According to some uber patriots, the whole world is infected with an anti-India virus, a strain more virulent than the deadly coronavirus that at the moment threatens to lay low the mighty Chinese. The Economist—not some easy-to-dismiss leftist rag—has published a stinging cover story about intolerant India and the EU is debating a resolution about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act expressing grave apprehensions about the violation of human rights and religious persecution this may follow consequentially.
The Indian government has warned all its friends and foes not to meddle in its internal matters and respect its sovereignty. From Nepal and Bangladesh to Malaysia to now the EU, not many are convinced that all those who are protesting against the CAA are parts of a diabolical conspiracy to destabilise India. It’s not only the fraternity of Islamic nations that has rallied around the co-religionists who appear to be targeted, but it’s also potential investors who have started voting with their feet. The IMF and the US lawmakers are not inhibited any more to offer unsolicited advice to India to restore normalcy to avert catastrophic impact of prejudiced politics on our country’s once-promising economic prospects. Much of the goodwill earned in the NDA’s first term in office has been squandered.
The central government has dug in its heels with growls announcing that it will not yield an inch prompting many to ask disturbing questions about Achilles heel and feet of clay. The legal eagles in the ruling party are busy reminding us that according to our Constitution, India is a Union of States not a Federation of States. What these experts conveniently forget is that the spirit of the Constitution is no less significant than its letters. Four states have already passed resolutions in their legislative assemblies that they will not implement the CAA. The number of naysayers is likely to rise sharply. It’s difficult to imagine how the Central government is going to resist parties to submission. Chief Ministers are NOT comparable to errant wayward students who can be ‘taught lessons’ or silenced by imposition of anti-sedition laws or letting loose vigilante goons on campus.
The President and the Prime Minister have repeatedly reminded the protesters that violence has no place in a democracy. Differences must be reconciled through a process of peaceful dialogue. Also, that citizens clamouring for fundamental rights should also constantly keep in mind corresponding duties. This has not reassured anyone. Such sage words have only added fuel to the proverbial fire. What about the government’s duties to protect the citizen and provide good governance? No one is arguing that anti-national miscreants should not be swiftly punished. What is frightening is the suspension of the due process of law. Any rabble rouser claiming to be a desh bhakt nowadays feels empowered to brand anyone suspect in his/her eyes as a gaddar (traitor) and incite a bloodthirsty crowd with inflammatory statements to unleash jungle raj.
Sadly, the judiciary has been sending confusing signals. It has thundered more than once about the irrelevance of archaic colonial era laws in India more than seven decades after Independence. It has pronounced that there can be no mindless statewide and indefinite imposition of restrictions like Section 144. Access to internet, it has made clear, is in this day and age an integral part of fundamental rights. But the apex court for reasons best known to itself has shied away from providing relief to aggrieved citizens. It has at times tossed the ball back in the legislative court (pun unintended) or passed the contentious issue to a larger/constitutional bench. The instruments such as PIL and RTI forged to provide legal redress over years have lost their edge.
No one in right senses can suggest that national security be compromised. What needs to be debated is the concept of security. Can a house divided against itself be considered secure? If everyone from tiny Nepal to mighty US is tempted to offer mediation in what must remain bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, it’s only because our country today projects a strife-torn image that encourages all and sundry to rush in.
We just can’t get the coronavirus scare out of our mind. It is highly contagious and as yet there is no cure for it. Prevention it is said is better than cure. But while this applies to infectious diseases and outbreaks of pandemics, this can’t be a blanket prescription to protect the nation or defend democracy. Indiscriminate use of Preventive Detention Act and the draconian NSA can only be counterproductive. Drug-resistant swiftly mutating strains of deadly virus are not unknown to scientists. email@example.com