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'Modi must recognise this huge blot...'

July 31, 2017 11:21 IST

'In the three years since 2014 social tyranny has become a very real problem.'
'The government has denounced this tyranny -- once in a while.'
'But its supporters in North India bash on regardless,' says T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

For the last three years, an old word has been renewed, not without sufficient reason, 'tyranny'. A very close relative is 'intolerance'.

Much has been made of this word by historians and politicians when discussing British rule in India (1757-1947). But as I wasn't born then, I wouldn't know.

On the whole, though, I think the British, by simply leaving 99.9 per cent of the population alone for 99.9 per cent of the time, couldn't have been all that tyrannical.

They might have been greedy, rapacious, hypocritical, racist and all of that. But tyrannical? Hardly.

Tyranny happens when the government intrudes and controls every aspect of your life.

So we have to rethink tyranny and intolerance in the light of what has happened since 1947.

In India tyranny comes in three forms.

And it can come one at a time; or two at a time; or all together.

We have experienced all three forms.

The form everyone likes to talk about is political tyranny.

It involves dealing with the police, which is never easy. This is what we saw during the Emergency (1975-1977).

The second form is economic tyranny. It has been in place since the mid-1950s.

Under this form of tyranny, if you are a businessman, you can't make a move without the government's permission.

But on the whole, this is a milder form of tyranny because widespread bribery dilutes it considerably.

The third form is social tyranny. We have had this for the last 2,000 years via the solidification of the caste system and since 1947 we have added a new form, communal tyranny.

It has been on the ascendant since 2014. In the first two forms the government is an active agent because the police, the bureaucracy, and/or ministers are involved.

But in the third it is a passive agent: Its party does all the gadbad while the government pretends all is well.

In that sense the governments are like catalysts. They don't participate in the process but they do start it and keep it going.

Thus, if in the 1970s in Tamil Nadu the DMK practised caste tyranny, today the BJP government is allowing communal tyranny.

In fairness to the DMK, though, it never allowed violence against the Brahmins.

By and large this is a North Indian speciality.

The Congress, having been in power for so long, has been a great one at economic and political tyranny.

So today when it talks about tyranny, it is talking only of one aspect of it, the BJP's unforgivably permissive attitude towards mob violence and atrocities against Indian citizens whose only fault is that they are Muslims.

Where economic tyranny is concerned, the Congress choked off India's economic prospects in the name of socialism.

We are still living with its statist legacy, which the BJP seems to love, but is relinquishing reluctantly.

As to political tyranny the Congress once took it to another level altogether. The 38th Amendment to the Constitution in 1975 empowered the government to remove the fundamental rights of the citizen.

The 39th Amendment, also in 1975, placed the President, vice-president, prime minister, and the Lok Sabha Speaker beyond the jurisdiction of the courts, for everything including perhaps murder.

And the 42nd Amendment -- which came to be known as the 'Constitution of Indira' -- reduced the powers of the courts to pronounce on the Constitutional validity of laws.

It also spelt out our 'Fundamental Duties'.

The same Congress today likes to talk about the idea of India.

Social tyranny is absolutely the hardest to handle because it is not the government, but a violent mob that makes demands on citizens while the government does its catalysing act by its non-participation in the process.

It's exactly like an indulgent parent ignoring an unruly offspring who is smashing your TV.

In the three years since 2014 this has become a very real problem. The government has denounced such tyranny -- once in a while. But its supporters in North India bash on regardless, literally.

The more intellectual amongst the government's supporters have tried to deny this with the support of data.

But the question is not about data; it is about what the German philosophers call zeitgeist, or the spirit of the times. Arrests after the event dont change the zeitgeist.

Prime Minister Narendra D Modi must recognise this huge blot on his three-year stewardship of the country.

The political costs are enormous: The BJP only needs to lose 12 seats in 2019 to lose its majority in Parliament.

T C A Srinivas-Raghavan
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