By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Arun Shourie, former union Minister, economist, journalist, author and social activist in his latest book, “Preparing for Death,” makes some scathing remarks on the current government. Here are some excerpts from his media interview…
Today, the RSS middle leadership has been completely co-opted by the government apparatus. And they are swept away by the small little things — an official car, being saluted… There is a misperception today that Mr Modi is mindful of the RSS. No. He knows that the senior leaders of the RSS are just froth. He has got all provincial leaders and key persons in districts in his hands. They are his instruments now. And ideology is always an instrument for domination.
“I think this regime is ripening off things which have been happening for 40 years. This suborning of institutions, investigative agencies, the police becoming the private army of every chief minister… And the way the Supreme Court has been conducting itself in many cases and the sense of their priorities… They can find time for… Arnab Goswami or (late actor) Sushant Singh Rajput, but not for Kashmir or migrants?..
‘So it is this regime that is accelerating that process. It is brazen in using the instruments. But the problem is much deeper than just this regime. It is the progressive decay over time of all institutions, starting with Parliament, the legislatures, bureaucracy, judiciary, and the media. This enables the people… to change the norms. Today, the norm is ‘I have no norms. I don’t give a damn…’ So that is the culmination of a long process. That is why the problem is much deeper.’
‘A sense of shame is missing in the rulers of today. I have always felt that more trees are brought down by termites slowly hollowing them out, rather than by the axe.’
It is not that the present regime is merely continuing what was happening earlier, it is accelerating the decline of one institution after the other. Even if murder has been going on for a long time that does not justify my murdering anybody today… So it is the responsibility of the rulers to reverse course if things have been going wrong.
After all, in Mr Narendra Modi’s case, he was not elected to continue, he was supposed to change things. Things have been bad in the lower courts for a long time. But those sitting as law ministers today were supposed to reverse course. Have they done anything to improve not only the condition of the courts but also the procedures?
The crisis that is special to this regime. First is the complete throwing away of all norms. Second, is the perversion of discourse? And the third is the practice to stay away from all expertise and push out anybody who is regarded as an expert. This puts not just the regime but the country to a great danger. Examples are Chinese intrusions, the management of the economy and the reforms in courts…
The governance under this regime comes by revelation. One night, you decide and carry out demonetization. Then, for the next eight months, you defend its consequences. The same thing happened to migrants… But could the PM and his secretariat not have foreseen this? Or when it became visible, could they not have acted? What kind of government says that we cannot pay compensation because we don’t know how many migrants died?
Under the guise of free speech, nonsense is being spread. For instance, the lies on social media or Republic TV are blatant. If somebody is spreading untruth, I would not stand up for his rights… That is a short-sighted view… But I think people are gravitating to see us, those in the media, as a problem and not as a fortress which needs to be defended.
I don’t see that much hope. If the coronavirus were to just disappear tomorrow, I think our behavior will not revert to the past… I think of myself as a realist, as a person who sees things in front of him and does not want to turn his gaze away.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org