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The mukhota has finally slipped

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
Last updated on: February 18, 2016 12:45 IST
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'What is holding this government to ransom is the Parivar,' says Saisuresh Sivaswamy.
'It is this group's thought process, ideals and philosophies that course through the veins of India's elected government. And it is this that is holding the government, and through it the country, to ransom.'

Then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at an RSS shakha.As I write this, a full 48 hours have passed since the orchestrated assault on journalists inside New Delhi's Patiala House court complex on Monday. In this time, neither the prime minister nor the information and broadcasting minister and his junior minister -- all loquacious gentlemen, both online and off -- have uttered a single word condemning the attacks.

Why should they react to each and every violent incident, I can hear the supporters of this dispensation scream. And there is this argument, obviously coming from a federal high horse: Law and order is a state subject, should the Union government intervene every time something happens somewhere?

As for the first line of defence, while it is true that the central government has many things to bother about other than a violent incident in a court complex, Monday's event was not just another fracas that this country is full of.

It was not a random attack, but an assault on the Press (spelt with a capital P). Which, for the benefit of an inexperienced bunch, is the fourth pillar of democracy, the other three being the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

Ordinarily, an attack on any of these pillars is a matter of grave concern, but not so to our Facebooking, blogging, tweeting ministers and their ilk.

The inference from such silence can only be: Either their silence is a sign of their tacit approval for the attack on the media -- 'news traders', the prime minister had himself described the fourth estate to us as early as 2009, when he was campaign manager for a man he was to cast aside five years later; and to one of his ministers goes the eternal credit of dubbing us 'presstitutes', oh, such is the high regard they hold the fourth estate in -- or, they believe the media -- English media, specifically -- deserves the beatings.

As for the second argument trotted out by the apologists of the dispensation, the federal line, it doesn't hold, especially since the I&B minister was not constrained by any such principle when two of Times Now correspondents were beaten up in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month. 'Attack on journalists in Uttar Pradesh is condemnable. An independent probe into the incident should be carried out,' he had tweeted then.

Alas, a more egregious attack happens in the nation's capital, inside the court premises, at a time when the I&B minister was physically present in the court, and yet he finds no time, or words, to condemn the attack.

The inference is clear. This government has taken the George W Bush line, from another era, another war, to heart. Either you are with them, or against them.

This is the doctrine that runs through this government's interactions and dealings with the other three pillars of democracy.

It is this very same 'with us or against us' doctrine that has paralysed Parliament into a standstill, its legislative powers suborned by the arrogance of parliamentary numbers unseen in 30 years.

Homilies aside about the greatness of democracy, the need for consensus, an inclusive India, all of which is geared to an audience in world capitals where alone this government measures its worth, for those of us in India it has been week after week of the sorry sight of an administration that knows not how to administer, a government ill-equipped to govern, ministers powerless and speechless before the Prime Minister's Office.

The prime minister is right, one family is indeed holding this country to ransom, but it is not the one in New Delhi.

What is holding this government to ransom is the Parivar. It is this group's thought process, ideals and philosophies that course through the veins of India's elected government. And it is this that is holding the government, and through it the country, to ransom.

Of course, there would have been nothing wrong had the prime minister said so when he, in many commentators' words, blitzed an election campaign that shocked and awed in equal measure two years ago.

Or maybe he did, but so shocked and awed were we that one did not see the signs that were evident even then.

For it was no secret that even as he ran a campaign focusing on the big picture stuff like boosting economic growth, restoring dignity and respect to the prime minister's post, at another level his cohorts were saying and doing the same old, usual things that has kept the Bharatiya Janata Party in the reckoning. It was a mask worn to perfection.

It was all like what has been happening these last few days. Like when goons are having a field day in the court premises, picking and choosing their prey with delight, the government was elsewhere, wearing the Make in India mask and pitching to a still sceptical global industry.

It is the mask that enables the government to hide its true intentions. Which is to control and corrupt an established system to its image.

So when the government chafes at the Rajya Sabha playing hard ball with it over important legislation, in particular one bloc standing in its way, it wants the legislation of its choice, cast in its image with no scope for amendments or improvements and wants others to go along with it.

It displays none of the finesse required to deal with its opponents in a democratic manner. I have the might of numbers, so the right is naturally mine, goes its thinking, unmindful of the fact that checks and balances were built into the democratic system precisely to prevent such an ODing on power.

When it tries to change the convention of judges' appointments, bringing political sanction over the method of brother judges choosing each other, it wants to directly control the judiciary, which has not hesitated to pull up the government for its various acts of omission and commission, even Constitutional overreach.

A 'committed judiciary' is what one erstwhile strong prime minister had sought; her successor wants more, a bespoke judiciary. But the mask comes in handy to cover up the real intentions, whereby one can talk of the horror of 'judges electing themselves.'

So, whether it is the refusal to adapt to parliamentary methods while dealing with the Opposition, trying to muscle in on how judges are appointed, and turning a blind eye to journalists being assaulted in the course of duty right in the capital city, they are all part of the same mindset.

One that seeks to control, corrupt, and ultimately recast.

Words to the contrary that spew out on a regular basis are nothing but a mask. It is the studied silence that tells you when the mask has slipped.

IMAGE: Then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi at an RSS shakha.

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