BY D.C. PATHAK
The domestic scene in India looks like it is acquiring an air of general disquiet for several reasons — the after effect of ‘communal’ violence in the capital that had caused large casualties and destruction of property, the rising trend of the ‘liberal’ lobby orchestrating criticism of our Supreme Court for its alleged lack of judicial objectivity and the unraveling of institutional profligacy of many financial and corporate bodies as an upshot of the legacy of permissive corruption that had prevailed in India in the regimes gone by.
Unmistakably, this instigated restiveness has become more pronounced ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to power with a much larger majority in 2019 — completing the first tenure with a fairly successful record of governance. He was able to do this largely on the strength of his personal image as a leader of integrity given to taking firm decisions for the people and ruling with a strong hand. This reaffirmation happened — much to the chagrin of his opponents — even when the BJP had failed to retain many crucial states of the Hindi belt in the intervening Assembly elections. The big picture behind what prevails today needs to be looked into so that the country is not caught in a stalemate and held back from making socio-economic progress that it so urgently requires. The crossover to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by Jyotiraditya Scindia speaks of the political credibility that Prime Minister Modi commands today and makes for an improvement in the internal stability of India.
A distinct plank of the renewed campaign of the opposition against the Modi government is the allegation that the latter was pushing the country towards ‘majoritarianism’ — an ambiguous term designed to create the illusion of the advent of a ‘Hindu rule’ — in its watch. This clearly is a repackaged Minority politics. India is the world’s largest functional democracy rooted in universal franchise based on the principle of ‘one man one vote’ and the Indian masses have proved their robust electoral freedom by punishing the perpetrators of the Emergency and later ousting an entrenched regime that had earned a bad name for corruption and ‘policy paralysis’. And this happened in spite of the existence of multiple parties that drew upon ideological, sectarian and regional divides so characteristic of our internal scene.
The political legitimacy of the return of Modi regime has driven its detractors to pushing the Hindu-Muslim divide to the front of their narrative in a more vicious way — by running down the usage of the word ‘nationalism’ as something that was contrary to ‘secularism’ and putting the situation of Muslims in democratic India on the same footing as the minorities had in the Islamic State of Pakistan. They have unwittingly caused a deep-rooted damage to the image of India’s Muslim minority by pushing it to the same side of the fence with Pakistan.
The groups in opposition would have every right to criticise the Modi government if the two basic paradigms of secularism — development for all and equal protection of law for all — were not getting full attention of the state. Considering the reality of law & order being a state subject they would still be entitled to take on the Centre if any case of communally motivated public violence was found to have been neglected by it. They followed none of this logic and just took to a propagandist line alleging that the Muslim minority felt unprotected in Modi rule. They forget that the common folks of all communities in India were preoccupied — all alike — with pursuing their livelihood in a peaceful environ. The opposition had the right to confront the regime on policy issues of citizenship including those related to CAA without joining hands with the Ulema and the communal elite who were only interested in playing up the fears of our Muslim minority for political expediency.
Certainly, upholding the lawlessness practised in the name of anti-CAA protests did not help the cause of the minority — it apparently gave an opportunity to quarters hostile to India to fish in our troubled waters. The democratic instincts of Indians as a whole would not allow persecution of any community through the gross misuse of law. The timing of the Delhi disturbances and the pattern of violence seemed to suggest that something different from the traditional mob violence of a communal riot rooted in a cycle of action and reaction, happened there. This has to be quickly probed and all culprits, including the agents provocateurs, brought to book. Of course, the lesson for the police is that all sensitive areas should be marked from before and effective intervention made on the first signs of tension.
A notably vague but mischievous line of attack on the Modi government these last few months has come from its political opponents masquerading as ‘liberals’ and alleging that the former was a dispensation of the ‘ultra right’ taking the country towards ‘fascism’ in the name of ‘nationalism’. They have insinuated that the regime was somehow able to manoeuvre even the highest judiciary of the land to respond in a certain way on issues like Ayodhya, Kashmir and CAA. There is an attempt to damage the faith of the people in our Supreme Court — an institution installed by the Constitution as the final arbiter of all executive and legislative acts in this country. This is going beyond the legitimate limit of expressing a disagreement with a particular verdict of the Supreme Court — and is a matter of concern.
To add to the impression of a general disquiet in the country on the economic slowdown, a string of cases of important banks being exposed for corporate mis-governance and fraudulent deeds under the watch of this government, have been used by the opposition to question the efficacy of the Modi government even as in many cases the malady was traceable to the times of the UPA rule. A deepseated malaise exposed by these cases is that many bureaucrats retiring from top positions lent their names to the board of directors of private companies for mutual gain and looked the other way when irregularities were committed by the concerned entities. The government may consider using a combination of measures like ‘cooling period’, restriction on the positions of Director for a retired official and an obligation of an independent Director to annually report to the Ministry concerned of the Centre on the responsibilities handled. All this could be suitably brought under the scope of service rules.
The Modi government needs to demonstrate its capacity for prompt remedial administrative and legal action against economic offenders as well as the socio-political activists who committed the crime of creating communal discord. The national security set-up has to gear up to the new task of watching out for internal destabilisation at the hands of agents provocateurs and colluders of foreign adversary on our soil and expanding the intelligence oversight on the same. Indian democracy needs protection against internal threats as much as the security it requires against an attack from outside. The anti-CAA agitation and the extensive violence it has led to in Delhi have further encouraged the Pak agencies to step up their operational effort to ‘radicalise’ vulnerable youth and put them on to the path of militancy. This is a major threat to our internal security at present.
(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)