The majority is never right.
Never, I tell you! That's one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population ? the intelligent ones or the fools? I think we can agree it's the fools, no matter where you go in this world, it's the fools that form the overwhelming majority. - Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
In a historic speech at Baltimore on 18 April, 1864, Abraham Lincoln said:
'The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act, as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one'.
This classic observation of Abraham Lincoln came to my mind in a flash when I read about the atrociously abominable refusal by the Office of The Commissioner of Police, Chennai to accord permission to Rajaji Centre for Public Affairs, Chennai to organize an indoor public meeting on 'Recent Local Polls in Tamil Nadu' on 24 October, 2006 at the Music Academy hall, Chennai.
B S Raghavan IAS (Retd), formerly Chief Secretary, Government of Tripura and Secretary to Government of India was scheduled to preside over that meeting. V R Lakshminarayanan IPS (Retd), formerly Director General of Police, Tamilnadu, and Cho Ramaswamy, editor, Thuglak, Era Sezhiyan, ex-Member of Parliament and many other responsible dignitaries were expected to speak at that meeting. How can the Police Department treat these Known Dignitaries (KDs) as Known Depredators (KDs!!) or History Sheeters (HSs) ?
Excepting the known goondas and political criminals from various political parties in Madras city, all the responsible citizens of this city are fully familiar with the exemplary track record of useful public service done by Rajaji Centre for Public Affairs for several years ever since its inception. In the true tradition of Rajaji's philosophy, this Centre believes in objective and rational analysis of issues and has been continuously sponsoring weekly meetings on current topics with lectures from eminent persons followed by a lively participation of the enlightened audience. I have myself addressed several meetings organized by this centre. These meetings are held weekly in association with Young Mens' Indian Association (YMIA) by Dr Annie Besant, another great revolutionary, who has left her imprint on the history of our freedom movement. Rajaji Centre for Public Affairs is of the firm opinion that to achieve a healthy democracy, our society should have both the right kind of information and ability to use them. Rajaji Centre is headed by G Narayanaswamy, one of the foremost Chartered Accountants in South India. He is a remarkably public spirited individual who had the good fortune of working closely with Rajaji for nearly 12 years from 1960 to 1972, mainly as a professional Chartered Accountant.
Rajaji Centre had approached the Office of the Commissioner of Police, Chennai in the prescribed manner seeking permission for the indoor public meeting. Invitations had been issued. Many enlightened members of the public wanted to participate in that meeting. It is understood that on the day of the meeting, two sleuths from the Police Department met the office bearers of the Rajaji Centre and informed them that no permission had been accorded by the Commissioner of Police for conducting that meeting. It is now widespread public knowledge that some of the known criminals, goondas, anti-social elements and thugs were given the wholesale freedom of Madras city to rig the local body elections held nearly a fortnight ago. They were given indivisible freedom of action to capture the booths and to let loose unabashed violence against the innocent members of the public who had come to the booths to cast their votes and more particularly against the people belonging to the opposition parties. This dastardly culture of letting loose violence against political opponents has been the hall-mark of all the Dravidian Parties after 1967.
Specious and ingeniously contrived or plotted arguments are often recorded and furnished to justify such noble and benevolent actions undertaken in the larger interest of the State. In the same manner the Office of the Commissioner of Police has advanced a legally 'solemn' reason stating that the permission to conduct an indoor meeting has been denied to the Rajaji Centre for Public Affairs in view of the fact that Police Act 41(A) is in force in Madras city under which no meeting or assembly involving more than five members is legally permissible. Taking note of this highly principled and Gandhian stand of the Police Department, the proposed public meeting was cancelled by the Rajaji Centre for Public Affairs.
I would like all Government servants in Tamilnadu to draw their inspiration from the 'Stanzas on Freedom' by the great American poet Lowell, who was a great favorite of Abraham Lincoln:
'They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.'
Madras city is going through a dark age of fascist factions and fascist forces. In these dark days, all responsible and civic conscious citizens should derive their inspiration from the life and example of Rajaji ' especially in the last 20 years of his long and exemplary life.
When Rajaji was fighting against the License-Permit-Control-Quota Raj imposed by Pandit Nehru after our independence, Rajaji pointed out that Nehru was leading the country on the wrong path of servitude and Statism. He said that The Father of the Nation had led the people to the threshold of liberty on 15 August, 1947. Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, the Congress men and the rich and industrial classes had grown richer, capitalizing on their money bags and monopolizing their influence with officialdom. The poor had grown poorer, what with soaring prices, high taxation, and the horrors of corruption. There was more want in their homes, more callousness on the part of pitiless officials, and more unemployment in the land. Rajaji pointed out that those leaders who had been paupers during the freedom struggle were living like princes after India attained independence. Therefore Rajaji took upon himself this noble mission of providing such leadership to the country by gathering around him a band of dedicated colleagues and co-workers, diverting their energies into fruitful channels of service to the people. He wanted to create a body of men who could reclaim the country by their own example and precept from the moral degradation into which it had sunk. Thus was born the Swatantra Party in order to create a civil society founded on civil liberties.
An ardent believer in democracy and the democratic way of life, Rajaji opposed the idea of a brute majority oppressing the people and suppressing their sacred rights under the constitution, because of its voting strength in Parliament and State Legislatures. A democratic Government must have faith in the loyalty of the people, unperturbed by noisy demonstrations of public excitement. The confidence of the people in the rightness of its policies is the key to success in a democratic Government while in its own turn, it must have faith that it is working for the welfare of the masses. Further, no democratic government should consider all opposition to its programme as hostile. After all, democracy grows from strength to strength only when there is a healthy opposition acting as a check on its activities which are not in the interests of the Nation. All these worst fears and forebodings of Rajaji have become realities today in Tamilnadu because of the organized understanding between the UPA in New Delhi and the DPA in Tamilnadu.
Every responsible citizen in Tamilnadu is saddened by the fact that the highest in the state are not imbued with a sense of honor or a spirit of honesty in their political dealings. When the elite of Government are seen waxing and glorifying the principle that the end justifies the means, how could the lower officials be expected not to stoop just in order to please for sheer official survival?
Let the Government of Tamilnadu know that liberty has restraints but no frontiers. Let all enlightened citizens of Tamilnadu know that liberty is a useless nothing without wisdom, a useless tinsel without virtue. Let them know that a day, or even an hour of virtuous liberty, is worth a whole century of bondage. Let them also know that liberty will not descend to them as a matter of right or grace; they must raise themselves to liberty. They must understand that it is a blessing that must be earned through determined and concerted exertions before it can be enjoyed. Civil liberty cannot be established without morality, or morality without faith.
Let me conclude in the beautiful words of Rajaji:
'A strong opposition is essential for the health of a democratic government. In a democracy based on universal suffrage, government of the majority without an effective opposition is like driving a donkey on whose back you put the whole load in one bundle. The two-party system steadies movement by putting a fairly equal load into each pannier. In the human body two eyes and two ears enable a person to place the objects seen and heard. A single-party democracy soon loses its sense of proportion. It sees but cannot place things in perspective or appreciate all sides of a question'.