Millennium Post

Things went wrong with AAP, but...

There are four issues related to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that have recently agitated the minds of substantial sections of public, especially the upper middle class, social media and the press:

1) The question of anarchy by a chief minister.
2) The approach to eradication of corruption.
3) Confronting illegal prostitution and drug peddling.
4) The outlook towards Khap panchayat and racism.

Our views, largely contrarian to popular perception, are given seriatim as follows:

1) Dipankar Gupta has pertinently drawn attention to two of the most essential characteristics of anarchy i.e. the use of violence as a means and philosophy of statelessness. Kejriwal’s campaign did not espouse any of the two. Moreover, his dharna had sizable and active public support. When established procedure fails to secure and safeguard public interest, recourse to peaceful agitation seems to be a recognised legitimate democratic tool. Kejriwal was well within his democratic right to focus on the gravely anomalous situation regarding the administrative authority over police in Delhi through peaceful dharna and this has not harmed in anyway the democracy or institution of government. The critical media would have done well to remember the paralysing of the entire state through regular bandhs during the left regime in West Bengal.

The argument that if the ministers were absent from their office the government would cease to function is even more superficial. In that case, no minister should go on election campaigns. And the AAP ministers were disposing files while in dharna. Look at what is being done in the Parliament today. Ruling party members from Andhra Pradesh move a vote of no confidence against their own government. The members rush to the well of the House to disrupt the proceedings of the day in and day out. The Congress chief minister of Andhra Pradesh along with his cabinet colleagues and MLAs sit on dharna in Delhi. Ministers of the government of India from Andhra Pradesh join his bandwagon. They are not accused of anarchy!

2) As Arun Kumar says, there are two paths for checking corruption. A short run limited microeconomic and a historical plank which in the end would be a zero sum game that would continue to marginalise the poor. This is what is AAP’s game right now – targeting politicians only. The other would be a democratic path and positive sum game and genuine devolution of power to people leading to squeezing of space of the economy. This way many of India’s macro and microeconomic problems can be resolved.

Since 2010, exposés of big scams threatens the investments of business class mostly in areas like Export Processing Zones (EPZs). Movements have sprung up against large projects, from POSCO to Kutch and Kudankulam to Haryana. Businesses want to legitimise their gains and launder their image by distancing themselves from those who have been caught in the scams. Further, they want efficient capitalism to multiply their capital rapidly.

Hence, a section of businessmen support the anti­corruption movement. They also see an opportunity in the present anti­corruption mood of the public to legitimise crony capitalism by diverting attention to corruption in government – they do not want reformed capitalism or a welfare state. AAP has to keep a  watch over them.Tackling black economy through a pro-aam aadmi programme would also help overcome deep macroeconomic imbalances – current account deficit, slow growth, stagnating industry and so on.

A long-term and equitable solution of the ills of economy will need careful people­-sensitive and growth oriented programme. It has to steer clear of the excesses of sectarian leftism and crony capitalism. In his first TV interview as chief minister, Kejriwal underlined result-oriented approach keeping people’s needs in the centre. To check the growing black economy requires political will to cut the triad of politicians, bureaucrats and business to size, make institutions functional and promote movements for greater democratisation. But then, this is possible only if AAP wins at least one full term of five years.

3) While not condoning the coarse language and rash action of Bharati, the fact remains that his unwise response arose out of his eager responsiveness to certain problems, in which he had no personal vested interest faced by the residents of a Delhi locality. That his response was not cold and aloof might have earned him a few friends among the local residents who may have a different perspective on the issue than the media.

One may recall here the very similar incident that happened in Goa in recent past. And now with police complaint, filed by three Ugandan girls, the existence of such a racket is no longer in doubt. Interestingly, these unfortunate girls have not attracted the same degree of attention either from the media or the women’s rights group as Bharati did.

Nor the persistent negligence of the police in respect of the long standing complaints of the residents of the locality exposed to the drug and trafficking received the deserved censor. This is unfortunate.

4) Khap panchayat is the union of a few villages, mainly in north India, though it exists in similar forms in the rest of the country as well. Lately, they have emerged as quasi­judicial bodies that sometime pronounce harsh punishments based on age­-old customs and traditions, often bordering on regressive measures to modern problems. But often in enthusiasm for modernity, we tend to overlook the fact that these bodies also provide an easy and an accessible platform for resolution of disputes for the common rural people. It is common knowledge that our present official machinery of justice is beyond the reach of the poor. Instead of wholesale ban, one could perhaps think of ways and means to free these bodies of their obnoxious practices. The problem with Khap is their diktats on inter­caste, ­religious, ­clan marriages and honour killing.

Social scientist Preethi Dumpala has suggested some measures for tackling the problem of Khap panchayat. Make honour killing a classified crime. Such a law will hold responsible anyone who influenced and ordered any honour killing. It will also ensure that anyone who is present or participates in such a killing will be deemed guilty of the crime. Such a law will offer protection to young girls and young couples whose fundamental and human rights are violated.

It will hold the police responsible for failing to prevent such crimes. But this needs to be implemented by all authorities concerned across all levels of governance, including all politicians. Amending the Special Marriage Act to eliminate the 30­-day waiting period allowed before a marriage can be registered may be an option. This 30-­day stretch is usually a time of torture for newly married couples at the hands of families disapproving the wedding.

A more gradual and durable measure will be for intellectuals, politicians, media and social workers to work on changing mindsets and attitudes through awareness measures and dialogues with khap panchayats.Ultimately, we need to drastically modify our view and way of raising sons and daughters. We clearly have lost our Hindu way of life where our Goddesses were revered as Gods, where kanyadaan (giving away a daughter) was deemed as punya (grace) and where the country is still referred to as bharatmata. We must tell and teach our sons that no matter what the provocation is, it is never right to strike or behave improperly with a girl.

Legal measures and structural modifications alone, without corresponding change in outlook, will not yield the desired result. Racism violates ‘Right to Equality’ and ‘Fundamental Rights’ as given in Articles 14 and 15(1) respectively of the Constitution and hence for racism too similar measures could be conceived and implemented:

Make racial/attempted murder a classified crime with the same implications as above, and the police is to be particularly held accountable for following up on such crimes.

And ofcourse, all sections of government and society must simultaneously and continuously strive for increasing awareness of the pernicious effects of racism.

Sociologist Anand Kumar, who is currently a member of AAP, explained  in his 2010 Center for Social Research talk how Gandhi dealt with untouchability  through such means as teachings and dialogues as did Swami Vivekananda and Ambedkar. Khap problem and racism may perhaps be dealt with and eradicated in the same way.

As always, the solution is an open mind willing to acknowledge and shed conditioning in the face of knowledge and understanding, empathy and rights.

The Prejudice Tracker, a soon-­to-­be ­launched application that offers real time crowd­sourced reports on worldwide incidents of discrimination, is an interesting development for countries with high Internet access.

Sibesh Bhattacharyya is a historian, retired from Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Sudip Bhattacharyya is a retired banker and a commentator at Economy and Governance
Sibesh Bhattachaya and Sudip Bhattacharyya

Sibesh Bhattachaya and Sudip Bhattacharyya

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