Silence of President and the PM to the letter from former Services chiefs on hubris of hate disturbing
Salute to the former Services chiefs, army veterans, retired bureaucrats and prominent citizens who spoke up against the call to arms and the insidious call to the army to participate in genocide
It’s a change of calendar, that’s all. And thus, people woke up to 2022 with all sorts of news that establishes that the more the dates change the more things remain the same.
Wildfires in America, stampede at a temple in India, Covid-19 raising its head again across the world.
Whatever you’re grappling with at the moment, happy, sad, momentous, tedious, the questions before India remain exactly the same: How much hatred can our society bear before it fractures beyond repair?
In a planetary sense, tectonic plates keep us alive in the long term even if the shifts can cause cataclysmic damage. But for a fragile human society with some parts of it searching for larger questions of harmony and equitable justice and others hell-bent on supremacy as retaliation for past perceived “injustice”? The collisions are on the verge of finishing us.
This is from a letter to the President and the Prime Minister of India, written by former Armed Forces veterans including former chiefs of staff, retired bureaucrats and prominent citizens, after the “Dharma Sansad” held in Haridwar last month and another similar event in Delhi:
“We therefore call upon the Government, Parliament and the Supreme Court, to act with urgency to protect the integrity and security of our country. The Constitution provides for the free practice of religion across faiths. We strongly deplore such polarisation in the name of religion. We urge you Mr President and Mr Prime Minister to take immediate steps to curb such attempts and urge you to condemn such incitement to violence in no uncertain terms.
“We also take this opportunity to urge leaders of all political parties to condemn these calls for what is tantamount to genocide of Muslims. They must restrain their own cadres and thereby set examples of their commitment to Secularism, Fraternity and Justice for all… It is in the National Interest that all parties should refrain from using religion in politics and pledge to uphold our Constitution and the wellbeing of our people – thus ensuring both National and Human Security for all.”
This is not the first such letter that anguished citizens of India, including former military personnel, bureaucrats and jurists have written in the last seven years, chronicling in a sense the downfall of our nation’s democracy. What effect this has had is perhaps for posterity to note.
The most some of us can do is to record one’s pain, distress, even anger. But even the most excellent efforts of the best of us have not been able to move the massive monstrosity that is religious supremacism and its moving parts of religious violence, intolerance and political and official apathy.
How far have we fallen that this needs to be pointed out: “One speaker made a call to the army and police to pick up weapons and participate in the cleanliness drive (safai abhiyan). This amounts to asking the army to participate in genocide of our own citizens and is condemnable and unacceptable.”
And yet, there is only silence from those in power and those in charge. Because they have in fact fuelled these flames of rage and destruction and have kept them burning.
This year, 2022 sees assembly elections in several Indian states. Will these be dipsticks of toxicity in the water or will they be yardsticks for the future of democracy? Will an angry powerful beast hit back with even more venom if it loses or will it be forced to acknowledge its own pain and that of others? The choices are stark, dark. Because the rules have changed. Except for one: The unspoken rule that anything goes if you want to remain in power.
“Allowing yourself to be co-opted by an ideology or the state is a recipe for disaster,” said the Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana at a Mumbai Press Club event last week. The message was to journalists but it makes as much sense for any section of society which is supposed to work outside political compulsions – journalists, yes but also the judiciary itself, the bureaucracy, the Armed Forces, the police. In fact, all those “institutions” which have collapsed at the very hint of a threat or the hidden glee of a totalitarian future.
If life is not all gloom, for me there is one beacon and that is the power of the human imagination and achievement. For all those who stand up and fight, no matter what the consequences. For those who dare to dream and look beyond the nitty-gritties of today. When the just-launched James Webb telescope looks over 13 billion years back in time towards the origins of the Universe in mid-2022, what price the pride of the Ozymandiases of Egypt who “rule” us?
Happy New Year?
(The writer is an independent commentator. Views are personal)