The question that has been posed as the background for the public forum held on September 30, 2018 on the growing anarchy and violencein the country is “What is the connection between the growing communalisation and criminalisation of politics and the escalated anti-social offensive targeting the livelihood and rights of our people? Is its source a particular party, or does it lie in the nature of political power and the way it is constituted in India? ” While we await the results of the political forum in terms of a report on the conclusions of themeeting, it is a theme that is worth cogitating upon by all who are interested inthe well-being of the people of India.
The primary tension in the public sphere is whether there is an atmosphere of`peace and tranquility’ on the one hand, what is often referred to at `civil society’and anarchy and violence on the other. There are periods in Indian history whenthe former appears to prevail and other periods, such as the present when thelatter prevails. It is the case that civil society is defined as one in which every onegoes about their business quietly and there is respect for `law and order’ andeverything seems to be in order. The question is why does this break down fromtime to time, and when it happens, there is a yearning for the latter. Various voicesare raised that decry the latter state of affairs and promise a return to the former.What then prevents this from prevailing all the time?
Any cursory look at the economic set-up in India immediately reveals that as onein which there is vast concentration of riches at one pole and accelerated accumulation,with vast deprivation and continued immiseration at the other pole. Those that havethe reins of the economy, essentially a large number of powerful business housesthat essentially own everything that deserves to be owned in the manufacturing andservice sectors, as well as in real estate, except for a vast sea of small property owners,and a certain number of big agriculturalists, constitute the first pole, while the working millions in cities, who are joined by small land owners and landless peasants who selleverything and join these millions constitute the other pole. This intrinsically unstablesituation is the main force driving Indian society. The former has the state apparatus,political parties, the media and all other forms of control, while the latter by dint ofits condition has only the power to demand to that it wants to be liberated from itsslavery. From time to time, the former gives some sops to the latter, at which time,the condition of civil society prevails, while at other times, driven by greed andits own impulse to get rich faster and faster, generates unbearable conditionsfor the latter. The only way that this situation can resolve itself is to bury thecivil society constraint from time to time, and replace it by anarchy and violence.
That anarchy and violence in the country is indeed sponsored by the richest ofthe rich, and the state apparatus is obvious, through the spreading of fake news,by cooking up stories and setting people at each other’s throats. While the temporaryconflagration engulfs everyone, when it abates, the people are forced to heavea sigh of relief and forget the problems that besotted them. In this period all organized resistance to the unjust state of affairs is liquidated by the use ofdraconian laws, arbitrary incarceration and open instances of violence.
Many voices across the length and breadth of India are today being heard that are protesting against this unbearable state of affairs. Questions are raisedabout the arbitrariness of the law, about the extreme nature of punishment forsmall crimes, while the biggest criminals are let off. When billionaires who arethe worst looters in history roam free and are given passage to escape to greenerpastures, those who are in the country and fight for the right to life, water, air, foodand education, and for preserving their forests and lands are thrown into prison,everyone would agree that this is indeed a rotten state of affairs. What there isless agreement on is what the origin of this unbearable state of affairs.
The present situation offers an important occasion to ponder on this questionand to debate it. Clarity on this issue would go a long way in ending the unjuststate of affairs that prevail in the country. Let there be informed debate on this.