Sunday, October 07, 2007

Endorsing a subversive act (this was published in Economic Times, Oct. 6, 2007)

Chief Minister M Karunanidhi is reputed to be a man blessed with the gift of the gab. And this has helped him impress the DMK faithful over the years. He could use this to carry his partymen, a majority of whom are in the party because it serves their end by way of party posts and nominations to Parliament, the state assembly, corporations, panchayats and such other institutions from where they manage to establish themselves as power centres in the democratic edifice. In that way, the DMK chief had been able to carry the party’s rank and file to support the BJP, notwithstanding the repeated assertions by that party’s leaders that they were committed to the idea of cultural nationalism, an anti-thesis of the DMK’s creed. The DMK’s genesis lay in the political assertion of the sub-national identity based on language and culture against the spurious and dangerous notion of an Indian identity based essentially on Brahmanical Hindu religious identity. The party’s alliance with the BJP and its participation in the NDA government between September 1999 and December 2003 was indeed evidence of the fact that such ideological issues are not an issue for its rank and file. Karunanidhi’s intemperate remarks over the Ram Sethu, hence, need not be taken as an effort on his part to assert the DMK’s commitment to rationalism. This, however, is not to say that the Adam’s Bridge is unnatural. That is an issue that must be left to the professional bodies such as the Geological Survey of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. The two bodies have stated the truth as it is and it is sad that the political leadership is now desperate to gag the professionals in this regard. Be that as it may, the bandh on October 1 sponsored by the ruling party and its allies and the Supreme Court’s intervention against bandhs has exposed the DMK chief to some ridicule. It is necessary to clarify, at this stage, that the right to protest is an inherent right of the citizens in a democracy. And a bandh, even if it is an act of subversion, need not be termed morally illegitimate. The IPC as well as the CrPC are replete with provisions to deal with acts of violence, even when the protests are non-violent. There are penal provisions empowering the state to detain (without charges) and prosecute those who disrupt the normal life of the people. That prosecution under the provisions of the criminal law is left to the executive arm of the state is to say that the police and the civil administration are responsible for ensuring the rights of the citizens are not infringed. And the state is empowered, by the Constitution and the criminal law to act against those violating the citizen’s right. This clearly means that the state government (vested with the powers to maintain law and order) is bound to act against anyone, even if they happen to be from the party in power, where they are found indulging in acts that deny the right of the citizen. And by this logic, it is so clearly incongruous for a party that controls the government in a state to orchestrate an agitation against a government policy.
In the case of the Sethusamudram project, the incongruity is far too pronounced because the DMK is as much a part of the Union Cabinet as Manmohan Singh and Ambika Soni are. And for the party to have found it appropriate to paralyse life across the state from dawn to dusk on October 1 is clearly an instance of the party’s contempt for the concept of collective responsibility which is an integral aspect of parliamentary democracy. It was strange that Karunanidhi, despite his scholarship on affairs of the state, apart from language and literature, called for the bandh in the first place. As CM, he is bound by the responsibilities imposed on him by the Constitution and in this case it was to ensure that the citizens were allowed to go to their work place last Monday in the way they did on other days. It was his duty to ensure that the public transport was normal and shops remained open. He has the powers to order the police and the civil administration to ensure all that. In other words, the CM was guilty of endorsing a subversive act by his partymen. And for him to argue that he got the certified copy of the SC’s September 30 order against the bandh too late in the night and hence could not enforce it is simply ridiculous. The party’s faithful lot may see this as further evidence of his political skills. And if what he said was true, then it is certainly a cause for concern. If a CM cannot convey to his officers that life is not to be paralysed and that buses ply as usual, when it was told to do that by the court more than six hours before the bandh was to commence, it makes one wonder as to whether the government exists or not. The point is while the right to protest is an inherent right of the citizens in a democracy, common sense has it that the citizens protest against the government. Bandh is just an act of subversion against the government. But for a government to participate in an act of subversion of itself is simply ridiculous. More so when the Union minister for shipping, road transport and shipping, T R Baalu joined the protest against himself.


Blogger Nandhu said...

hello sir,

this surely cant be first bandh called by a ruling party in India. i am not for the bandh, but to argue that a bandh cannot be called by a ruling party...i dont know if that is a clear argument.

5:11 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Dear Nandhu,
The point is that I AM NOT AGAINST A BANDH AS SUCH. I HOLD IT AS YET ANOTHER LEGITIMATE FORM OF PROTEST AND HENCE THE RIGHT OF A PEOPLE TO REGISTER THEIR OPPOSITION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY. And my argument, hence, is against the Government resorting to this. I think it is ridiculous and also a serious problematic. Mind you that there is no resistance at all when the Government organises a bandh

9:07 PM  

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