Harsh Mander’s article in The Indian Express aptly lays down the deep analysis of how India descended into the current catastrophe.To think that the mass graves and lakhs of burning pyres are just the result of an uncontrollable virus mutant, is nothing but your own blindness.The systemic undermining and suppression of powers of countervailing institutions which serve to keep a check on the powers of the ruling elite is what has brought us here. Our indifference and many a times the celebration of the repression of people has been a dagger in the front for this country.
Even after a whole year of Covid ravaging the world, the Government paid no heed to scientific and expert advices to ramp up the number of hospital beds, ventilators and oxygen supply in the country before a second wave strikes. The government on the other hand declared the war won over the virus and feigned their superiority.Nothing was done to boost the overwhelmed healthcare infrastructure in urban cities let aside the rural areas which because of non existent infrastructure are today reporting alarming mortalities.
“A democracy is built on the idea of a multiplicity of assertions that would prevent the runaway hubris, callousness, incompetence and corruption of the elected executive. These alternate centres of power include the political opposition, higher judiciary, higher civil service, media, university, trade unions and other collectives of working people, and peaceful resistance of the people themselves. These are the oxygen of any democracy.”
For long now , we have seen the shoots of majoritarianism in the country that left unchecked and not significantly opposed have now developed into thick vegetations.Those who profited by this new emerging power kept silent fuelling the politics of hate speeches and lynchings of innocent Muslims and Dalits.
“History tells us that the majority in a democracy can turn dangerously majoritarian and ultimately fascistic if institutions of democracy do not hold accountable the executive and actively defend the rights of minorities. In India the political opposition has been increasingly timid in fighting authoritarianism and hate politics. Large sections of the media, civil services, academia, and ultimately the middle classes have celebrated executive authoritarianism and the decimation of rights of minorities and the poor. The Supreme Court in recent years has disappointed with its inaction on petitions to curb excesses of executive power, and the abridging of minority rights.”
The executive power left no stone unturned to tarnish the legitimacy and peace of the protests that arose in aftermath of the Citizenship Amendment Act that saw hundreds of young students and women from low income families holding national flags, singing national anthem and trying their best to keep their democracy breathing.
“We watched impassively as many young people were jailed indefinitely on trumped-up charges, and the spectre of similar incarceration still stands over the heads of many senior academics and activists.”
“A democracy is not given as a gift. It is constantly claimed, reclaimed, and nourished by the people. If today we outrage as we and our loved ones are uncertain if we will even access a hospital bed, oxygen or vaccines, we need to recognise that these are the wages of an unaccountable executive bereft of both competence and compassion.”
For decades, the poor in India have been dying due to insufficient access to healthcare and its near broken structure in villages but today when majority of the privileged are being threatened, our voices are suddenly amplified.Our constitution grants equality to all citizens of this country and the discrimination on the basis of being poor or a Muslim or a Dalit is nothing short of a slap on its face.
Harsh Mander is actually right in saying that we shouldn’t be surprised where our “elected autocrats” have brought us. This is the India we all played our part in building with discriminations, indifferences,silences and celebrations of the unjust repressions.
“As long as we consent to dividing people into the privileged “us” and the “other” — the Muslim, working poor, “low-caste”, slum dweller — and celebrate authoritarian governments that ostensibly protect “us” against the “other”, we consent to and participate in the dilution and the undermining of democracy itself.”