As we complete the sixty fifth year of Indian independence, what strikes us in a horrific way is that our people are still not free from communal violence. The dreadful sectarian genocide in Lower Assam has become the occasion to spew venom against people on the basis of their religion and national origin. Hundreds of innocent people have been killed in cold blood, lakhs of people have been driven away from their homes. The parties of the establishment and sectarian organisations are taking advantage of the situation to spread communal violence in different parts of India.
It is not very hard to see what led to this genocide. Living in one of the richest state in terms of natural resources, the people of Assam have never reconciled to the fact that while big monopoly corporations have been extracting their natural resources at will, they have remained on the fringes of economic development and political voice. The people of Assam have repeatedly rebelled against this injustice. In order to contain their struggle and keep them divided, forces of the Indian establishment have covertly or overtly encouraged the proliferation of armed terrorist gangs among various ethnic groups, so that the people fight one another and a policy of repression can be justified. State organised communal violence and sectarian strife recur every year with gruesome regularity. People in the northeast and Kashmir also live under the bayonets of the Indian army and in constant fear of draconian laws such as AFSPA.
This has been the story of the last 65 years. Far from healing the wounds of the bloody Partition the Indian establishment has fanned communal passions and organised genocides of people on the basis of religion and community. There has been a stubborn refusal on its part to recognise the right of nations to determine their own destiny, to recognise the rights of people to have a say in the use of their land and natural resources.
The vast majority of our people are not treated as human beings. They are humiliated and oppressed every day and night on the basis of caste, gender, class, religion and nationality. Dalits are lynched regularly for daring to marry higher caste women or daring to voice their rights. Gruesome atrocities continue to be perpetrated against women in all parts of the country.
In June, about 600 troops belonging to CRPF opened fire on a gathering of villagers in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, killing at least 20 villagers, including children and aged women and men, in the name of curbing naxalite activities. Tribal people have been deprived of control over their natural resources and forced to give up their habitations for the benefit of big multinationals such as POSCO, Vedanta and others.
A ruthless land-grab by Indian and foreign multinationals in the name of “public purpose” is going on with the full connivance of the government in several parts of the country. Massive struggles have broken out over this issue in Maharashtra, Haryana, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and other places. The government is hell-bent on passing a Land Acquisition legislation which will legitimise this land-grab, in spite of furious opposition by those whose livelihood are at stake and by others concerned about the violation of people’s rights.
The recent 2G scam revealed how multinationals and big business houses decide which party should form the government, who should be ministers and what should be the economic orientation of the country. The UPA government is now all set to launch a new wave of economic reforms in the banking, insurance, pension and retail sectors that will further enmesh the Indian economy in the all-round crisis faced by the global economy.
The Indian ruling clique collaborates closely with the US in its quest to become a world power. It turns a blind eye to the gross violation of sovereignty of the peoples of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and others in the name of “ensuring democracy” but actually ensuring US strategic interests. It agrees to go along with their inhuman sanctions against Iran. It goes along with US machinations to keep the peoples of South Asia divided so that they can maintain and extend their foothold in the region.
The Indian establishment is so deeply enmeshed in the imperialist game of domination by the most powerful states that it is neither willing nor able to make really independent decisions, in India’s best interest, such as sourcing oil imports from a country of our choice. All that the Indian ruling elite seems to care about is how to quickly acquire big power status, how to manoeuvre its way into the UN Security Council, and how to get into a vantage position at the G20 high table.
By no stretch of imagination can one believe that these 65 years have enabled our country to make a clean break with the colonial legacy. The ruling elite of India have unshakeable faith in colonial institutions and law. The recent Supreme Court judgment on who owns natural resources smacks of colonial intentions of “public purpose” and trusteeship where the state acts as the “trustee” of the people and manages their wealth and natural resources, but in the interests of big corporations.
The root of this failure to fulfil the aspirations of our people for independence, the increasing alienation of people from political power, lies in the system of democracy that exists today in India, which has been bequeathed by the colonial rulers. In this system of representative democracy, power is concentrated in the hands of a privileged elite, which in turn perpetuates the concentration of wealth and economic power in fewer and fewer hands. As a result, the majority of Indian people are deprived of basic needs, human rights and human dignity.
Our recent experiences with the Food Security Bill, the revised Land Acquisition Act, and the Lokpal Bill show that it is the elected representatives in Parliament who are supreme, not the people who they are supposed to represent. Those sitting in Parliament act under the direction of their respective parties and are accountable to their high command; they are not answerable to those they are supposed to represent.. They work with the sole aim of advancing the interest of the party that gave them the “ticket”.
What immediate step should we take so that this alienation of people from political power is ended? The immediate step that we have to take now is to become political. To become political means to become an organised force to assert our claims and fight for our rights. We have to create mechanisms that increase the scope for our political activity and end our political marginalisation. An important part of this immediate step is recognising what this political system and process stands for and what it has done to negate our claims, so that we are convinced that this system needs to be rejected and that an alternative is possible.
This is why Lok Raj Sangathan has put all its energy behind building local, village, district, city, national and all-India level organs of people’s struggle – the samitis and Councils. This is the immediate practical task facing all political forces which stand for the empowerment of people. Such people’s formations have to participate in all forms of struggle and activity that will assist to bring their agenda onto the centre-stage of political life.
We have to be vigilant because the forces of the status quo are trying to confuse us with another definition of “politics”. According to them, to become political means to merge with the existing political system and process, to become one more party that keeps the people out. They argue that there is nothing wrong with the existing political system, and that the problem lies only with corrupt individuals getting elected.
We must agitate for the principle that there can be no election without the people having a decisive say in the selection of candidates. Lok Raj Sangathan has tested in practice the method of selecting candidates at open mass meetings in the constituency, where every nomination is examined, approved or rejected. We call on all organisations of the people, including not only parties but also workers’ unions, peasants’ associations and organisations of women and youth, to put forward their candidates for approval by the people.
We should prepare the ground for the election of people’s committees in every electoral constituency. These Committees should be mandated with the responsibility to organise the selection and election of candidates for election, to recall elected representatives when they don’t perform, and to initiate proposals for new laws and annulment or revision of existing ones.
Lok Raj Sangathan believes that this is the right time to study the limitations of the existing Constitution, its institutions, and electoral laws in order to develop a roadmap for setting up a Constituent Assembly, through non-partisan elections, with the mandate of formulating a new draft Constitution to be placed before the people of India for discussion and adoption.
The times are calling for change. Sixty five years of independence have thrown up fundamental flaws in the existing system of representative democracy and economic orientation. They have brought to the centre-stage the question of vesting sovereignty in the hands of people. The immediate steps outlined above will constitute that momentous first step towards vesting sovereignty in the people.
Lok Raj Sangathan calls on all enlightened political forces of the country and the people to answer the call of times by taking up this immediate step towards the empowerment of people. Only this step can reverse the sad trajectory of the last 65 years and propel our country towards all-round renewal.