People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 04, 2007
Gujarat Govt And The Indian Constitution
HAS the leadership of the Gujarat government been elected to implement or continuously violate the Indian Constitution? This is a question that no political group can afford to ignore. During the last two decades we have become somewhat used to the various organisations of the Sangh Parivar carrying on their hate campaigns and rioting, and getting away with not only infringing the fundamental, civil rights of Indian citizens but also putting to the dustbin all constitutional guarantees. But when a duly elected government makes it a rule rather than exception to do the same every single day, what is to be done?
“Human rights” has been a dirty word for many of us, and there have been justifications for that. Most of the western funded ‘human rights’ organisations were busy fighting the Cold War for Imperialism and did not concern themselves with much more than searching for ‘abuses of power’ by third world governments they thought were not falling in line. Since then the concept has grown in interpretation and canvas. It is now accepted as meaning right to life and dignity and freedom of speech and much more. The right to life is further perceived to include livelihood, education, shelter and such like.
Given this enlarged and deeper understanding of human rights, many legitimately elected governments can be shown to be unconcerned with the large majority of their citizens. The Indian government and many of the state governments can be said to be callous with regard to human development factors; they have allowed social justice to become a casualty, and have been complicit in condoning violence against the poor, the lower castes and minorities. There have been not many convictions for communal violence for instance, and hardly any for violence against dalits. This has something to do with ruling class politics and class societies, and has to be fought against within the system as part of minimum programme for democracy, and by working towards eliminating the system, as part of maximum programme.
INSTITUTIONALISING FEAR AND TERROR
But what the Modi government has been doing in the last four years is rather exceptional. In many ways what his government is doing today surpasses even its complicity and active role in the killings of Muslims and Christians in the state. It has put in place and insitutionalised a social and political set up where the infringement of the Indian Constitution rather than its safeguard has become the duty of the officialdom and administration in the state.
The Gujarat government is continuously and without let up sustaining a situation in the state where a very large section of the population simply cannot lead ordinary lives, leave alone what we consider normal lives, and attend to their everyday needs of survival and livelihoods — needs that an individual has to fend for by himself/herself in a capitalist society. The ‘market’ has been closed to them, because the state government handicaps them by maintaining a very unequal, ‘not level’ playing field, in fact not allowing them on the field at all. They cannot pray without fear, they cannot speak out for fear of reprisals, and they can hardly be expected to organise themselves for protest given the reality of economic boycotts and police intimidation on a daily basis. The storm troopers of the Parivar with their easy access to government offices do not make life any easier for them. The numbers of these people runs into lakhs.
Narendra Modi’s government has preferred to return to the centre funds which were meant for rehabilitation. Certainly, governments fail to spend funds meant for welfare, and often welfare does not reach those it is really meant for – for various reasons – but here is a government announcing with fanfare that those who are living in dilapidated relief camps as victims of communal killings do not need welfare, or that his government does not think they merit welfare. The UPA government has not been able to do anything about it despite numerous citizens’ reports highlighting the plight of these citizens, nor has it been able to defy the Sangh Parivar by implementing equal compensation for all ‘riot’ victims. The UPA minister who announced that victims of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom will receive compensation equal to those of 1984 has quietly backtracked.
Had it not been for some courageous individuals, groups and Left mass organisations what is happening in Gujarat would not even reach public notice, and the Muslims and Christians of Gujarat would feel themselves utterly alone and unwanted by the country of their birth and choice. They are the hope and silver lining in the firmament as far as minorities are concerned. But they are in no position to change things.
What is to be done then — to strengthen the citizens groups and Left mass organisations in the Gujarat state, and for ensuring accountability of the Gujarat government to the Indian Constitution?
It goes without saying that what can be done about Narendra Modi and his government has to be within the bounds of the Indian Constitution and desirable political practice. There is also the federal principle that most political parties respect, and which the Gujarat government and the UPA government are taking full advantage of — the Gujarat government by doing what pleases it, and the UPA by not doing what it does not want to.
However we may analyse the situation or characterise it – as fascism or anything else – for a very large number of people in the state life is not very different from that of Jews in Nazi Germany.
In this situation, which could well arise in another state in different circumstances, the crucial question is: are lakhs of people in one particular state of the Union destined to suffer until they themselves feel empowered to resist, or their fellow citizens in the state empathise with their plight and vote out the offensive government? There are the courts and our judicial system of course, but we can see that this route is not making much headway, precisely due to the over-active Gujarat government and its Parivar.