Saturday, May 15, 2021

Introspection needed

As we celebrate the 71st Republic Day, it is also an occasion to introspect whether we have lived up to the values of the country’s freedom struggle for which millions suffered and thousands sacrificed their lives. True, that post-Independent India has survived as a secular democratic country, in form if not in substance, while several other nations which achieved independence have been facing perpetual crisis for their very survival. But is that enough? The Constitution of India proclaims the country to be a secular democratic and socialist republic but have we in any way managed to stand up to these noble ideals. The countless freedom fighters did not lay down their lives or suffered in several ways just for change of rulers from aliens to the sons and daughters of the soil. The objective of freedom struggle was not just the end of foreign rule but for puran swarajya or the people’s self or grass root democracy rule. According to the Quit India resolution of August 8 1942, free India was to be a federation of states with all the federating units enjoying full autonomy, even residuary powers, with the Centre having to deal with the subjects of defence, foreign affairs and communications only. The framers of the Constitution failed to fully live up to this commitment and opted for a quasi-federal set up for the republic. During the years the autonomy of the states has been further eroded with the Centre assuming maximum authority and powers both overtly and covertly and the states, as Jayaprakash Narayan has stated years ago, reduced to the level of municipalities. The very concept of unity in diversity called for a totally federal state which would have not only preserved and strengthened both the physical and emotional unity but would have also resulted in equitable development of all regions and areas of the country. No doubt the country has been able to preserve its formal democratic character with elections to the Parliament and state legislatures held regularly. But our electoral system with money, muscle and caste power influencing the verdict has converted Indian democracy into dynastic oligarchy with powers getting transferred from one dynasty or clique to the other. The manner in which the rights of the people are being usurped and suppressed by using brutal force in several parts of the country and the voices of dissent are being silenced across the country makes our claim of being a democratic country appear farcical. The Indian Republic has failed even to live up to the concept of being a secular and socialist state. Though formally we are still a secular country but the manner in which the minorities and other weaker sections have been marginalised and denied equitable sense of participation in the national polity and economy, the manner in which the minority communities have been persecuted and sidelined exposes the secular character of the country. The contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which seeks to grant citizenship on the basis of religion has exposed the ruling dispensation at the Centre. Also contrary to the claims of being a socialist republic the ruling elite in the country has been pursuing crony capitalism with the corporate sector and multi-nationals thriving, with the rulers collaborating with them and common people suffering in several ways. These has resulted in vast disparities between the rich and poor with a handful of people controlling the wealth of the nation while nearly half the population is living below the poverty line. Inequalities are growing, corruption is multiplying, atrocities on women, weaker and poorer sections of the population, dalits and tribals are increasing with every passing day but the state has failed to take necessary measures to arrest this trend and ensure dignity, justice and equality. President Ram Nath Kovind in his address to the nation on the eve of 71st Republic Day said ‘We the people’ are the prime movers of the Republic, and also highlighted the central tenets of democracy – justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Yet this is sorely absent in India of today. Indeed, Republic Day is an occasion not to boast of India becoming a super power but to pledge for fulfilling the dream of those who laid down their lives and suffered for the freedom of the country, to make India a truly federal, secular and democratic country. It’s an occasion, not to demonstrate the country’s military power, but to pledge for peace, tranquillity and fruitful cooperation and to restore the democratic rights of the people.