Views & Reviews
‘Manufactured rebellion’ or ‘spontaneous resistance’
Dr. John Mohan Razu
( Populist movements exploit people’s fear of those who are not like us -Kjell Bondevik, former PM of Norway)
For the first time in the independent India distinguished intellectuals, thinkers, celebrities, icons, artistes, writers, producers, directors and scientists who have contributed in various fields that gave them recognition in the form of cash and citations have returned the awards in protest as against the growing intolerance perpetrated against diverse sections of people which the BJP government led by Prime Minister Modi has failed to take action. Return of the awards continues to escalate. Arun Shourie, former finance minister of India, ideologue and influential personality during Vajpai’s government who drove reforms in the previous NDA government, had launched a stinging attacked on the Modi government characterizing “Congress scaled plus a cow”. The very next day the whole country and the world witnessed an absurd police action at Kerala House in the national capital, allegedly because it served beef. One-and-half year of PM Modi’s regime started of high voltage point combined with foreign jaunts and jibes and yet to concretize his electoral promise of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. Subsequently the present government had to give up ‘land acquisition bill’ and frequent disruption of parliament sessions of scams, abuse of power and authority, frivolous utterances and statements by the BJP ministers, MPs, functionaries and also its ideologue RSS and other extreme-fundamentalist organizations. This government is known for bans. Its regulatory bodies and mechanisms have given undue discretionary powers to the administrative system. Police and bureaucracy have assumed too much of power. Stringent details and execution process have been added to the list of the consumption of beef, accompanied by a politically orchestrated hate campaigns and vigilantes against those who are alleged to have slaughtered, stored, eaten and carried beef. All in the name of “cultural annihilation” by fringe elements.Lynching of people from minorities, Dalits and others have become regular features these days. Large sections of the intelligentsia feel revolted by the spreading of intolerance climate. Incidentally, Shorie, a strong supporter of Modi during the Lok Sabha election campaign last year, had said the Centre believes that managing economy means, “managing the headlines” and that people had started recalled the days of former Prime Minister Manmohan singh”. Rejecting the charge, Naidu, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said there has been “no scam, no scandal and not even one mistake” under the government and BJP had been winning elections across the country. He added that “We are a democracy, he (Shourie) has his opinion, but the country’s opinion is different”. Certainly a response of poor taste and logic.
In an unusual move, scientists have demanded PM Modi’s government to take action against saffron bigots. In an unprecedented move over 135 scientists signed online plea addressed to the President. P.M. Bhargava, the founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Molecular Biology and a former vice chairman of the National Knowledge Commission informed the reporter of TOI as part of the excerpts that he returned the Padma Bhushan award as a mark of protest against “the government’s intolerance and the attack of reasoning and science”. He elaborated in his excerpts that “Reasoning and rationalism which are the bedrocks of science, are under attack. This government has no respect for science. But for space and atomic energy allocations for science have been cut. People with rationalistic views are being killed. The Padma Bhushan had a special place in my collection of 100 awards, but now I feel no sentimental attachment to it”.
While elaborating “The attack on beef-eaters is an example, how can a government decide on what people should eat? Charaka (principal contributor to ancient ayurveda) has spelled out the benefits of eating beef, and had prescribed it for people with severe disorders. Functionaries of the government include a lot of people, including the ministers for science and technology”. A large number of scientists feel that this government is systematically curbing the scientific temper. If everyone joins there will be a cultural revolution because these bigots impose their understanding of culture over others. He categorically said that “Don’t mix religion with politics. Keep your belief personal; never ever try to institutionalize them. Don’t tell me what to eat, what to ear and whom to love”.
T.R. Govindarajan, emeritus professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, was among the few scientists from Chennai, Pune and New Delhi who initiated the first on line campaign against the rising intolerance and communal hatred in India. Out of many things he said in his excerpts he urged “The government has to put out a firm statement that it will not tolerate such acts … We should be proud of our great work and there is nothing wrong in projecting that. But it should be based on scientific background. Instead of that, mythological stories are being given too much credence, which is incorrect. Our work on history of science is very minimal, but that should be rational not based on speculative ideas”.
Never in the history of independent India a galaxy of more than 135 scientists across the country has signed an online petition addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee against “the systematic spread of intolerance and communal hatred in the country>’ A couple of factors that led to online petition of the scientific community who candidly expressed the zenith of intolerance and the ways in which science and reason are being eroded in the country. Their statement echoes “The Indian Constitution in Article 51A (h) demands … that we develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing instead is the active promotion of irrational and sectarian thought by important functionaries of the government”. Declaring solidarity with writers who returned their Sahitya Akademi awards, the statement said, “We scientists now join our voices to theirs, to assert that the Indian people will not accept such attacks on reason, science and our plural culture. We reject the narrow view of India that seeks to dictate what people will wear, think, eat and who they will love. We appeal to all other sections of society to raise their voice against the assault on reason and scientific temper who are witnessing in India today”.
Twelve renowned film-makers have also followed suit over “growing intolerance” in the country. In a letter to the President and the PM announcing their decision to relinquish their awards have expressed their dismay over the manner in which the government “stone-walled as students’ peaceful protests and ignored their demands, while the students were publicly disgraced and discredited”. Their letter indicted I & B Ministry over appointment of people “with a narrow vision” to head institutions. Further, their letter also indicated growing atmosphere of intolerance, murders of rationalists and the Dadri lynching. “Condoning deaths without interrogating forces that scripted those murders reveals a tacit acceptance of the ugly forces distorting our country” it said. Amazingly the intellectuals did raise their voice against intolerance which cannot be ignored or taken lightly.
On similar vein, an arm of global ratings agency Moody said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi must keep” his party members in check” from making controversial statements “or risk losing domestic and global credibility”. The agency urged the government to focus its attention on the reforms agenda. The analyst of Moody added that “In recent times, the government also hasn’t helped itself, with controversial comments from various BJP members, While Modi has largely distanced himself from the nationalists’ gibes, the belligerent provocation of various Indian minorities has raised ethnic tensions”. In a convocation address at IIT Delhi, from where he graduated in electrical engineering 30 years ago. Rajan , the Governor of Reserve Bank of India called for tolerance, mutual respect and protection of the right to question and challenge and behave differently so long as it does not hurt other seriously. He clearly implied that “This means encouraging challenge to all authority and tradition, even while acknowledging the only way of dismissing any view is though empirical tests. What this rules out is anyone imposing a particular view or ideology because of their power”.
As an Alma Mater, the RBI Governor, reiterated that “The first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas. This means encouraging challenge to all authority and tradition … the only way of dismissing any view is through empirical tests”. Second essential is to offer “protection, not of specific ideas and traditions, but the right to question and challenge, the right to behave differently”. It simply means that “If what you do offends me but does not harm me otherwise, there should be a very high bar for prohibiting your act … Excessive political correctness stifles progress as much as excessive license and disrespect”. In sum, his address echoed to the emergent climate that “A quick resort to bans will chill all debate as everyone will be anguished by ideas they dislike. It is far better to improve the environment for ideas though tolerance and mutual respect”. Even Infosys co-founder N.R. Naryana Murthy coinciding with other statements expressed concern over rising intolerance in the country by saying that there is a considerable amount of fear in the minds of minorities in India. He asked governments to bring back the sense of confidence. He emphasized that the first priority of this government is to bring back the confidence, the trust in the minds of every Indian that this is our country.
For the third time in about a month, President Pranab Mukherjee called for preserving India’s multiplicity and pluralism and said the nation has thrived due to attributes of assimilation and tolerance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few days ago invoked Sardar Vallabhbhabai Patel to call for unity and harmony saying that Patel did display stellar role in unifying the country. This is the second time in a week PM Modi did speak on the theme of national and social unit emphasizing “India’s diversity being its pride” echoing radio address “Mann Ki Baat”. Inaugurating the 140th birth anniversary of Patel under the theme “Run for Unity” at Rajpath in New Delhi, “If 125 crore Indians with the mantra of unit, peace and harmony together walk one step shoulder to shoulder, then the country will move 125 crores steps in one go”. His comments came against the backdrop of protests by writers, academics and scientists against what they describe as a “growing climate of intolerance”.
Pushing aside these narratives and protests including that of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the President Prnab Mukherjee, BJP’s ideologue and mentor RSS stoked the debate over religion and democracy urged PM Modi’s government to “re-formulate” the national population policy because of the “demographic imbalance” caused by the rise in Muslim population as reflected in the latest census data on religious communities. In its meet it observed that “Bharthiya origin (Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh)” had declined, whereas the spurt in Muslim growth rate, particularly in some areas of the north-east, points to “unnatural growth”. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as usual is trying to defend the government by undermining the protests of the intellectuals as “manufactured mutiny” and in the process the PM happens to be “a victim of intolerance”.
The gravity and intensity of intolerance is growing and seem to be poised for the worst. It is certainly an attack on rationalism and scientific temper. The level of intolerance has reached the highest pitch and point that the freedom of expression is being choked. The government and those agencies that choke the freedom of expression should go back to history and learn what happened to the regimes that curbed the freedom of expression of the intelligentsia. Eminent persons of different fields cutting across the political, religious, ideological, philosophical and academic disciplines and persuasions including the Governor of Reserve Bank and the co-founder of Infosys expressed their views on the present scenario vis-à-vis intolerance. It is ironical and whimsical to read and hear the Finance Minister’s response “manufactured mutiny”. Over and above, his statement about PM Modi as the ‘victim of intolerance’- seem to be over exaggerated having no substance. The Prime Minister cautioned the fringe elements and could perhaps be taken as warning and spoke in depth about the unity and tolerance. The problem with him is he has failed to take action. If the warnings remain at the verbal and not accompanied with stringent actions it would result the way the RSS has just asked the Modi-government to re-look at the population policy.
The far-right organizations and political parties are desperately involved and thus attempting to divide India. Intellectuals of great eminence and repute have written to the President and the Prime Minister to intervene at this point and set the track straight. Protests are mounting that has reached the peak. These protests particularly by the intelligentsia have taken the toll of the ruling dispensation like an avalanche that damaged the image of India. The clouded and fractured mind-sets are all-out to take over the idea of India from liberal democracy and tolerant ethos. India is not a Hindu nation according to our Constitution. Majority of the populace claim to be Hindus but it remains a constitutionally secular republic which it does not officially recognize any religious identity as a defining characteristic and yardstick of an Indian.
BJP-RSS shall not impose their definition on us and thus offer definition that characterizes who is an Indian and what makes him/her as an Indian. The height of intolerance going on in this country can never be dismissed by the BJP. People are gradually losing their confidence on PM Modi and pathologically showing their aversion to Modi’s government. PM Modi and his government seem to be supporting different forms and modes of intolerance. The tirade goes on unabated. One should carefully watch and discern the timings, patterns and symbolism of the fringe groups. All these combines configure and thus inter-mingle with each other.
People at large do not want to buy the argument of the BJP government that the growing protests by the intelligentsia as something “manufactured”. On the contrary, people of standing and reputation have been demanding the PM to intervene and put a stop to the growing menace of ‘intolerance’. People are gradually losing their faith on PM Modi because he has not taken any action on those who makes inflammatory and derogatory statements and remarks. He calls them and warns when under pressure, but hardly have we seen PM Modi taking stringent action. PM Modi should walk the talk. Simply talking without punitive action will not help the nation to move on. If intolerance continues growth, development, progress, prosperity, governance and above all democracy and humanity will be affected and derailed.