Are we the same people we were, say, thirty years ago? Are we sure of that? Well, I am not sure. Something has fundamentally changed. Could we imagine three decades ago that our institutions will become irrelevant? Could we think then, that instead of dreaming of glorious Future, we will be obsessed with the medieval past? Did anyone visualise a possibility that Indians would readily give up many ideas and ideals we took for granted?
Immediately after becoming Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi had said that we have to prepare ourselves for the coming 21st century. The year he projected us into the next millennium was 1985. The new century was just 15 years far.
I remember his visit to the United States in January 1985. He received passionate and exuberantly enthusiastic welcome in America. An old American journalist who had covered John Kennedy in the early sixties told me that many saw in Rajiv Gandhi the kind of Indian version of the Camelot! The romance of the famous songs, “I have a Dream” and “We Shall Overcome” reverberated in the minds of the young and old.
Many top bureaucrats, diplomats, intellectuals, scientists, technocrats, the new generation of computer professionals, entrepreneurs were so mesmerised by the bonhomie between the Americans and the Non-Resident Indians in the US that they thought a kind of new era, not only of Indo-US relations, but of glorious future of modernity has begun. Soon after, Rajiv had established Technology Mission, with Sam Pitroda, the legendary symbol of communication revolution as the leader of the Brave New World.
Who thought then that within five years, the Future will dissolve into medieval past? Rajiv had a stunning number of 414 members of the Congress in the Lok Sabha. The Bharatiya Janata Party had just two seats. Even the tall leader of the party and their longstanding PM candidate Atal Behari Vajpayee had lost election to Madhavrao Scindia in Gwalior. Could anyone think that the brouhaha of the Congress victory would start melting in just five years? And suddenly instead of laptop, Trishul will be the new icon of politics?
But the meltdown began with the aggressive and violent marches across the country, with the slogan, “Mandir Wahin Banayenge”. The target was the Babri Masjid. The movement for destruction of the Masjid began in 1989. But even then, did anyone think that the Masjid would actually be destroyed within three years and in just one day by thousands of saffron lumpens masquerading as “karsevaks”? The meltdown was complete on August 5, 2020 when the formal stone laying ceremony for the “Mandir” was laid at the same (“wahin”) place.
In 1985, even the great political pundits and astrologers could not have predicted that 35 years down the line, building of Ram Mandir would begin in earnest. What began as dismantling of the Babri Masjid has now become a project of dismantling the Idea of India. Indeed, the aim is to bring about the “disunion” of the Union Republic. And that cannot be fully achieved unless history too is changed. Not just the history text books but the very legacy of the Freedom Movement.
If indeed the usurpers of political power have their way, the Indian National Congress would not be seen as leading the Freedom Movement. Hindu Mahasabha leader V D Savarkar will replace Gandhiji. The Congress will be replaced by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
There was this naive and unpardonably complacent belief that our institutions are so strong that they will protect, preserve and promote the Idea of India. But within the very first three months of Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister in 2014, he declared from the ramparts of the Red Fort that the Planning Commission was abolished. Soon after that, the foreign policy of the country, which had stood test of the time, was undermined. The Non-Aligned Movement became irrelevant. The whole legacy of friendship with African Nations was dismembered.
The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) which had been the vanguard of development and stability of the system after Independence, has been subjugated to a great extent. There are no departments and ministries. All the ministries have come under the umbrella of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Now decisions, plans and projects of each ministry are decided at the PMO. Neither the ministers of different portfolios, nor the experienced, veteran secretaries of various departments have any say on any matter. The files will be scrutinised by the various “trusted” officers of the PMO and simply handed over to the respective heads, with instructions, to just follow them.
The PMO and the Union Home Ministry have such an iron grip over the entire police system, the IB, CBI, NIA that the presumed autonomy of the law and order machinery has been compromised. The tentacles of this “interior ministry” are spread all over with a clear aim of generating fear psychosis. They seem to be copying the SS and Gestapo of the Nazi regime, and ironically with the blessings and support of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence outfit.
As a result even the most crucial arm which protects and preserves the sovereignty of a India has been compromised. It is inevitable that the internationalisation of our safety and security apparatus totally subordinates our force. Once that system is compromised, the global intelligence network, built over the years under Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) also loses its focus and priorities. And when foreign policy becomes subservient to the United States, RAW loses its independence.
Such undermining of bureaucracy, of all ministries, of Planning Commission, of NAM, of Ministry of External Affairs, of RAW and all law and order organisations has made the country’s governance vulnerable. With the Election Commission in tow and Supreme Court becoming a government department, nothing is left to check and balance the system.
The last and most important segment of modern democracies is considered to be the media. Without a free and fearless media, there is no democracy. Indeed, the modern civilisation has evolved with the media, with thinking communities, with dialogue and debate. The medium for this enlightened democratic governance is a free press. Today, almost the entire media has been embedded, even terrorized. It is forced to function to further government agenda.
Who knows, perhaps plans are afoot to change our parliamentary democracy into an American presidential form. Already, we have become an elected autocracy. If the presidential system is adopted, then we will lose even the pretence of being a democracy. Then it will cease to be a Federal Union, because that part of the United States which strengthens their Federalism will not be adopted in India. The apprehension is that we will become then—One Nation, One Party, One Election, One President, One Religion, One language domination, One Leader, One Culture. The glorious plurality, our vibrant multiculturalism, multi-lingual identity, multi-religious cooperative coexistence is rapidly getting threatened.
We thought our institutions will protect our Idea of India. But our institutions seem to have prostrated or brought under iron control, or blackmailed or have willingly surrendered. Did we ever imagine that we will allow ourselves to be psychologically enslaved, politically subjugated and culturally disarmed?