Indian democracy at crossroads

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Friday, June 17, 2011 - 14:49

Ritesh K Srivastava/Gayatri Sankar/Shruti Saxena

What initially appeared to be a peaceful agitation by yoga guru Baba Ramdev against societal evils like corruption and black money, has now become a personal war between him and the UPA government with the two sides accusing each other of betrayal.

It was disheartening to see pictures of the midnight swoop from Ramlila ground.

Eyewitnesses said, “Supporters were forced into vans. They packed people into ambulances and vans, many were injured. People were taken to hospital, but nobody exactly knew where they have gone. Children as young as one and two were not spared and they were stuffing people into vans like straw.”

How can police beat people at night when they are unarmed and sleeping? Can this ever be allowed to happen in a liberal country? It felt like it was the end of democratic India.

Could there be any justification for the government’s brutal crackdown on thousands of unarmed and peaceful satyagrahis and their forceful eviction from Delhi’s Ramlila Ground on the intervening night of June 5-6. Is it not indicative of the government’s attempt to divert attention from the main issue? And more importantly, is there any alternative for the Aam Admi?

The million dollar question which crops up in one’s mind is how serious we are in fighting corruption and all the evil which it brings. Is silencing Baba Ramdev more important for the government than taking extraordinary measures to curb this systemic rot in the society? The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression as a major fundamental right of every citizen, so how could the government curb someone’s right to protest by peaceful means?

No one can say what prompted the government to take such an extreme step after it appeared to be bending backwards in persuading the yoga guru to call off his movement during the early stages of negotiations. The veracity of government’s claim about a secret ‘deal’ with Baba Ramdev, after which things suddenly took an unexpected turn, is also being contested.

The entire camaraderie and the political jamboree over black money involving Ramdev, the UPA government, Anna Hazare, and the BJP has only damaged the roots of our robust democracy and further complicated the crusade against corruption.

No doubt Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have catapulted the fight against corruption to a decisive stage and it was expected that something concrete would come out soon. But the forceful eviction of the yoga guru and his followers has changed the entire course of the debate on the sensitive issue and the government seems in a fix.

The government accused Baba of not keeping his commitment. But is the government doing what is expected from it? Can the world’s largest democracy ever keep faith in the government after what has happened at Ramlila Maidan?

A visibly embarrassed government even cancelled the permission given to the yoga guru to hold his much-talked about satyagraha, which according to it, was accorded for holding a yoga session and meant only for five thousand people. Interestingly, the government later justified the crackdown.

Baba Ramdev might be a thug, a liar, thief, as many in the government claimed, but don’t we have the right to put across our demands in front of the government in a peaceful manner?

And, most importantly, where are the big-wigs now? Where is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi? Why had they still not addressed the people even after such an aftermath?

And what about the ‘Yuvraj’ of Congress? He did not waste much time to go to Bhatta Parsaul and console farmers allegedly abused by the UP police. Guess the self-professed soldier of ‘Aam Admi’ is not finding a photo opportunity in this case, when people were thrashed in Congress-ruled state.

Was the government naïve or simply not aware of Baba Ramdev’s much-publicised ‘Satyagraha against Corruption’ and that it had massive support of crores of countrymen?

If that was so, then why did it give him a long rope and allowed him to hold his satyagraha on June 4? Was it not aware that around one lakh people had already arrived there and more were to come? Why was Baba Ramdev’s fast not disrupted on the very first day on those grounds? Rules strictly prohibit police from firing teargas shells in closed compounds as it may lead to serious collateral damage to people’s lives.

Ramdev, who was accorded a red carpet welcome by the government four days back, is now being labelled as ‘another face of RSS’ and someone who is taking forward the agenda of the right wing organisation. Obviously, the blame game has begun and the eviction drama, BJP’s “dance” at Rajghat and now Anna Hazare’s fast in support of Ramdev has only made things worse from bad.

Ever since Baba entered the political scene and voiced his opinion about the growing corruption, his detractors branded him as someone having ‘political motives’. The point of contention here is that when a politician sullies his hands in anti-social activities, there is none from the system to hold him accountable. Instead, they join hands to keep each other’s wrong doings under wraps, only to safeguard their own selfish interests.

Unlawful activities are undertaken under the garb of legitimacy. Can we get rid of our corrupt souls by slinging mud at someone like Baba Ramdev.

In a bid to improve the nation’s deteriorating socio-political system, if Ramdev (even if he is politically driven) is taking what it takes to be a rabble-rouser to get his message across to the decision makers, what harm is he doing?

If people are of the opinion that Baba Ramdev should stick to yoga then why can’t keepers of law do what they are rightfully meant to do? All said and done, the fate of the nation in such a precarious situation looks uncertain and leaves very little hope of relief from all anti-democratic elements.

Let us hope that the Lokpal Bill (if it comes to existence) brings more transparency and accountability in government functioning and provides a respite to the common man bearing the pressure of inflation, scams and corruption on his pocket.

It is always good be optimistic that things will improve someday and we will lead better lives, but all this will happen only if we remain honest and serious in our resolve to cure all that ails our society.



First Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 16:01

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