Bulldozed to dust: We resemble a tin-pot dictatorship where the rule of law is only notional

2022-04-26 08:25:54 By : Ms. Lucy Liang

Bulldozers rolled into Jahangirpuri a few days after clashes over a religious procession. (Photo Credit: PTI)

Bulldozers. It is this monstrous machine which is normally seen at construction sites that is the popular buzzword in Indian politics. According to political analysts, the brand of being called Bulldozer Baba helped the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityananth to successfully defend the anti-incumbency that was accumulating against him.

The imagery and the operation was simple: If anybody dared to allegedly take law into their hands in the perception of the government , the state would order the JCB bone-crushers to drive into their ramshackle homes and bring them down. Exterminate them to a fine dust. The fear of a ruthless authority was supposed to have a domino effect, scaring the daylights out of mischief mongers, hardened criminals and petty thieves. It seems the people of Uttar Pradesh gave this unique BJP model of governance a thumbs up.

Expectedly all BJP ruled states have now gleefully adopted the bulldozer as part of their panacea for law and order problems. Despite a USD 2.8 trillion economy and being a member of G-20 we resemble a tin-pot dictatorship where the rule of law is only notional. The state can do what it wishes, totally unchallenged and even dismissing the country's highest court, the Supreme Court of India with disdainful insouciance. Of course, the BJP wears saffron colored glasses; it usually (if not always) targets only the minority Muslim community during these demolition drives.

Everything must have a political connotation that must exacerbate the communal temperature; the Sangh Parivaar follows its encyclopedic operating manual with impeccable correctness. It is all about winning elections. Besides the bulldozer, we have seen hijab, halal, azaan, beef and meat bans, Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi, threat to doing business near majority community dwellings, and of course, lynching. We are seeing the naked devilish countenance of religious loathing. It should worry us all.

As stone-pelting incidents were captured on social media all over the country on Ram Navami processions held on 10th April 2022, it was obvious that these were not a spontaneous happenstance. Anyone who has read the depressing history of communal riots in India will tell you that fundamentalists on both sides of the fence anxiously await these exploitable moments ( 25% riots have happened during religious congregations).

All it takes is one stone, a loud abuse, an isolated instance of eve-teasing, a WhatsApp rumour, willful insulting provocation before a place of worship for the situation to become uncontrollably ignitable . Instead of religious harmony and collective celebrations of a festival, we have inflammatory outbursts and mutual recriminations. A communal riot is born. According to the government's own submission in the Lok Sabha there were 3400 riots (reported) during 2016-20 in India. We can conveniently estimate that many never made it to the official records.

If you are stunned by the fact that such a massive count of communal fractures never made it to the front pages or prime-time news, don't be. This is the new political business paradigm of the BJP: "Low-intensity but widespread communal disturbances". The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition that led to nation-wide riots, Gujarat genocide of 2002, Muzzafarnagar communal deaths of 2013 and the Delhi riots of 2020 cannot be replicated frequently because of the massive reach of cable television and social media. The horrific images will be unpalatable for the moderate Indian to swallow, and even make borderline bigots to puke. Hence, the new tactical strategy is to keep the hate campaign on full swing like a Friday release of Bollywood blockbusters or a new episode in a streaming service.

The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrust, uneasiness, fear and discomfort. That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilised at short notice. BJP is creating an ecosystem of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are suddenly experiencing a nuclear cloudburst of daily anti-Muslim rhetoric promoting their defenestration all over the country.

It is hard to see where we are headed as a nation, as the ugliness is morphing into a ghoulish shadow that chases society relentlessly. Several television channels are shamelessly propagating the negativity by taking sides with the majoritarian sentiment ( that assures them of higher TV ratings and loyalty). They ruthlessly bludgeon the Muslim argument by painting them as inherently flawed people who have siphoned off India's secularism. What they do is unconscionable but it is still less trenchant than the Twitter tsunami of rancid viciousness.

The BJP gets prime-time commercial advertisement for free. The opposition unfortunately reacts only sporadically. Like CPM leader Brinda Karat did when the bulldozer stunts continued in Jahangirpuri despite a Supreme Court prohibiting it, on the infantile pretext that the municipal body had not received the SC order on paper. It was preposterous, a daylight crude manifestation of BJP's fascism; the SC was being told to go fly a kite. Karat carried the copy of the SC order physically; it was surreal, and exhibited India's dive into dystopian darkness.

The BJP is sending an unambiguous message to India's citizens: an election victory is an endorsement of everything we do, including destroying democratic institutions and spreading poisonous animosity between communities; why are you complaining? They have a point there; most voters don't seem to mind. They have been winning despite an embarrassing track record on real performance parameters; job losses, agrarian stress, corruption, broken society, pathetic governance, wobbly economy, and among the worst management conceivable of the Covid pandemic.

The absence of a sturdy opposition that can galvanize voters has made BJP believe they are insuperable; so they are railroading the Idea of India, a Nehruvian construct that celebrated social amalgamation and democratic ideals. The New India of Narendra Modi they wish to create must thus rise from the rubbles of a bulldozed democracy of a great nation that once was.

(The author is former national spokesperson, Congress party. He tweets @JhaSanjay.Views expressed are personal)

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