JNU, Rohtak and Crisis of Democracy

India is in rage these days and seems very united against the threats to its unity. Countless messages related to teaching lessons to anyone who dares to attack or break India are getting posted and shared on social media. Yes – as a Nation, we are ready to crush any voice, which attacks the integrity of India. However, this steel-like resolve faced its first encounter with reality and chose to look away when Haryana violence, not very far from JNU, happened and failed to shake anybody except the people who were at the receiving end.

A section from Jat community decided that they have to be treated as a backward class and chose to convey the message in the form of protest but without the usual ways of shouting slogans or doing a foot-march in the Gandhian way. Jats, who are classified as one of the martial races in India, chose to do the protest in their own style, which is a lot of force and show of strength. And the result was indeed something significant, as around 30 people died, a business worth INR 34,000 Crore was destroyed, and much murkier details of mass rapes, violence and arson started emerging from the shadows as the dust settled down. The impact of this event was 100 times more negative than the Pathankot attack or the JNU anti-India shouting or the 26/11 attacks in terms of massive disturbance to society and the common citizen. However, these powerful events were met by equally deafening silence. Photo-shopped planted messages regarding our motherland stopped appearing. All social site activists, who were proclaiming to tear anyone into small parts in case of a threat to the motherland, started forwarding stale jokes again.

In Organisation Building, one of the most important rules is “Hot Stove” rule given by Douglas McGregor. The hot stove never discriminates on the basis of status, rank or caste, and follows a simple rule – “When you touch the hot stove, you burn your hand.“ An effective organization needs to be like a hot stove, which is to treat every employee on the same terms in order to install a sense of fairness and justice. Any organization, which is not fair to its employees, falls apart over a period of time. Organizations constantly face this dilemma about being fair or being subversive to power groups. Nations being a superset of organizations also go through the same dilemma.

India, touted as world’s largest democracy, really falls apart when it comes to the matter of fairness and providing equal rights to all. There are millions who are languishing in jail without any bail or hearing on the most flimsy of cases while the powerful ones don’t even appear in court, let alone be arrested – be it RK Pachauri or Supreme Court judges accused of molestation. India really follows the principle of animal farm where all are equal and some are more than equal.

This method of selective governance has served India’s ruling elite very well so far. The State rules not only through police and judiciary but also by managing media. However, the recent advances in social sites and crowdsourcing of news are disrupting this power equation. Hence, the sense of fairness becomes more critical and important in these uncertain times.

There is no way one can condone the shouting of anti-India slogans and talk of breaking India at an Indian university and it does deserve suitable punishments, but so are the rioters who raped, killed and looted with no worry about consequences. Unfortunately, not a single political party condemned or raised the issue of Jat violence even when parliament was in session. Vote bank politics or sheer contempt for justice?? While Govt machinery was in full motion in chasing and arresting students, it was holding peace talks with the group of Jat leaders showing total oblivion to the violence, which the same group had inflicted on others in the name of Reservation.

If one sees the chain of events and reflects, it becomes very clear as to why a certain class of citizens of India suddenly feels very alienated and persecuted. Would there still be same silence if this kind of looting/arson/rape and goonda-ism was committed by a section of Muslims? Or by a section that is not large in number and politically insignificant? Will we still be forwarding jokes and ignoring violence while going ballistic over some slogans!!

India is facing its moment of crisis and this crisis didn’t start with PM Modi. It started much before when India started to get ruled by a set of people whose moral compass was shorter than a tiny insect! When Indian judiciary tucked in its comfort zone chose to look sideways and focused more on control of its privileges than dispensing justice! When government executives forgot that they have taken an oath to the nation and not to a political class or ideology, and when the ruler sitting on the chair of governance forgot the need to give equal justice to all. The culmination of all this decay for last 60 odd years has created a situation where a statement like “law will take its own course” is met by bored yawns – by the guilty and the victims alike. Supreme Court’s statement that destroying of public property shall be recovered from hooligans is met skepticism since we don’t even remember as to when was the last time justice was dispensed to common people. Nirbhaya rape? Union carbide? Or when?

The authorities of this country shall be worried that victims of rape in Haryana chose to go silent than come to State for redressal. If the role of State gets reduced when it comes to security and application of the law, the mere existence and validity of State may become questionable in near future? If the State failed to provide security, food, health and sense of justice, the reason for its existence itself becomes very tenuous.

We may dismiss the Haryana incident as one of the random events. However, another random event, i.e. Gujjar agitation, happened just two years back! So a series of such random events shall be taken as a harbinger of a trend rather than a lone star. Hence, we shall see the occurrence of similar events with higher frequency sooner than later, since declining farm income and jobless growth coupled with hyper media connectivity has created a scenario where expectations are high and patience is very low.

While these agitations are worrisome, authorities shall worry more about the nature of these protests, which are going more & more violent and damaging than anything India has seen so far.

Elites / intellectuals in India have generally dismissed the possibility of a Class War in India on the fact that none has happened so far despite so much victimization of backward classes and scheduled castes. However, the reason is very different this time. The upper class in India maintained their supremacy on the lower strata of the society with sustained violence and constant push down ( social discrimination, violence). Barring entry from temples, forcing to sit on ground and probability of heavy violence in case of any rule violation, etc., for last 1000s of years has created a muscle memory in the lower strata of the society which makes then unable to raise a revolt in such a manner. However, the sudden economic shift has changed the game. Poor returns from agriculture and emergence of cities have turned social equation upside down. The earlier upper class is suddenly in the lower strata of society due to changing economic conditions. Given the historical reasons, they are not able to stomach this sudden change in their status. Hence, the revolt by forward class will be more violent and dangerous as there is no muscle memory. Further given the total lack of justice in India legal system, there is a sense of moral hazard where people no longer care about any rule of law or fear any possibility of punishment. This has created a disturbing trend and hence its even more important that a sense of justice is created and guilty are punished irrespective of vote bank, caste or religion.

India is staring at an era, which is going to become more violent, more chaotic if the powers at the helm don’t see the signs and sense of justice and fairness isn’t installed. Rather than these being some rare events, these protests are going to be more of routine! Beginning of so called civil war at a road near you?

Be afraid, be very afraid!

This article was originally published at “Swarajya Magazine” at this link.