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Are we really a democracy in the true sense?

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If the Indian common man had any doubt that he was merely a pawn in the games of the political class, and is so readily used by our ‘rulers’ as easy sacrificial bait at every opportunity for gain, then they can rejoice that now the air is cleared, and all doubt about this matter has been removed.

And now that the masks that many politicians used to wear have come off, they breathe much easier, for all those pretenses of piety that they had to endeavor for are no longer necessary. They now officially have won for themselves, in a battle of wits with a central government ‘enjoying absolute majority in the Lok Sabha’, a super-citizen status that allows them to brandish their MP badge to get away with any kind of boorish behaviour.

And also brag about it on tape, and then lie about the same thing inside parliament while addressing the Speaker herself, cry victim, offer a conditional and wily non-apology, demand removal of a damning section of law in an FIR registered against the MP, pertaining to culpable homicide, and cut down to size a whole public sector organisation whose employee the MP had beaten up and (admittedly) almost pushed down the stairs from the aircraft.

There was unprecedented nationwide outrage at all this, and the ruling BJP dispensation at the centre initially seemed inclined to be tough in the matter. This appeared to be reaffirmed by the Civil Aviation Minister Mr. Gajapathi Raju’s strong statement in the Lok Sabha on 6th April that passenger safety is the No.1 priority, and not a dangerously aggressive passenger’s status.

But then followed a series of dramatic developments, some of which unprecedented in parliament’s history, that ended in the BJP giving in to the Shiv Sena’s demands that their MP not be acted against.

The nation was left aghast. Rightly so. It is a matter that assumes humongous importance for the sheer number of issues involved, including the self-respect and dignity of the common citizens and government employees, along with fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

Yet, the government, which could have read the public sentiment and won the people’s hearts by standing for them, threw away a golden opportunity for a purely selfish political gain that they saw as more important than any sense of duty towards the common man.

The issues thrown up by the Ravindra Gaikwad versus Air India fracas read like a Pandora’s box that has exploded and smeared indelible muck in the face of India, the nation. Here are some of the important ones.

  1. The common man in India is no better than dirt for the political class.
  2. We have probably the largest number of laws in the world. Yet, they don’t seem to apply to the politicians who flout them as a (yes) super-citizen right.
  3. Instead of being role models for the country’s citizens vis-à-vis proper conduct and morality and propriety, we have some lawmakers who are, ironically, the most brazen lawbreakers.
  4. Upholding propriety and morality are no issues for some politicians. Except, of course, only to the extent of patronizingly mouthing a few appropriate words in public appearances.
  5. But as of 6th April 2017, even that is evidently considered unnecessary and too burdensome to even pretend to do. The masks have come off and their true faces are bared. And they don’t even care.
  6. The common man, who thought the Parliament is really a “Temple of Democracy”, had his vision shattered on 6th April, when he saw the blatant lies spoken in the Lok Sabha, followed by reports of how one enraged Minister and his partymen charged on another Minister of the same government – inside the sacred house – to bully him into submitting to their demands.
  7. The common man, for whom the sanctity of the Parliament and our Constitution, are the last bastions of hope for any form of guarantee of fundamental and human rights, saw on 6th April, that belief crumbling to dust, when even the Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha said later that she did not see any of the ‘charging on the Civil Aviation Minister by some MPs’ incident, hence any action on it was out of the question.
  8. The letting off of MP Ravindra Gaikwad was expectedly bound to embolden similar errant acts by more people. Yet it stunned the whole nation when another MP, Ms. Dola Sen of TMC, created a scene in, and delayed another flight, within hours of clearing Gaikwad. Despite the resignation that more such incidents would follow, such a quick exercise of this new ‘entitlement’ by another MP was still a great surprise.
  9. Also shattered on 6th April was the common man’s belief that India is a true democracy. Because by definition, a democracy is a form of govt which is “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Obviously the events of 6th April were not supportive of this definition. In fact they struck home to many of us the meaning of former US President George W. Bush’s words: “India is called the largest democracy in the world. Wish it could also be called the greatest democracy.”
  10. So if we are not a democracy in the true sense of the term, then what are we? The possible answers are very disconcerting indeed.

Now, consider also some of the international implications of these events :

  1. So many world events forecasters (and our own national leaders) have been saying that India is the nation to watch out for in this century. So obviously, the world is watching us with great interest.
  2. And with our already dubious reputation of being among the most corrupt in the world, some of our leaders, in their rush to make the most of every opportunity for personal gain only end up confirming that image.
  3. Which, in turn, is viewed in different ways by the world, depending on who is interested in what aspect about us.
  4. Those who want to visit India as tourists, or to make residence here, are appalled at the large scale lack of respect for the law, especially by the political class and their acolytes. It seems to them that anyone can get away with anything in this country, especially if politically connected.
  5. Those who want to do business in India are glad that ‘loose morals’ prevail here, and rub their hands in glee while settling down to preparing their lists of Indian palms that they need to grease.
  6. Big businesses that deal with higher echelons in govt, are ecstatic to learn (through such incidents) as to what really makes the powers that be buckle, and do their ground work accordingly.
  7. The events of 6th April even show the levels to which some leaders can stoop to. It’s a sweeping ‘extent’ actually – there’s no limit to it, barring the protection of those people’s own throats.
  8. Just when the U.S. has shown an (undesirable) interest in mediating between India and Pakistan, and China is fuming over the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh and threatening to make us pay for it, and Sri Lanka is arresting Indian fishermen every few days, we go and bare our most vulnerable weaknesses vis-à-vis integrity and morality, and provide these countries ready handles and inputs on how and what we bow to. How sensible or nationalistic is that.
  9. In fact, now that more than half our neighbours are inimical to us, our biggest adversary Pakistan could actually stop exporting terrorism to our soil and save themselves a bad name internationally. They need only sit back and enjoy India-bashing by these countries. And this is not a pun.

These are some of the more harmful issues that come out of this matter. Bad enough that they are, an even more pertinent question arises in these circumstances:  Was our govt aware of these possible outcomes when they acquiesced to the unjust demands of an erring ally?

If no, then it’s bad on the count that our ‘rulers’ are not competent enough to gauge the repercussions of their actions.

If they were aware and then too preferred to go ahead and do it, then it’s even worse, for it means our ‘rulers’ have no scruples about how their actions will cause suffering to the citizens of this country, as long as they get what they want.

And this, is all that is not the essence of a democracy. So if we are no longer a democracy in essence, what are we? And where does this lead us to?

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