There is almost nothing as fearful as a lawless state. India is on the brink of being such a state, as the actions taken by the government to squash dissent against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) so clearly demonstrate. It is not “lawless” in the sense of being a political despotism, “empty of law” as India’s former colonial rulers characterized the supposed state of the country before they took the reins in hand. India is on the verge of being “lawless” in the more unsettling and insidious sense of falling into a system of political authoritarianism where law itself is deployed to subvert both the spirit of law and the rule of law.
Governments lie all the time. It is not only authoritarian, despotic, and totalitarian states that lie, but democracies, or what are alleged to be as such, do so too. Contrary to the cherished view of some liberals, who like to represent the Trump administration as having uniquely departed from the moral standards of previous administrations, especially the Obama administration, which many are now inclined to view nostalgically as some kind of gold standard of moral probity, the entire fabric of American governance has for generations been based on a tissue of falsehoods. Obama lied through his teeth—about the use of drones, the war in Afghanistan, his regime of deportations. We will be told, of course, that “context” matters—that the deportations, for example, were largely of hardened criminals, though one would need a vivid imagination to construe the majority of the two million as falling in this category. Admittedly, in the department of post-truth, Obama is not a patch on Trump, who, it goes without saying, almost always lies—as do most of his henchmen, honchos, and hired guns. Lies, too, take various forms: a lie is not only a patent falsehood, or a statement made with the intention to deceive, but it may also be a promise made with the knowledge that it cannot be kept.
“History, in one stroke,” declared the Indian Express on August 6th in a large headline extending across the width of the newspaper. That, we may say, was an objective rendering of the decision taken by the BJP-led Government of India to remove the “special” status occupied by Jammu & Kashmir over the last seven decades and, in its own estimation, truly “integrate” it into the Union of India. Though the word “historic” has been utterly trivialized in contemporary discourse, who can doubt, whatever the shade of one’s political views, that August 5th marks a “historic” or red-letter day in the history of the Republic? But, on a less objective note, the lines from Hamlet may resonate strongly for some: “Foul deeds will rise, / Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes” (I.ii.256).
(First of an occasional series on the Indian Elections of 2019 and its outcome)
In the mid-1920s, a few years after he had published his early masterpiece, The Wasteland, T. S. Eliot wrote a poem which is apt for our times. He called it “The Hollow Men”. Eliot had witnessed a generation lost to what, until that time, had unquestionably been the most brutal war of modern history. World War I took millions of lives, leaving behind a trail of misery, destruction, and deep depression. The wise men of the times, and those with a sunny disposition, called it the “war to end all wars”; and, yet, it paved the way, though scarcely anyone could have imagined it at that time, for a still more destructive war.
Narendra Modi has achieved in India Continue reading