Some days ago a friend, talking about the general situation in the country, expressed his disappointment at all systems falling out of place and India becoming a sort of ‘free for all’ nation without any prevalence of the rule of law or consideration for people’s civic liberties and democratic rights.
“From the rape of the elderly nun in West Bengal to the cancellation of Gandhi Jayanti as a national holiday in Goa and now monitoring what we eat in Maharashtra, I wonder if I am living in India or have been transported into the wild of the jungle,’’ he bemoaned.
That is as true as it gets. I, too, have had the feeling that I am living in unreal times for the past few months. For all that Narendra Modi was seen as a strongman who would be able to uphold the rule of law in the country, I am afraid the country is fast moving towards becoming a Hindu Pakistan.
But, that is not where my fear ends. Considering the scant attention paid to the needs of the poor in the country as seen in the threat that the new land acquisition bill holds for farmers and other similar issues, I believe we are also heading towards an oligarchy, where the poor and the weak will stand no chance against the rich and the mighty.
Look at how the Maharashtra government so nonchalantly altered the development rules to swallow up the green spaces in a city already dying from asphyxiation, and permitted unreasonable amounts of FSI to builders. Who does that benefit?
If I thought more homeless people would find roofs over their heads, I was disabused of that notion by a real estate broker who said for months he had just been unlocking his office in the mornings and locking up at nights, ‘’without any deals in between’’. “These days I simply wait for some rental contracts – at least that will help me eat but nobody comes for rentals either.’’
So if the upwardly mobile middle classes are not buying, who is?
Then, again, how unreasonable could the government get about its cow slaughter ban? I have two areas of concern on this score. The slaughter of milch cows had already been banned in Maharashtra in 1975 and it is well known that it is the water buffalo, which has majorly contributed to the milk revolution in the country.
India is still experimenting with various ways and means to increase the milk yields of desi cows, which continue to remain poor and yet the buffalo can be freely slaughtered while bulls, that have done little to better the breed of cows in decades of experimentation and have little economic value, cannot. But, the greater area of concern is that if you are caught eating beef, even in your home, from meat imported from other states, you can be sent to jail.
As my friend said, next the government will make us strip down in public and send us to jail for wearing VIP briefs rather than the ‘langots’ they would consider more in tune with ancient traditions.’’
Funny as that might sound, such intrusion into the private lives of citizens is a real danger – it has happened in one corner of the world before. Incredibly, Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu, who had wanted to increase his country’s population, had had a ‘bedroom police’’, who could raid your sleeping quarters anytime to make sure that a couple was not using contraceptives to prevent pregnancies! It was jail for the couple if they were.
While I hope things might not get as bad as that here, I do not think the social and political chaos will get any better very soon. Ideology, suddenly, does not seem a good enough reason for political parties to stand apart – personal motives and self- gratification seem to now govern their responses as in the unseating of Shivajirao Deshmukh as Maharashtra Legislative Council chairperson. The BJP and the NCP stood together again and the Shiva Sena chose to stand apart from its ally on this issue.
The lines are truly blurred and will be harder to redraw than most of us think.