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India: What Threatens Our Independence - How Shall We Defend our Democracy?

India celebrates the 75th anniversary of Independence

Wednesday 24 August 2022, by siawi3


Mainstream, VOL LX No 33, 34 New Delhi, August 6, August 13, 2022 [Independence Day Special]

What Threatens Our Independence

Saturday 13 August 2022

by D Raja

As the country is celebrating the 75th anniversary of independence, it’s an irony of history that the RSS, which remained loyal to the British, is now trying to appropriate the legacy of our secular and inclusive struggle for independence. Seventy-five years ago, our country reached an important milestone, when people of the country got liberated from the clutches of British colonialism. Our independence was the result of a century-long sustained mass struggle, with many streams of political thoughts and ideologies merging in opposition to British rule and liberated the masses from British oppression.

Our struggle for independence was not just a movement to remove the British but it also had an agenda for our country’s future. That agenda of social reforms and to liberate our country from poverty and inequality was the result of a dialogue between the major ideological currents fighting for our independence. Most important of them were the school of thought represented by Mahatma Gandhi through the policy and programme of the Congress Party, the Communists and Socialists and advocates of social reforms best represented in the work of Dr Ambedkar.

Dialogue and debate between these streams produced the values that best defined our struggle against colonialism and gave a coherent shape to the future republic and state with secularism and welfarism at its core. These values are under threat from an organization today that played no role in our long fight for independence and sided with the British, the RSS. To recognize what values came to constitute our freedom and what is under threat, we need to examine the ideological foundations of this nefarious organization and how it is against everything our founding leaders strived for.

When we achieved political independence, what form of government India should opt for was a much-debated issue. It should be kept in mind that there still were more than 550 princely states to be fully integrated with the emergent Republic and discussions around the Westminster system or the American system were common. Parliamentary democracy was preferred by most of the leaders and it was adopted in our Constitution. Elaborating on this conscious choice made by the constitution makers including Dr Ambedkar, President K R Narayanan in his address to the nation on the 50th anniversary of independence said “that the Drafting Committee in choosing the parliamentary system for India, preferred more responsibility to more stability, a system under which the government will be on the anvil every day.” This idea of collective responsibility is under great strain today due to the encroachments made by executive on other branches of the state under direct influence from the RSS. Attempts are on to make Parliament redundant and ineffective.

During the freedom struggle itself, the RSS, which is essentially undemocratic, was not pleased with representative democracy and constitutional safeguards. The RSS’s admiration of the fascists in Europe and their emphasis on the leader principle made the organization incompatible with the very functioning of a democratic society. B S Moonje, the mentor to RSS founder K B Hedgewar met Mussolini in Italy and told him that “I shall have no hesitation to raise my voice from the public platform both in India and England whenever occasion may arise in praise of your Balilla and fascist organizations. I wish them good luck and every success.”

The RSS still follows the rule of eka chalakanuvartitva or subservience to the one ‘Supreme Leader’, making them unfit for a democratic polity. Herein lies the RSS’s contempt for democratic rules, norms and representation. When we say that democracy itself is under threat from RSS-BJP, the germs of that can be found in the very foundation and functioning of the RSS.

Another example can be taken by considering the case of secularism, an important foundational value of our freedom movement. Hindus and Muslims fought shoulder to shoulder in our fight against the British. However, it is widely known and clear from the writings of RSS leaders and ideologues that their objective is to establish a hierarchical, exclusionary and discriminatory Hindu Rashtra. Dr Ambedkar warned about this menace and said: “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country.” Substantial portions of the Constitution are devoted to the state following a secular and pro-social justice model. This fell to deaf ears of the RSS leaders.

The second Sanghchalak M S Golwalkar, a proponent of divide and strife in society wrote “the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, that is of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights.”

When the nation was uniting to drive away the British, the RSS was busy finding the “enemy within”. Taking inspiration from the extremely exclusionary and divisive ideology of Hitler and Mussolini, they soon found the Muslim-bogey to unite the Hindus under their divisive hold. This has led RSS to declare an open war with the country’s past as they continue to run pillar-to-post in their attempts at demonizing Muslims. It should be kept in mind that among the galaxy of leaders our freedom movement produced, no one of repute dubbed the Mughals as invaders and looters but projecting a long-drawn strife and discord was essential for the RSS.

Sardar Patel, whom the RSS is trying hard to appropriate, in his historical presidential speech at the Karachi Session of the Congress referred to “continued exploitation of India for close on two centuries”. For the RSS, this exploitation and servitude extends to the Sultanate and Mughal periods while the loyalty for the British stand solid. For the nation, the enemy was British colonialism. For the communal sectarian RSS, it was Muslims. The difference in identifying what we are fighting against made a crucial difference between Indian nationalism and RSS’s narrow Hindutva nationalism. As is clear, RSS was against the nation at this crucial point too.

As mentioned above, social reform was integral to our fight for independence. Two major components of this reform program were related to caste and the status of women in society. The Manusmriti, consisting of the ordinances of Manu, was held responsible for the caste system in India by none other than Dr B R Ambedkar. To protest against the ignominy of caste, Dr Ambedkar publicly burnt copies of Manusmriti on December 25,1927. Dr Ambedkar fought hard and established political equality, along with safeguards for the historically deprived sections through our Constitution. However, for the Brahamanical RSS, Manusmriti remained a source of authority and law in society and equality was impossible to digest. Less than a week after the ratification of our Constitution, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser lamented on November 30, 1949: “To this day his (Manu’s) laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing.”

Dr Ambedkar roared in the Constituent Assembly that “the castes are anti-national. In the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste.” By upholding the casteist and discriminatory Manusmriti, the RSS again proved true to its anti-national character.

As we celebrate 75 years of independence, we should recollect what freedom from British rule meant for generations of freedom fighters. To what end they made supreme sacrifices and what they wanted for a free India. It should be underlined repeatedly that from Gandhi, Subhas Bose to Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad, none sacrificed their lives for a theocratic Hindu Rashtra. They all lived and died for a secular, democratic, egalitarian and inclusive India. We should identify the values independent India represented, who sacrificed for them and who is threatening them to know the true gravity of freedom. Democracy, secularism and equality underpins our freedom and whoever threatens them is anti-national in the true sense.

Ironically, British stooges are now trying to redefine what freedom meant and distributing certificates of patriotism. Thus, it is on us to recognize what constitutes our freedom and fight to protect it. As a society, we should revisit the great hardships our forefathers endured to get us freedom and we need to isolate the elements which threatens that freedom.

D Raja is General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI)



Mainstream, VOL LX No 33, 34 New Delhi, August 6, August 13, 2022 [Independence Day Special]

How Shall We Defend our Democracy?

Saturday 13 August 2022

by Mahi Pal Singh

This August in 2022 we are going to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our Independence and pay our homage to the freedom fighters, who spent their lives in jails and even laid down their lives so that the people of their country may breathe in an independent country and live a dignified life. This is also an occasion for stock taking whether the rulers of Independent India have fulfilled the dreams of our forefathers and lived upto the expectations of We, the People of India and how the four pillars of our democracy have worked in that direction, or the State has failed the people of the country.

A lot can be said about the Legislature and the Executive wings of the State. They are elected, directly or indirectly, by the people. Obviously, the people have great expectations from them. They are also accountable to the people of the country for their acts of omission or commission. The experience of the last 75 years shows that most of their hopes and aspirations have been belied by them. Once elected for five years, the legislators by and large do not care for those who elected them. A large number of them do not even show their faces in their constituencies before the next elections are declared. They remain busy in amassing large sums of black money through illegal means. In order to come to power or to remain in power, political parties indulge in all kinds of immoral acts and the legislators get sold or purchased like commodities in the hands of power hungry politicians. Anti-defection laws passed by the Parliament fail to deter them from doing so. Once they acquire power and money, they find it easy to get re-elected through the use of ill-gotten money and muscle power.

The Executive wing of the State, which is supposed to be accountable to the legislatures, hardly cares for them because the people in the government are leaders of the parties which have majority in the legislatures. The higher the number of the legislators of the ruling party in the house, more the chances of the head of the government turning into an autocrat. This exactly is happening in our country today where the Prime Minister at the centre and some Chief Ministers in the States, like Yogi Adityanath in UP, act like autocrats. They have become even greater autocrats by adopting the majoritarian agenda of Hindutva supported by a large number of religious fundamentalists in the majority community. In order to remain in power and enjoy the support of the majority community during the elections, they have to keep the pot of religious polarisation boiling all the time even if it means dividing the society. For that they allow the hate mongers to issue statements inimical to the minority community and also spread communal riots after which members of the minority community are further persecuted by the state police leading into further division in society as the suffering community is bound to alienate further.

The media, which is the fourth pillar of democracy, seems to have fallen prostrate completely, with some honourable exceptions, at the feet of the ruling party and keeps singing their paeans 24*7 for fear or favour, perhaps more for fear as those speaking against the ruling party or its leader mostly find themselves hounded by the police/ED/CBI/IT or other officers of the State.

The only hope of saving the democracy, fundamental rights, civil liberties of the people, the rule of law and the secular character of our country was from the higher judiciary of the country which is the custodian of the Constitution of the country. There is no doubt that whatever freedom and democracy has remained protected is because of our judiciary. But it seems that it has not remained true to its character and reputation in some judgements. People like Muhammed Zubair, the Alt News co-founder, who is being hounded by police in several cases filed against him, at least three by known Hindutva supporters, is just one example. A Delhi court granted him bail in one case relating to his alleged objectionable tweet in 2018 observing that “the voice of dissent is necessary for a healthy democracy, on 15.7.2022 but he will still remain in jail in UP as there are six FIRs against him in Sitapur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar and Hathras districts in UP for the same tweet. When he is out in one case, he is arrested in another. Obviously, the forces behind these FIRs do not want him to go free. And of course, they want to keep the hate mongers like Nupur Sharma, a former spokesperson of the ruling BJP, and other leaders of the BJP like Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma free, and they will remain free. In all these cases, the judiciary has not shown its commitment as a defender of the rule of law, protector of the civil liberties of the people and the custodian of the Constitution of India. It always had the power to suo motu take cognisance of these matters/violations and punish the guilty. But it failed to do so. In the matter of Nupur Sharma the Judges did make scathing comments against her. But these comments were made orally and, as some people have opined, not at the right time. So they only invited adverse comments from some motivated people.

In the Zakia Jafri case relating to the 2002 riots, Teesta Setalvad, the rights activist who pursued 2002 riots case against Modi, and R.B. Sreekumar, and Sanjeev Bhatt, two IPS officers from Gujarat, (Sanjeev Bhatt – already in jail for another matter) at that time, have been sent to jail on the suggestion of the Supreme Court. In another case, the Supreme Court has imposed a fine of Rs. 5 lakhs on Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian and rights activist, for seeking a CBI probe into alleged torture and extra-judicial killings of 17 people by the Chhattisgarh Police and Central forces during the anti-Maoist operations in Dantewada in 2009. “The stiff penalty on the petitioner also echoes the stance of the state in case after case — of labelling or ascribing ulterior motives to all those who raise questions, and demand answers, justice, or redress,” as an editorial in The Indian Express says.

If the court had acted in right earnest in all these matters, it would have immensely increased the faith of the people in the judiciary and also resulted in the punishment to hate mongers and dividers of our secular society and also encouraged those who help the poor and the destitute in seeking justice.

But the greatest defenders of our democracy are the people themselves. They must remain vigilant, support the Constitutional rule in the country and also punish in a legal manner the wrong doers and the hate-mongers. They must understand that the whole edifice of our democracy stands not so much on the four pillars of the Legislature, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Press or Media but on their own shoulders. If they buckle down, the other pillars will not be able to hold the weight of the falling structure. But if they stand upright, even weaker pillars will be able to support it. But it is they who will have to bear the main burden to keep it standing stronger.