“Democracy is not alone a form of state and of administration. It is a philosophy of life and an outlook on the world. The authority of the state and its law is derived from general agreement among citizens upon the main postulates of philosophy of life". - President Masaryk.
".....for India did have a civilization to accommodate democracy's impossible dream, its passions and ambitions....Hinduism would absorb democracy as it had absorbed everything else, and just as everything else has left its mark, so would democracy". - Bruce Grant, Australian High Commissioner to India (1973-76).
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Meade
"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed" -Steve Biko
"In the past 30 years, the "masters of mankind," as Smith called them, have abandoned any sentimental concern for the welfare of their own society, concentrating instead on short-term gain and huge bonuses, the country be damned - as long as the powerful nanny state remains intact to serve their interests." - Noam Chomsky
In an Op-ed in ‘The Hindu’ of 22nd August, “I'd rather not be Anna”, Arundhati Roy, the most well-known publicity seeking social activist says that while his means may be Gandhian, his demands are certainly not.
Yes, you will never be or can be an Anna, since you love publicity and fame, which you have garnered by this piece too.
India’s corporate controlled print media and TV channels have been covering since two weeks 24/7 the andolan or peaceful struggle led by Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare for enactment of a law for instituting a Jan Lokpal i.e. Ombudsman against all pervasive cancer like corruption corroding the Indian polity by inviting for debates, political party spokesmen, mostly lawyers, who work for big corporate cases and in between hope to be selected as senior government advocates, counselors and solicitors. In debates they are just argumentative Indians i.e. pointless upmanship with no solutions, just yap yap, underlined by arrogance and haughtiness.
Supreme Court Justice Singhvi rightly bemoaned a few years ago that the judicial system in India did not deliver justice but has become a tool for litigation by the rich and powerful to thwart and delay justice. While some members of the legal fraternity on the Bench have been found wanting and even punished, there are few reported cases of criminal activities and punishment of the practicing lawyers. How come!
Then these ad agency honchos in debates. I presume that they believe that selling soap, soups or cell phones gives them insight into human beings specially about social causes, problems and social activities. Are not they the experts who arouse desires we did not even know existed? They believe they know India since they can sell cooking oil. They are expensive parasites on products they sell where their share of loot is disproportionate to those who improve the product or the cost of raw materials. Their arrogant vehemence is acquired while selling fish or other products.
Naomi Klein’s book ‘No Logo’, an international bestseller, exposes the brand oriented consumer culture and the operations of large corporations, many of which unethically exploit workers in the world's poorest countries in pursuit of greater profits. Her next book ‘Fences and Windows’ was a collection of her articles and speeches written on behalf of the anti-globalization movement.
Of course there is the usual quota of journalists, the usual suspects, ill-informed and info-challenged. There are also the equivalent of what in media lingo is described as embedded (western media now has mostly such puppets and pimps reporting or rather promoting the interests of their corporate bosses who invade Iraq or Libya or bomb Afghanistan and Pakistan).
Also some university professors, some social scientists are thrown in mixed with the friends of the channel anchorman and perhaps of the owners of the channels, the fat corporate puppeteers. It would appear to be a sort of incestuous arrangement where these debating groups meet at receptions and cocktails and are regulars at India’s celebrity and trivia obsessed corporate TV channels.
Lets us not forget the sarkari or government approved and promoted social activists. They and the state policy makers interact with each other regularly in air conditioned plush offices and at receptions and iftars. Like the victims of Stockholm Syndrome, these sarkari social activists become supporters of the government scheming. As in this case, of defining the role and functions of an ombudsman and neutralizing grass roots social activists to protect the interests of the rulers (In the present case of upsurge of the masses, it should be clear that a massive majority of Indians support Anna Hazare and his activists).
Some of the names of these sarkari activists recognized are Harash Mander, Jai Prakash Narayan, the same name as of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narain. Of course his parents saw the future qualities in their son. In a similar vein, any Gandhi i.e. with Mahatma Gandhi surname and even remotely related becomes an expert on all social subjects and custodian of Gandhian legacy and the benefits it accrues. How these Gandhis have milked this surname.
Speaking at seminars and committee meetings and squabbling with the likes of Sibals and Ahluwalias (of no loss in G-2 Spectrum auctions fame) they have an exaggerated importance of themselves and echo official spokesmen poking fun at Anna and his following in the wake of the fast (why not go on fast and see what support they would garner from public). I heard one of them. one Aruna Roy (who cracked the Civil Service exam, it is mentioned).While insisting that she must have her input in the Ombudsman / Lokpal issue, she appeared by her manner of speech, opinionated, dictatorial and vehemently cantankerous, as if the whole platform as official stakeholders and fame as experts is being undermined and taken away by the likes of what they consider upstarts and nuvo arrives like Kejriwals and Kiran Bedis.
Of course a corrupt and almost illegal system built over 50 years by the establishment has been challenged by the masses supporting Anna and his activists. The establishment i.e. ruling parties have pretended to legislate earlier the Lokpal Bill eight times since 1968 (what credibility they have). It is not going to give up its mafia like control over the wealth and power and the control over the lives of Indian masses, who are daily exploited, humiliated and tortured.
No wonder the ruling elite are promoting these in house pet like social activists. They are just red herrings to delay and distort the Lokpal Bill. They will be used to dilute a strong Bill and must be stopped, boycotted and shunned. It will not be easy.
Finally, a permanent fixture at these inane debates is some glam presence, a good looking journalist, sometimes even an actress passe like Shabana Azmi, dancers like Mallika Sarabhai and Sonal Mansingh (once married to a diplomat) or even a banker. Yes, it makes for a pleasing tableau among bearded and scruffy looking and sometimes shrieking and squabbling cantankerous males. It is like Indian films, where the main story is spun around the male hero, but a glamorous heroine and an item girl is added to attract eyeballs.
Revolutions of the people by the people and for the people are not and cannot be planned in details. They happen when its time has come. It needs a spark, as say a suicide in Tunisia in February. It can take unexpected turns and twists. It may not succeed and can be even aborted. It can be hijacked as happened in Romania, when in 1989 it was taken over by old sidelined communists and finally, mafias owing loyalty to the West are now ruling. A poll 5 years ago showed the much maligned by the West Nicolai Ceausescu as the most important leader in Romanian history. Globalization and neo liberalism has heaped misery on the masses as it has all over the world including India.
In Iran, Mullahs hijacked the revolution in 1979 in spite of Ayotollah Khomeini and remains incomplete. In Algiers, the freedom fighters after seven years of bloody struggle for independence in 1962 just ended up replacing the ruling French elite. The usurping elite was and remains challenged by the angry masses with religious moorings under young radical leadership.
In India, independence came partly as a result of the changed world situation, with UK going bankrupt and US thrusting to replace it, which they have in India and the Indian elite is quite happy as the local proxies of the Wall Street and Washington i.e. corporates, MMS Kohli, Ahluwalias and many such others.
Then there is Arundhati Roy, who in the spectrum of activists occupies the space CPM does in politics. I had begun a floppy on Arundhatti sayings (I have a few on Gen Musharraf ), but after a night in jail, for contempt of court, (she could have stayed for week, highlighted and agitated for judicial system reform) she got out straight for a media conference, organized basically for hogging publicity. She is like any other Delhi bred go-getter who use different tools and methods to occupy political stage to earn fame and wealth. Many diplomats have told me that when these activists, who sit on Dharnas i.e. sit down strikes, and whose heart pains for the poor, when they travel abroad, they insist on travel by First Class and deluxe hotel stay only. If crossed they threaten and warn, “Do you know who I am!”
The Indian state, its officials and officially recognized and supported activists are getting panicky and afraid that Anna and his volunteers might make them irrelevant. After the likes of politicians, Diggy Raja and Manish Tewari with their gutter level discourse, the despised ruling elite is quite happy promoting these activists.
As a student of history of revolutions around the world, it is my firm belief that to avoid massive bloodshed which will put the fear of God in the heart of the totally corrupt, insensitive and brazen ruling elite across the whole political spectrum, a lasting and fundamental change must come about quickly whether it is Lokpal or electoral, educational and other reforms.
Look at the Egyptian revolution, still underway but after 6 months the old ruling elite of military fat-cats minus a few prominent exploiters like Mubarak family and close cronies, remains in place.
This is what I had written when the Egyptian revolt began in February, 2011.
“Egypt might join France, Russia, Turkey, China and Iran, and emerge as a modern nation from the crucible of a bloody revolution. The people of Hindustan, are unlikely to do so, where the regime is no less corrupt, but where corruption is decentralized and almost legitimized. Seventy percent of the poor who live on less than a dollar have been conditioned by Brahmanical dharma that it is their Karma for sins in past lives.
“The political architecture after Mubarak is not easy to predict but democracy as defined and not as practiced say even in USA and India might not come about any time soon. The Egyptian armed forces are well entrenched since 1952 and remain powerful as in Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, China and military-industry complex in USA.
“In Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West aligned mafias have literally taken over. In Romania, after the spontaneous students revolt in end 1989, the old dissident Communist group sidelined by Ceausescu took over the ‘revolution’ and is now ruled by neo-liberalism. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square popular opposition and revolt, military backed Communist party remains entrenched in China. But China was at least making economic progress. Egypt’s economy has been stagnant.”
Evolution of the Equality before Law or the Rule of Law
An eye for an eye – Hammurabi
Rule of law is a Semitic contribution to human civilization. The ‘Eye for an eye‘ custom was codified as part of the Hammurabi Code, which formed the basis of law in Semite lands. If eye is not taken for an eye aka guilty not punished then lawlessness will take over. This Semite tribal thesis later became the core of Judaic, Christian and Islamic civilizations. In Europe it was further refined.
Rule of Law or equality of all before the law evolved further in Europe following the Reformation and the Renaissance.
Thus the current rule of law as acknowledged and accepted is basically a European construct on Hamurabi Code, which evolved over a long period through revolutions and evolutions, alongwith the concept of a modern state and the nation. It emerged after centuries of wars among the Popes, Holy Emperors and kings and other religious leaders and barons. And finally; common people rose and fought for equality for all citizens and rule of law. A King was guillotined in France, Czar assassinated in Russia; Ottoman Caliph fled Turkey, as did Chiang Kai Sheik in China and the Shah-in-Shah from Iran and some others elsewhere too.
During modern era the concept of duties of a citizen and of the ruler was further evolved and was codified in Europe helped by development of political, economic, social and ethical thought. It is only then that the concept of a nation and equality before law emerged and slowly took hold. These were then transmitted to colonies in America, Asia and Africa and implemented and accepted with different levels of success.
India has not gone through any such metamorphosis yet. Nor is it likely any time soon. So do not hold your breath. Yes, there are revolts and rebellions in north East, in Kashmir and in increasingly large swathes of areas where rights of tribals have been usurped, reducing them to misery. So they are now coming under Maoist influence and sway.
Hindu Outlook and Rule of Law & Removal of Corruption in India
Just passing a strong Lokpal Act will not solve the problem of corruption or inequality in India. The problems are deep rooted, religious and civilizational.
Poet AK Ramanujam said that Indians don't seem to have a sense of absolute. They place everything in some context or the other. And, depending on the context, what the rest of the world would regard as being wrong in the absolute sense, becomes quite all right in India.
All this is supported even by our epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Like the trickery by the great noble and transparent warrior of Ramayana, Lord Rama in killing his opponent Bali while hiding behind a tree or in the Mahabharata war, the apostle of truth Pandava Yudhister proclaiming the death of Aswathama (elephant) for military gains are all lauded, accepted and readily employed in daily life, specially by the new political leadership which has emerged from the grassroots from the villages and small towns and are not versed in western concept of the rule of law.
Thus Indians in general have little sense or respect for rule of law. Their concept is very flexible. Show me the man and I will show you the law depending on the situation. There is almost total unanimity in applying rules and laws contextually for personal gains and advantage.
Thus India/Hindustan is not a nation in the European sense and even in many other ways. Identity is still caste based not only in India but to quite some extent even in Pakistan and Bangladesh too. Among the followers of Islam, supposedly an egalitarian religion, the caste has been replaced by Ashraffs (migrants from Arabia, central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan) and high caste converts, mostly Rajputs and Jats, who are considered superior to converts from lower castes and untouchables. The caste malady exists among Sikhs too as manifested by recurrent resistance by low caste Sikhs against Jat Sikh domination in religious and political institutions. Christians in Kerala have separate caste based churches. Even in the most highly educated state in India, politics remains caste and religion based. Thus education is no panacea.
Let me give a few examples. When I made my first call in Cairo in 1962 on my first ambassador Azim Hussien ICS, on my telling him that I am a Rajput, he could not contain himself and smiled and blurted, ‘You know, I am a Rathore Rajput’. Son of Fazli Hussein, pre-partition chief minister of Punjab, who ruled the state in coalition with Jat leader Chhotu Ram, Azim Hussein was otherwise very reserved, taciturn and aloof. While posted in Ankara (1992-96) I visited Bucharest and was invited for dinner by Ambassador Julio Ribeiro, a former police chief of Maharashtra and Punjab. Even before I had a few sips of the whisky, he said, ‘You know Iam a Chitpavan Brahmin’.
A retired Indian Ambassador Surendra Kumar wrote a piece for Tribune, Chandigarh about the antics of Indian parliamentarians of all castes and parties about caste based census. He then narrated from personal experience how Indians were not satisfied unless they found out his caste, when he encountered them. These included high caste top civil servants, diplomats and politicians, who were or rose to become vice-presidents and presidents of India.
Upward movement in India’s caste system?
Eminent Indian sociologist M.N. Srinivas, propounded the theory of Sanskritisation as the process by which castes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility, based on an ethnographical study of the Coorg Community of south Karnataka, India.
Srinivas defined Sanskritisation as a process by which "a 'low' Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently 'twice-born' caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community..."
One clear example of Sanskritisation is the acceptance, imitating the practice of twice-born castes, of vegetarianism by people belonging to the so-called low castes, who are traditionally not averse to non-vegetarian food.
Looked from another angle, Sanskritisation is but (cultural) ‘colonization’ of society that entails the imposition of a set of beliefs, social structures and practices (Brahmanism) upon the Hindu society, allowing it to take root progressively and in a top-down (NOT bottom-up) manner by first inducting the upper / ruling classes of the native population.
The British colonialism could be called Anglicization, defining it as a process by which the natives of India sought upward mobility by emulating the ways and manners of the British lords who chose to spend some time in India as part of their global mission to ‘spread civilization’ (and, incidentally, economic restructuring aka looting their subjects).
We will not discuss Hindu beliefs and relevance or importance of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and all that goes by the name of Hindu scriptures, and therefore in avatars and rebirth, the varnashram dharma or varna-vyavastha either in the sense in which it is explained in Hindu dharma shastras like Manusmriti or in the so-called Vedic sense and the Hindu taboo of not eating beef or the idol-worship and other such controversial matters.
High caste Imperialism
Thus we can also say that while imperialists divided the subject races to rule over them, Brahmins, since time immemorial have divided the Hindu society, to rule over them as the highest rule making caste. They gave religious sanction and fear of hell and uncounted births as non-humans and other untold tortures and miseries, if the non-Brahmins wavered from the caste based Dharma and obligations, mostly for the benefit of the higher castes at the cost of those lower down.
In this Brahmin ordained apartheid like systemic cancer since millennia there has not been much weakening since 1947 or even in the equality of the sexes guaranteed by the Constitution. The women in real life remain relegated to the bottom by the religiously enforced grading led by Brahmin fraternity, warriors and nominally ruling caste of Kshatriyas, the trading and agriculture community of Vaishyas and even the Dalits (who in the countryside still remain untouchables). While for political reasons the reservations in Assemblies and for jobs have distributed benefits unevenly to Dalits and Tribes the Muslims have now ended as the new untouchables as brought out in the prevailing discriminations against them by various studies and reports. Even rich and respectable Muslims are refused flats by Hindu dominated building societies.
But the situation of women remains unenviable. A girl child is still given food the last in the family, so it is with her education, with female feticide, bride burning for dowry or maltreatment of widows. A few years ago, Shankaracharya of Puri declared that women have no right to learn Sanskrit the language of Hindu Shashtras or read Vedas. A Shankaracharya, mostly a Brahmin, tries to be like an Ayatollah Khomeini, a jurist –consult in Shia Iran, to maintain Brahminical control over Hindu society and has been used to deny education to non-Brahmins and women. Brahmins, about five percent of India’s population including obscurantist cranks and charlatans continue to rule the spiritual life and flourish all over India, with many of them named Ananda (bliss) spreading swamis, preachers and priests on religious TV channels. Some have been charged with molestation, rapes and other crimes somewhat like Catholic priests all over the world.