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Amrit Mahotsav Chintan

P. A. Chacko P. A. Chacko
15 Aug 2022

Is the BJP government stripping India of its glory, its tradition, its identity, and its assets and then wanting to go to celebrate 75 years of independence as Amrit Mahotsav? Chapter 20 of Mahabharata narrates how the Pandavas lost even their kingdom at the gambling game of dice with the Kauravas and finally gambled their wife Draupadi as the last item to be staked. The Kauravas wanted to celebrate it with disrobing Draupadi but only a divine intervention stopped it. 

Today, looking at India’s ground reality, one wishes that some intervention, divine or human, would take place to stop the BJP from denuding India of its assets, resources, dignity and identity. Will the new Draupadi step in, is a million-dollar question. 

Every day the media is replete with news that someone or other has decamped with bank loot of loans and escaped into a foreign haven. Lakhs of crores of loan accessed by big business sharks get waived. According to news sources, banks have written off Rs. 2, 02,781 crore of bad loans in the fiscal year ending March 2021. In the last ten years, a whopping Rs. 11, 68,095 crore worth of bad loans, or non-performing assets, were written off, with most of it coming in the last seven years, the RBI said in an RTI reply to the Indian Express. Of the write off in ten years, as much as 10.72 lakh crore happened since the financial year 2014-15 when the Narendra Modi government assumed power. This write-off aided banks to whitewash their bad loans portfolio (The Indian Express). 

The Enforcement Directorate’s vision appears to be intentionally kept too short-sighted and its arm too short so as not to catch such culprits whose cosy bed fellowship with the powers that are is widely being talked about. The ED, in witch-hunt style, is busy stirring the ‘hell-broth boil and cauldron bubble’ (Macbeth) by going for stripping the nation of its opposition leaders. The central agents appear to be conniving with BJP’s call for an opposition-mukt Bharat.

Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of dissent, freedom of peaceful assembly, and such other fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution are becoming a rare commodity in the Modi dispensation. Journalists are gagged; writers, critics and intellectuals feel threatened; minority religious institutions are attacked and the religious fundamentalism of the majority community is hanging like Damocles’ sword   over this once peace-loving and peaceful land. 

If the fundamental right to life (Art 21) includes right to food, then one should have the right to choose the food one wants to consume. And, yet, the maniacal private army of religious fundamentalists gate crash into your home, even plant false evidences and drag you out and do a neat operation lynching on you. Stripping of people of their fundamental freedoms seems to be under the watchful eyes of their political bosses. 

Under today’s judicial dispensation, human fellowship in solidarity cannot be extended to victims of injustice with legal assistance or under Public Interest Litigation. The fate of Teesta Setalvad, who tried to help the widow of the slain Gujarat MP, tells it all. The days of Justices Bhagwati and Krishna Iyer who facilitated the process of PIL even with a post card are being accorded an undeserved burial. If one were to call it ‘legal stripping’, one might be booked for ‘defaming the courts.’ Could the ‘Big Brother’ description be someone’s figment of imagination? However, as an icebreaker, or as part of judicial murmur, Chief Justice N. V. Ramana, sharing platform with Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said that ‘Justice social, economic and political are promised by the Preamble of the Constitution, but the reality is that only a small percentage can benefit from the judicial delivery system.’ He also mentioned that ‘strengthening the district-level judicial system is the need of the hour!’ Good chintan for Amrit Mahotsav. 

The privatisation of the nation’s resources and assets, and handing them on a platter to the government’s preferred cronies and capitalists add to the stripping of India in a big way.  Even the homestead land of people is acquired or appropriated for the sake of rolling out red carpets to crony capitalists. Land tenancy laws protecting Adivasi land are being flouted or circumvented for favouring quarrying and mining lobbies with the consequence of making Adivasis homeless and identity-less. As if that is not enough in the stripping process, Adivasis are being stripped of their original identity by forcing on them the blatant lie that they are Hindus. Political convenience makes politicians go to any extent, even sup with the devil and consort with criminals, to build their tower of Babel. 

The demolition drama that the ruling party is enacting is another form of stripping the nation. The toponymic renaming frenzy is the ruling party’s craze. Demolish traces of historical significance by removing street names and replacing them with politically motivated Hindu names as a process of saffronization of public spaces. Allahabad was renamed Prayagraj, the place where Brahma, the Hindu creator of the universe, was said to have attended a ritual sacrifice. Mughalsarai Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh got rebranded after the rightwing Hindu ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay. In the frenzy to saffronize history, the ruling party attempts to erase India’s Mughal legacy and remove traces of references from history books. Several streets in Delhi carrying Muslim names were painted black by anti-social elements. Aurangzeb Road, named after the sixth Mughal emperor, was changed to APJ Abdul Kalam Road, India’s 11th President.

Critics have pointed out that ‘the nostalgic glorification or mythologizing of an imagined past’ has prompted the Hindu fundamentalist forces to promote a Hindu nationalist ideology by having recourse to ideas of cultural purity and the consequent delegitimization or stripping of cultural and historical worth or contributions of other communities. The flight crew of Air India were asked to sloganize ‘Jai Hind’ at the end of every flight to promote the ‘mood of the nation.’ 

It is not just the names of minority communities that are under attack. The concerted attempt to tarnish the names of our freedom fighters and founders of this independent nation has been an ongoing strategy of the saffron Parivar. Tarnishing Jawaharlal Nehru and the Nehru-Gandhi family is the favourite past time of the Prime Minister and his clan. They demonstrated ludicrous daredevilry by announcing that since independence India was going down the drain thanks to the visionless policies of Nehru. The puny minds could not stomach or appreciate Nehru’s legacy. They act as grave diggers by choosing to bury Nehru’s fame and legacy deep down without giving an iota of credit to his promoting parliamentary democracy, secularism, and science and technology which brought India to the fore as a modern nation. 

Today’s proto-nationalists should learn an idea or two from Nehru’s idea of ‘nationalism.’ In his 1961 speech, two and a half years before his death, he instructed his fellow citizens to ‘forge’ a nationalism that respects diversity, different customs, and traditions, ‘irrespective of which religion we belonged.’ This idea of nationalism forged, on the anvil of unity in diversity, is an irritant to the Hindu nationalists who want to construct a Hindu fundamentalist nation devoid of other classes or communities.  

Going a step further, they have targeted and denigrated Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. They deride him by accusing him to be the chief architect of the partition of India and the consequences. Godse killed Gandhi by shooting him in the chest three times while he was walking towards the prayer grounds at the Birla House. Godse’s statement in the court was revealing: ‘I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhi should surely be proved practical, be able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces...’ In other words, he felt that, though he ‘admired Gandhi for his lofty character,’ Gandhi had to be removed from the political scene, so that India can begin looking after its own interests as a nation. It is the same spirit of retaliation, revenge, violence and use of arms that influence Godse’s followers by keeping on shooting at his effigies and by destroying his statues. An act of stripping the nation of any trace of the Father of the Nation and his legacy! 

Yati Narasinganand Saraswati recently described Gandhiji as the perpetrator of the murder of thousands of Hindus during the Indo-Pak partition. He had earlier been booked and jailed for his hate speech. Now he is courting a fresh controversy by attacking Gandhiji. He refuses to accord Gandhiji the title ‘Father of the Nation.’ He intends to start a nationwide movement to ‘expose’ Gandhi and his ‘collaboration’ with the British. Such spurious ideas under cover of freedom of expression by Hindu religious leaders are intended to strip the nation of its greatness, its dignity and secularity. Instead of booking him under anti-national sections or Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, senior journalists like Siddique Kappan, member of working journalists, going to report a rape case in U. P. is made to rot in jail charged under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act since October 2020. 

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, who advocated reconstruction and reorganisation of Hindu society on the precept of equality, is still looked upon with suspicion and even derision by Hindu nationalists. It is no secret that the Sangh Parivar wants to remould the Constitution to fit in with RSS ideology and Hindu Rashtravad. 

In the midst of this stripping the nation of its identity, its tradition, its past heritage, the legacy of its freedom fighters and founders, its constitutional values and principles, the show must go on as Amrit Mahotsav.  One wonders how much of Modi’s ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ propaganda will enthuse the citizens who are living as victims of unemployment, inflation and rising poverty. One cannot shout slogans on empty stomach. India’s two-thirds population under poverty (68.8%) cannot be fed on half-truths of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that it is the rich, more than the poor, affected by price rise and inflation.  With her ever taut nerves, Sitharaman strains them even more to dish out the blatant lie that the poor have more food than the rich have. 

If the people are to be proud of its 75 years of independence, the leaders have to instil into their minds a confidence that Indians are one in the midst of diversities. Minority bashing has to be countered and treated as criminal act, deserving fitting punishment. The use of government agencies such as ED, CBI, NSA or Vigilance should be for constructive purposes to expose corruption or gross criminal activities irrespective of a particular party or community. Why are critics on the rise questioning the ruling party’s use of agencies against persons of opposition parties or minority communities? Is it just a figment of some people’s imagination or of an enthusiastic journalist? 

The disgusting drama of politicians’ fence-jumping into the BJP washing machine and getting fat jobs like ex-Congress man Himanta Biswa Sarma, who became BJP’s Chief Minister in Assam, is the order of the day. Sarma’s entertaining Maharashtra’s fence jumpers, Eknath Shinde and group, in Guwahati’s luxury hotel for over ten days is not a concern of the Enforcement Directorate which is busy witch-hunting opposition leaders and Sonia-Rahul Gandhis. 

We need to celebrate the Amrit Mahotsav. But in a fitting way! Not by alienating minority communities, not by jailing members of opposition parties nor by creating panic and tension provoked by the fear of a midnight knock by terror-striking government agencies. How far are we ready to form one human chain of citizens during the Amrit Mahotsav period and say we are one nation, we are one in fellowship, we hold our heads high without fear and with passion for a progressive India, not a regressive nation? 

Can Prime Minister Modi and President Draupadi Murmu take lead to be at the head of this human chain? Along with them, hand-in-hand, should we not pledge under the Indian Constitution to uphold our noble democratic values and Constitutional principles?  If we are honest enough, we shall not dishonour the Tiranga by using it to cover up polluted streams alongside VVIP routes. Should we not pledge that we shall build a progressive India with scientific outlook, protect the weak and the defenceless, and respect all religions and communities? Let us all savour the sweet potion (Amrit) of our national integrity, fellowship and harmony. We pray with Tagore, ‘Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake!’ 

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