National Suicide : Today criticism is crime and dissent is sedition in India

img1 Archbp Thomas Menamparampil
26 Oct 2020

Humiliate Not Those Who Serve the Humble 

The Hathras horror cannot be studied in isolation. It ought to be put in relationship to several other harrowing tales of innocent victims of the Ruling Dispensation’s partisan concept of justice. The arrest of a sister who belonged to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity some time ago in Ranchi was not mere zeal for the law, but a calculated move to tarnish the image of a Society that had won the admiration of the world for their spirit of sacrifice and generosity in the service of the “poorest of the poor”. The anxiety of the poor sister under detention was not about her personal humiliation, but the possible loss of image of all charitable works.  The mud-slingers alone rejoiced. Sister was set free a little later with no apologies.  

There were many among the Indian elite who took pride in helping Mother Teresa when she was a world figure. But a section of the nationalist worthies greatly resented that her work drew the attention of the world to India’s poverty. The helplessness of the abandoned was not their concern (after all, they are merely victims of their own Karma in an earlier existence!), but the fact that the eyes of the world were on India’s poverty level.  

Beware of those who say, “Taj Mahal is a blot on the face of India and Mother Teresa a disgrace”

The agonies of the deprived never drew the sympathy of those self-appointed guardians of ‘nationalist pride’. Mother Teresa and her sisters and many others like them who had brought life and hope to millions of their fellow countrymen were an eyesore to them. The Hathras tale is just another version of the same unconcern, the perfect indifference of the Yogi Government about the humiliation of a Valmiki girl. One ideology that unites them all is: keep the humbler societies humble, weaker communities weak, helpless groups helpless. Modi took over power in Gujarat only to teach Muslims a lesson, and Yogi ascended the throne in UP only to keep the Muslims and the Dalits in “submission”. 

The BJP government seems all set to discredit the forces that seek to help the weak, damage their reputation, and make their activities ineffective… the very persons who had kept alive the spirit of generosity and service among the masses. Did you hear people like Yogiji swearing that Mother Teresa and her work were an ongoing ‘embarrassment’ to India and that Taj Mahal was a ‘blot’ on the face of the nation? Sadly, everything has changed south of the Himalayas. The very words they use are given new meanings: criticism is crime, pride is shame, dissent is sedition. 

New Strategy: Humiliate Those Who Are Committed to Defending Tribal Land 

Linking Father Stan Swamy with the Bhima Koregaon violence of January ’18 can only be a deliberate strategy to drag an aged man into an unconnected case. He had been working a quarter of century in Jharkhand, totally committed to the uplift of tribal people. Together with his companion Jesuits he had been making an all effort to prevent hasty appropriation of tribal land by business groups. But the BJP regime has devised creative ways of grabbing indigenous land, e.g.  in the name of developing national parks or firing ranges, tapping natural resources, opening new economic zones, promoting indigenous cultures,  job creation. Hundreds of acres in the tribal areas of Bodoland and Karbi Anglong have gone to Patanjali. For tribal people their land is their life and sustenance and the only hope for the future. Father Stan merely sought to introduce tribal people to their legal rights. 

More than a century ago, Father Constant Lievens and his fellow Jesuits had pioneered this work of land defence, combining it with their educational services that provided a leadership to the communities. But the threat to land still remained. Their chief confidence was in the Indian legal system and the guarantees of the Constitution. But things have changed fast with the rise of the RSS-BJP autocrats. No legal code or ethical norms seem to find recognition any more. The entire nation has slipped a few centuries. We are back to medieval India.

Fake Cases to Silence All Social Activists

Proofs?  The victims of injustice today are the prime accused. Tribals and Dalits are considered criminals even before cases are brought against them before the court. In UP, all Muslims and Dalit activists have been silenced with a series of cases against them under diverse sets of laws. Dissent has diminished, with many in prison already. Yogi’s police forces have become past masters at encounter killings, fake cases, and discovering ‘international conspiracies’! All political parties that sought to defend the Hathras victims have dozens of cases against them. So has Rahul for trying to make his way to the village to console the harassed Valmiki family. National leaders like him and Derek O’Brien were pushed to the ground by the police as though they were mere street rowdies. That is the political culture of the BJP.

Father Stan Swamy was accused of having “conspired with other accused persons to further the ideology of terrorist organisation CPI (maoist) and abetted violence, brought into hatred and incited disaffection towards the government… promoted enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, caste and community”. He was to be sent to Taljola jail in Maharashtra, the main objective being to get him out of the way for further land encroachment. Just think of it! An extremely peaceful person like Father Stan, who spent a lifetime working for the tribals, being accused of spreading hatred at the age of 83! 

Words have Lost Their Meaning: Love Means Hatred, Generosity Means Selfishness

Several social workers in recent times have been accused of “sedition”. People wonder how works of charity and kindness promote sedition. Confucius said very wisely centuries ago, “Where words lose their meaning, people are about to lose their freedom”. Subversion of language is the first step towards Fascism. In this respect, India seems to be well advanced. Liberals see hopes sinking. 

George Orwell, in his book “1984” introduced the word ‘Newspeak’ to refer to words that the Communists used for propaganda giving them the opposite meaning.  Under the Saffron Sovereigns, the Indian Administration has speedily mastered the skill. They bring up as many cases as possible against dissenters, critics, and protesters, accusing them of sedition, violence, and terrorism. As cases were filed against Rahul and Tharoor, they are coming up against Farooq Abdullah and Kamal Nath. But people are most shocked when persons doing heroic works of mercy, charity, and development are taken to court. Covid rules seem to allow the Administration any form of injustice. Commitment to the poor is declared a crime.  

Disastrous Failure in Covid-control Is Described as Amazing Success

A story in Orwell tells how people organized a demonstration to thank the Big Brother for ‘raising’ food ration when he had actually ‘lowered’ it. When Amit Shah praises Modiji for the way he has handled Covid-19, or the loss of territory in Ladakh, or the economic dip, we realize that our situation is not very different. Shahji may be compelled to do that to retain his position; or else, how does a person in his position need to keep flattering his Chief, who has led the country to disastrous levels of Covid growth, with 7.6 million affected people. 

From July, the Government kept claiming that the growth had peaked. But it has trebled since, and knowledgeable people say that the actual numbers may be five times what is officially presented. On being questioned, the answer from the Government is “No data available”. But we have the data. Patients are neglected in hospitals, doctors and nurses are not paid, many of them have died, and many deaths remain unrecorded. 

False Claims Deserve Condemnation

When Mao sent the People’s Liberation Army into Tibet in 1950, he called it the “peaceful liberation of Tibet”. Currently, China has placed over a million people in concentration camps in Xinjiang and half a million in Tibet, claiming to give them ‘Education to Patriotism’. Forced abortions imposed on their women come under the name “Protection of Mother and Child”. India is moving in the same direction with our detention camps for ‘non-citizens’ and population control strategies for minorities. Covid-19 seems to have given the Government unlimited powers. Vaccine is held up so that they can retain the same powers for long.  

 An Indian Orwell must interpret for us Hindutva and Moditva vocabulary in intelligible language so that the world may understand the meaning of ‘vahinis, senas, and dals’ that eliminate lives, ‘foreign hand, foreign-funded, international conspiracy’ aspersion that divert attention. It is very amusing that K. N. Govindacharya should complain against social media for “hate speech”, when his colleagues had been doing nothing else during the last several years.

Empty Boasts Deserve Rejection

Indresh Kumar, RSS national executive, wants India to be the “Jagadguru”. As you can see there is no realism here. Hitler thought that the Germans were called to rule the world, so did the British, the Byzantines, the Ottomans. But, at least, these did so at the peak of their glory. But our RSS friends are doing so after dragging the nation to the depths of humiliation. We could not go any lower in economy, neighbourhood relationships, or health care.  Rahul laments that even Pakistan and Afghanistan have left India far behind in pandemic control. 

At least Harsh Vardhan was humble enough to admit that there had been cases of community transmission of Covid-19 of late. He called for sober Pooja festivities. No religion calls for ostentatious celebrations, he pleaded. How helpful it would have been if the Health Minister had made a similar plea before the Bhoomi Pujan, a super-spreader event that hit the Head of the Temple Trust along with many other attendants!  How helpful it would be even now if he stood firmly against the “politically motivated” construction of a temple at Ayodhya at immense cost! Could he suggest that Rs 8,400 crores destined for the PM’s aircraft be spared for Covid-care so urgently needed today?

Some such dramatic stand is needed. For, recent statistics show that the India’s health budget is the fourth lowest in the world, placing it at the level of Afghanistan. Oxfam has ranked India 155th out of 158 in this respect.  India spends one-third of what Burundi does, the second poorest country in the world. It is good for the RSS chiefs to know that hardly half the population of India has access to basic medical services. And as far as ‘vulnerable employment’ is concerned, India stands 8th from the bottom, coming close to Haiti. What weight does the “Jagadguru” pretentions of Indresh Kumar have?

True Spirituality is about Humanity and Benevolence, Not Baseless Boasts

Dr. Neelima Saikia, the foundress of the “Epic Study Centre” at Jorhat (Assam), is considered an authority on the great Indian Epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana and others. Recently, addressing the Mumbai chapter of the Assam Sahitya Sabha, she gave an interpretation of the great Epics that would put a communal understanding of the narratives to shame. Anyone who reads the epic stories perceptively picks up certain deeper messages than what appears on the surface. They are not essentially about the martial march of the arrogant against the weak and the marginal, which the Hindutva heroes would like to re-enact on the subcontinent.  On the contrary, the Mahabharata teaches the ethic of detachment in the performance of one’s duty (Bhagavadgita), and Ramayana seeks to show how righteousness triumphs in the end. 

Dr. Neelima Saikia looks at the epics from two other angles. On the one hand, she argues that their main purpose was to “cleanse society of atrocities, oppression and persecution”; on the other, to establish that those engaged in the work of humanity, integrity, benevolence, helping others are truly spiritual persons. Now, let us bring this message to Hathras and Ayodhya, to the Dalit and Muslim pockets of UP. And there, hold up this message loud and clear: Let there be no “atrocities, oppression or persecution”.  

Similarly, let the second part of the message be applied to Father Stan Swamy, Mother Teresa’s sisters, all other committed social workers, NGO groups, development agencies, educational and health institutions. Respect their commitment, assist their efforts, allow them to motivate their fellow citizens in the nation-building effort. Let us prosper together. 

It is recognised that the authors of the Epics, Vyasa and Valmiki, did not belong to the dominant races. But evidently they were poetic geniuses and spiritual masters. While making the winning races in their audience feel great in a world where the warrior ethos prevailed, they subtly hint at the foul plays of the strong and injustice done to the weak. When recently Chirag Paswan made a blunt statement that he would not allow the Prime Minister to use him as Hanuman, it is clear that the message has come right down the centuries. The weaker communities have always realized that they are being used, instrumentalized; but their protests get drowned. 

Immanuel Kant says, the greatest human crime is using a fellow being as an instrument, a tool, an object, just a thing. Unfortunately, that is what has happened at Hathras and Ayodhya, Ranchi and Taljola jails. As Kancha Ilaiah says, despise not the Worker, despise not the Productive Classes and those who help them. It would be suicidal. The nation needs them.

Recent Posts

Is India governed by the principles and norms laid down in the “national scripture”, the Constitution of India?
apicture Jacob Peenikaparambil
30 Nov 2020
My relative in Melbourne, Australia, took me to a dairy on the outskirts of the city. The dairy had about 500 well-fed, high-yielding cows.
apicture A. J. Philip
30 Nov 2020
We eagerly look for bridge-builders, who, despite all difficulties, past clashes and confrontations, are eager to search for areas of agreement in view of the common good, and have a Message to give.
apicture Archbp Thomas Menamparampil
30 Nov 2020
Scenario: Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s premature death sent shock waves to the Bollywood sector and society.
apicture M L Satyan
30 Nov 2020
I heard you the other day mentioning in a video message the name of the late Iraneous Thirumeni.
apicture A. J. Philip
30 Nov 2020
‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ (KBC) is probably one of the most successful mega programs on TV channels, with bumper prizes in toe.
apicture Ram Puniyani
30 Nov 2020
Her grandparents’ charity of distributing food to beggars on varying occasions had inspired Sneha Mohandas.
apicture F. M. Britto
30 Nov 2020
My neighbour Ramkumar, suddenly appeared in the next balcony of my building and gave me a big smile, “Bob, I’ve discovered a vaccine the world needs at this moment!”
apicture Robert Clements
30 Nov 2020
Who will provide remedy if not the Supreme Court when fundamental rights are breached?
apicture Joseph Maliakan
23 Nov 2020
The arrest of Arnab Goswami evoked howls of protests from the centre, politicians and ordinary people, while that of octogenarian activist Stan Swamy under the dreaded UAPA barely registered.
23 Nov 2020