Sunday 21 July 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Delhi's winter chill brings hope!


Irrespective of the outcome, the farms with their back to the wall braved water cannons and recliamed he right o protest

farmers siege of Dellhi




Delhi’s chill seem to invite protestors   annually. Last year the the nanis and dadis of Shaheen Bagh   brought anti CAA movement   to the fore   after the passage of the citizenship  law which brought religion in a neutral legal edifice. This year the three farm laws are at the heart of the controversy.  The farmers laying siege to the national capital attracted global attention.  

The current   ruling establishment’s   arrogance of power is well-known. For them democracy is tyranny of the majority. The citizens have no participatory role in their type of democracy. Citizens get no choice over how they are ruled. They  think  there is no need to do any homework. They   always believe stakeholders did not matter. They have got used to having their way, with  might of the state used against the citizens. After all, did they not win elections after demonetization? Are the states even complaining when they are denied their dues under the GST regime? The media is always there to build a narrative.  

They are emboldened by lack of societal challenge to demonetization and the way the country reacted to the downgrading of the state Jammu & Kashmir into two union territories. The states accepted the GST lying down. As covid-19 peaked the government was introducing the farm laws in an indecent hurry. They must have thought the way pandemic flattened the anti CAA curve; the farm laws would meet the same fate. The three farm laws were brought via the ordinance route   making mincemeat  of federal principles, without any discussion or debate and were  rammed down despite a demand for division in the Rajya Sabha. Who is bothered whether agriculture is in state domain? The commerce minister says the laws are to facilitate trade in agriculture. And  you thought it was all about farmers!

The farmers #DilliChaloMarch  were stopped by iron barricades, deep trenches, boulders, sand and mud tracks (similar to barricades on the borders with enemy nation).They faced water canons in winter, tear gas and batons as they started their march to the capital city in the land of Mahatma Gandhi. So reminiscent of 1982,when Mrs. Gandhi prevented the Sikhs from reaching  Delhi to disrupt the Asian games.

As the farmers headed to the national capital on the constitution day, the Prime minister spoke about his pet topic of one nation – one election. But the case set up by him only exposed the design and intent. He claimed elections in India hamper development. He went on ‘ why should the country waste so much money’ on elections. It was   actually music to the ears to hear that ‘elections hamper development’ or that elections were a waste of money. There was no outrage and the PM’s utterances went unnoticed as the mainstream media did not highlight that aspect. It is always believed that democracy has no price but it does have operating costs particularly in federal a nature with local self-governing institutions. When the ruling establishment holds democracy is a costly exercise, there is danger in the horizon.

The way the ruling party looks at democracy, their democratic credentials were always suspect. For them, the land of Mahatma Gandhi is the land of elections. Elections is the end all of democracy. Citizens are subjects with no right to question the ruler. They question the credibility of whoever opposes their policies. The farmers were earlier dubbed Khalistanis. The commerce minister now tells us   ultra-leftists and Maoists have infiltrated the protests

As the anti-farm laws movement rages in the national capital region, The Prime Minister’s think tank chief-the CEO of Niti Ayogh Amitabh Kant also let the cat out of bag when he claimed that India’s problem is too much of democracy. He says too much of democracy makes reforms route difficult. His belief that PM had shown determination and courage in bringing reforms has to be viewed in the context of demonetization, GST or farm bills. The way the demonetization or the Farm bills were passed show that there is too little democracy. If Amitabh Kant had the protest by the farmers in mind, he must understand the way our constitution was founded. It was born out of a freedom struggle.  Right to protest is an inalienable right not only under our constitution but accepted as part of international human rights. UN has also intervened with ‘ people have a right to demonstrate peacefully and authorities need to let them do so’. Kant’s theory stands punctured with India   having a free fall in the democratic index from 2014 and that has not upped our economic index. Our fall as per economist intelligence index is similar. Our democratic credentials are actually slipping. A land where the CEO announces a total shutdown of the economy with a four hours’ notice or announces demonetization with the finance minister or cabinet in the dark cannot boast of democratic principles.  

For some time now, right to protest and right to dissent were seen to fade away as the right wing forces created an atmosphere of fear using draconian laws against activists and public intellectuals. Even Amnesty International and other NGOs have  closed their operations to save from harassment. The civil society has been having second thoughts over taking the ruling establishment head on. There has been hesitancy in protesting against government policies. The dismantling of the police   barricades by braving the tear gas and water cannons in the chill of Delhi, the illiterate farmers, fighting for survival with their back to the wall,    shattered the unpleasant fog created by the power and arrogance.  Irrespective of the outcome of the protests, the farmers have at least reclaimed the right to protest and provided a new confidence to the civil society.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.


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