Every once in a while, India dares to dream, and every time it steps on its own dream. The Nehruvian dream came to an end in 1962. Indira Gandhi dreamt big in 1971, but it all came crashing down with the Emergency.Rajiv ushered in big hopes, but crash-landed with Bofors. Rao teetered in 1992, and Sonia-Manmohan soared high until corruption engulfed them. Modi’s dream should not end with bulldozers.
Out in America, they are asking if India is exterminating Muslims. And the Americans questioning are those who are very fond of Hindu spiritualism. What has gone wrong with India, once again, they ask. Ambedkar & Co. studied many constitutions and blessed us with a fine document. All we needed to do was follow it and we would have soon been in the First World. The job of the judiciary is one of being a strict interpreter (and nothing else) of the Constitution and the laws of the land.
Post that fateful day in December 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished, an act was passed by parliament. It promised to preserve the status quo ante of all religious places of worship in the country. That was it. There would be no more Babri Masjid-Ram temple disputes.
Where then was the need for the lower court to order an inspection of the Kashi temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex? The court was playing with fire. The temple-mosque complex had to be preserved as is. There should have been no tinkering with its status.There is no doubt that a majoritarian wave has engulfed the country and that one particular minority feels that it is under siege. Every time the country seems to move ahead, the majority and this minority collide and give India a bad name. Democracy is often called a tyranny of the majority. One faith-based political party has ridden to power cleverly exploiting this defect of democracy.
It was always clear that some fanatics would not stop at the Babri Masjid, that they would go after Kashi and Mathura and even the Taj Mahal. Ayodhya has lost its use. Keep the pot boiling, and one could rule India forever.The besieged minority has many aggressive spokespeople. But so does the ruling party. Repeat offenders are cast into the cauldron of TV debates. The besieged minority knows that it has no one on its side, so it screeches and insults.
The ruling party’s people screech because the levers of power are under their control. By screeching and insulting, they endeavour to become all the more powerful. Party bosses don’t stop them. In fact, by their silence, they seem to goad them on.
Until India crashes into the reality of the international world. No longer is India an aspiring First Worlder. It is once again a Third World country at odds with itself. The Iranian foreign minister rushes to India to protect its minorities, conveniently forgetting that minorities in his own country (Sunni Muslims) are persecuted regularly.He is reportedly told by the country’s national security advisor that those responsible for insulting a religious prophet will be taught a lesson that they will never forget. The statement became controversial so the Iranians deleted it.
But the NSA surely knew that his country was a ticking time bomb, and that the genie was out of the bottle. Detractors of the ruling party’s spokesperson wanted her arrested. Her supporters insisted that she had said nothing false. The country was polarized once again.The besieged minority took to violence. The powers that be had to show that they were curbing this violence with a firm hand. They had built their reputations on decisiveness and firmness. Their base expected them to act firmly.
Bulldozers were brought out, crushing houses of those in the besieged minority. It didn’t matter who was a stone pelter and who was not. The message had to be sent out. Violence would not be tolerated. A good message no doubt, but the nation, and the world stood bull-dazed.
The prime minister has carefully crafted his persona internationally, especially in the Muslim world. All that has come crashing down. Actually that persona was not that difficult to craft initially.
India had aligned itself with Israel, which had aligned itself with the Sunni Gulf States to curb Iran. A friend of a friend is a friend, so India got pally with the Sunni Gulf States. Now the images coming out of India are shocking the world.All of this would have been negated if the ruling party and its sympathizers in the judiciary had just decided to respect the laws of the land. As noted earlier, India has had fine rulers, but each one has erred. Not in full measure, but very substantially.
One need look no further than what happened in 1975. A judge of the Allahabad High Court rescinded the election of the then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi. Instead of stepping down, Gandhi applied a very heavy hand. She was never the same again. If she had just followed the judge’s order, she may have still played a brilliant innings.Some people in the ruling party are determined to revise history and take back their country. But two wrongs never make a right. Or in the immortal words of Gandhi, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
India is going blind today. There are public calls for beheadings. Heavens, we are not some sort of tin-pot mobocracy. Just go to the courts, everyone. But if the courts themselves are compromised, what is one to do? Should India kiss its dream of becoming a First World country goodbye and keep wrangling with itself?