For ‘Sankalp se Siddhi’ to be successful, it is necessary that the sankalp be sincere
Rolling out the scheme ‘Sankalp se Siddhi’ in 2017, aspiring and envisioning to build a New India, Narendra Modi said, “2017 is our year of the pledge to sweep Garbage, Poverty, Corruption, Terrorism, Casteism, Communalism out of India”. This pledge was taken to commemorate 75 years of the Quit India Movement. The New India which the Modi government envisaged to create was said to be “strong, prosperous, and all-encompassing”. The deadline for the goals was set at 2022, that is, only 11 months afar.
My contention in this article is that the Indian government has failed miserably to achieve these goals, and that it has, at times, run a reverse or tilted path against some of them.
Poverty and corruption are the biggest challenges that India is facing at the moment. There is an ever-widening gulf between India’s poor and the rich, resulting in enervation of the former and muscularity of the latter. This is what is evident in statistics and research findings as well. Recently, Oxfam International released a report at the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), titled ‘Time to Care: Unpaid and Underpaid Care Work and the Global Inequality Crisis’. What this report revealed about India was quite alarming. India’s richest 1% hold as much money as the bottom 70% of the country’s population. The combined total wealth of 63 Indian billionaires is higher than the total Union Budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19, which was Rs 24,42,200 crore. The report also revealed that economic inequality was deepening the wedge continuously. Also, the world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. In yet another report, ‘corruption perception index’ recently released by Transparency International, India ranked 86th out of 180 countries, slipping six positions. India scored 40 points in the index, which uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is ‘highly corrupt’ and 100 is ‘very clean’. At 40, India’s score is below the average score of the Asia-Pacific region (31 countries) and also the global average, the CPI 2020 report stated.
Towards the realising of two other important goals—sweeping away communalism and terrorism—India has run a reverse path to (un)build that New India. The recent developments country-wide, since 2019, are a witness to that. The government’s communal attitude was most apparent in the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act). The act was passed to grant citizenship to the refugees who flee or have fled to India from neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The cause of concern was that Indian citizenship would now be granted on the basis of religion, for the first time, and Muslims would be left out of it. Out of the seven (refugee) communities—Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Parsis, Jains and Muslims—only the last was denied the benefits of CAA. More bizarre attitude towards Muslims showed up when Covid-19 broke out. Indian media and the political mainstream lashed out at those who had convened a religious gathering at Nizamuddin markaz. They had found the religion of the virus: it was part of a sinister “Corona Jihad”.
Another dimension of this blatant communalism is seen in the making of inter-faith marriage unlawful by several state governments—most starkly in Uttar Pradesh. These laws were justified on the fear that Muslim men were marrying Hindu women with the intention of “Love Jihad”. Barring someone from marrying a person of his/her choice violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which grants this liberty. The Supreme Court has upheld the right of adults to choose their life partner. In a judgement it has also said that inter-faith and inter-caste marriages can promote harmony: “Educated younger boys and girls are choosing their life partners, which, in turn, is a departure from the earlier norms of society where caste and community played a major role. Possibly this is the way forward where caste and community tensions will reduce,” said a bench led by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
In Bhopal, an unfortunate incident happened in the third week of February. A group of people attacked a hookah bar and restaurant, accusing the owners of promoting love jihad. Seventeen people, including a former BJP MLA, were arrested for vandalism in this case.
In its move to save face and suppress dissent due to its dangerous and faulty policies—be it CAA or the new farm laws—the government has taken to virtual policing and [state] terrorism, forgetting its own pledge of sweeping terrorism away. State terrorism “involves politically or ideologically or religiously inspired acts of violence against individuals, or groups outside of an armed conflict.” During the CAA protests, three important universities were targeted—JNU, JMI, and AMU—by the police. On January 5 last year, a gang of masked goons entered the JNU campus and assaulted many students, seriously injuring the JNU Students’ Union president. After the violence, the goons were allegedly given free passage by the police. The attackers have not been arrested as yet. “A year later, nobody knows where they went, where they are. I had asserted then that we are open to investigation and have faith in the judicial system and I still stand by it,” said JNUSU leader Ashutosh about the masked perpetrators of violence. On the night of December 15, 2019, the police carried out a heavy crackdown on students in Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi, following protests against the CAA and NRC. They entered the university library and assaulted students reading there. In a 16-page order, a Delhi court reprimanded: “In Jamia, Delhi Police should have shown some restraint”. But on the next day itself, the police in UP had entered AMU, firing tear gas shells, beating up students, causing injuries to many.
Communal violence took a brutal turn in Delhi when Hindu mobs “reduced to debris and ash” Muslims stalls selling car parts, reported The Guardian in March last year. Seeing the fury of the Hindu mob, “desperate stallholders repeatedly ran to Gokalpuri and Dayalpur police stations crying out for help” but they found the gates locked from inside. “Since the riots broke out in Delhi at the end of February, the worst religious conflict to engulf the capital in decades, questions have persisted about the role that the Delhi Police played in enabling the violence, which was predominately Hindu mobs attacking Muslims. Of the 51 people who died, at least three-quarters were Muslim, and many Muslims are still missing,” wrote Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shaikh Azizur Rahman. This speaks clearly of the complicity of police forces in letting the majority Hindus create fear among the minority Muslims.
The right to protest and the freedom of expression are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Citizens are increasingly using social media to criticise (or eulogise) government policies and behaviour. However, the contagion of unnecessary and illegal surveillance and suppression of dissent—notwithstanding JK, which has already been turned into a laboratory to test the feasibility of draconian laws and online scrutiny—has spread to other states as well. The Bihar Police recently threatened to deny passports to protesters. It termed protests as criminal activity: the protesters could be denied government jobs, bank loans, and financial grants. Uttarakhand went even further in its intention to monitor “anti-national posts on social media”.
The other two challenges, Garbage and Casteism, are rather bigger problems and the government seems to be floundering there as well. Meanwhile, the ‘prosperity’ which the government had envisioned seems to be fading away. It can be largely viewed in the plight of the protesting formers who have been fighting the chills of winter on the roads for almost three months now to preclude the government from snatching their rights.
The need of the hour is for the Centre and the states to work together to uphold the Constitution and together seek a way forward honestly and without ulterior motives.
The writer is a research scholar at AMU. [email protected]