Herald View: The tyranny of the bulldozer
The bulldozer is not just razing homes of criminals, it is also crushing democracy and pulping hopes
Writing in ‘The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child’, Robert Ingersoll, the 19th century American lawyer and satirist, identified two kinds of tyrants through the ages– the king and the priest. “All the altars and all the thrones have united to arrest the forward march of the human race.” Two centuries later, in India, the altar and the throne have come together in one persona – that of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, who, as Ingersoll said, has made sport and prey of human beings, his tyranny feeding upon the liberties of the people.
How else would one describe this use by ‘Maharaj-ji’ – his sobriquet -of bulldozers to raze the homes of so-called criminals in a democratic country where rule of law should prevail supreme? By elected leaders as well as the people in general. He has let loose a virtual reign of terror ungoverned by the diktats of democracy, the Constitution or the courts. And while this might seem as an ideal solution to contain crime in the eyes of the king and the priest, in the hands of people like Yogi Adityanath it might be safe to presume the bulldozer will be used only to terrorise political rivals or destroy those the regime does not like, particularly the Muslim minorities. For so far, even presuming the bulldozer is a deterrent, we have not seen its use against those criminals who aid and abet this tyrannical regime. This new tendency has the potential of giving birth to a whole new genre of criminals who will be closely connected with the ruling party and rogue policemen who will use the bulldozer indiscriminately to settle their own scores. The common man will be a mere slave to their whims and subject to every injustice and brutality of those who wield such absolute power.
The bulldozer is not just razing homes of criminals, it is also crushing democracy and pulping the hopes of all law-abiding citizens in this country. The return of Adityanath to Uttar Pradesh despite his multiple violations of democratic norms and running one of the cruellest regimes in the country, has now encouraged others to resort to such tyrannical measures to cover up their own failures in governance. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan recently unleashed bulldozers on those who had hurled stones at a Ramnavmi procession and in the process brought down even homes built under Narendra Modi’s own Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Who is to say that other BJP chief ministers will not be encouraged by these examples and use their own bulldozers to crush political rivals in their states? Given that the BJP is ruling a majority of states in the country today the prospect is as monstrous and fearsome as it is alarming and disquieting for an India as we have always known it – we always had an honourable leadership, generous to a fault and respecting not just the masses but all the institutions and laws that made the nation, as Aristotle would say it, a generally happy place for all people. But the very same Aristotle had warned that democracies had the potential to degenerate into despotism and that is what seems to be happening in India today. The unwise choice of some people in one state has endangered the security of the whole nation and we must fight this tyranny of the despots with everything at our disposal, more particularly the creation of awareness among the people --that if the bulldozers have come for their neighbours today, they may well come for them tomorrow
We cannot allow such tyranny of the democratically-elected despots to destroy our basic freedoms and liberties.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)