A ‘totalitarian’ fear grips the nation

The confidence in constitutional guarantees is being replaced with fear of threats for demanding any of them

A ‘totalitarian’ fear grips the nation

Aruna Roy

The Narendra Modi government has a strategic interest in all institutions that deal with education and communication. They understand that conditioning of the human mind is a systematic and continuous process. So, all institutions, which deal with information and knowledge, have been infiltrated.

Along with this, any institution which deals with the exercise of democratic rights and justice has also been targeted like the National Human Rights Commission. Now, they are also trying to interfere with the independence of the Information Commission, the Women’s Commission, etc. All institutions, which give people right to participate and to be educated about governance, are under its scanner.

Before the dismantling of the Planning Commission, at least we knew where the“nation” was heading with the Five Year plans. We, the people, now know nothing till it’s post-facto, only after the substituted agency of Niti Aayog or a coterie of ministers and party members have decided and declared policies.

This means that we are barred from receiving information to make informed choices and thus are barred from accessing justice. All public knowledge, which will be generated now, will be based on misinformation and rationalising injustice. It is very important that citizens of India understand this. Because, this is the surest way of bringing in a dictatorship.

As far as fear is concerned, it arises from not knowing and ignorance. If we don’t know, we are always afraid. The first thing this government did was to dismantle all institutions of communication, information and knowledge. Text books were changed, the media controlled, free speech attacked, cultural-political expression and critiques of governance stifled. Spaces for protest were rapidly constrained and made inaccessible. People were declared seditious, incarcerated, jailed and persecuted. Activists were targeted. Universities and places of learning are being controlled, and dissent and differences are being labelled as anti-national. Killing, lynching, assassinations have become methods of intimidating people. All these together give rise to fear.

The confidence in the implementation of constitutional guarantees is rapidly being replaced with fear of threats for demanding any of them. The guarantee of equality is systematically being dismantled, whether in case of Dalits, minorities, women, the poor or anyone who speaks for them. There are obvious and crude attacks on them to silence them into submission.

Fear is turning us into a still and silent society. Those who speak out are targeted and, as a result, those who want to speak out are silent. This destroys the basic fibre of the society, not only in the political context, but in the sphere of knowledge as well.

A large number of voices can still be heard, though miniscule in percentage terms. Farmers, poor peasants and workers, women, Dalits, minorities, rights activists have been lately joined by a small but vocal group of former civil servants.

There is an attack on rationality, the basis of all knowledge systems which are based on scientific learning. The attack on Nehru, who brought the scientific way of life into public discourse, needs to be viewed in tis light. They have attacked scientific temperament. They know that propagating superstition, fear and irrationality will give them greater control.

The Modi government has accepted, condoned and supported the violent mobs that perpetuate unconstitutional behaviour.

Lynching is a failure of the government and governance. Lynching can’t be countenanced by any country which has a semblance of democratic governance. It is a shame.

OGP, (Open Government Partnership), a big collective of open Governance across the globe, which came together to speak for responsible and accountable government, has barred India from membership for its poor performance, its attacks on the civil society and abuse of democratic rights.

The attacks on civil society people, lynchings, shootings and assassination of prominent writers/thinkers like Narendra Dabholkar and Gauri Lankesh point to the failure of the government.

There is a shift towards fascism in the political discourse. Even as a junior IAS officer it was drilled into us that protection of life and liberty was a fundamental duty of the civil servant. By being silent, the Modi government has accepted, condoned and supported the violent mobs that perpetuate unconstitutional behaviour.

Hindutva is not Hinduism. Hindutva is to Hindusim what Taliban is to Islam. We have to understand that it does not reflect the ordinary pious Hindu at all. It resembles rightwing Islamic or Christian groups. It has to be feared by Hindus, above all. The political parties have not addressed Hindutva with any reasoned rational discussion. This is leading to a hegemonic definition of Hinduism by a right-wing group, which believes in violence and arbitrary use of power. It is reductionist and can hardly claim the pulpit of a philosophy.

There has been a systematic erosion of our rights. The fear of these rights-based legislations arises from their capacity to empower citizens to ask for accountability. 

India has become a terrible place for women. It is on the top of the list of countries which is feared by women, based on statistics on rapes and incidents of violence on women.

All of these point to absolute failure of governance. I would say that the present government has failed to ensure safety and guarantee constitutional rights of life, dignity and peace.

A government cannot claim good governance just on the basis of non-performing toilets and Digital India slogan. Governance means justice and equality, and governance means instilling confidence in every human being who lives in India that she or he will not be victimised because of colour, caste, creed or religion. The Modi government has been a complete failure on this front.

There has been a systematic erosion of our rights. The fear of these rights-based legislations arises from their capacity to empower citizens to ask for accountability. They see this as a threat to arbitrary, dictatorial and unjust governance.

The Constitution is the basic guarantor of justice. Their need therefore is to change the Constitution. For those, who claim to have the people’s mandate but are chary of sharing power, the Constitution is a huge irritant.

We may still go to vote, but the question is how we are going to save the country without protecting pluralism and plurality of expression and culture. The Constitution wove the country’s diversity into unity.

Totalitarianism is arbitrary, non-transparent and unaccountable. It is a threat to the idea of India. We only have to remember “The Third Reich”.

As told to Bhasha Singh

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