As you read this column during the week we celebrate the anniversary of our Republic, let me, dear readers, take you sixty-five years back, when most of you perhaps weren’t around. It was Friday, he 25th November, 1949.
Addressing one of the last sessions of the Constituent Assembly of India which bequeathed us the Republic and its Constitution that we swear by, the Chairman of its drafting committee, who played a leading role in its making, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar made a speech. This should be a compulsory reading for every Indian. In it, among some other extremely wise observations, the learned Doctor made a prophetic statement:
If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.
We went ahead and adopted the Constitution on January 25, 1950 and became a Republic on the 26th, solemnly promising ourselves to live by it. Yet we did almost everything that Ambedkar warned us against. Hence, we are, today, witnesses to a distressing situation of having landed ourselves in a cul-de-sac, and know not what to do. Did W. B. Yeats write about us: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”
Definition of Terms
Before analyzing how we reached this deplorable state of affair, may I define a few terms that have of late been branded around most thoughtlessly? And these are: anarchism, anarchy, and anarchist. They indeed have common derivation: Greek anarkhia “lack of a leader, the state of people without a government” (In the Greek city state of Athens, it was used when there was no archon i.e., leader around.)
Though etymologically, they have much in common in terms of the Greek root words they are derived from, their precise meaning and what they connote has undergone profound changes over time.
First, take anarchism. The term sprang from the secular thought of the Enlightenment, particularly Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s arguments for the moral centrality of freedom. Its meaning is very different from anarchy. Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies often defined as self-governed voluntary institutions. It advocates institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations. There is, above all, nothing disorderly or chaotic about it.
As part of the political turmoil of the 1790s in the wake of the French Revolution, William Godwin developed the first expression of modern anarchist thought. Godwin was, in fact, the first to formulate the political and economical conceptions of anarchism, even though he did not give that name anarchism to the ideas developed by him.
It is important to note that quite often in the post-Godwin political thought, anarchism is referred to as ‘philosophical anarchism’ to distinguish it from plain anarchism, which, as per current usage, means a state of general lawlessness and disorder, specially resulting from – as is happening today in our society – from an absence or failure of government. It also denotes lack of governance.
On the other hand, the precise meaning of anarchy and its exponents, the anarchists, are a very different kettle of fish.
An anarchist – like a self-declared anarchist Arvind Kejriwal – has two distinct meanings: positive and negative. Positively, it means in political thoughta person who advocates the abolition of government and is an advocate of social system based on voluntary cooperation. Negatively, it denotes a person who causes disorder or upheaval.
Certainly Kejriwal and his cohorts represent as per their doings, anarchists in the above negative sense.
It was Ambedkar’s thesis that under rule of law as our Constitution envisages, there’s no place whatever for extra-constitutional means to achieve your goals, howsoever laudable.
After Independence, the first in the country to continue to resort to fasting which presumably was the last weapon in the armory of freedom fighters was Gandhi himself. Others have since followed his example making a mockery of the rule of law and constitutional methods that Ambedkar talked of. If fasts and dharnas and satyagrhahs are to be used to seek redress of private and public grievances, then what is the place of rule of law in governance?
Gandhi’s seventeenth and the last fast of his life was, in fact, a mockery. It was a five-day affair from January 12 to January 18, 1948, undertaken to ensure that Muslims and Hindus agreed to ‘share’ Delhi, pretty much as they did before Partition. Sections as diverse as the RSS and the Jamaat-e-Islami were cobbled together to reassure the man out of touch with the qualitatively changed reality of things around him. It was all done to make him reverse his ‘fast unto death’ decision.
What Ambedkar called the Grammar of Anarchy has been practiced in our society day after day after the Constitution was adopted. Potti Sreeramulu fasted unto death to create an Andhra Pradesh in 1953, Anna Hazare went on an indefinite fast to force the Government to pass the Lokpal Bill hanging on since it was first introduced in Parliament by Advocate Shanti Bhushan in 1968 (and then re-introduced in 1971, 1977, 1985, 1989, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005 and in 2008) but never passed.
Leaders as Role Models
And recall that great verse of the Gita: Chapter III:21
Yadyad acarati sresthah tattadevetaro janah;
Sa yat pramanam kurute lokastat anuvartate
‘Whatever the superior person – shrethah,
the leader, the role model – does,
that is also followed by others;
what standard he demonstrates by action,
people follow that’.
And if Gandhi was not shreshta, who else in our history fulfils the definition? The whole nation looked up to him as the beacon of light in darkness to lead us. He was one of the few in human history who literally walked the talk. But so disillusioned was the man after the Partition of India and the let-down of his colleagues in accepting the vivisection of the country, that he lost his sense of proportion to tell his countrymen that since it was their own government they no longer could resort to the style of agitation they had hitherto been resorting to.
Are dharnas and satyagrahas compatible with the Constitution by which we swear by? While assuming his august office the President of India swears to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law”. The Prime Minister assumes his office by swearing to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established”. The Chief Ministers of States, including Arvind Kejriwal, take the oath to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established.” Do they live up to it?
Supreme Court Intervention
During the week the Supreme Court, the final interpreter and enforcer of rule of law under the Constitution, chose to act. Stressing that every individual holding a constitutional post is also governed by the Constitution, the Court raised earlier in the week questions about the propriety of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet colleagues sitting in protest in violation of prohibitory orders and put them on notice over the constitutionality of their actions.
The court also censured the Delhi Police, which is administered by the Central government, for letting Kejriwal and his AAP supporters gather in large numbers in the heart of Delhi despite imposition of the order against unlawful assembly. It also questioned the police over its reluctance to take action against the protesters even after they refused to disperse following a warning.
Weren’t Kejriwal and his ministers breaching the oath under the Constitution to maintain and uphold the law? Wasn’t the legal process being outrageously subverted? Weren’t the law makers of the land assuming the roles of law breakers? Why the police force expected to ensure peace, played the role of “mute spectators.”
“We must remember that the Constitution is supreme and every institution is a product of constitution. Every individual holding a constitutional post is also governed by the Constitution,” the Court sternly reminded the functionaries of the Centre and Delhi Administration.
And now take the AAP Chief Minister of Delhi whom we thought would give us corruption free government. Some police personnel not under his jurisdiction refuse to carry out the State Law Minister’s arbitrary orders. The Chief Minister chooses to sit on dharna? If this not the Grammar of Anarchy what else is it? And realizing that people of Delhi were disgusted with his antics, he clutched at the fig leaf that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi sent him with warm parathas. This is a new chapter in the Grammar of Anarchy. Let’s call it Grammar of Chaos.
May I also recall another grim warning of Dr. Ambedkar from the same speech quoted above?
What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mahommed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Gohri to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki Kings. When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Moghul Emperors. When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh Kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators.
Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.
There is no dearth of brokers yearning to strike deal with those who are only too anxious to take over control of India as its new virtual rulers. China is in cahoots with Pakistan to create problems on the volatile borers of India, which we in sixty-five failed to define, demarcate and protect. Meanwhile, we have a notional Government desperately clinging on to its office to finish its terms while the country bleeds.
Remember the warning of Allama Iqbal in that phase of his life when his original patriotic self hadn’t yet lost its way in the narrow grooves of communalism.
Watan Ki Fikar Kar
watan ki fikar kar nadaan museebat aane wali hai
teri barbadiyon ke mashware hain aasmanoon main
Think of the motherland, you naïve fool. Misfortune is awaiting.
CConspiracies for your destruction are brewing in the world around
zara dekh isko jo kuch ho raha hai hone wala hai
dhara kiya hai bhala ahde kuhan kii daastoon main
Have a look around what’s going on and what’s going to happenbr
WWhat’s there in the tales of old that you’re clinging on to.
na samjhonge tou mit jaoge hindustaan walo
tumhari daastan tak bhi na hogi daastanoon main
You’re doomed if you, people of India don’t grasp the hard reality
There won’t this way even be your mention in the annals of the world.