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Why is Modi govt facing crises?

Why is Modi govt facing crises?
Highlights

When you let the Djin out of the bottle, it chooses its own course, its own victims. Whether it is released accidentally or in a planned manner as...

PM should ponder over why a government with a comfortable majority, with powerful and resourceful allies in and outside Parliament, is facing crises. Before this ‘tolerance’ bit could be settled (if that is at all possible), a larger, more divisive, debate has erupted on who is a ‘nationalist’ and who is “anti-national.” Why is Modi repeating his charge of a ‘conspiracy’ being hatched against his government?

When you let the Djin out of the bottle, it chooses its own course, its own victims. Whether it is released accidentally or in a planned manner as part of an agenda, widespread damage is assured before it is back in the bottle, if at all, leaving behind lasting scars on the society.

This is happening as the country suffers yet another self-inflicted turmoil. Ignited in Hyderabad University and then Jawaharlal Nehru University, the fire has singed a score of universities. Violence in words is becoming the norm, at times exploding into action. As even responsible, resourceful people express fear, the society is distracted and divided on multiple lines.

For much of last year, we had a raging debate on ‘tolerance’ or the absence of it in our political and social discourse. The word ‘tolerance’ smacks of being patronizing and ideally, we should be debating mutual ‘acceptance’. But let us leave that behind in these divisive times when our food, dress code and much else are sought to be stipulated.

Before this ‘tolerance’ bit could be settled (if that is at all possible), a larger, more divisive, debate has erupted on who is a ‘nationalist’ and who is “anti-national.” In grim reminders of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, the national flag is being flaunted to dare critics. Goons posing as students and some in lawyers’ jackets are beating up people in broad daylight, even in court premises.

Unable to protect an accused in their custody appearing before a court from attack, the Delhi Police look on, showing reverence to the “court officers.” The same police had overdone it with its own violence when the Nirbhaya rape-murder issue rocked Delhi’s streets in 2012.

The Supreme Court has intervened, but there is no guarantee that Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU Students’ Union President, would not be attacked again. The apex court may have a valid reason in not entertaining his bail plea at its level. But it should note that while Kumar remained in jail, the offending lawyer – only one was detained although many more were involved -- was promptly bailed out.

Nothing happened to the Delhi legislator belonging to the BJP. The term ‘alleged’ to describe his involvement is not needed since he boasted about it and promised to repeat it. The lawyers beating up media personnel, who simply went to cover Kumar’s appearance before the court, boasted their political affiliation. Their behavior can have political motivation. But what about the Delhi Police chief B S Bassi?

When Rajnath Singh’s job seemed on the line, the government found a scapegoat in Bassi, whose defence of his force and the marauding lawyers was indefensible. It did not make Bassi a Member of the Central Information Commission.

The government and the BJP have allergy to everything Nehruvian. That has extended to the university named after him because traditionally, the Left groups have dominated among its teacher and students who have never been attracted to the right wing discourse. If the idea was to confront the extremists among the Left and the Islamist and separatist groups, it got botched up by the BJP proxies. Lacking in any intellectual understanding, they took to violence using nationalism as a subterfuge. Not surprising, they have attracted the ire of the public, the student community and the judiciary.

More brazen and bizarre is the video of Kumar’s plea for ‘azaadi’ from upper caste oppression/dominance at a JNU rally. Forensic experts have indicated that the video purporting to show Kumar shouting “anti-national” slogans – the main piece of evidence for hauling him in on the grave charge of sedition – could have been doctored.

Based on that, Rajnath Singh and Urban Development Minister Venkiah Naidu accused Kumar and other JNU students of anti-national activities. Singh went to the extent of alleging ‘support’ from Pakistani terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed although his ministry officials said they had no evidence.

This BJP penchant for injecting the Pakistan angle into domestic issues remains inexplicable considering that its own Prime Minister visited Lahore and smoked the peace pipe with his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif. Little wonder, a bemused Pakistani media cautions the Indians against falling prey to the ‘machinations’ that characterised the witch-hunting and the so-called Islamization they faced under Gen Zia-ul-Haq.

The political grape wine has it that the JNU issue was allowed to exacerbate to divert attention from the debate on intolerance. If so, it has boomeranged. Modi and BJP did not have to do all this after winning the 2014 popular mandate. They could have pushed the agenda on the lines of the arguably successful “Gujarat Model.” But they have had to, since the overweening impact of their ‘cultural’ mentor is too big.

This is the ‘package’ that the people of India have wittingly or otherwise voted for when they rejected the Congress and its non-performing government. The world is laughing at India’s “yet again” show. Like Modi’s “acchey din” assurance and the earlier “Incredible India” line have come to be ridiculed. There cannot be economic development without social harmony. America’s Ivy League universities have expressed solidarity with the JNU and Noam Chomsky and Nobel Laureates Orhan Pamuk and Amartya Sen have spoken up.

The government overreach has undermined the autonomy of institutions of higher education. Making her political point in the wake of JNU stir, HRD Minister Smriti Irani, herself a college dropout, got university Vice-Chancellors to agree to flying the national flag on their offices. Even the mast of the flag was prescribed. The cost of hoisting each flag would be Rs 4.5 million – that could have funded higher studies of some deserving students. While there can be no objection to the flag fluttering, she should know that patriotism cannot be instilled and nationalism cannot be force-fed to the public.

A direct fall-out of the UoH/JNU stir is that the Kashmir separatists, who stay low-key outside of the Valley, have raised slogans at many campuses. The Valley itself has witnessed yet another round of violence after the Afzal Guru hanging got highlighted. The effect is one of scratching drying or dried wounds to let the blood ooze.

Another fall-out of the majoritarian discourse is that Modi’s pro-poor and pro-Dalit claims have rung hollow. Following Rohith Vemula suicide, he protested that there were efforts to take the Dalits away from him? Whose effort is that, Modiji?

The upper castes are emboldened as they feel ‘deprived’ in terms of jobs and higher education. The reservation issue has been settled fairly and squarely in favour of the Dalits and other backward castes by the Supreme Court. There is no room for reservations in jobs and education for the upper and intermediary castes. Yet, the Patels are restive in Gujarat and Hardik is jailed on sedition charge.

The demand by Jats, Gujjars, Kapus and Yadavs for entry into the reserved category is not new, but was in the past kept on the backburner. Now the Jats are on streets, on highways and on rail tracks in Rajasthan and Haryana. They are destroying public property and disrupting movement of transport. The latest move is to block water supply to Delhi.

On the day his Cabinet Secretary hosted an emergency meeting to tackle the water crisis, with the National Security Advisor and chiefs of the Army and the Intelligence Bureau attending, Modi repeated his charge of a ‘conspiracy’ being hatched against him and to topple his government. He should ponder over why a government with a comfortable majority, with powerful and resourceful allies in and outside Parliament, is facing this crisis. Only he has the answers.

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