On the 67th anniversary of its proclamation, the Indian Republic finds itself in a veritable state of siege. The government of the day and the corporate-communal cabal that it represents and serves so brazenly have mounted a multi-pronged assault on the constitutional basis and framework of the Republic of India. The principles and values enunciated in the Constitution are being subverted in every possible way and the institutions that had been built to promote and protect the rights of the citizens and the collective interests and aspirations of the people are being systematically hijacked and destroyed.
Indeed, the RSS has time and again made it clear that it does not recognise the Constitution as the basis of the modern Indian Republic. For the RSS, the Republic is just an ornamental attire for the ancient civilization of India; and the RSS notion of civilization is more a matter of mythology than history. Manusmriti, that obnoxious charter of social slavery and human indignity is the real constitution for the RSS. Just the other day, speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival RSS ideologue Vaidya yet again questioned the inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble to the Constitution while calling for an end to the system of reservations. Caste is the essential pillar of the RSS’s its cherished Brahminical order so reservation continues to be an anathema.
What makes the situation really alarming is that the RSS war on the Constitution and the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic is today being waged from the vantage position of state power. And Narendra Modi is spearheading this war with his brazenly dictatorial style of governance. The absolutely arbitrary way the government has imposed the disastrous demonetization decision on an unsuspecting citizenry has no parallels in the history of the Republic. Defying every tenet of economic rationality and established procedures of collective functioning and parliamentary accountability, the Prime Minister subjected the country to an unprecedented spell of economic disruption and devastation. NarendraModiis invoking the common people’s desire to punish the corrupt and check growing inequality, but the fact is in the first two years of his rule, the share of the top 1% has jumped from 49% to 58% of the total wealth in the country.
Nearly three months since the scrapping of 86% of currency in circulation, the cash crunch still continues to dog the people. And the chaos on the cash front has now triggered a serious economic slowdown. What is really galling is that instead of making any efforts to address the grave situation and mitigate the crisis, the government is coercing the predominantly cash-reliant unorganised sector and small and medium enterprises that account for the lion’s share of employment in India to go for digital transactions, thereby subjecting the entire economy to a severe squeeze. The coercive push for cashless transactions is exposing the cash-dependent and digitally ill-equipped Indian economy to increased financial uncertainty and unprecedented domination of global capital and big corporations.
The Modi government is also trying to redefine the Republic by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. In keeping with the BJP’s well-known concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to introduce a distinction among refugees on the basis of their religious affiliation and identity. According to theAmendment Bill, non-Muslim refugees coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan without valid travel documents would not be treated as illegal migrants and would be allowed to apply for Indian Citizenship on easier terms than are currently prescribed for persons seeking the status of naturalised Indian citizens. This is a brazen attempt to define citizenship on a religious basis and sanctify the hounding of Muslim immigrants as infiltrators.
People with diverse religious affiliations may and do come to India to seek refuge and asylum. They are propelled by a variety of circumstances ranging from social and political persecution to economic misery, natural calamities and climate change. In a secular democratic republic, religious affiliation must not be made the basis to decide on either citizenship or the question of treating refugees with justice, dignity and humanitarian considerations. The Bill also seeks to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizens of India if they are found to violate any Indian law ‘for the time being in force’. While the government provides safe passage to economic offenders like Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, it evidently seeks to stifle dissent among NRIs and OCIs by threatening them with deregistration for opposing injustice and oppression in India which can easily invite prosecution under one of the many draconian laws currently in force.
Clearly, the Sangh brigade wants Indians to behave like docile subjects blindly obeying the rulers and not as free citizens equipped with fundamental rights including the right to dissent which is absolutely central to democracy. Their idea of citizenship is derived from the obnoxious Manuvadi order that justifies coercion and domination while incriminating every quest for justice, freedom and equality. The Sangh brigade champions the worst of India’s feudal traditions and colonial customs, albeit with the full backing of India’s crony capitalists and the masters of the imperialist world order. We can see this idea in action whether in the treatment meted out to Indian citizens in the name of demonetization or in every other coercive attempt to impose their parameters of pseudo-patriotism and communal nationalism.
Republic Day 2017 therefore calls upon us to uphold the dreams and rights of free citizens to develop modern India on the cardinal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity and defeat every dictatorial attempt to subject the Indian people to a renewed reign of social slavery and submission.