Incongruous India, where the law is what elected politicians say it is

Where ministers spend their time defending the shortcomings of their own policies. The Prime Minister appears to have retreated into some saintly phase. His Deputy only plots and plans elections…

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@appadappajappa
Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@appadappajappa

Ranjona Banerji

It’s hard to fathom just how easily we’ve normalized the nonstop assaults on democracy in India over the past six years. Is it because the attacks come from so many directions? Is it because this incessant jackhammering of democratic rights has subdued us? Or are we going to fall back on that old chestnut about the all-accepting karma-kismet Indian who has no fight?

Or are we right when in our darkest moments we believe that most Indians are happy and satisfied with being bludgeoned into submission? As long as communities that you hate are attacked, we’re all right, Jack? Muslims, Dalits, Christians, Buddhists, women, intellectuals, writers, artists, teachers, academics, artistes, activists, social workers, students, South Indians, East Indians, and now farmers and Sikhs: the list of those who deserve bombardment just doesn’t end.

Who are we, when we’re not a combination of these things? You could be an upper caste North Indian intellectual. Then you’re on the hit list. You could be a female Muslim student. Then you will be hit and put on the list. And so on. There is no escape because the end goal is complete capitulation. And that includes the cheerleading hyenas on the side lines, who falsely feel they’re safe now because they are in permanent genuflection pose.

This is not just Martin Niemoller’s famous poem being played out: where there is no one left to speak for you if you don’t speak up now. We’ve gone beyond that stage of Nazi Germany in India now. Each institution has been completely destroyed from within. Does this sound overly dramatic? Then you haven’t been paying attention.

Take a look at this “love jihad” law being adopted in BJP states across India. What is it but a clear attempt to demonize Muslims and control women? The disgusting idea of miscegenation, of extending endogamy and preventing exogamy is not new. But it is no longer part of democratic or current civilized discourse. For good reason. And yet, this unconstitutional law has not just been passed but it is being used with impunity. Citizens are being arrested and imprisoned for marrying “outside” community and religion. So, what if the courts strike down such laws?

The reason for such disdain for the law is clear: the law is what the elected politician says it is. Indian democracy has sunk to its lowest level: the word of the elected. And thus, we now have the tyranny of the elected. The Constitution, the tenets of democracy, the rights of the citizens, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, academia, none of all that matters.

This week, we’ve had the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court talking about the importance of the right to protest. But the Indian farmers he was talking about, what have they got? They’ve been called Khalistani terrorists, Maoist insurgents, Naxalites, too thick to understand what’s good for them, too rich or too poor to protest, they’ve been attacked and barricaded out of the National Capital.

The Prime Elected Politician cannot be bothered to speak directly to them. He gave a long, impassioned speech about his farm laws which the farmers don’t want but he addressed the Opposition and not the farmers themselves. He doesn’t have to speak to them because he has been elected. There is no one to question him. And his pet hyenas applaud him whatever he does.

In fact, I would argue there is no government any more in India. There is just The Party. Important ministers spend their time defending the shortcomings of their own policies. Or they campaign and haggle incessantly. We accept this as par for the course. The unimportant ministers are just happy to be ministers so they don’t need to do or are incapable of doing anything at all. We’re running on momentum but for how long is anyone’s guess.

The Prime Elected Person appears to have retreated into some saintly phase, with his long hair and groomed beard. He sits on high imparting his words of inanity, but make no mistake, their message is “bow to the neon god you’ve made”.

The Deputy only plots and plans elections and thus the current focus is on Bengal. The farmers were given their chance in the Sun with him. They rejected it. They are now relegated to cold winter nights in the open. The Party has no use for them. And there is no government.

The metaphorical battles are over, and democracy has lost. I don’t know if there’s any energy left for a war.

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