Friday, June 11, 2010

Democracy in the hands of undemocratic people

Democracy as tool to strengthen power elite

The victims of 1984’s disaster wait for justice

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The verdict from Bhopal has shocked the nation. After 25 years the victims of this monumental disaster got nothing while Union Carbide and Anderson are safe in America. The man who was at the helm of Madhya Pradesh that time was considered to be a potential prime minister for many years nurturing that secret desire which remain unquenched. In the meanwhile, the people and their generations lost everything that they had without any remorse from the political class. But those who feel that just because Union Carbide was an American Enterprise and hence could not attract any judicial scrutiny must rethink the issue. Is Anderson the only one to have survived a holocaust which happened in Bhopal? We blame him alone for massacring over 25000 people without asking question to his Indian counterparts, our responsible leaders who made him escape and our judicial system which has not been able to provide any hope to millions in Bhopal who are crying for justice. The children, women, old people, all became heap of rubbish in one night and generations have faced the trauma of the horror of the gas tragedy yet that could not prick the conscious our combine nationhood which we witness during Gujarat 2002 or Delhi 1984. It may be because the trauma of Bhopal was not related to any particular identity. It did not hurt our religious feelings which are too often these days. It did not hurt our ‘national security’.

Just remember the gory events of October-November 1984, just a month before Bhopal pogrom took place. Indira Gandhi was assassinated and our doordarshan was broadcasting ‘ khoon ka badla khoon se lenge’.. eye for an eye and the streets of Delhi were witnessing another holocaust of Sikhs. The political leaders used the opportunity to polarize the event. Every Sikh became a ‘terrorist’, a suspect and our prime minister offered an explanation for these gruesome killings saying ‘ jab bada ped girta hai to dharti hilati hai.. when a big tree falls, the earth shakes’. Again, the children became orphaned here as they saw brutal killing of their parents. Families lost everything and yet years after those horrific nights, people waited for justice and it still eludes them though the political class reaped a great harvest on it.

In December 1992 Babari Masjid was razed to ground by the Hindutva goons and our conscious was hurt differently. Prime Minister Narshima Rao, who remained mute in 1984’s Delhi pogrom, promised the nation that the mosque would be rebuilt. He promised to take action against the culprits. Immediately after that Bombay witnessed the worst ever riots with open involvement of both Shiv Sena and Congress goons in 1993. What was the response of the government? Rajiv Gandhi came to power in 1984 over the dead bodies of Sikhs. It was a polarization that made Congress the mascot of Hindutva while after demolishing the Babari Mosque, the BJP took away that nationalism which was sole domain of the Congress and ultimately came to power in Delhi. It brought party from marginalization to mainstream their vicious agenda.

The Mumbai riots brought Shiva Sena and BJP to power in Maharastra while the great Gujarat pogrom strengthened Narendra Modi for ever. The polarization is so powerful that the more you abuse Modi, the bigger his image in Gujarat. He is being projected as one of the finest leaders and those who were the victim of his conspiracy are facing charges.

For the past two months we have witnessed violence against the Dalits in Haryana. In Mirchipur the cruelty of humanity occurred which is usual as the caste Hindus can not even think that it is abnormal. A young physically challenged girl from Balmiki community was burnt with her father and the state remains mute. It tries to justify the violence under some pretext. The Dalits have not yet returned to their villages while Congress is making lot of noises about the condition of Dalits in Uttar-Pradesh, Harayana’s record in protecting Dalits would put any government to shame. It is not that just of party politics. Haryana is essentially Jaat Politics. Whether you go to Congress party or counter it from Indian National Lok Dal, Harayana’s polity is dominated by Jaats. When the community has understood the power of its number, then it does not bother about right or wrong. Might is right and Jaats think that way that they can force a government on knees. They have done it in past. In Jaat Gujjar land in Western Uttar-Pradesh, when the Dalits could never exercise their votes though their leader Charan Singh always claimed to lead the Dalit Kisan and Majdoor. Of course in reality, these Dalits and majdoors were never equal to kisan in the Jaat Gujjar heartland. Violence against them never made the newspaper headlines and oppression was systematized. One can understand the same arrogance when Mahendra Singh Tikait, the leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union virtually abused UP Chief Minister Mayawati using derogatory caste references. He only cowed down when Mayawati was determined to teach him a lesson yet the Jaats had no remorse. They did not feel that such things are wrong. This is the arrogance of muscle power which emnates not through guns but through vast land commercialized by the builder lobby and protected by the political class of the community.

Today, Harayana’s chief minister Bhupendra Singh Hooda is demanding change in Hindu Code Bill to ban inter gotra marriages. It is strange for such people to become moral guardians today. Problem in this Jaat-Gujjar land is that you can not even commit to an inter-caste marriage. You will be killed and state leaders will always justify it as the ‘ijjat’ of the society. So many khap panchayats have dictated death sentence to young couples daring to marry at their own over coming their caste prejudices yet no action is taken against them.

What commonality do we see in all these? Barring Anderson, all of them are Indian nationals and respected national leaders. They justify their act in the name of ‘people’s sentiments and take over the charge of becoming the moral guardians of our communities. They find excuse in killings and murders in the name of community sentiments. None of the politicians have so far gone to Jail or face criminal charges against their misdeeds which threatened life of people and integrity of the country. There are certain facts which can not be ignored in Indian context. Though we adopted the west minister module of Parliamentary form of democracy yet it is the Manu’s model which dominates our national life. Those who are leading democracy are highly undemocratic in their personal lives. How can the undemocratic people be made responsible to protect democracy. That is the Indian contradiction. Democracy here is nothing to respect individual and everything to legitimize the misdeeds of political class. Hence, you can do anything in the name of democracy here. You can massacre people in the name of democracy; you can unleash a rain of terror to minority community under some pretext. If we see how these things are happening and who are doing it then we will realize who are taking democracy to ransom. The powerful leaders come from powerful communities. Nothing can ever happen to them. Powerful communities can get away with all kind of violence and no action is taken. You can not arrest Bal Thackery. Instead make Udhav as member of National integration Council. Sharad Pawar is a powerful leader from Maharastra who presided over a regime which allowed Bal Thackery and his goons to bleed Mumbai in 1993. Thousands of farmers are committing suicide in Vidarbha but Sharad Pawar will not lose any election. He will remain the tallest leader of Maharastra as he is the symbol of Maratha asmita, i.e. Maratha pride which perhaps is the only reason why Bal Thackery could not tame Pawar despite all his short comings because in the caste scheme of things, the Marathas can tame the caste of Thackery and hence playing the Hindutva card is his compulsion. Nothing has happened to either Thackrey or Pawar.

Kalyan Singh proudly said that he was responsible for destruction of Babari Masjid and he said he is responsible towards the biggest court of the Lord Rama where he kept his words and destroyed a mosque which according to him symbolizes the enslaved mentality of Hindus. He became the symbol of Hindu pride. Could Kalayan Singh have said the same if he were a Muslim? Lal Krishna Advani went on a Rath yatra which spilled bloods in the streets in different parts of India to fulfill his long cherished Ayodhya March. What happened to him? His party grew from 2 seats to 120 and finally came to power in Delhi and he became Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, presiding the same department which charge sheeted him on Ayodhya matter.

During the constituent assembly debates Sardar Hukum Singh raised some valid questions about minority rights. He said,’ Majority’s assertion would always term as nationalism while minorities cry for their rights will be termed as communalism’. And this is reality why everything that the Sangh Parivar, Shiv Sena, all these Khaps and other Panchayats could speak in such derogatory manner as they will never face the level of being ‘anti national’ or working against the interest of Indian state. Patriotism for them is natural through their caste order. Though, we develop a secular constitution the fact remain that we are predominantly a brahmanical state and it is they who decide what is nationalism and what is not. What should be our national priorities and what not? It does not care for the sentiments of those who differ with it. It wants to treat them militarily and through the barrel of the guns. It will not vote. Even for the census, its people, the urban middle class do not want to be counted. They look down upon those who are coming for enumerations yet it want to claim everything on our national resources. It does not vote yet it gets everything. Unfortunately those who participate in this democratic exercise still remains in the slums, and in semi urban areas where elections and democracy seems to be the biggest mela. Democracy does not respect the poor. It has not given the poor any hope and solution so far. Those who have utter contempt for democracy are its guardians and use its tools to legitimize their illegal acts. Anderson hails from American democracy which killed millions in Iraq, Afghanistan and middle- east. It legitimizes Talibans and when they question thrash them. It ensures that people’s resources are handed over to the few powerful corporate houses.

It is interesting to see how Anderson escaped from India. Chief Minister Arjun Singh, our secular hero, sent his personal plane to rescue him from Bhopal. None of us ever questioned him. Today, we are shocked because our media is pretending to do so. I am sure, after some days, media will help thing die down. Indian Express has already written a nasty editorial for forgetting things. None of the Indian Industrial houses have said anything on the issue. The Confederation of Indian Industries, FICCI and all other organizations which should have been in the forefront are conspicuously silent because they know that they do not follow safety norms. What happened to recent industrial disaster at the Indian Oil depot in Jaipur could have been a repeat of Bhopal but then I don’t think we demand justice for people of Jaipur. No head rolled and no one was sent to jail for those who were responsible for disaster. Did we ever say that the managing director of Indian Oil is responsible for the gas leak in Jaipur. Like the Americans we too have our own criteria to target people. We make difference between ‘indigenous murderers and external murderers’. We are ready to fight against the ‘external’ forces as it is easier as all the indigenous defaulters also take shelter in Indian nationalism and look more patriotic then others. But the fact is a murder is a murder whether carried out by Anderson or Indian Oil.

And it is here there is a commonality between all these incidents. That the powerful can get away with justice. The hypocrisy is that Bhopal disaster’s victims were not a vote bank. It could not instigate a nation which is easily choked on communal, religious, regions and other identity lines. Is it because our middle classes have been working with the big corporations? Is it because all the victims are commonly known as poor who predominantly consisted of Dalits and Muslims? The secular Arjun Singh would not bother about these incidents as they don’t matter as the crime was committed by a company and not by politically opponent ideology hence it would not serve the purpose. This is important meeting point of our political parties whether BJP or congress that they do not speak against industrial misconducts. Jindal will get his work done anywhere whether it’s a BJP state or Congress. Similarly things are true with other corporates. Hence corporate misconduct do not fall in the secular-communal ambit and therefore our secular friends keep quite on these issues. They feel it is not their issue.

My friend John Dayal rightly said that 1984 was one of the most traumatic year in the history of post independent India. It was clear that time that Indira Gandhi’s policies were tilting towards Hindutva when she send Indian army to invade Golden Temple to get rid of Bhindaranwale and his fellow terrorists who she created to counter the Akali Dal. The most traumatic events of June 1984 resulted in her own assassination on October 31st, 1984, resulting in brutal massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and other parts of the country. We all know nothing has happened to those who were involved in these incidents. No political leader has ever got convicted to any case in the 1984 trials. We have not seen any one going to jail for Babari demolition, for 1992 riots, for 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat.

Therefore, it is sheer hypocrisy when we shout that Anderson was left to go abroad. What has the government of India done for the people? Can you allow people to be killed without any assistance simply because the company is multinational and you can not fight with it? What is the state’s responsibility? Have we taken any lesson from it? In fact, we are promoting it. We want Posco and Vedanta at the cost of our people. We want Jindals and Essar at the cost of the tribal. So what is learnt from Bhopal is nothing but an eye wash since the issue is now picked up by the media hence something should be said and justify your inaction under the pretext of inability to arrest some powerful man of America. We forget to ask our political class as what has it done for the people of Bhopal? How can government allow a generation to be destroyed? Let the government fight endless battle with Union Carbide but how can people who lost everything wait for more. Why were the victims left to defend themselves?

Targeting Anderson is escapism as we all know the powerful corporate interest. It exonerates our political class from their misdeeds as they are hand in glove with these international corporations. They fight their cases in Supreme Courts and represent their interest at many places. The Indian state has a history of not providing justice to any victim whether it is massacres which we call as communal violence or those who are displaced to make way for big companies. A number of the killers in these riots are in India. They became ministers, chief ministers and prime ministers. Has any one of them got convicted?

1984’s horror will always haunt us as people are still waiting for the government to deliver its promises. It is difficult task as behind every act of these is efforts to save the big people responsible for both these tragedies and our agencies have no spine to question the powerful. The committees may be formed but the will of the state is not there to provide justice. Bhopal does not suite the political interest of any political party like the tribal of Dantewada hence the ‘shock’, ‘anguish’ will be there for a few days and disappear soon. Union Carbide was an international giant and might be following certain norms there are hundreds in India secretly killing our people and environment and our media and political parties will not be able to take them on as a number of these ‘disasters’ may be owned by the leaders themselves. We need not only national but international mechanism to provide justice to the people the government and political parties can not take shelter in the court proceedings. At least, the support must be provided immediately. Let the government fight with Anderson and Union Carbide but people can not be allowed to die and suffer inhumanely because of the consequences of it. The government provided land and protection to the company and therefore it can not take shelter in the courts and judicial process. It must continue but let not the people suffer endlessly. Will this democratic structure for which we write reams of paper work for the people of Bhopal, or for the Dalits in Haryana, for the tribal at Dantewada or for those who lost their everything in 1984 stage managed riots? The coming days will show whether this edifice of democracy is really working for the poor or legitimizing the corporate interest. Political class as a whole will have to respond in unison to this great crisis of democracy which can not survive through serving the corporate interests only and that would be the saddest day if all these victims lose complete faith in democratic structure and its judicial process and decide to take law in their own hand.