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Curious case of privileged dissent

Summer peaked early in the national Capital this year with the mercury touching a 10 year high in the month of May. In a nation which has an intelligentsia whose belief of effectiveness is measured by the number of presence registered in the television studios, summer swelter provided just the ideal environment of creating ample heat in the air-conditioned studios and auditoriums.


There was no dearth of issues to be discussed from massacre of civilians by the Maoist in Chhattisgarh to the resignation of social activist Aruna Roy from the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) to the opposition to the introduction of four-year-undergraduate programme by Delhi University. What however surprised me was the composition of dissenters, which remained same on most of the issues and adopted a common tactics of running down functioning of the democratic institutions using the swagger of rhetoric.


However, what is most curious is that this motley crowd of dissenters with an exception of the few full-time party activists like Sitaram Yechury consisted largely of people whose dissent thrives on the salaries, perks, privileges and positions offered to them by the Indian state from time to time. Their opposition to the Indian state and also expression of no-confidence in Indian Constitution, despite drawing their material sustenance from it, is quite intriguing. Does it make a sure case of paid dissent in Indian democracy? Time has come to examine the charge.


We have the case of Binayak Sen, the Maoist ideologue convicted by trial court in Chhattisgarh for sedition and sentenced for life but subsequently granted bail by the Supreme Court allowing him to come out of the jail. When Binayak Sen’s bail 
plea was turned down by the Chhattisgarh High Court, the intelligentsia went hammer and tongs against the High Court order, going to the extend of claiming that Indian judicial 
system lacked transparency.


 It’s another matter that the same Indian judicial system at a later date granted bail to Sen, who after release was accommodated on a committee of the Planning Commission. Sen was part of the Steering Committee on Health, representing Bilaspur-based healthcare organisation, Jan Swasthya Sahyog.
Curiously this left-leaning intelligentsia has all these years thrived on the patronage of the government, largely at the diktat of the Congress leadership. Therefore, it was least surprising to find a group of such dissenters gather for a session of vociferous dissent at their favourite watering hole, the India International Centre (IIC), last week to voice concern at the introduction of the four year undergraduate course.   


Writing on this IIC tea party, senior columnist Swapan Dasgupta rightly remarked, ‘The problem lies in separating Yechury the individual from Yechury the CPI(M) apparatchik who championed the destruction of higher education in West Bengal; and detaching the delectable prose of Arundhati from her sanctimonious extremism and her profound contempt for the aspirations of the Indian middle classes. When such individuals join hands and team up with teachers who have made a virtue of ideological regimentation and staff room intrigues, it is time to despair.’


It’s not only on the FYUP that these dissenters have an opinion. Another famous privileged dissenter Aruna Roy, on coming out of the National Advisory Council (some say it was made clear to her that she was not getting another term), released a fusillade of charges against Manmohan Singh government, saying, ‘There is an ideological bias that the government has taken. It has become completely pro-market and it has become pro-reforms and pro-growth... So fundamentally, we need to question whether this government or any other government can actually push a growth agenda without the cost of poor people.’ Surprisingly, that realisation dawned on Roy only when the government has less than a year left in the office.


Sen and Roy are not the only ‘privileged’ dissenters. When Sen was behind the bars, his case was vociferously defended by thespian Sharmila Tagore, demanding his release. Tagore chose to denounce the Indian state despite enjoying perks and privileges from the same state as the head of the Central Board of Film Certification. Not only this, attempts were made to internationalise the issue as representatives from European Union were invited to ‘monitor’ court proceedings.

A controversial television anchor, tried putting forward a churlish argument in support of internationalising the issue comparing the Indian state to the Communist dictatorship of China. Indian media repeatedly tries to peddle its opinion as news and influence public sentiments. Unfortunately, the media houses have repeatedly fallen victim to Left-wing intelligentsia which has tried to fight its losing battles in people’s court through the television bytes and the newsprint.

I do not resent dissent but I certainly take umbrage at the privileges which are extended to these dissenters especially in form of an office on a ‘advisory’ committee like the Sonia Gandhi-led NAC. I get very agitated when these ‘thriving on tax payers money’ and ‘watering at IIC’ dissenters, who petitioned the Supreme Court for disbanding the Salwa Judum movement in Chhattisgarh state,  preferred to remain silent when the Maoists brutally murdered tribal Congress leader Mahendra Karma and several others for waging a political battle against the Naxalites. The nation owes its democracy to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and its Constitution to Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

It cannot afford to patronise intellectuals who promote an ideology which runs counter to Mahatma’s non-violence and Ambedkar’s idea of empowerment through education. Left can remain in fashion, but not with government patronage. Those promoting the philosophy of murder instead need state’s retribution.

Sidharth Mishra is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post. 
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