moment when one can honestly distinguish between victors and the vanquished? Every one who has bitten the dust seems to live on to fight another day. Phoenix is no longer a mythical bird. Politicians and mafia dons obviously are birds of the same plumage. Is it surprising that in India the time for a ‘closure’ or opting for reconciliation never comes? 

We continue to wrestle with demons we have created and refuse to exorcise ghosts from a nightmarish past. Some of those accused of carnage in Hashimpura decades ago and accused of genocidal violence against Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination have finally been convicted but so much time has passed that as the judge himself observed it seems like an academic exercise. Other victims await justice. There are countless tiers of appeals, reviews and curative petitions.   

It’s only the rich and the powerful, the bold and not so beautiful who can manipulate the system exploiting the loopholes or technical flaws in investigation and prosecution and escape unscathed. The Mallyas and Modis (Lalit and Nirav) continue to enjoy asylum in claiming that their lives are imperilled in India with its far-from-perfect judicial system and hellish dungeon-like jails where human rights are violated day and night. Irony is that much less glamorous and powerful politicians and tycoons apparently enjoy all the comforts behind bars. 

The judges have repeatedly admonished Tihar Jail officials for extending special favours to the directors of the Unitech Group. Most high-profile prisoners manage to serve time in hospitals or officers’ messes doubling as specially designated jails. Paroles, furloughs, remissions for good conduct can add up to a substantial part of the sentence to make a mockery of conviction. Be it superstars like Sanju Baba or scions of the Yadav or Chautala clan, no one dare write them off. The meek and the weak like to console themselves with the idea of Kingdom of Heaven but those who mock the rule of law are ones who continue to savour the box office hit or a dramatic electoral victory.  

Ambushes by Maoists and encounters to eliminate them continue unabated. There is no decline in atrocities perpetrated by fanatical terrorists against innocent civilians, honest policemen and neutralisation of infiltrators by the Army and para-military forces. Lost in the din of these shrill war cries are the battles that need to be fought urgently: against poverty and disease, illiteracy and superstitions, exploitation and intolerance, corruption and arrogance of those whom we have in fatal folly chosen to rule us. It’s naive to believe that hubris will bring them down. We wait for the victories of lawless tyrants to turn to ashes. 

Let us pause to ponder. The battle is not between those who believe in true or false gods and those without faith. Good and Evil never present themselves in black and white. It is for us to decide where we choose to draw the line. It’s time we stopped getting mesmerised by seductive but paralysing shades of grey. pushpeshpant@gmail.com

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