Raouf Rasool

Shifting morality of the state!

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Today a whole lot of Indians find it difficult to reconcile with the way the India as a State conducts itself, both internationally as well as with its domestic subjects, particularly the have-nots. And their misgivings are completely not unfounded. Isn’t it the same country which pioneered the Non-aligned Movement at a time when entire world was divided into two power blocks? Isn’t it the same country that brought social and political change through passive resistance, through non-violent non-cooperation? And today it is the same very State which is openly aligning with the US and its allies and takes pride in doing so. And what is really disconcerting is that the same very State has grown and is still growing increasingly intolerant about the political dissent from within.

India is indeed a classic example of shifting morality of the State and its political elite. When the entire country predominantly comprised of have-nots, the common masses were infused with revolutionary zeal to bring about a change by overthrowing the then haves. But once the have-nots themselves became haves, they wasted no time in redefining the rules of the game – so that the tactics that they used against their enemy could no longer be available to their adversary for use against them. No wonder then that just eight months after securing independence, the Indian National Congress outlawed passive resistance and made it a crime. It was one thing for them to use passive resistance against the previous haves – the British – but now in power they were going to ensure that this tactic would not be used against them. Previously, as have-nots, Indian leaders would be appealing to the laws higher than the man-made (British) laws; but today, since they make their own laws, India is on the side of the man-made laws - its constitution. And everybody who has a ‘grievance’ is supposed to come and “discuss it within the limits of, and in accordance with” its Constitution!

In his ‘Autobiography’ Gandhi records his astonishment at the passivity and submissiveness of his people in not retaliating or even wanting revenge against the British. A careful reading of the history of India’s freedom movement reveals that Gandhi and his associates repeatedly deplored the inability of their people to give organized, effective, even violent resistance against injustice and tyranny. In an interview with Norman Cousins in 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru described the Hindus of those days as “a demoralized, timid and hopeless mass bullied and crushed by every dominant interest and incapable of resistance.”

But once this same ‘timid and demoralized’ lot had been aroused and it had actually brought about the desired change – the independence, the rules changed overnight. Now the same hopeless lot was brave and chivalrous, but only as long as they didn’t challenge the status quo. And those who do, are immoral and unethical and can always be held guilty of sedition and challenging the integrity of the country. Morally these incidents put India in bad light, but once the country’s “vital interests” (as the political elite wants people to believe it as being) are at stake, it should be OK to forget the lofty sentiments and subjecting the State and even its laws to the charge of inconsistency. Now this policy is clearly Machiavellian, but there is nothing bad about it as along as the State uses it. After all the ‘Prince’ was actually written by Machiavelli for the haves on how to hold power, and how to deny it to those whose head-count actually brings this power to them.

Thanks to the television adverts about the products of personal hygiene, everybody is very careful that no foul odors come out from their mouths or arm-pits. This very behavior is also reflected in people’s public life as well. They don’t ask unpleasant questions and they don’t meddle with issues that stink for the fear that the sinking pits of Indian politics will be a cause and source of embarrassment to many. So, why wake up sleeping dogs; let them sleep. Now that yet another scandal, this time involving the institution of Indian Army, more so its two senior generals – the incumbent Army chief and the one who preceded him – are in the midst of a political storm why has certainly brought disrepute to the entire institution, nobody is going to ask uncomfortable questions. There will be some politics over the issue, but then only up to a certain invisible red-line; beyond that everything will be conveniently pushed under the carpet.

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