Lordships and Majesties - I Feel Let Down

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Lordships and Majesties - I Feel Let Down

This is an anguished cry of an average Tax Paying Indian citizen. A plea, in desperation, in exasperation and despair at the current state of affairs. This is a plea about all the three tools of governance – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. All the three are ‘Mai-Baaps” for Indian citizens and my submissions are in total respect to all the three. Reason, of course is that all the three have insulated themselves through Special Privileges; they have become extra sensitive to their ‘respect’ and to their privileges.The words of Winston Churchill automatically ring in, “If Independence is granted to India, power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India.” One is forced to think - was Churchill very wrong in his forecast?

The Beginning: Lofty Ideals and High Hopes

After centuries of despotic rule, India woke up to political Independence in August 1947, with dreams of democracy, adult franchise and the Rule of Law. We were to be governed by provisions of one of the finest (and probably longest) legal documents ever drafted in the history of Mankind. Several members of the Constituent Assembly were lawyers – mainly trained/ educated in UK. The British Constitution (including written, unwritten, conventions, traditional constitutional practices) obviously became the major referral point along with the US Constitution, the Irish Constitution and the French constitution besides certain other India specific legislative acts previously passed by the British parliament. The original document, enacted in 1950 had 395 Articles; over the last 71 years, the size has grown to 448 Articles with 105 amendments (up to August 2021).

What makes Indian constitution unique is the specific listing of Fundamental Rights of a Citizen (Part III) and the enumeration of Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) and Fundamental Duties of a Citizen (Part IV-A). The framers were guided to a very large extent by the concept of Checks and Balances of the US concept and tried to demarcate the functioning of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary within peculiar conditions of Indian polity. The framers were mostly idealists who believed in appealing to the best within us Indians.

Over the last 70 odd years of functioning of Indian democracy, what has emerged is a shadow of the original avatar, with its soul ripped and in tatters. A toxic combination of money, muscle, crime and politics has permeated every layer of our polity, particularly legislature. 43% of current Lok Sabha members have Criminal Records or have cases pending against them. Recent behaviour of some of the worthies brought tears of despair to the eyes of the presiding officers of both chambers of parliament. Street level hooliganism and total disrespect for norms has found its way into the hallowed chambers of legislature. Legislators and leaders change political colours and ideology at the drop of a hat, absolutely shamelessly. What is true of the Parliament is true, in an even more virulent and degraded state, at the level of State Legislatures and other local bodies, including district and panchayat level ‘elected’ institutions. We have politicians reducing elections to a farce through naked display of money - muscle power, outdoing each other in offering freebies with no consideration for resources, playing vote bank politics of the most obnoxious kind. The supposedly steel frame of administrative services (Executive) is now a rusty shadow of its former self, deeply politicized and influenced by the politician- money-criminal nexus. The third wing of democracy, one that was supposed to be the ultimate guardian of the citizens’ rights, the watchdog of constitutional practices and norms –our Judiciary that too has slipped from the pedestal, especially in the eyes of an average citizen. And press/ media, the supposedly fourth arm of Democracy has, by and large, sold its soul to Lord Voldemort!

That brings me to a +50-year-old article of Ms Ayn Rand wherein, she has discussed the Anatomy of Compromise. In a scathing analysis, she wrote: A major symptom of a person’s or a culture’s intellectual and moral disintegration is the shrinking of vision and goals to the range of immediate moment. This leads to progressive disappearance of principles from a person’s mental process or a Society’s concerns. The present state of our culture may be gauged by the extent to which principles have vanished from public discussion, reducing our cultural atmosphere to the sordid, petty, senselessness of a bickering family that haggles over trivial concretes, while betraying all its major values for some spurious advantage of the moment. To make it more grotesque, that haggling is accompanied by an aura of hysterical self-righteousness in the form of belligerent assertions that one must compromise with anybody on anything and by panicky appeals to ‘practicality’.

We are seeing rule through pressure groups wherein, every tail gets to wag the dog, irrespective of the size and numbers. Rule by pressure groups is merely the prelude, the social conditioning for mob rule. Once a country has accepted the obliteration of moral principles, of individual rights, of objectivity, of justice, of reason and has submitted to the rule of the legalized brute force – the elimination of the concept of ‘legalized’ does not take long to follow. Who is to resist it – and, in the name of what?

When numbers are substituted for morality, and no individual can claim a right, but any gang can assert any desire whatever; when compromise is the only policy expected of those in power and the preservation of the moment’s ‘stability’, of peace at any price is their only goal, the winner, necessarily, is whoever presents the most unjust and irrational demands; the system serves as an open invitation to do so. The more an official is committed to the policy of compromise, the less able he is to resist anything! To ‘give in’ is his ‘instinctive’ response in any emergency, his basic principle of conduct, which makes him an easy mark. What is happening in the name of Farmer’s Agitation for last several months is a glaring example. What happened in the name of Anti-CAA agitation is working of Pressure Group politics. Trains are stopped in the name of a Gujjar Andolan or a similar ruse – people do such things with impunity because they know:

  • Politicians are counting on vote banks with Caste/ sub-caste/sub-sub caste, religion, regional considerations. They need votes and the country may go to dogs!
  • Administrators/ Executive don’t want to create a situation that can annoy the Political Class (and their vote bank). They are more interested to see that no ‘law and order’ problems are created in their area. They are not interested in upholding law and order – just saving their skins. The Indian Babudom facilitates the Political Class and guides them how to circumvent rules. A ‘farmer’ Chief Minister was found to have transported (on paper) his Apple Crop on vehicles that were actually two wheelers! Who can forget a so-called messiah of the downtrodden ‘showing on paper’ carting of large animals on two wheelers? Or an ex- finance minister growing vegetables worth millions in his flower pots to escape the tax net!
  • Judiciary appears to be operating in a different zone altogether. Instead of upholding law, morality and individual rights of an average citizen, Judiciary chose to play soft by creating a committee comprising of do-gooders at large for discussions for compromise with one gang of power pushers.

Contrary to the fanatical belief of its advocates, compromise does not satisfy, but dissatisfies everybody! It does not lead to general fulfilment, but to general frustration! Those who try to be all things to all men, end up by not being anything to anyone! And more: the partial victory of an unjust claim encourages the claimant to try further! The partial defeat of a just claim discourages and paralyzes the victim. The dispirited, demoralized, embittered majority would remain lethargically indifferent to any public event.

Hence we saw important roads being blocked for months by ‘sit in’ gangs in Delhi; we are witnessing thousands of people being put to inconvenience due to the Rasta Roko and Train Roko agitations of so-called Farmer Leaders. If, in the process thousands are put to inconvenience daily, well, tough luck because the farmer lobby can’t be removed by force (for a blatantly illegal act of blocking roads/ traffic/ trains) – vote bank politics is involved. I saw hundreds of passengers stranded at Jammu Railway Station last month - their trains were cancelled as the tracks were blocked; there was just nobody to whom hapless passengers could approach for remedy. A brave young lady did approach courts complaining that her right to free movement and right to earn her livelihood were being impacted by the dharna of farmers but obviously our judges live in isolated ivory towers and her plea is facing the typical’ Tareek pe Tareek” syndrome immortalized by Bollywood. Natural Justice is the obvious victim.

I remember having read somewhere about an issue Mr C Rajagopalachari, first Indian Governor General, had faced while he was heading either Madras Presidency or the Salem Municipality. A gentleman belonged to an ’inferior’ caste was appointed as a Tap Operator in the Municipality. A section of people in a ‘High Caste- Brahmin’ area refused to drink the water because the tap had been ‘touched’ by a person from an ‘low caste’ and started ‘Satyagraha’, refusing food and water. In exasperation, Raja Ji is said to have remarked that Mahatma Gandhi had let loose this weapon (Satyagraha) without ensuring that the moral force, so necessary for such a Satyagraha was not overlooked. Here are our agitators (CAA, Farmers, Gujjars and the like), blind and oblivious to the ethics, logic and respect for rule of law that ought to be the backbone of any moral agitation, are out to get their whims and fancies justified thru brute force.

There can be no justification, in a civilized society, for the kind of mass civil disobedience that involves the violation of the rights of others – regardless of whether the ‘demonstrators’ goal is good or evil. The end does not justify the means. No one’s rights can be secured by the violation of the rights of others. Mass disobedience is an assault on the concept of rights: it is a mob’s defiance of legality as such. The forcible occupation of another man’s property or the obstruction of a public thoroughfare is so blatant a violation of rights that an attempt to justify it becomes an abrogation of morality. An individual has no right to do a ‘sit in’ in the home/ office of a person he disagrees with – and he cannot acquire such a right by joining a gang. Rights are not a matter of numbers and there can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions forbidden to an individual, but permitted to a mob. The only power of a mob, as against an individual, is greater muscular strength – plain brute physical force. The attempt to solve social problems by means of physical force is what a civilized society is established to prevent. The advocates of mass civil disobedience admit that their undeclared purpose is intimidation. A society that tolerates intimidation as a means of settling disputes – the physical intimidation of some men or groups by others – loses its moral right to exist as a social system, and its collapse does not take long to follow.

To facilitate the acceptance of force, our Left, liberal intellectuals and ‘Free, Liberal Media’ have done some phenomenal hair-splitting and mental acrobatics – by creating a distinction between force and violence. Force, by their definition is a proper form of social action, but violence is not. Coercion by means of a literal physical contact is ‘violence’, hence reprehensible; any other means of violating rights is merely force – a legitimate, peaceful method of dealing with opponents! For example, if students occupy a university building or lock up the Governor of the state or ‘Dadis’ are brought in to occupy a public thoroughfare – that is force; if the police try to drag them off the campus or the road, that is ‘violence’! Consider the implications of this distinction as a rule of social conduct: you find a stranger occupying your house and you attempt to throw him out bodily; he has merely committed a ‘peaceful’ act of force but you are guilty of ‘violence’ and need to be ‘punished’!

In order to win, the rational side of any controversy requires its goals to be understood; it has nothing to hide, since reality is its ally. The irrational side has to deceive, to confuse, to evade, to hide its goals. Fog, murk and blindness are not the tools of reason; these are the tools of irrationality. Our mob gatherers want to instigate a law-and-order problem; they are yearning for use of some kind of force against them by the Govt – be it the anti-CAA planners or the Gurjar Andolan or the Farmers sitting on roads so that they can claim martyr hood and play politics over the dead bodies. Obviously, they have conveniently forgotten the Chauri-Chaura episode which made Gandhi withdraw the Satyagraha once violence broke out.

Is there hope still?

Hope is eternal and every positive minded person clings to it, even in the darkest scenario. To my mind, there can be two pillars that can help restore our faith in what the founding fathers had, in their idealism, conceived:

  • Judiciary: This is the short-term solution. Indian Judicial history is replete with examples legal luminaries who shone like beacons even amidst darkness. Who can forget Mr Justice HR Khanna for his courage to uphold the spirit and basic structure of the constitution? Or Justice JML Sinha who unseated a Prime Minister as authoritarian as Mrs Indira Gandhi. Judiciary has the authority of constitution plus the exclusive power of interpretation of laws. Only Judiciary, with its moral force emanating from the Constitution of India can ENFORCE restraint – provided it decides to cleanse the Augean Stables.

    There are two more sub-groups that can contribute immensely:
    • Lawyers: The day our lawyers start asking searching moral questions of their clients BEFORE taking up their cases, half of the crooks, moral or financial, would cease to find legal remedies to escape the long arm of law.
    • Financial Managers/ CAs: I remember our PM Mr Modi once remarked,” Within minutes of announcement of Demonetization in India, all CAs cancelled their holidays to guide their clients how to circumvent the spirit of the process,”. Who guides our politicians and businessmen in finding ‘solutions’ to black money and other unethical practises? This is my firm belief – if our CAs and Legal minds were to turn a page and stop offering unethical solutions to their clients, half of India’s political and financial problems would evaporate.
  • Academica: This, obviously is a long-term solution. Colleges and Universities are where future of a country is nurtured. We need to inculcate a true sense of education and learning in our youth. For that, we need good, ethically and morally enriched teachers. We have seen the havoc JNU has wrought. Reverse too is possible. Our youth need to wake up as they are the only hope in the long run.

The negative requires an absence (ignorance, impotence, irrationality); the positive requires a presence, an extent (knowledge, efficacy, thought). The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles! In any compromise between food and poison, only death can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only the evil that can profit! Our awakened citizens need to take a call!

 

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