I am a first time Member of Lok Sabha and have grown up watching how Parliament was the temple of reason and debate, of accountability and prudence. However, the 16th Lok Sabha bears no semblance to its predecessors for the government has reduced it to a podium for mudslinging, misrepresenting facts, and spreading vitriol.
I wonder who is “displaying crass political opportunism and stooping to a new low”, as the Parliamentary Affairs minister puts it, when the government hides behind the garb of nationalism and tries to trivialise the contributions of our brave army men by pitting them against civilians.
The insecurities of this government for failing to provide meaningful sustainable growth to our economy in the past 21 months has made it divert the national narrative towards such incidents. The slogans raised on 09 Feb 2016 are highly condemnable and all the people involved in the incident should be punished. However, such an incident would have hardly come to spotlight unless the government had put all of its might behind it.
This internationalisation is denting the image of the country. The image of the country gets dented when the liquidity of its largest banks becomes questionable. The image gets dented when the current Prime minister stands on the floor of the people’s house to quote previous Prime Ministers in a vitriolic and vengeful manner. The image gets dented when 3228 farmers’ deaths are reported from only one state in the country.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi unequivocally said in his speech at Jantar Mantar on 14 February, “While Anti-India sentiment is unquestionably unacceptable, the right to dissent & debate is an essential ingredient of democracy.”. He reiterated this stand during his speech in Lok Sabha when he asked the government to take legal course against anyone who has said anything against our country. But hounding those like Kanhaiya Kumar and sending police in an educational institution without any evidence, or worse fabricated evidence, is beyond preposterous.
Rohith Vemula’s unfortunate suicide is even more disturbing. This government has not only misreported the facts of the case but has led itself to believe its own theory as the solitary truth. The HRD ministry did send five letters to the Vice Chancellor, Hyderabad University between September 3 and November 19, 2015. The minister has defended this as part of her regular practise. What the Minister cannot defend, however, is how the subject of the intimation changed from “Comments on VIP reference of Shri Bandaru Dattatretya, MoS for Labour and Employment” (1st letter, 3rd Sept 2015) to “Anti-national activities in Hyderabad Central University premises” (2nd, 4th, and 5th letter on 24th Sept, 6th Oct, and 19th Nov 2015 respectively).
The change in subjects of these letters goes against the government’s theory that these were simple reminders. It suggests presumption of guilt and the pressure on the vice chancellor to take action. This is what the case is precisely about. The country that we live has the rule of law which works on the principle of “innocent till proven guilty”, not the other way around.
By all means, take action against the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) if guilty, but millions of legal options are at the government’s disposal between taking no action and convicting them for sedition. Another theory the government believes, is that the medical examination of Rohith’s body and the police action was delayed. These claims have been thrown out of the window by three different sources – Zikrullah Nisha, an Economics PhD scholar who called the health centre, the Chief Medical officer, video evidence and Rohith’s own family.
The government seems completely disoriented in its understanding of the level of unrest in the country. On one hand, JNU and HCU are suggested as part of a larger narrative “by forces inimical to the country”. In complete contradiction, the government also believes that only a handful of the 740 universities are witnessing some kind of agitation triggered by a handful of students.
Instead of a reasoned debate on the distress in the country, the government pushes itself in a corner and perceives everyone else as working against national interest. The same media that provided disproportionate coverage to the prime minister candidate Narendra Modi is now labelled everything from “propagandist” to “anti-national”. The same BJP which finds Kanhaiya Kumar and Ambedkar Student’s Association seditious has no problem sharing power with a pro-separatists party like the PDP which thanked Pakistan for peaceful elections in J&K or releasing General Secretary of the All Parties Hurriyat, Masrat Alam. Isn’t this illogic and hypocrisy writ large? BJP may have the highest number of Dalit and backward caste MPs but that does this give the party any license to spread vitriol and do injustice with these sections?
What the government doesn’t seem to understand is that its excessive use of executive machinery is creating an unparalleled and irreparable polarisation in the country.
The internationalisation and sensationalisation of such incidents gives the fringe on the left and right and the separatists forces exactly what they want – their voices becoming mainstream. The government needs to wake up and govern with the tact required to administer this vast multicultural nation with diverse views, not act immaturely based on its narrow minded triggered by its insecurities.