Achche Din or a long dark night?

The Modi Sarkar has outsourced governance and development to the lynch mobs and crony corporates

Achche Din or a long dark night?

Dipankar Bhattacharya

As we approach the 71st anniversary of India’s Independence, the fifth time when Narendra Modi will be addressing India from the ramparts of Lal Qila, it makes sense to return to his first Independence Day address. It was a brilliant piece of oration that exuded a lot of human warmth and stood in refreshing contrast to the shrill rhetoric of his election campaign. He said he was an outsider to the corridors of power in Delhi and it was the beauty of India’s democracy that catapulted him to the PM’s position. He promised to be the ‘Pradhan Sevak’ of the people of India. He thanked all his predecessors and all political parties, appealed for a moratorium of ten years on casteism, communalism and all that divided and held back India and promised to work on the basis of a strong consensus. He talked about stopping farmer suicides and giving every girl child her due, about promoting skills and manufacture, about turning India digital and clean. Even to many of his critics and detractors he sounded to have really moved on from Gujarat 2002.

Union Ministers Mahesh Sharma, Jayant Sinha publicly honour lynch convicts

The promises made by Modi in his 2014 campaign have all turned out to be jumla, to use the word popularised by Amit Shah to describe Modi’s demagoguery. That has not however hurt India as much as the total reversal of the vision Modi had outlined in his first Lal Qila address. Each word of it has proved to be a brutal joke. His government keeps rubbishing the record of post-Independence India. Whatever institutional framework of a modern republic was built over the decades today stands seriously compromised and subverted. Forget about striving for a consensus, the government has made complete mockery of the cabinet system of decision-making and accountability. All powers are effectively concentrated in the PM and a small coterie around him. Most alarmingly, the call for a ten-year moratorium on communalism and divisive issues has actually meant just the reverse. Thug squads are ruling the streets and mob lynching has assumed the scale of a national sport. Indeed, under Modi and Shah, the Sangh-BJP establishment seems to have adopted mob lynching as a veritable tactic of decentralised application of terror that would help terrorise the society while leaving the party with ample scope to explain them away as spontaneous expressions of mass reaction or anger. But there are ample signs that the lynchings are very much being orchestrated by the Sangh brigade.

One look at the response of the BJP leadership and it becomes even clearer. Mahesh Sharma and Jayant Sinha publicly honour lynch convicts. Nishikant Dubey promises to fight the legal battle on behalf of the accused. Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeks to trivialise the issue by describing the current spate of lynchings as insignificant compared to the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. Arjun Meghwal finds a relation between the rising graph of lynchings and Modi’s allegedly increasing popularity. Now we have Vasundhara Raje attributing mob lynching episodes to unemployment and population explosion!

And amidst all this, Prime Minister Modi maintains a nonchalant silence on the whole subject even as mobocracy or mob rule emerges as the most defining feature of his regime. The basic principle of constitutional governance revolves around the legally accountable monopoly of the state over violence. But in Modi’s India we have privatisation or public private partnership at work even in this core function of the modern state. The image from Hapur of three policemen escorting a killer mob after lethal assault on farmer Mohammad Qasim succinctly illustrates this growing subversion of the rule of law. While vast sections of Indian people feel badly let down by the non-performance and betrayal of the Modi government, the lynch mob, armed with patronage and impunity, feels truly ‘empowered’.

Modi had come to power promising to clean up the system of black money and the network of crony capitalism. We were told that demonetisation was a war on black money. But now we know that Indian deposits in Swiss banks have actually gone up and the government tells us that there is nothing black about these deposits. Internationally, the Panama Papers have caused huge ripples, but the Modi government has greeted the disclosures with deafening silence. Nirav Modi flees India after robbing our banks of billions of rupees and you find him photographed with the Prime Minister at Davos. Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi’s partner in crime, affectionately addressed as ‘Mehul bhai’ by the PM, acquires Antiguan citizenship. Anil Ambani floats a defence firm and bags a big share in the Rafael deal. Mukesh Ambani launches Jio University and rules are promptly tweaked to bless it with ‘eminence’! Anil Agarwal pollutes India and takes all his profits abroad, and the state guns down Indian people to silence their demands for breathable air and drinkable water. And Narendra Modi brags about his close ties with his corporate buddies. Never before has India witnessed such unabashed celebration of crony capitalism.

With ‘good governance’ and ‘development’ thus outsourced to the lynch mobs and crony corporates, the much promised ‘achche din’ has turned out to be a Modi metaphor for a long dark night. The slogan of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is daily being mocked by shocking reports of rapes and murders of young girls. And we are now also getting used to seeing BJP leaders and ministers defending the rape accused! Universities are being turned into war zones where students are routinely policed and persecuted by administrators handpicked by the RSS for their loyalty to the Sangh’s ideology and agenda. Mythology is trespassing into history, bigotry is clouding reason and truth is reeling under untruth. And journalism, with a few honourable exceptions, has stopped speaking truth to power – it has been reduced to corporate stenography and government propaganda.

We are now less than a year away from the next elections. Normally, this is when people ask questions of the powers that be and the latter have to answer those questions. But the Modi regime has no answers; it is busy designing ever newer tests for the people. Demonetisation subjected the whole country to a gruelling drill that killed hundreds, robbed millions and befooled a billion plus Indians. Aadhaar is stealing pension and spreading starvation while binding us all in digital chains even as it leaks data all around. And now there is NRC. Even as four million people await their formal last chance to pass the citizenship test, BJP leaders have declared them infiltrators and are baying for their blood. Repatriation of black money was the magic mantra for Modi in 2014, for the forthcoming elections Amit Shah is trying to discover that magic in the call for deportation of the alleged Bangladeshi infiltrator.

Four years of Modi Raj have put India on an unprecedented trial. We will have to summon all the positive energy and legacy of our freedom movement to steer the country forward through these testing times.

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