Sundry thoughts on political tirth-yatra

July 5, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

[The only things that can save our future as a proud democratic and secular nation are clear thinking and courage to act. Otherwise we will continue to be duped by various devices as our history of last 70 years has proved.]

During the elections the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was beckoned by his god to meditate in Kedarnath cave, in solitude. But since he is the PM the cameras in the cave did not violate his solitude. This was a confirmation to the voters that he is a Hindu before being the Prime Minister of India. Of course, he has the freedom to ‘practice’ his religion and no one has the right to question his religious beliefs. But one wonders if symbolic use of religious acts to remind the voters their shared faith is all that innocuous. One also wonders if the government paid for his private visit to Kedarnath, and if that is legitimate expenditure for a secular state.

The so-called secular parties which took pride in cosying up with Islamic practices like iftar parties and usually down played their Hindu practices are now catching up. It started with ‘secular to the core’ politicians flaunting their multicoloured pooja threads on their right wrists. The pooja thread works as a symbol to remind the public that the person bearing it is a Hindu or at the least respects Hindu practices. In the times gone by this thread used to be a thin single strand wrapped around the religious ceremony participants’ wrist in such a manner that it automatically unwrapped in the first bath or washing of hands. As per the custom one is not supposed to deliberately break or remove it. Now for some inexplicable reason it has become thick like a rope and tied with such care that is impossible to come untied by itself. And since it is not supposed to be deliberately removed and the politicians attend numerous religious occasions, the multiple coloured ropes around their writs proclaim their respect for the Hindu rituals as well as bread germs as they become quite dirty in a few days.

Now it seems a very very secular son of Dilli called Aravind Kejriwal has proclaimed “To all the elderly citizens of Delhi, I want to say, this son of yours will send you on at least one ‘tirth yatra’ in your lifetime” (The Hindu, 5th July 2019). By this time I am sure the images of Shravan Kumar taking his parents on pilgrimage on his shoulders are vivid in the minds of many of the devote Hindus of Delhi, or that is what this avatar of Shravan Kumar hopes. One wonders if a secular Delhi Government is within its legal bounds in spending hundreds of crores in such a flagrant act of luring voters on their religious sentiments.

Till 2014 all parties used Muslim religious sentiments to assure the Muslim community of their ‘secularism’. This was under the belief—true or not—that Muslims vote en-block and thus can act as a veto to making government at the centre, even if cannot by themselves ensure coming to power. In last two general elections the BJP has countered this ‘secular’ strategy by consolidating Hindu votes by the same trick played on the larger community; and Hindus being in overwhelming majority can actually ensure coming to power, as they did, over riding so-far believed Muslim veto.

The awakening of ‘secular’ parties to a need to dupe Hindus by playing with their religious sentiments started becoming visible through the thick pooja threads on political wrists. Now that gesture is being taken to the next level by Mr. Kejriwal through his Shravan Kumar act.

This act certainly is against the spirit of secular constitution, I am not sure if it is downright illegal and whether can be taken to the court.

Our politicians have proved themselves man and women without principles. We as voters so far have been easy to dupe, have proved ourselves excessively selfish, completely devoid of thinking of greater common good and myopic to the core. This has brought our democracy to a perilous situation. Every single retrograde practice of the society is being used to the hilt to capture power, be that caste or religion or any other kind of conflict in the society. The crude force that was used in a feudal setup to control populace has been replaced by chains in the mind, which are even more dangerous to humanity.

There is an all-round attack on clear thinking, rationally held convictions and courage to act. The tools come in all imaginable kinds of shapes and sizes. Ranging from blatant play on caste and religious sentiments, drawing people into cycle of consumerism and leaving no place to think by bombarding people with half-truths and dubious opinions. Sadly, this very post is likely to add to the last-mentioned tool of dumbing down clear thinking.

Caste and religious thinking charge our minds. The cycle of loan-buy-earn-pay-more-loan leaves us with no time to reflect. In such a situation reasoned convictions get no chance of forming, and if formed erode quickly. Bombardment of half-understood half-truths through social media serves in creating a false belief of being well-informed, knowledgeable and produces an illusion of thinking for ourselves. The only way to break free of the sinister web is to reflect. And reflect we don’t.

Gita warns against loss of clear thinking:

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोहः सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः | स्मृतिभ्रंशाद्बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति || २.६३ ||

“Anger produces confusion, confusion produces loss of memory, loss of memory produces destruction of the mind, and because the mind is destroyed, he perishes.”

The cycle does not need to start with anger, though that is being stocked through religion and caste. It can actually start directly with ‘sammoh’ (confusion or bewilderment). The politicians and mass media presently focus on this. The rest of the cycle progresses to logical end by itself.

Socrates declared unexamined life as unworthy of living. But was also aware that his audience is unlikely to believe him: “you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you.” He was right, and he could not persuade his audience. Nor are we persuaded by him today, we do not examine our beliefs about what our politicians say and do seriously enough.

The only things that can save our future as a proud democratic and secular nation are clear thinking and courage to act. Otherwise we will continue to be duped by various devices as our history of last 70 years has proved.

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Kejriwal and the court

May 24, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

We need some facts, and without beating around the bush: 1. is Kejriwal charged with criminal defamation? 2. Does Kejriwal’s statement about Nitin Gadkari being corrupt constitute prima facie evidence (till his claim is proved in the court) for criminal defamation? 3. In such cases is it within the courts purview to ask the respondent to furnish bail in such cases?

If the answer to three questions is yes, Kejriwal is violating the judicial norms and should be in the jail. If the answer is NO, the court is being unjust with Kejriwal. So what are the answers to these questions? We need to think is we are ready to accept that respondents are not needed to furnish bail; whoever they might be and whosoever might be the defamed, think of you and me and every one as a petitioner and respondent.

Kejriwal’s cleverly drafted letter does not answer these questions. Fight against corruption has to be fought within legal framework of the country. If the framework is wrong it has to be fought differently and at other forums. Kejriwal’s argument that other courts allowed him to go free on the basis of muchalka, does not mean that becomes his right. This court thinks differently, and may be within its powers in thinking differently. There are too many examples of brow beating the courts and it’s summons in our country. There are non-bailable warrants pending against religious leaders and other people who have power to disrupt law and order and go free through threats. Kejriwal, if he is a real reformer, should not add to that list.

Comparing Kejriwal with Gandhi is plain wrong. Gandhi declared the British Raj illegitimate. Does Kejriwal declare Indian government illegitimate? He is doing politics of remaining in public mind, if the answer to my three Qs is yes; and banking on public gullibility as usual. His politics has always been unreliable, irresponsible and self-centred. If the public accepts this style of politics and gets on this bandwagon in a major way, his today’s supporters will be dealing with a dictator in 15-20 years. He is equivalent in politics what Nirmal Babas are in religion.

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AAP: Is the hope still alive?

January 25, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

This morning I received AAP’s mail, the general mail which they send to everyone in their mailing list, stating in brief their position on Barati issue and Kejriwal’s dharna. The email also had a video link. I started with that link and spent about 3 hours trying to look at several other videos, including other media reports and interviews with various AAP leaders.

I know what I say in this blog next is going to prove me jaldbaaz, impatient, biased etc. But in the interest of fairness I must admit that there are many things I did not know, may have been biased. I took a principled position, but on incomplete information. I still hold the principles: constitutionally elected people have to function within its limits. We can hope any positive changes only from those who understand the constitutional obligations and don’t play the same power games.

But in the light of the new information I gained in my careful watching of the videos shows that the absolute position I was taking about Kejriwal and Bharati was mistaken.

1. It seems that the residents of the colony Khidki had been complaining to the police for long and several FIRs are already in the police records on this issue. The police took no action to investigate into the case.

2. Bharati did aske for the raid, yes, but it seems in the case of drugs police has the power to conduct a raid on the basis of FIR and judicial warrant is not necessarily required. (I am assuming this to be true, am not sure.) Alternately the police can cordon and seal a building without entering it and can acquire the needed warrant before the raid. This is within the powers of the police on the basis of reliable information.

3. There was reasonably reliable information on the basis of the testimony of the residents, sting operation of a TV channel and actual scenes on the roads that drug abuse and flash trade (?) might be going on in the said building(s).

If 1 to 3 above is correct information my accusation of not following due procedures and becoming law unto himself on Bharati were mistaken.

Kejriwal seems to be saying that dharna became a necessity because the central government was not prepared to follow due procedure. There were complaints against the SHOs and the government took no action. The government was not prepared to conduct a time bound enquiry against them in spite of there being a prima face justification in terms of either collusion or inaction. An enquiry without removing (for the time of enquiry) the officer in question from his position is unlikely be fare. I find this reasonable. If Kejriwal had to go on dharana to challenge this inaction on the part of the government, my charge on him of breaking constitutional norms was wrong.

I am writing this correction to my last blog in the interest of fairness. I know readers of this blog are only my friends, so it is to explain to them, nothing more. I must have collected more information before forcefully condemning AAP on these two issues.

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AAP: The death of democratic India’s newest hope

January 23, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

Many of my friends are ardent supporters of AAP. They see a hope in the meteoric rise of AAP– portrayed by likes of Arvinds, Somnaths, and Kumars—to power. I wondered right from the beginning of Hazare’s movement against corruption whether it represents any sociopolitical thought or is just an expression of collective frustration and gullibility of the propel. A relatively more self-righteous and ambitious faction of that movement formed AAP which is revealing their abysmally low level of ethical development and understanding in Delhi in the full glare of the media these days.

Democracies are supposed to run on the public will. But public will by its very nature cannot be unified and unidirectional. It necessarily involves contradictions, differences of opinions and differences of forms of good life imagined. The forms of good life a khaap member, a sophisticated university professor, a bureaucrat, a poojari and a maulvi imagines is not necessarily the same. Nor every citizen of a democratic country has the larger vision to see the contradiction between his/her own imagination of good life and the possible collective ways of living in a democracy that provide space for realizing individual/group aspirations in a regulated sociopolitical space. Therefore, all democracies require at the least three things to function properly:

1. A normative rational framework to decide acceptability and limits of public aspirations and acceptability of imagined ways of living. A moral and legal framework.
2. A procedural framework to implement that accepted legal-moral framework. (The constitution defines both these frameworks together)
3. A critical mass of people who understand and have conviction in that constitutional framework.

We as a nation do have that constitutional framework. What we lack is critical mass of people who understand this and have conviction in it. Our political parties—-Congress, BJP, various left of the center factions and regional fiefdoms, all–continuously demonstrated a lack of conviction in the democratic norms; of both procedural as well as moral nature. They have depleted the critical mass of people who have democratic convictions and understanding in any robust sense. An average Indian is a non-thinking self-seeker. The rampant corruption is only one of many manifestations of this lack of conviction and understanding.

AAP came to power in Delhi on the promise that it will remove corruption, which will lead to proper functioning of the constitutional framework, resulting in providing unbiased just space to people to realize their aspirations. The frustration of the public with political parties developed an extreme form of gullibility, and the people did not examine the capability to understand and strength of conviction of those who were promising to remove corruption and make the constitution function properly.

The AAP leaders’ limitation of understanding, lack of conviction and deep dishonesty is a matter of daily display on the roads of Delhi these days.

Many people knew that Arvind Kejriwal was never an honest person who respected any legal and procedural norms. His non-compliance to service rules in IT department and refusal to pay back to the government salary for two years leave clearly shows that he was never averse to using public funds for his personal gain—-the main form of corruption in Indian politics. So he was as corrupt in his limited capacities as any other Indian politician.

Lately he has shown his complete disregard for any legal and procedural norms by going on dharna. Somnath Bharati is declaring himself law unto himself, declaring people criminals, wants to be judge, jury, prosecutor and executioner rolled into one. Some obscure figure called Kumar Vishwas gets cheep sexual thrills when a nurse feels his pulse and therefore recommends ‘unattractive’—in his view—‘kaali peeli’ nurses, who can be seen as sisters.

All this shows the wretchedness of their ways of thinking, abysmal lack of ethical development and arrogant self-righteousness. These certainly are not the ‘new netas’ who can serve people and uphold democratic norms. They are thriving on promises and lack of critical thinking on the part of the public. This only proved that any bunch of self-seeking idiots can project themselves as saviors of the public in the present Indian political climate. And the gullible frustrated public will lap up any hope thrown at them by media mechanisms.

This is the death of democratic India’s newest hope. The nation still has to awaken and construct more robust hopes, and they can emerge only through intense churning of ideas in the masses. Can Professor Yadav pay attention on producing that churning rather than pinning his hopes on this by now notorious mindless self-righteous brigade?
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