Thursday, June 19, 2008

Civil wars in God’s Own Country: no more justified than Bush’s Iraq war

Kerala is today a big battlefield. The fight between the government and the opposition is intensifying. Since Lok Sabha elections are due in less than a year, it is sure to get bloodier than at present. Within the government and the ruling front, there are battles which are even fiercer than this traditional conflict. The CPI (M) is at war with the CPI, and the departments under their control are at war. There is fighting within some departments too. There is a thin silver lining in the war clouds. The truce in the CPI (M) following the Kottayam conference is holding. When there is strong public reaction, the government sometimes places a police sub-inspector under suspension and when the tempers cool it quietly reinstates him. In the same manner, the party has been able to bring EP Jayarajan back as general manager of Deshabhimani without encountering any opposition.

There are signs of war lust not only in the government and the front but also in other machineries. After reading reports that the State Women’s Commission has decided to recommend to the government enactment of a law to set an age limit for initiation of nuns, someone approached the State Human Rights Commission with a petition. A Commission member immediately turned towards that body like Hanuman, who jumped to seize the Moon turned to Rahu.

Although the hunt for god-men, which appeared to be growing into a great war, has subsided, it still rumbles. Disciples of Mata Amritanandamayi, who gave the world a message of peace in Malayalam from the United Nations headquarters, are preparing for war against Sukumar Azhikode for demanding that her sources of funds be investigated. And the Sahitya Akademi is raising a battalion to face Amma’s children. Another AMMA is at another battlefront. It’s a dishum-dishyum war.

When those moving in the magic world of power get into a fight, it can be attributed to the character of the power establishment. But what can you say when activists of non-government organizations are involved in fracas? According to press reports, someone has filed a petition in a court seeking a probe into the assets of Anveshi president K. Ajitha. It appears the petitioner is a human rights activist too. Even human rights activists are answerable before the law. But if someone has material to establish that Ajitha has amassed wealth illegally, there is no need for him to move the courts. There are agencies under the Central and State governments who are empowered to handle such matters. If the accused person is a leader who is a part of the Establishment, official agencies may hesitate to take action and so they cannot be relied upon. There is no need for such fear in the case of Ajitha.

Most of the people involved in the wars going on at different levels must have joined the battle in good faith. But the question whether they are fighting to uphold the wide interests of the people is relevant. Institutions and individuals involved in service to the people must ask themselves if it is right to turn their attention to comparatively unimportant matters when grave issues remain unresolved.

Political parties competing for power are essential for sustaining a democratic set-up. To that extent, their seeking power and striving to maintain it are not only natural but inevitable. What occasionally create problems are the means they adopt.
The goals set in the Preamble of our Constitution are based on principles that are applicable as much to civil society as to the constitutional institutions. They include the ideals of Equality, Fraternity and Liberty that are the contributions of the Western tradition. These were not ideas that were alien to Indian thought. But the Indian tradition was built upon inequality. Consequently injustice prevailed in the society. That was why the makers of the Constitution wrote at the very outset of the Preamble that the ultimate goal was justice, social, economic and political.

Years ago Gandhiji suggested a formula to decide whether a decision was right or wrong. He said that if the decision helped the poorest of the poor it was right. Otherwise it was wrong. In the light of the proclaimed objectives of the Constitution, we can update it as follows: what ensures social, economic and political justice is right; what does not is wrong. When tested by the touchstone of justice, many of the civil wars being fought in God’s Own Country have no greater justification than Bush’s Iraq war.

Today India is the fastest producer of billionaires. There is also a fast growing middle class here. The country also happens to have the largest number of poor people. This indicates that an unbalanced social and economic system is developing here. In this situation, social and economic justice assumes great relevance. The situation in Kerala is no different from that in the rest of the country. Socially,
Kerala has been a front-rank State for a long time. In the last few years, economically, too, it is in the forefront. But the depressed classes have not benefited proportionately from the State’s social and economic progress. The condition of the State’s Dalits and Adivasis and many of the backward communities must open the eyes of the political leadership.
Based on column ‘Nerkkazhcha’ appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated June 19, 2008

No comments: