By Ananya S Guha
Coming to power by the ballot is one thing. However, trying to destabilize state governments ruled by another party, central or regional, is the height of intolerance. And that is what is happening in Kerala in the name of yatra. A political party ruling at the centre obtrusively intervening in a state ruled by another dispensation is something that has rarely happened in our political history. Political murder of RSS members in Kerala is wrong. They can be discussed over the table. The malicious intent behind the yatra, intended to divide on clear cut religious lines, is not difficult to see. We are now living under conditions, where might is right and anarchy is let loose anywhere in the name of religion, caste, politics or community. So, Dalits cannot sport a moustache and cows cannot be used for economic benefit or as cattle.
The signs are clear. Mix religion with politics in such a manner so that the resultant fetish affects the ordinary citizen. One group is empowered, if that is the word, while the others feel ridiculously low and insecure. The clever ploy is to penetrate the political scene in Kerala at any cost, debasing it in the process by muddling religion with politics. Forster was right: India is a complex conundrum but viciously so. Who are the targets? Minorities of any hue, the open-minded intellectuals, writers and, of course, the casteless. Muscle politics takes the shape of mauling the weak, the poor, the non-caste Hindus, and, of course, the Muslims and the Christians.
Assailing the state of Kerala has added a new dimension to this brand of murky politics. Kerala is known as a Leftist bastion, where three religions live peacefully and co-exist in a relatively prosperous state. Throwing the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, into the gauntlet has also nefarious designs. Isn’t he the saffron clad politician symbolizing the self-righteousness of the times and its macabre ideology? The symbols of the cow, the mother, and the saffron infused into politics are a desperate attempt not only to silence secular forces, but also divide the country on clear religious lines. And Kerala is a laboratory for experiment after Gujarat. The excuse that the Chief Minister of the largest state has been chosen as the main actor is a warning of brute muscle power. That Uttar Pradesh is the heartland of the country reiterates the mainland/marginal dichotomy in the politics of the times.
India now resembles a truncated country pleading for re-unification. Its fragments have shored winds, and its historical validity and moorings ruthlessly assailed. New attacks are launched against liberals, social thinkers, and writers in an effort to rewrite the history of the country.
The question is how the future will pan out. Will the attempt to brow beat citizens crystallize into more concerted protests? Or will all this be subsumed into a thunderous roar of history? Would the assaults against secularism and egalitarian thinking cause a permanent damage? Would the feverish re-writing of history continue unabated?
We have portents at many levels: politics, history, society, religion, and a diverse, plural culture. Perhaps the people of India, who have in past absorbed so many historical tremors, will absorb these as well. But certainly not without consequent reactionary results. The electorate in the next elections can surely reveal a mass intelligence. But that will happen if political greed and money power are pushed out of the repertoire of unethical politics. It is not only power politics, which is at issue, but the survival of the ‘better’, and not of the fitter. The better has to be viewed rationally. If once the corrupt forces come to power with dynastic ambitions, things might again flounder. The NDA government came about because of disgust with the preceding UPA government. Having corrupt people, who just mouth about our splendid diversity, rule us once again will spell utter doom. The spaces of liberty and free thinking must be complemented with clean administration. Can this happen? Right now if many feel what is happening in the country is an assault against democracy, we certainly have to look at democracy in its totality. Just free speech is not enough. This must be backed by objectivity in all spheres, including support for the poor and the economically distressed.
The total lack of dispassion in the body politic is a point of serious worry with vacuous diatribes, aided by twitter handles, ruling the roost. Education is not given the attention it deserves. Substituting skills development for educational disparities will not be a solution. Skills development should be geared towards the employable, unorganized sector, and certification. If certification and prior knowledge are matched, linked with vocational institutes, then there will be a semblance of learning and education. This will link education with training. Rewriting text books is not an educational policy. It must be matched with skills learning and vocational training from schools onward to higher levels of such training.
How the ‘better’ will survive, only time can tell.
Ananya S Guha is Regional Director, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Shillong.
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