India is simmering in parts, burning in a few others and quiet in some other places. The protest against the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has spread across the map of the country, reiterating that Indian democracy is not just made up of Conscript Fathers.
That police atrocity has become apparent in several states—Death toll has touched double digits— and protests too have become violent shows the government’s choice of action in dealing with opposition or disagreement. Therefore, no matter how bona fide the intentions of the government is, history will judge its actions.
On Friday last, Tejasvi Surya, a card-holding member of the Hindu Right, and a BJP MP, speaking at a pro-CAA event, said: “India is not just a nation-state, it is civilisational state.”
His observation is spot on. India is, indeed, a civilisation that cannot necessarily be restricted to the events that occured post August 1947, when it became a democracy. And, the values of this civilisation, many of which are enshrined in the Constitution, are what this young democracy has the responsibility of upholding.
The onus is on the people of this democracy, because this ancient civilisation — which has a long list of monarchs, kingdoms, patriots, traitors, sages, thieves, the wise, the hoi polloi, good, evil, black and white, and grey — collectively decided to embrace this form of functioning to “progress towards an advanced stage of social development,” (definition of civilisation as per Oxford dictionary).
Also, going by the values of her civilisation, India’s heirloom is her diversity, of which no single daughter or son can be heir apparent. No Congress (of owls) that claims to be wise, or no Murder (of crows) that claims to have the numbers should be allowed to change this.
If India wishes to transform into an advanced society, it must understand some of the basic tenets of democracy—Parliamentary (which she has chosen), or otherwise. Do lawmakers elected by the people have the right to write laws? Yes. The constitution clearly makes Parliament the supreme authority in these matters.
That said, the constitution also protects the right to protest. So, notwithstanding the numbers in the upper and lower houses of India’s Parliament that empower them, political parties should not overlook the citizens’ right to say they don’t want a new law. After all, citizens elect them to represent them, not rule them.
But what we have come to witness in the past week or so are attempts to quell opposition and not efforts to sit down for a dialogue. Both home minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have made speeches allaying fears of the protestors, but that communication has been one-way. They speak—expect to be heard—and leave. There hasn’t been a dialogue. The same has been followed by other representatives of the government.
Does this mean that protestors can become violent, riot and destroy public and private property? No. Those protesting also have the responsibility of not doing so, and the authorities should reserve the right to act against those breaking the law.
Not justifying violence caused by protestors, wherever there has been, the government’s actions and intentions have also been clear in this ongoing struggle: From use of excessive police force (including guns) to the imposition of restrictions through Section 144 of the IPC, detentions even in places where protests were peaceful to simply disabling internet and telephone connectivity, the government appears to be determined to disallow any dissenting voice.
But what the government and its representatives must realise that democracy is the Rule of Law and Not Rule By Law. The distinction between the two is unfortunately, often, non-existent. But it is time that we understand the distinction and re-establish the rule of law.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.