Whom to look for advice and wisdom?
The past year has gone. The New Year, 2020, is very much on us. Also, the New Year is once more, full of hopes and lot of trepidations. The US onslaught on Iran has complicated international affairs and has many other issues of urgency, not only on Indian economy, with the oil prices tilting the economy and also other issues. The visiting Iranian foreign minister to India might have many other things in his bag besides the current upset.
India has a vital role and it is to be seen how the government is going to handle the very many intricate issues. The US President is close to India and we Indians would only hope that the international situation remains under control and also helps the rest of the world to manage the issues.
India has a larger role in the foreign spheres and it is anybody’s guess how India comes out of this present global challenge. The Prime Minister has met the Indian industry leaders and has reassured that there would be no witch hunting of the private industry.
This reassurance comes at a time when there is a great deal of discomfort over many of the recent developments, the perception of with-hunting of not only the political opponents and also some industry players, all based, let us hope on false perceptions and let us also look forward these sort of perceptions are based on a great deal of subjectivity and otherwise things are okay.
The world today doesn’t seem to have many statesmen or statesmen –like leaders who could think of world-wide issues. British leaders were once international experts, given their years of running an empire. Today, Great Britain is no more great but it is seen as little Britain! Indian elite, by and large is still British-oriented; even these generations of Indians are more attuned to think about the world issues through a British prism. This journal is also no exception and hence these few words on Britain and the newly elected Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson, the newly mandated British Prime Minister, who was once the editor of the British high society magazine, The Spectator, in its Christmas special issue has written a Diary Page in which with all his current business he found time to pen down and what he says is worth recalling here, I think. Johnson, by the way, Indian readers must be knowing was a classical scholar from Oxford where he read the famous Greats, Greek, Latin and classical literature and typical of the old style Conservatives, he had achieved what his predecessors couldn’t. He won a decisive election and set to carry forward his Brexit goal. What Johnson says in his Spectator column?
He is worth quoting in some length. He says: You may wonder why I am up at 4.45 a.m, writing this diary when I have a country to run, Queen’s speech to prepare, vast mandate to deliver and so on. When I bumped into the editor a couple of nights ago at a party he said my name is already on the cover of the Christmas cover and so what could I say? I became editor of the magazine 20 years ago. I owe this magazine… Thousands of activists-of all parties- who have just allowed our democracy to function.
After saying such nice things, the incumbent British PM wants Britain to have a kinder, gentler, ‘tone of politics’ in Britain. These lines touched a chord in my mind and at any rate we can echo this sentiment at this time of the Indian democratic spirit surging in a new environment in India.
If we talk of parliamentary democracy, I quote again the Spectator magazine: “Britain’s parliamentary democracy is often mocked, its meadievalisms, the men in tight and the ayes to the right”. The point is that democracy and parliamentary democracy at that in Britain has survived, it tends to work, right?
That is the magical beauty of British politics. You see there is no written Constitution at all and yet it works and works wonderfully smoothly. How many Prime Ministers had come and gone and how many of them left some memorable words and phrases, episodes and quotable quotes. To juts give one very recent example, the just retired Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court, a worthy lady member, wrote a famous judgment, in three days, just in 20 pages judgment that dismissed the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend Parliament! Compares this with the Indian bureaucracy-ridden mindset that still clings to pages and pages of unreadable legal jargon we find IN Indian! Unwritten conventions and trust-based democratic practices is what given Great Britain its moral and legal strength.
As for the current political scenario in the country, there is no sense of a gentler and kinder tone of politics in India anymore. Instead, there is a growing and strident tone of confrontation and a great deal of distrust!
This newly created tension and mental distress and the highly vitiated environment and the fearful enlargement of violence and must destruction in the university campuses is the handiwork of whom, what elements?
Some hard questions remains to be answered and who should undertake the responsibility? 19 people died in police foreign in UP alone, a State where the saffron-worn leaders and highly rooted in HIndutva is in leadership. A new kind of Hindutva ideology is now being fashioned and in our view, this is a dangerous path and the future in the same path is riddled with some unforeseen consequences. As the days of protesters’ numbers swell, more confrontationist tone on the part of the government is worrying.
Surely, there should be other ways to engage the citizens in a restrained debate. No democracy can be possible in such an atmosphere of forceful propagation. The finer details of the three controversial legislations apart, there is the spill-over of the agitations leading to some unpredictable consequences. On the domestic front the Opposition parties are forced to take some contradictory positions, creating unnecessary mind-splits in their long-time articulations like the Shiv Sena over the conception of Hindutva, till now a harmless formulation, now it is under pressure to distance itself from the founders and original ideologists.
Also, the more strident tones of the ministers who also don’t seem to take a conciliatory tone but much more aggressive to keep up their profiles. And no less worrying is the application of some Colonial laws whose relevance to our times is much more doubtful and yet our lack of a modernizing mindset gives way for more brutal applications. Unfortunately, the very heat and tussle of the protests and confrontations have tended push the vital organs of a democracy, like the media and the universities to fail miserably to contribute their own unique ‘sweetness and light’ in our search for ways and insights. Surely, the media in India under the current regime has been suppressed and we fail to assess and size up the new sources of light and wisdom and guidance.
So too other organs of the democratic system. There are too many to deal with here: from the electoral deficiencies, from high political corruption to other large scale forms of corruption. Also, our distortion of priorities of governance, from appointing Lokpal to Lokayuktha to down the scale to petty corruption and other ills at the grass roots. Talents are also missing in this regime. The ministries, the bureaucracy, the education and health sectors and the like need urgent priorities.
Yes, economic slowdown is a great concern. But smaller things, Human Development Index to Panchayat Raj are all as critical.