Should the team of farmers, which had been negotiating with the government, be held responsible for the events of January 26? (PTI)
Should the team of farmers, which had been negotiating with the government, be held responsible for the events of January 26? (PTI)

With its inaction, the culpability of India’s political Opposition

The inability of India’s current parliamentary Opposition to command the political leadership of such struggles is more a result of political weakness than sinister design. But is it even trying to engage with popular movements?
UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 04:57 AM IST

Images of farmers, in their tractors, clashing with the Delhi police at Red Fort, far beyond the designated routes for their march, are unlikely to fade from public memory. There is little doubt that what transpired on January 26 will inflict serious damage to the popular support for the ongoing agitation that had, until then, displayed remarkable discipline with the two-month-long peaceful sit-in at Delhi’s borders.

The script that has played out is not very different from what transpired in Delhi exactly a year ago. Shaheen Bagh emerged as a powerful “Occupy” movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). It inspired similar sit-ins across the country and altercation over one such protest in Delhi precipitated what were the most horrific riots in the National Capital in three-and-a-half decades.

The reactions to both these chain of events have been on expected lines. Those who support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) argue that these movements have always been a smokescreen for anarchic and violent elements, which aim to disturb peace to undermine the government. Their opponents claim that events which turn violent are engineered by State and non-State actors closer to the BJP — with the blame then deflected on to protesters to erode the legitimacy of the movement.

Irrespective of the merits of the argument, these developments are creating a dangerous schism in society. The majority believes that the State is justified in using its might to crush such protests, while a significant minority is developing a deep persecution complex. This is dangerous for any democracy.

But there is a missing actor in this story — India’s parliamentary Opposition. Not only has its conduct been half-hearted in building parliamentary opposition to legislations — remember, the BJP still does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha — it has shown, at best, a token presence in the extra-parliamentary struggles on such issues.

Neither the Shaheen Bagh sit-in nor the farm protests were led by political parties. Many celebrate the non-political nature of these protests and have described them as some sort of new wave of democratic, even revolutionary, upsurge.

Such proclamations have rhetorical value but protests by non-established leaders leave an important political vacuum — the question of accountability.

Is it fair to blame the Shaheen Bagh protesters for the spontaneous sit-in in another part of Delhi the night before communal riots erupted in the capital? Should the team of farmers, which had been negotiating with the government, be held responsible for the events of January 26? And if one cannot control the actions of a group claiming to champion a cause, no matter how justified, does it qualify for blanket ex-ante support?

The inability of India’s current parliamentary Opposition to command the political leadership of such struggles is more a result of political weakness than sinister design. But is it even trying to engage with popular movements? Have Opposition leaders done their bit to instil a sense of discipline and organisation in return for their support to such struggles? Or are they opportunistically hoping to ride on the emotional churn these leaderless movements generate, irrespective of their fall-out? Given the experience of both Shaheen Bagh and the farmer protests, the answer would have to be the third.

If it wants to be useful, the Opposition should be offering real solidarity in the short-run and political honesty in the long-run – on the ground. But its current actions appear to be that of a free-rider: Happy to take credit, while washing their hands off any blame.

Two starkly different historical examples offer a lesson here. In 1922, Mahatma Gandhi called off the non-cooperation movement after protesters set fire to a police station in Chauri Chaura. Seventy years later, as India witnessed the demolition of the Babri mosque, the BJP leadership claimed that it was not responsible for what transpired.

India’s Opposition would do well to internalise the importance of political leadership of mass movements. Showing up will be a start.

roshan.k@htlive.com

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)
Why has the government persisted with a highly centralised approach? One, the BJP 2.0 appears enthralled with the idea of One Nation, One India. Two, collaborating with state governments or opening legislation up to parliamentary debate requires more time, effort, and risk of failure than executive decree. Three, there is an issue with credit-claiming (PTI)

For reforms, create a coalition of the willing

By Milan Vaishnav and Jonathan Kay
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:49 PM IST
Instead of big bang measures announced from Delhi, PM Modi should use his stature to create a coalition of like-minded states to pursue economic reforms
Close
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)
With land in agriculture mostly being in the name of men, women are not recognised as farmers, although a large proportion of them are involved in agricultural work. This also keeps women away from accessing various schemes and resources (HT Photo)

The missing women in India’s workforce

By Dipa Sinha
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:48 PM IST
Studies have shown that women are willing to be employed, negating the argument that cultural factors keep women from working outside the household
Close
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)
So why is the court silent? Once retired, judges have spoken out, but those still sitting on its benches have kept their lips sealed. (File Photo)

Institutions have failed citizens on sedition

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:32 PM IST
In a nutshell, sedition can only apply if there is clear and imminent incitement to violence. Not otherwise. But have our police and various governments recognised this? Or, if they have, do they care?
Close
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)
Women labourers work at a site under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Ajmer, 2020 (PTI)

Can Covid-19 open doors for working women?

PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 02:19 PM IST
The Start-up India and Skill India schemes should target women much more aggressively now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose words have proved transformational in many areas, should use his popular radio broadcast, Mann ki Baat, to emphasis the need to get women back into the workforce and make the workplace more conducive to those already in it.
Close
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)
Without either the wealth and connections or profile of India’s film industry, Faruqui has shown more courage and almost zero cynicism. It doesn’t matter if you found his jokes funny or not — the jail-time he was subjected to was an abomination. (ANI)

What Bollywood could learn from Munawar Faruqui

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:09 PM IST
In this patchy, roller-coaster of a fortnight for India’s fundamental freedoms, some individuals have stood up, while others have failed our citizens
Close
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The Digital Media Code has been formulated rather speciously, under Section 87 (1) & (2)(z) & (zg) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”) i.e., the rule-making power. Rule-making or subordinate legislations are intended to carry out the purpose of an enactment. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Creating a sustainable, legitimate digital regulatory regime

By NS Nappinai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:55 PM IST
The Digital Media Code fails to conform to, and, in fact, confounds, every settled constitutional mandate for lawmaking — the very obvious premise that law is to be made by the lawmakers i.e. the legislature and not the executive.
Close
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)
Six decades after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, the continuing prevalence of dowry remains India’s national shame. The 2019 National Crime Records Bureau data tells us that a woman is subject to cruelty by her husband and in-laws every four minutes. (Reuters)

Dowry remains India’s abiding shame

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:47 PM IST
In the run-up to the International Women’s Day, it’s good to celebrate the undeniable gains on our road to gender equality. But it’s also worth remembering just how far we have to go — and how little has changed.
Close
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Indian nationalism has always been inward-looking and focused on national development, which was always strongly imbued with welfare and social justice goals (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

In defence of rooted Indian nationalism

By Abhinav Prakash Singh
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
Indian nationalism does not seek to conquer or colonise other countries. Instead, it supported national struggles in other countries under imperialist rule, emphasising sovereignty and democracy.
Close
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)
A more careful look at how the BJP has risen in Bengal, and how the ruling TMC has sought to counteract its growth, is instructive in understanding the new dimensions of the BJP’s appeal and possible templates to defeat it (Samir Jana / Hindustan Times)

Why the battle of Bengal matters

By Neelanjan Sircar
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
The BJP’s rise is remarkable. If the TMC still wins, it will offer a template on how to challenge a hegemon
Close
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)
Ratings, of BARC type, are indispensable for the broadcast industry (Hindustan Times)

BARC plays a valuable role. Preserve it

By Paritosh Joshi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:38 PM IST
BARC has its problems. But the solution is unlikely to lie in denouncing it. It is still the best bet for hundreds of broadcasters to remain viable, and hundreds of millions of viewers to enjoy the fruits of their exertion
Close
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
There have been major state-level differences in the burden and mortality from Covid-19. Deploy vaccines accordingly and prioritise affected areas (Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Refine the Covid-19 vaccination strategy

By Rajinder Dhamija
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:13 PM IST
Research has shown that the pandemic has disproportionately affected regions witha high per capita income and a high burden of NCDs
Close
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)
Having women leaders leads to improved provision of public goods and focus on education and health (Shutterstock)

Where are India’s women leaders?

By Soumya Kapoor Mehta and Steven Walker
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
Women are less involved when it comes to participation in campaigns and contacts with public officials. Women candidates also have less education and experience, on average, compared to male candidates. There are also different societal expectations from political leaders of different genders
Close
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, announced a minister of loneliness to his cabinet last month, closely following a similar announcement in January 2018 by the United Kingdom (UK). Loneliness is rarely acknowledged, deeply misunderstood, and alongside anxiety and depression, presents a massive opportunity for rectification as India copes with Covid-19 and beyond. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There is a looming epidemic — of loneliness. Take it seriously

By Saumyajit Roy
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 02:14 PM IST
India has a real opportunity to showcase solutions to a global audience towards using the best of tech and expertise in reducing loneliness. While a dedicated ministry for loneliness may just be the impetus, all we need is to look for are basic ways and means to help people who are on the brink of feeling lonely.
Close
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)
India ranks very low in the list of well-administered nations and rank high amongst corrupt nations. despite several efforts to overhaul the administrative processes(HT Photo)

Scratching the surface hasn’ helped. It is time to strike at the core issues

By VS Pandey, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • India's administrative structure led by All India Services such as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) adopted an approach of 5% vs 95%.
Close
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)
While there may be a temporary easing of military tension, there has been criticism in China of the disengagement. China could well attempt another military adventure in its bid to frustrate India’s rise (AFP)

Disengagement will not lead to friendship

By Jayadeva Ranade
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 04:07 PM IST
Notwithstanding the recent exchanges between the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers and military commanders at the border, India-China relations remain at a critical stage
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP