Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Democratise the polity

India’s tryst with Democracy

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Indian Justice Party’s candidate Lal Bahadur Sonkar, who was contesting from Jaunpur constitucney of Uttar-Pradesh was found dead, hanging on a tree yesterday. This famous town of Uttar-Pradesh, just about 40 kilometer from Varanasi, has never been that tensed. Sonkar, a Dalit himself was one of the candidates in the fray. The BSP had fielded Dhananjay Singh, who is well known here, not for his social work for his strong ‘muscles’. Whether some body is good or bad has become really a matter of convenience. Hence if Mulayam Singh embraced Kalyan Singh then he is not involved in demolition of Babari mosque. Gangsters are fighting elections and the courts are unable to do so but our government feel threatened with one Dr Binayak Sen that he has even been denied right to get medical test. Despite much voices of protest, this democracy, it seems, is afraid of releasing him from Jail that it does not feel shame of keeping him in Jail without any trial for the past one and a half year. So democracy is not just elections in five years, but our polity will have to be democratic.

Therefore it is not right here for me to mention about how our ministers are giving certificates about who is good and who is bad. While Varun Gandhi’s hate speech rightly placed him at the Jail, Mayawati yesterday gave a certificate to Mukhtar Ansari as ‘Garibon ka masiha’. Ofcourse, it is true that Mukhtar may not be as communal we make him and that his family has played an important role in India’s freedom struggle, but that does not exonerate him for the charges that he is facing in the courts of law.

During this election, we have seen worst kind of public speeches. And there is one common thing. While the Hindutva party is exclusively claiming that it can fight against ‘terrorism’ and ensure ‘National Security’, others are happy with positioning them as the sole champion of ‘secularism’ in the country. And hence Lalu want to bulldoze ‘Varun Gandhi’, like latter’s father did in 1975 at the Turkman gate in Delhi for beatification of the city. Muslims do not need these nautankis but solid promises as why they are left behind and what will parties do to ensure their faire participation in nation building. But we all know whether political parties have given tickets to them or not. A 12% Muslim society does not get 12% tickets even from so called secular parties. Even if they ask for it, the demand would be termed as communal. And here lies the tragedy of democracy.

Every body welcomed when a certain Jarnail Singh threw shoe on Chidambaram, despite the fact that jarnail actually betrayed his profession and became a ‘Sikh’. The problem in such perception is that when Congress party denied ticket to two of its sitting Member of Parliament’s m/s Jagdish Tytlor and Sajjan Kumar after the Sikhs have protested. The Hindutva party, whose goons were also involved in anti Sikh massacre in Delhi as many reports have proved and that Rajiv Gandhi won on an entirely communal mandate in 1984 which was based on hatred against Sikhs. Same thing is true about another gentleman called Narendra Modi, but he is the hero number one of the saffron party. We have hate mongerers given ticket from Kandhamal, in Orrisa. Problem with people like Jarnail Singh is that they open up their eyes when they feel their community is wronged. They keep quiet when others face such things. How can Akalis side with BJP which is accused of doing worst kind of pogrom in Gujarat. But then the record of Jaat Sikhs towards Dalits is well known in Punjab and we have faced their wrath in Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar, when I demanded land ceiling be imposed there as a majority of land has illegally been grabbed by the powerful Jat Sikhs from Punjab. The problem in democracy is that we give our version, speak the truth of convenience.

We all know politicians and political parties play games. They use words very carefully and reject that very next day. When Varun made that hate speech, the idea was to make his ‘entry’ into politics as the new hero of ‘Hindutva. The agenda was not this election but next one when a generation of the second generation of BJP leaders too would turn old and there is a dearth of leader who could claim to represent the youths of the country.

Tickets are being sold, money being pumped and election commission despite its role and monitoring is helpless as Netas are thick skinned. But the mass upsurge is equally happening. The urban middle classes are fed up with the current lot of political class while in the forest, the tribal and those who are victims of the current dispensation, are up in arms. So there is a wider disenchantment in public life.

We celebrate today the birthday of one of the greatest heroes of democracy and modernity. Yes, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar who brought 16 crore Dalits into national mainstream and made them believe in Democracy. Yet the same Ambedkar had warned in the constituent Assembly that if this democracy does not provide social and economic justice to his people, they will blow up the very structure of democracy we all have built so laboriously.

A democrat by heart, Ambedkar knew it well that ours is a democracy imposed on a feudal society, where the leaders always want to be looked as a messiah. He was prophetic when he wanted to liberate every individual. He did feel that individual is supreme but what happen today is the death that individual in our democracy. Democracy has become the best way to legitimize the illegal acts. Legitimise the goons to say that they are political leaders and that their misdeeds have been ‘approved’ by the people. Democracy today has made communities apolitical and depoliticized their thoughts. Hence you are really not voting to a party of ideology but voting to an individual who you feel belongs to your caste or religion.

I am not saying this has happened just now. Things evolve and evolution has come in such a way that it is very difficult for dissenting voices to contest elections when mainstream political parties are spending billions of rupees. When the big industrialists, mafias can fight election at their will or if they are barred from contesting the election, their ‘ideal wives’ take over therefore making democracy as a family business, then we must realize that writing is on the wall and that such things will not be helpful in promoting the ideas of social democracy as these things are anti democratic and are just stamping them leveled as democratic.
Hence democracy has become a game for entry into elitist circle. The choices are limited. Initially, this club has the domination of the upper castes now the membership has been extended to a few powerful individuals and parties from Dalit and shudra communities also so their quest is equally satisfied.

Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar are two politically volatile states. Many claimed that they have brought Dalit-bahujan revolution. However, after look at the village politics, I can say things are not that simple as our theoreticians make us believe. The churning of the Dalit backward communities happened in these two states. In fact, Bihar does seem much better than Uttar-Pradesh in this regard as people are now questioning politicians and it is not easy for both Lalu and Ramvilas to just hanker on ‘who stopped Advani’. People want work and politicians who raised aspirations and hope miserably failed them. Uttar-Pradesh experience or experiment of Sarvajan is on test. It succeeded in UP because of the peculiar caste equations and there is no guarantee of its success. Yet, the problem with this exercise is that that dominant upper caste communities have become stronger here and the Dalit remain victims. Now, they can not open their mouth. They have to vote to the people who are seen in the village lives as their enemies. And hence it is the travesty of the truth. A Sonker is killed because he is considered as vote –katua by his opponent. Dalit vote is transferrable hence the upper castes are bowing to Behinji for a ticket and got it. Hence we see an upsurge of upper castes particularly Brahmins in UP glorifying Mayawati as they have got much beyond their numbers. They are ready to play second fiddle and that too, only to Bahinji and not to Dalit community, as long as they get power and position and BSP has given them.

These elections mean a lot for people of India. They will mean a lot for Dalits and OBCs of India. Their politics will see a sea change. The cries of Indians who still have not got their due, the failure of democracy as providing justice are crucial factor. People will question. Netas can not be messiahs but will have to deliver. The biggest factor in democracy is the voices of Dalits, and marginalized. They will now question. Their vote matter but no work is done to them. If even after 60 years people are eating rats and snails in UP and Bihar, or Orissa and Andhra, then it is shame on us.

Democracy is not just elections. Democracy is the spirit. Democracy is how we respect people and take a decision by asking people. Is this happening. The distance between our political class and people is increasing. The political class feels that people are too proud of them hence they do not need to deliver. They feel that people are happy to see them hovering in helicopter. India is changed. The poor are changing. They will seek answer and the way Bihar has revolted and thrashed leaders, will be seen in public life.

It is important that we do not surrender our selves to political class. It is important that this political class just do not use us for its own purposes. Their agendas are big... they come in different names but at the end promote them selves as larger than life. People have aspirations from them but they never get filled. ‘ I have given them nothing but swar, i.e. voice, Lalu Yadav would often say, but he knows it well that people will not be satisfied with ‘Swar’ only, they need employment, they need job and they need justice.

The voices of people should not satisfy with electing one party or other. An awakened people can control their leaders. The parliament which is becoming a place where we surrender our sovereignty. Look how Binayak Sen is still languishing in Jail and our political leaders are contesting elections. What is the fault of Binayak Sen ? They have not been able to prove. He is a Naxalite, said the government. The voices of newspapers in Chhatisgharh are shut. So are our voices too. Democracy is becoming too strong for us to speak for those who the state feels ‘anti-national’, without proving their crime. We faced it. Such frivolous charges against any one who dissent with the establishment are the norms of the day. I have got such a charge from the intelligence that I am influenced by ‘ leftist ideology’. Is being a leftist a crime? While I am not that and discard the Naxal violence, not because they are violent but because we believe in democracy, freedom and choice and sadly the Maoists-Naxal do not believe in that. They still believe in their own confined world and protected fences and become sole arbitrator of people’s choices and ideas which is unacceptable.

As a person devoted to democratic values and freedom, I feel that the challenges are too big. Our political class does not understand the differences between ideologies and perception. They want to shut our voices in the name of isms. Whether it is Maoism, or naxalism or Islamism, our state feel threatened with ideology. Despite India being too big and diverse, people of India have decided to live together. It is not the politicians but a spirit of togetherness that bind them together. They will fight back against all anti democratic norms. Let us save democracy from the clutches of feudal lords.

The largest democracy of the world does not seek people’s opinion from displacing them. Who will allow them to displace them? The largest democracy in the world has its people, still carrying night soil over their head and cleaning shit, largest democracy still have huge number of child labor and bonded labor... the largest democracy has failed to provide justice and Dalits and Adivasis. It is making them enslaved. Democracy will not succeed in symbols and enlarging the elite clubs of billionaires. Democracy will succeed when every body will have freedom to dissent and live a life of dignity and self respect.

Let our political class not live in the caged past. Let them follow what Dr Ambedkar said ‘not to glorify our past and our village system’. Let the political class not take shelter in our great ‘culture’ and great ‘villages’ of India where our caste live and which still live in ignorance and nepotism, as Ambedkar prophetically mentioned. Unlike Mulayam Singh, whose son went to Australia to learn English language or Charan Singh who said he would stop computers by sending his son Ajit Singh to US to learn that, let the political class be honest enough to accept what they personally believe and behave. Let there be no duality in our life, one masked for people and other for our own selves. Our issues are bigger than English language. Our issues are bigger than poll rhetoric’s. Let us work to democratize our political class, our villages and socialize democracy otherwise, democracy will only be like surrendering our soveignity to a class which has no concern for people and which is hell bent on depoliticizing the whole society by deviating people’s issue and becoming individual centric. One must not expect too much from this exercise yet it is certain that a lot of churning will happen at the ground level as people are watching everything closely. Those people who think that rural poor do not understand thing and vote in emotions will have to eat their word after elections. Nobody can save a country or a society if intellectual become bankrupt. The spirit and ideas of Ambedkar are still alive and relevant, it is time we move ahead and spread his words and ideas in the true spirit of democracy and human freedom which will liberate us and give millions their dignity.