Monday, July 30, 2012

Politics of Vendetta in UP

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Political commentators were expecting a complete overhaul in the administration of Uttar Pradesh when Akhilesh Yadav became chief minister in March. He is a dynamic young face who had no past experience in the administration though he belonged to a powerful political family of the state. Akhilesh also tried to change the image of Samajwadi Party which was always considered to be anti development as well as anti English. The people of the state felt that he would work for a new Uttar-Pradesh with his developmental programmes and without the politics of vendetta. In Akhilesh, they found a man, who look ahead rather than clinging on the past so that a positive developmental agenda is set for future.

However they were deeply disappointed to see the absence of new faces in his cabinet. It looked a highly uninspiring cabinet yet people were ready to wait for Akhilesh in the hope that he would slowly start taking charge and come out of the coterie of his party which not only had criminal background but socially most of them had been working against the interests of the most marginalized communities. It was displayed during the oath taking ceremony when too many of the Samajwadi Party loyalists had created ruckus in front of the governor, much to embarrassment of the party leadership. In districts, the Dalits were targeted by Samajwadi Party workers during the victory processions of their leader. SP leaders and their cadres were openly flouting the rules in the state and it looked as if they were waiting for this day to create chaos in the state. For many days, Uttar-Pradesh remained under Samajwadi variety of celebrations which was turning absolutely caste-ist in nature by instigating violence against Dalits in the rural areas.

It was clear that both Mulayam and Mayawati have been playing the politics of vendetta whenever they came to power in the state. They have used state machinery for their own political agendas which revolve around symbolism of their respective communities. It is most unfortunate to the two parties who should have been working closely for the welfare of the people in the state are at the loggerheads today. In politics, differences are bound to happen but those differences are settled in humility and in great dignity. In the past, political leaders across the party lines have been friendly to each other despite their political differences and never lacked decency in their personal relationship. But that is not the order of the day today.
Though we cannot blame Samajwadi Party alone for this crisis in Uttar-Pradesh but it is also a reality that the party has not made any specific effort to do away with an image of it which is clearly anti Dalit. It has made no effort to reach out the Dalits. In fact, it seems to promote political leaders and activities which clearly reflect that it does not want them to be counted as its voters. Its cadres know it well that the party supports their activities and will openly protect them if caught. Most of the leaders of the party have a history with anti dalit agendas. Many of them had actually threatened to withdraw ‘Prevention of Atrocities Act’ in Uttar-Pradesh which is derogatorily and deliberately termed as ‘Harijan Act’ despite the known fact that the government of India has specific instruction for not using the term ‘Harijan’ in any of the official communiqué.
The Samajwadi party leadership in the state has targeted Dalits in such a way as if they alone have been the beneficiary of all the government programmes. The recent orders of changing the names of various schemes as well as disbanding some of them reflect the mindset of the political leadership in the state. Mayawati might be political rival of Samajwadi Party but she has also initiated many schemes which were very innovative and helped the most marginalized people in the state. It is shocking to see that the state government has decided to close Ambedkar Gram Vikas Yojna which was the most important project of the BSP government. This actually brought various schemes of the government in the villages like Primary Health Centre, connecting road, primary schools etc to make it a comprehensive developmental package for the most marginalized villages with substantial Dalit population. One does not know what exactly will be the nature of the schemes but it has been disbanded and now a new scheme for village development has been initiated as Lohia Gram Vikas Yojna. The state government is also targeting various new districts developed by Ms Mayawati.

None can deny the facts that Dalits have not got due share for their contribution in India. The revolutionaries of the Dalit Bahujan movements in India never found space in the central locations or mainstream political discourse which was reserved for the high caste Hindus. Uttar-Pradesh which has so many important Buddhist destinations did not even recognize them before Mayawati initiated the process of renovating them and restoring them to their historical root. In fact, despite all her short comings and distances with people, Mayawati should be credited to restore the Buddhist heritage of India. That contribution of her needs to be acknowledged and respected. India as land of Buddha has unfortunately never adopted as his ideas threatened the status quo of the brahmanical elite in the country.

When Akhilesh Yadav assumed office of the chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh, many of us had felt that it was a wise decision by the SP chief Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav in the interest of the state. In his initial press conferences, the incumbent chief minister actually refused to be drawn in the controversy of parks but added that it would be his endeavor to build either hospitals or schools in the vacant land of the parks. State government has full right and authority to investigate the corruption charges in building up memorials and parks but it should desist in targeting the parks or memorials as they are symbols of the rich legacy of the Dalit Bahujan movement in India. They were the people who we can proudly say propagated humanism in India. The Samajwadi government has no authority to undo a historical monument just because it wants to placate the upper caste votes. It would not serve any purpose as it might face wide ranging protest from its own people.
It is unfortunate that the Uttar-Pradesh government is not working with a positive agenda. The Samajwadi Party came to power with a number of promises to youths and farmers. It promised to pay unemployment allowance to youths and distribution of laptop to every student who has passed his intermediate exams. Now, after coming to power, they seems to have realized that all these promises are difficult to fulfill hence unearthing everything that Mayawati did during her tenures and blaming her for ever failure of the government.

Governance has been the biggest casualty during the past few decades in Uttar-Pradesh . It is not that the upper caste lead Congress and BJP were doing great business there but what was expected from both the Samajwadi and Bahujan Samajwadi Party has merely been reduced to politics of symbolism. .
Both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are responsible for this dirty game of pitching these great political ideologues against each other. Ram Manohar Lohia has been a great political leader and there is no doubt that his political action resulted in empowerment of the backward castes politically in Uttar-Pradesh. However, Akhilesh and his advisers must known that Ram Manohar Lohia was a great admirer of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and actually talked of making him the prime minister of the country.

Samajwadi party must also think that though Ram Manohar Lohia is a great political philosopher, it would be a grave injustice to push him as the leader of backward castes in the state. The Samajwadis need to read Jyoti Ba Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, EV Ramasamy Naicar Periyar apart from Baba Saheb Ambedkar who worked for annihiliation of castes and for an egalitarian society. Lohia cannot be clubbed with this revolutionary class of Dalit Bahujan movement as at the end of the day Lohiaism culminate at Gandhi-ism.

Akhilesh still has not lost good will of the people though their patience is running out. It would be better if he focuses on governance and development and not on creating caste animosities among various segments of the society. At the end of the day, his government will have to deliver otherwise people of the state will not wait for too long.
Democratise the political structure

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Appointment of non political people at important political position is a dangerous thing. Similarly, former bureaucrats have found their ways into important autonomous institutions and commissions after their retirement. Even governor’s positions in many states are handed over to former policemen much against the wishes of the state leadership.

A report in the ‘Indian express’ reveal how the IAS lobby has hijacked senior positions at various autonomous bodies of the government including Union Public Service Commission, Power Grid Corporations and many such public sector unit after the retirement. The report rightfully suggest that the government ‘babus’ never retires as they have got various opportunities to survive and serve their political masters even after retirement. Over the years, the political parties have found it useful to ignore their faithful cadre to promote not only these Babus but also ‘experts’ who can manipulate and lobby for them. In the dirty world, the corporate lobbyists are now respectable political leaders and holding important positions in the political parties.

The trend of appointing the Babus and ‘well connected’ people in the important administrative and political position is dangerous and need to be exposed and resisted. While no one will have any objection to the appointment of any officer who is well qualified and has done exemplary work during his tenure. But if this has become a trend then it must be questioned as it clearly mean that the government and political parties feel that no one in the country is eligible or capable of handling the situation other than these ‘well connected’ Babus.

How would one explain the appointment of former Generals and IAS officers as the vice chancellors of various prestigious universities? Has the government run out of ideas or does it feel that there are no teachers in the universities who can improve their working pattern. What is the job of a ‘so-called’ administrator in the academic institutions? Is government afraid of the academic freedom and therefore want to control these institutions of academic excellence if there are any? The problems with these administrators is that they consider everything as law and order problem hence rather than speaking with students and academics they behave as ‘lord’ and ‘my baap’. Most of them have been averse to student politics and politicization of the campus even when we know how glorious were the role once upon a time played by various universities in the political movements of the country. A number of our political leaders actually emerged from the student politics in their campuses.
So many government commissions have space for social activists, academics and journalists but at the end of the day these positions are filled by ex babus. There are institutions like National Human Rights Commission, Scheduled Caste Commission, Schedule Tribe Commission, Planning Commission and we will find not only Babus but also those who the party wants to satisfy in lieu of its inability to make them minister in the cabinet. How can disgruntled people do justice to their work? People devote their lives for the causes and yet never get recognized as whenever the opportunity comes such people heads these positions who have rarely contributed anything for the job. For example, if someone has to become General Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties ( PUCL), he or she will be the person who must have done remarkable work in the field of human rights. Even the contestant for those positions would be people who are contributing for the human rights but how come the government appointed bodies has people who have virtually no previous record of social action whether in the field of human rights or women or any such body. Many times the body would be headed by the persons who have exactly the opposite view. Why is there no space for social activists who have devoted their lives for the cause to join such institutions where they can influence the power? The authorities may say that they put social activists also in these positions but they are those whose track record would be difficult to find in the social movements.

It is not that only Babus are being appointed in these positions. The political masters are using the former intelligence people, high ranking police officers, and former generals for the positions of Governor. And many states in India are witnessing these policing of political establishment at behest of the union home ministry. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, north Eastern States, Kashmir etc are regularly having non political governors during the past few years. These governors are mostly observing the political movements in the states and providing ‘administrative’ inputs to the centre. In democracy, you do believe in more democratic set up but Indian establishment seem to feel that all the talks of autonomy and federalism has no political base and need to be dealt with more policing and highhandedness.
When the issue of Telangana needed government action, it sends a former Intelligence fellow E.Narsimhan as governor of the state. Rather than acknowledging that the state of Telangana represent genuine sentiments of the people over 50 long year, the governor continue to treat it as a Maoist problem and lobbying against the same. Formation of a state cannot be stopped under such conditions of possible threat as they are part of any nation state and we will have to prepare ourselves with eventualities and how to handle them.
One of the reasons for Mr Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for President of India is his being an important political functionary. Over the years, these high profile positions were filled with low ranking politicians or non political people whose understanding over the political conditions in the country were doubtful. A political man at the helm of the affairs of the country can handle the situation with much maturity. When India is at the coalition age and you do not know what kind of party formation is going to happen at Delhi, it is important to have a president whose political understanding is beyond doubt and who will give politics a chance in handling the situation.

India is facing the political crisis because the political parties dominating our discourse have continuously depended on ‘experts’ ignoring the grassroots political workers who sweat day and out for the benefit of their party. It is actually becoming ‘personality’ based which threatens the very edifice of democracy. When parties can win elections on the merits of an individual then there is a very much possibility of him turning a dictator and behaving autocratically. Massive mandates by people to political parties at the national level and regional level ultimately did not help democratization process as the parties in India remain highly individualistic and dynasties deciding everything. The middlemen then have their field day as they know well that if the party leader is happy, it does not matter whether people are happy or not. These ‘connections’ and ‘experts’ have damaged our political parties a lot and there is a need when parties would have to democratize their structure and make it more transparent so that anyone who is coming to the helm of affair come through the same democratic process. We have no problem with Babus or experts joining political parties and contesting elections as they have a right to do so as a citizen of the country. But drawing groom maneuvering would damage the parties and the entire democratic process as at the end of the day no party can afford to ignore the people and their issues. Let the government start the political process to resolve the complex issues and one is sure that the results would be excellent and better for the unity and integrity of the country. India cannot remain united with bulldozing dissent and tackling political issues with highhanded administrative way. It needs to start a political debate to tackle the situation politically so that people have faith in the democratic structure and constitutional values. That only is the way out for our complex political social issues.
Are Indians racist in nature?
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The incident of brutal assault on a student from Burundi is not isolated incident of our treatment to African friends of dark color. It shows deep rooted prejudices in our society towards dark skinned people. A country with so much hatred and prejudices cannot become world leader. India need to change or accept that we are still a discriminatory civilization and have a long way to go.

A few days back a number of people were discussing how British Prime Minister David Cameron waited for his coffee at a shop despite scolded by the waiter for lack of time. The prime minister did not try to impose his ‘status’ on her and waited till he is name was called for it accordingly. Such incident is impossible in India where even a street leader would come along with gang of his ‘followers’ and bulldoze on everything that come in the way.

Most of the Indian men actually are uncomfortable whenever they travel abroad. Unlike Indian situation where they are kings and princes at their homes, in Europe and America you have to work yourself and will not always be surrounded by the chamchas and ‘well wishers. Their moms are not there to clean the mouth and wash their ‘ugly’ garments. There won’t be many domestic chhottus who would carry their school bags. But whenever there is a crime against Indian, our media has turned that into a racial crime while completely ignoring the racial slur that happens in India on dark skinned people, and Dalits based on their caste and untouchability. Indians make huge noises on such issues even when it is clear that they do not face racial slur anywhere in the world. It may be possible that in certain parts of the world they might have faced discrimination as well as ugly spat with individuals but that is not a general way of life in those countries where we dream to live rest of our lives. In fact, Indians rarely reciprocated against racial prejudices and look down upon the native African people of dark color.

On 26th December 2011, Anuj Bidve, an M.Sc student in Lancaster University was stabbed to death brutally when he was visiting his friends. Anuj was from Pune and many in the Indian media tried to make it as a racial crime but the British people and their concern must be appreciated as they stood with the family of Anuj. The police officials came to Pune in person and participated in a prayer meeting and apologized to the family for this ghastly crime against their son. Even when one listens to Member of Parliament Keith Vaz in U.K., the concern comes automatically for the diverse section people. The police resolved the crime in three days and now the culprit is in the jail facing charges. Despite this immense grief, the British government and common people stood with the family of Anuj reflect how far the society has travelled there.

Contrary to this, ours is a history of racial discrimination against those who do not look like us. We would not like to put our houses on rent to Muslims, North Eastern people and Dalits and tribal. An owner of the house in Delhi feel that he has got fundamental right to investigate, humiliate you because of your ethnic character. Physical violence against the persons from North East in different parts of the country is example of this ‘liberal’ democracy.

Now in a gruesome incident, Yannick Nihangaza, a 25 year old computer science graduate was brutally assaulted in the street, outside his house in Jalandhar. He is now battling for life in a hospital in Patiala.Hailing from a war torn African nation Burundi, Yannick had come to India with big dreams as he was a bright student and thought of a new society for him where he can live in peace and respect. Little did he know that our youngsters are not ready to accept a person with color whom they always looked down upon as contemptuous Negros as term which is racial and done away with by any society claim to be civilized. Unfortunately, we still have these terminologies and tendencies in our blood which is sickening as well as frightening. How come such an incident in which a foreign student is assaulted and virtually killed goes unreported for three months. What about the civil society, human rights groups which cry about Punjab over the roof top. Why they kept quiet. How come our blood boil when the person is of fair skin and upper caste. The fact is that the scant carelessness and insensitivity which Indian authorities and our nationalist media showed for this incident shows the caste and color bias among our society. It only came to highlight when a few channels ran the story but none had time to follow it up after three months. It is sad that the incident occurred in April this year and now some of the news channels reported the incident and talked to the grieving father who is helpless in a country which is completely unknown to him. The Punjab government has now contributed Rs 5 lakh to boy’s father who had written a passionate letter to Prakash Singh Badal to think of his young son who has been brutally assaulted and now doctors are not hopeful of his life. The external affairs ministry has now taken note of it and ironically the incident has happened in the constituency of Minister of State for External Affairs and yet she did not know about this incident.

It is widely known that Indian society is not only caste conscious but skin conscious too. What is most unfortunate that Punjab which is considered to a non brahmanic region where the Sikh Gurus actually formed the new panth away from caste based hierarchical Hinduism towards an equitable society. More irony is that Sikhs were victim of racial prejudices particularly after the operation blue star in 1984 as well as in the aftermath of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination later in the same year. Sikhs, who are a global community too suffer from such prejudices is the most shocking part of the Punjab story. While not much be expected from a society so conscious of its status, the apathy on part of the government is absolutely shocking. A government which is inviting international investment and which goes overboard if anything happen to Sikhs elsewhere is so callous that it did not have time to take action against the culprit. Why are Punjab and Haryana becoming most ungoverned states in India where no laws of te land are applicable simply because the murders, looters are the so-called powerful communities? How will these two states which want to portray internationally that they are the best infrastructure and network of educational institutions cannot guarantee of international students coming there for studies. Punjab can take a clue from United Kingdom and how it has been tackling cases related to South Asian communities. It has become accommodative to diverse view points and cultural sensibilities. It does not look down upon Indian expatriates simply because of their class. The important part here is the failure of the government to act. India can learn a lot from United Kingdom as how they have appreciated diversity and make every effort to accommodate it. Streets in London have sign board in Hindi, Urdu and Gurmukhi. At the Heathrow and other airports, you may find various ethnic people welcoming you speaking to you in your native language
It is tragic that South Asians communities have no respect for minority protection and democracy. We are hypocrite and have not learnt anything. Our laws are applicable when it does not disturb the status quo. That is why Punjab and Haryana government have rarely acted on complaints of honored killings. The economic benefit could not change the social mindset in both these states. The violence against Dalits is rampant and people still wait for justice. Girls are burden for them and have no rights and therefore should be killed in the womb itself and they preach us greatness of their culture. Stop this vulgarity of your money and muscle power. The problem is that racism has increased because we feel inferior to the white skinned and that in turn make us superior to black skin. We look down upon them and make them isolated. It is difficult to accompany an African native to Indian villages and cities where people would make numerous remarks on the color of the skin.
Looking for special treatment in every public platform is a South Asian trait.

We are habitually ghettoized in the den of identities which is rarely sensitized on the issue of human nature. It is pained only when there is identification with the other person. We protest for our person even if he or she is wrong but do not do the same when the other side is right. Our beliefs are still between us and them. That defeats us. Instead, we return home from these ghettos abroad we turn more fanatic Indians and look down upon others who are not like us and have dark skin. Indian government must take it seriously. A country, which think itself as a global player cannot really allow such criminal mindset amidst our society getting legal cover. The centre must ask Punjab government to take strict against on this issue and assure the African countries that they are most welcome here and can roam around freely in this country. The authorities have to be sensitized on the issue so that such incidents do not get unreported and action is taken immediately. In the meanwhile, we can only share the pain of the aggrieved father from Burundi in the hope he will get justice and his son would recover soon.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Prisoners of prejudices
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

India and Pakistan have not been able to reconcile with the fact that they came into being nearly six decade ago and it is time to move ahead with peace and reconciliation. It is also a fact that you can change everything but very difficult to decide about your neighbors. Hence making good relations with each other is the only option. Even if the governments of both the countries make honest move to improve relations, the haws in both the countries thwart the peace process.
Hundreds of prisoners are languishing in the jails of both the countries without facing trials on accusations of spying for either ISI or RAW. Anyone who is caught in India is an ISI agent while the one who is caught in Pakistan is a RAW agent. They are paraded on their TV channels and embedded journalists’ sale their stories like hot cakes. We also must understand that spying has been a business with most of the powers in the world and hence it is natural when people are caught they are charged with being agents of each others. Unfortunately, such cases in India and Pakistan are not really dealt on a priority basis and taken to a logical conclusion. Even when somebody is caught on a ‘duty’ for its agencies, it is imperative for the states to provide them legal aid. Unless, they are indulged in instigating violence or directly engaged in act of terror, such cases should be dealt at the foreign ministry level and people should be left in exchange of the others.

Some months back Dr Mohammad Khalil Chisthi, an 80 years old virologist from Pakistan was released on humanitarian grounds by the Supreme Court of India and finally allowed to return to Pakistan. Dr Chishti had suffered in Indian jails for over thirty years for allegedly murdering a person which he denies as he was in India to see his ailing mother. One does not know what do we get by keeping an 80 years old man in the prison for murder charges that he did not do. It is not the matter of criminalization but failure of our judicial system to provide free legal aid to an old person. How can he be a threat to India’s vast security apparatus? In a reciprocal gesture, Pakistan too released an Indian prisoner Gopal Das who was languishing in Pakistani jail.

But the most celebrated prisoner in Pakistani jail is Sarbjeet Singh who was arrested for alleged bombing in a Pakistan city. Police could not frame charges against him and look mistaken identity as suggested by his family and lawyers. The police produced him as Manjeet Singh but ultimately he turned out to be Sarbjeet Singh. Now, the issue is if he has not got fair trial in the Jail, why was he being kept there? It is astonishing how prisoners could be allowed for more than 20 years in jail for petty crimes or no crimes without facing fair trails. When Pakistani president Asif Ali Zaradi was here on his famous Ajmer visit, Sarabjeet’s relatives tried to meet him in Ajmer though they were not given opportunity to do so but media had already raised the issue. At the highest level of talk this issue had come up and it seems that Pakistani government had promised to look into the matter. In fact, the Indian rights activists also asked the President to use his pardoning powers to get Sarabjeet released but that did not happen.

Indian media raised the hype during Zardari’s visit but nothing materialized but Pakistani authorities had promised indirectly that it would be a give and take release. It is unfortunate that no one from India or Pakistan is willing to take initiative towards peace and we are still bargaining people for our political purposes.

It is important that people to people contact be increased so that these falsehoods being spread by the authorities in both the countries could be countered by a strong civil society movement. There is a dire need to find how many prisoners are languishing in both India and Pakistan and to look into the charge sheets and case files against these people. We must lobby to get people released who do not have serious charges against them but it is important that both the countries need to provide exact numbers of people languishing in their jails.

Sarbjeet’s case and that of Dr Chishti actually point out two important things. That innocent people will become victim of the age old prejudices in our minds. Now, in the name of war against terror, the authorities are picking up people without charges. The political parties in both the countries are jingoistic and used such cases to use as propaganda material for their domestic constituencies. Hence Dr Chishti’s case was important for the hard core infringe groups to blame Indian establishment as anti Muslim and not anti Pakistani while for BJP and like minded parties Sarabjeet’s case reflect Pakistan’s dishonesty in dealing with the case. Every Indian feel he is honest just because he is in Pakistan jail and without any trial. Such sweeping statements and generalizations damage the cause of peace in the subcontinent. It is also important to salute to human rights activists in both India and Pakistan working for the release of these prisoners. Can anyone ignore the role being played by eminent Pakistan human rights activist Ansar Burney in trying to get justice for Sarabjeet. Similarly, Dr Chishti’s case in the Supreme Court was heard on the petition filed by People’s Union for Civil Liberties. The role of media and civil society is very important in bringing people together and raise the issue where they are unfairly being victimized by the authorities. Such issues should not be trivialized by the media to raise jingoism and then handover to groups which will be using them for nurturing further hatred to spread their own political agenda. The legal fraternity should also help the human rights activists in both India and Pakistan to file cases in the courts and get speedy justice to the people. India and Pakistan cannot afford to fight all the time to fulfill the agenda of the ruling elite and political groups desperate to gain power. It is opportune time when the authorities should settle cases of Sarabjeet and others like him so that we can move ahead with peace process without feeling guilty of the action of our agencies as well as glorifications of villains as heroes in certain quarters. Peace is a process and for that the baggage of the past prejudices need to be undone and that is why music can play a big role in the reconciliation of our hearts and minds. Sports would have been greater but then commercial pressures on sports are turning them as another version of communal fascist political forces spreading jingoism and fanaticism. Certain small gestures on parts of people will bring peace and justice in India and Pakistan. It is hoped that these gestures will ultimately make us understand futility of war and hostility between the two nations unfortunately divided on communal lines and deepening prejudices stereotyped by mass media and sectarian political outfits and strengthened by the respective governments to suit their own interest. Continuation of hostilities in the subcontinent would only gladden the hearts of external forces who want to use our differences to market their weapons as well as capture our market. Let us build peace brick by brick so that there are no Sarabjeet Singhs and Dr Chishti languishing in our jails for the lack of evidences and because of highhandedness of our authorities. We must note that authorities and governments will only bow to a strong public pressure and time has come when media and civil society have to work for it so that a stable peace could be established in the region.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Politics of VP more powerful than anti emergency crusade of JP

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Two important events in the post independent India marks an important date in the political history of India. They are coincident yet important. Both events people want to forget and ignore for their own reasons. On June 25th, 1975 the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi imposed emergency on the country suspending the fundamental right particularly right to freedom of expression and peacefully assembly was suspended immediately. President Fakhruhdinn Ali Ahmed, perhaps one of the most undeserving persons to have occupied the highest office of the land signed on the dotted line to proclaim emergency in the mid night of June 25th. Thousands of political activists, human rights defender, journalists, editors and columnists were arrested and put in jail. This was an unprecedented situation that Mrs Gandhi had put the country but the response of the country was equally harsh. India witnessed one of the biggest movements against emergency which ultimately resulted in the ousting of Indira Gandhi and our first non congress government at the centre in 1977 under the leadership of Morarji Desai. Though the Janata Party government fell amid way because of the over ambitions of various political leaders but that was a great lessons for the all powerful prime minister that they should never think people’s mandate for granted and that people will protest if their rights are suspended or taken away. No government or authority have right to control people’s right. A government’s mandate is to govern and not to deny people their fundamental rights.

Though Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980 yet she behaved in a much matured way. It gave lessons to other political parties in the country that playing with people’s right is like playing with fire and none would tolerate it. Mrs Indira Gandhi’s highhandedness during emergency was the reason of her down fall added by the uncontrolled power in the hands of her son Sanjay Gandhi. She was charged of promoting her son at the cost of the senior political leaders of her party who would bow to him and had no shame in taking order from it.

Proclamation of Emergency gave people an understanding that governments want to control their rights and unless they speak against it these rights are going to be seized away. That is why the middle classes, students, workers, intellectuals all opposed suspension of rights such as free political movements, independence of judiciary and media. The role of many news papers during emergency was remarkable and must be appreciated.

It is a co-incident that 25th June is also the birthday of our former prime Minister late V.P.Singh, a name which attracts lots of condemnation as well as admiration. V.P. Singh is appreciated all across the party line for his impeccable honest credentials and commitments to the cause of social justice and probity in public life. As a finance minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s government V.P.Singh ran a campaign against the corrupt industries which resulted in his unceremonious departure from the Finance Ministry to Defence Ministry. There too he exposed the corruption in HDW submarine purchased from Germany. V.P.Singh was expelled from the Congress Party and he was hounded by Congress Party so much that those who followed him realized that Rajiv Gandhi behaved worst than what Indira Gandhi did during emergency.

V.P.Singh was a political leader who could connect with masses very easily and people lapped on each words that he spoke related to corruption. Finally, he was responsible in forming of the Second non Congress government at the Centre in 1989 with the outside support of both the left parties and BJP. But the biggest jolt to Congress party came in the form of implementation of Mandal Commission report by his government which resulted in wide scale violence in Delhi and other parts of North India. The entire upper caste India rose against him and turned him the biggest villain of Indian polity. He became one of the most hated politicians for the upper caste Hindus. It is another matter that the media had no time in reporting about those who loved him and admired him.

V.P.Siingh’s Mandal report changed the polity of India permanently with wide participation of backward communities. It paralysed the Congress Party permanently and yet the party has not yet reconciled to the growing reality of the hunger for participation in power among the marginalized communities. It strengthened the hands of the OBC political groups and brought them together with the Dalits. Unfortunately, V.P.Singh became victim of the identity politics in India. The forces which got benefited with his various schemes actually found their own caste leaders in politics and sided with them without understanding their political opportunism. His support for the cause of Dalits was immense though may not have got acknowledged widely including putting Dr Ambedkar portrait in Parliament, honoring him with Bharat Ratna and finally accepting neo Buddhists to claim reservation under SC category. In fact, the Ambedkar centenary celebrations enjoyed the best hospitality from his government when a large number of Dr Ambedkar’s work was published by the Central government.
V.P.Singh died as unsung hero with media busy with Mumbai’s attack and the people he fought with not much keen on even acknowledging his contribution. It was a painful sight to see just a handful of people at his Teen Murti Lane residence on his last journey in Delhi. While his power politics may have many critique it need to be appreciated that V.P.Singh did mass politics and worked to set people’s agenda. Even if he was continuously in dialysis he would go and express solidarity with various social movements in the country. He did not care for his health when the cause was for the slum dwellers and even slept in the slums of Delhi to protect their rights very unusual for a former prime minister to have been doing so.

While emergency was an event people want to forget and move ahead for the better future of democracy. V.P.Singh’s actions and ideas actually strengthened democracy in India and made it much more participatory when for the first time the marginalized communities saw the real participation in power and now asserting their identities. It is good to assert these identities but at the same point important to acknowledge the contribution of those too who do not happen to come from your caste too. Some people play heroic role for in the social change but do not hail from our communities and it is important we consider them part of our heritage. Emergency made Indira Gandhi a villain for everyone but now the people seem to have ignored that while V.P.Singh for all his honesty and good work is considered as villain just because some of his actions have not gone down well with the upper elite caste forces of the country. It is important for us to learn lessons from both the events of history and move ahead with them that political powers cannot really stop growth of democracy now and with mandalisation process the marginalized communities are now asserting their democratic rights and will not allow anyone to encroach upon their political rights. Hence while emergency threatened the very concept of democracy and weakened it, the work of V.P.Singh has made democracy such a strong entity that it would not be possible for any political leader to become dictator in India by imposing democracy.

His Mandalisation has successfully countered fascist forces in the country and provided space for millions of marginalized people from the country to participate in democracy and strengthen it further. It is ironical that V.P.Singh was on the side of Mrs Indira Gandhi during emergency which many of his colleagues always questioned but there is also a fact of life that people change and that happened with V.P.Singh also when he transformed himself from a staunch Congress loyalist to a great votary of social justice and socialist politics in India. His fight against Rajiv Gandhi’s tyrannical regime in 1986 and then his exemplary work for the rights of marginalized after he demitted his power and possessions after 1990 are great example for politicians of today. Today, V.P.Singh has become more relevant when we see pervading corruption surrounding us but helpless inability of our political class to make it an issue and fight the battle politically so that forces against our democratic process do not hijack the anti corruption mood of the nation. That could only happen when political class fighting against corruption has its own house in order as people inside it with impeccable credentials and honest track record. In the absence of that it will only be the communal forces who would use such unrest to pursue their own agendas. Jai Prakash’s movement legitimized many of them and fight against corruption has also strengthened in the similar way the anti democratic forces. It is time for the forces of social justice to rise up and stop the march of such forces to our power structure. A statesman of V.P.Singh’s stature has the capacity to do so but unfortunately he is not there and his absence from political arena is being felt tremendously because of lack of our political class who could rise above their partisan interest and think for the country.