As the year goes by

Year 2019 has been eventful for the India: Pulwama, Balakot, 17 th Lok Sabha, Article 370, Hyderabad Nirbhaya, Ayodhya verdict and NRC-CAA. Each of these events have ramifications beyond the immediate.

The Pulwama terrorist attack, Balakot air strike and Lok Sabha election results happened not just sequentially but also consequentially. Pulwama provided the justification for Balakot. Questions about intelligence failure in Pulwama and doubts on efficacy of Balakot strike notwithstanding, public euphoria at the muscular response and rhetoric against cross border terrorism carried itself to the hustings.

Attention then turned homewards where Kashmir theatre provided the best acoustics for the loudest bang. Article 370 of the Constitution was abated. There were celebrations in rest of the country that the Kashmir imbroglio has been settled for good. Just how good will be known only after the valley is released from lockdown.

The Hyderabad Nirbhhaya event shocked the nation — one more time! Public bayed for blood of the perpetrators and scalp of the police. Four persons were arrested and within days all of them killed in an encounter. The police which had been at the receiving end till then, was showered upon with flower petals. The encounter has all the signs of being premeditated, but it is exactly for that a large section of the public congratulated the police. While frustration with the criminal justice system is understandable, advocating extra-judicial killing as the mode of justice delivery is fraught with grave danger. How can the police steeped as it is in corruption be trusted to turn soldier saints only when dealing with rapists? Where is the guarantee that powerful quarters will not bribe the police to pick-up petty criminals, label them as accused and eliminate them in a staged encounter to bring closer to the case while the actual rapists go scot free? A disturbing trend in social media has been to congratulate the police for this encounter while blaming the courts for delayed justice in other cases. In this, is there a message for the judiciary which is perhaps the last constitutional bastion that has not yet succumbed to the executive?

The verdict of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya dispute is a landmark judgement. Though holding that desecration of the mosque by placing idols in 1949 and its destruction in 1992 was against the law, it allotted the entire disputed land for temple construction and ordered allotment of alternate site for a mosque. While the verdict has brought down the curtain on a longstanding dispute, it is hoped it has not raised any for mischief elsewhere.

The calendar will turn to a new year with the agitation against NRC-CAA continuing. India does have a problem of illegal immigrants particularly in certain parts and like any other country has the right to create a register of citizens. However, the process should not be discriminatory or unduly torturous. The NRC exercise in Assam was quite tormenting and admittedly erroneous though perhaps not discriminatory. Instead of learning from the Assam experience, government functionaries chose to declare the intent of repeating the same throughout the country adding to it the feature of religious discrimination in the form of CAA. Whether intentionally or not, chest thumping advocacy of NRC has sharpened polarization and made the exercise appear more sinister than what it could be. In any case, it is the poor of all communities who will be most hard pressed to adduce documentary proof of citizenship. All in all, the responsibility of detecting illegal immigrants is getting transferred from the government machinery to hapless citizens in a manner that they would stand guilty unless proven otherwise by their own effort.

Among all this, the glory of Abhijit Banerjee winning the Nobel should not be forgotten. His political views being well known, social media was flush with personal attacks on him as soon as the prize was announced. He then had a meeting with the prime minister after which they complemented each other with complimentary references. Lo and behold, the scurrilous posts stopped abruptly leaving not much to guess what could have been their inspirational source. Banerjee has since fortified his nationalist credentials by wearing a dhoti to the Nobel award ceremony while his non-Indian wife wore a saree. However, he must continue to remain cautious as at present it is impossible to make any pertinent comment on the Indian economy without offending the powers that be.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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