I have been thinking about the following questions since a long time regarding our polity: why do our political representatives not represent us properly? Why do they not listen to us? Why do they not even bother to talk to us? Why can we not go to them and tell them what are our expectations and necessities? Why and how being criminal or elite class became almost a necessary condition to enter politics? Why all the young politicians are mostly sons and rarely daughters of the politicians? Why can a common man among us not be elected to represent us? Why can we not replace them at our will, even if we succeed in doing so; why nothing changes? Its always "aya Ram gaya Ram" or "Dhak ke teen pat". What are the dynamics taking place here? There were no satisfactory answers till now. But here, I would like to share some of my insights on this subject.
In 2011, we witnessed a movement for Jan Lokpal Bill or I would prefer to say anti-corruption movement, led by Mr. Anna Hazare and his team. It got tremendous support particularly from the youth. People came out of their homes on to the streets. I was really mesmerized and being an optimist, becoming hopeful about the movement was natural. I thought because of the citizens' involvement and pressure, our parliamentarians will at least pay serious and sincere attention to the Lokpal Bill and will discuss and debate it in their full capacity and pass an effective strong Lokpal Bill. Not necessarily the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by Mr. Anna Hazare and his team, for I do expect our parliamentarians to work without fear and favour and not bend before the unjust. But they failed to deliver.
If one tries, one may fail; no problem. Trying to deliver is important, failure does not matter. But, wait a minute! Was there a serious, sincere, and honest effort to pass the Lokpal Bill? The answer is simply no. No point in singling out any political party, all of them behaved in the same manner; and collectively mocked at the the aspirations and will of the citizens agitating for the Lokpal Bill. How could our parliamentarians afford to not deliver and mock at us in spite of the tremendous agitation in favour of Lokpal Bill against corruption? It is this behaviour which forced me to think about the answers for all the questions raised above and I came to the following conclusions:
Our representatives do not represent us at all. Or do so in a nominal manner. Let me explain. Generally, our representatives belong to some political party and contest elections on the ticket of that party. Like every creature on earth, leaders of the political parties have a strong desire to hold the nucleus of power and control in their hands. This can be possible only if other members of the party are subservient to the top leader. Next, who can be subservient? Only those who seek undue benefit/profit. Giving tickets to these undue benefit/profit seeking people serves all the purposes for the top leaders. It's a win-win situation for top leaders and they always gain in such deals. This makes political parties devoid of internal democracy. Our representatives become nominees of top leaders or their tools, agents, stooges, and chamchas. Consequently, political parties become family firms and power is transferred from one generation to the next, and to mostly princes; princesses are rarely anointed as kings and queens.
I want to look at when and how this kind of political culture started in India; I mean the genesis. In order to do that we must look closely at the freedom struggle of India and the struggle for power transfer led by Mr. Gandhi and the Congress. Why do I think that Mr. Gandhi and Congress were struggling to grab power and not for India's freedom?
However, before explaining that, let me make a few remarks about Mr. Gandhi. Firstly, he was a firm believer and strong supporter of Chaturvrnya/Hinduism/Manuism: a degraded system of social injustice, designed to oppress, exploit, trample, subdue, and subjugate the people denying them human rights, equality and treat them worst than cats and dogs in the name of the God and religion. The system which endorses the superiority of Brahmins over Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, and Ati-Shudras (the 'Untouchables'). I would like to point out that Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas constitute 10-15% of total population of India; whereas Shudras, other backward castes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes constitute 85-90% of the total population of India. Mr. Gandhi supported such a degraded system of social injustice where a minority rules over the majority rather than sharing power equally.
Secondly, since he did not believe in equality, he can not be a democrat. He had no faith in democracy and did not practice it. Let me argue it out for you. Let's begin with the Round Table Conferences (RTCs) held in 1930 and 1931. Mr. Gandhi and the Congress boycotted the RTC in 1930, they condemned it and criticized those who attended. However, they attended the second RTC held in 1931. These conferences were taking place to formulate the future constitution of self-governing India under the British empire. Dr. Ambedkar not only attended both of them but also pleaded the case of the Untouchables so forcefully that the problem of the Untouchables loomed large at the RTC. He could successfully secure separate recognition to the Untouchables as a distinct minority constituting one-fifth of the total population. Dr. Ambedkar also upheld the demand for Swarajya by saying that the government in India should be replaced by a government of the people, for the people, by the people; which means a democratic government.
Mr. Gandhi, who was vehemently against the separate recognition and political safeguards for the Untouchables, claimed they were part of the caste Hindus and he represented them as well. When he failed, he tried to make a pact with Muslims with a view to isolate the Untouchables; but fortunately Muslims did not oblige him. Having no formidable argument left he conceded the demand for the special status for Muslims and Sikhs who were economically, socially far more superior than the Untouchables but was adamant on not conceding the Untouchables any special status.
Finally, on the Agust 17, 1932 the communal award was announced conceding the demands of the Untouchables. Mr. Gandhi objected to it and addressed a letter to the British Prime Minister, threatening to fast unto death, if the safeguards for the Untouchables were not withdrawn. Was it not blackmail, this fast to snatch the rights of a whole community? Was it a democratic practice? Is there a place for such blackmail in democracy? Certainly not. The above example proves my point that Mr. Gandhi was not a democrat. He had no faith in democracy. Consider some other examples. Why did Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose have to resign from the president-ship of the Congress? Who forced him to resign? Why did Mr. Gandhi overrule Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's claim to become Prime Minister of India in favour of Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru? Recall, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was elected as the leader against Mr. Nehru. Gandhi was authoritarian, an autocrat who had no respect for democracy. He could go to any extent in order to persuade others to concede to his point.
Is this not a common practice among almost all the political parties today? Almost all the top leaders behave in an authoritarian, autocratic manner. And one person or a family holds all the power leaving no room for internal democracy in any political party. Needless to say who started, nurtured, and developed this political culture of authoritarianism and autocracy in the political parties with no democratic values.
To resume the story. Dr. Ambedkar was adamant on his position on the communal award. Alas! Mr. Gandhi snatched what was due to the Untouchables. Dr. Ambedkar was really disappointed after signing the Poona Pact which was reflected in his statement the very next day. The Untouchables were sad, they had every reason to be. Dr. Ambedkar denounced the Poona Pact and said, "to end this long and sad story Congress sucked the juice out of the Poona Pact and threw the rind in the face of the Untouchables." I can only say that, had Dr. Ambedkar not been so courageous and adamant on his position, Mr. Gandhi would have snatched everything that the Untouchables got from the British government and left them with no rights again for centuries to come.
Why did Gandhi not want to concede separate electorates for the Untouchables? Why was he so adamant on not conceding the Untouchables their due? Why did he put his life into danger against the rights of the Untouchables? Why did he not go on this kind of fasts unto death to liberate the country? Some people say he did not want to divide the Hindu society. Of course, he must have not wanted otherwise where the caste Hindus would get slaves, bonded labourers from, if the Untouchables get separated from them?
There is no consistency in the behaviour of Mr. Gandhi regarding human rights and equality. Had there been a tiny sense of human rights and equality in him, then the non-observance of untouchability would have been the condition to join the Congress, and not the wearing of Khadi.
I consider Mr. Gandhi's fast unto death as a conspiracy to disenfranchise not only the Untouchables but also the entire depressed, oppressed, exploited, and trampled society and in due course of time to disenfranchise all the citizens of India except people holding the power, the caste Hindus, to satisfy his beliefs in Chaturvarnya/Hinduism/Manuism. Let me dwell on how the Poona Pact disenfranchised the Untouchables. The Untouchables were in minority in joint electorates in a ratio of 1 to 5. Therefore, the elected representatives of the Untouchables were not their true representatives, but they were merely nominal and became stooges of the caste Hindus. Mr. Gandhi did not keep his word and the Congress contested elections in the reserved seats. This practice degraded to such an extent that the contestants who were rejected by the Untouchables in the primary election, got elected in general election in the joint electorates.
This is how Mr. Gandhi disenfranchised the Untouchables from electing their true representatives. Even today, after six decades of independence, do our representatives truly represent us? Are they not nominal? Why do we strongly feel the necessity of the right to reject? Who started the political culture of nominal representatives to disenfranchise the people? The kind of political culture that we encounter today, did not develop suddenly. It had a starting point and subsequent dynamics.
In retrospect, I can say Mr. Gandhi being a seasoned politician very smartly and consciously ensured that power remained in the hands of the few forever by disenfranchising the Untouchables. Otherwise it would have created a market demand for representatives being genuine and all other communities would have started demanding that. You know "Kharbooje ko dekhakar kharbooja rang pakadta hai". The political exigencies post-independence and the lack of political parties facilitated the Congress to set more and more stooges and retain power and transfer it from one generation to the next.
Dr. Ambedkar being a sagacious statesman could very easily foresee the inevitable and was adamant on separate electorates for the Untouchables so that the need for genuine representatives spread in other communities as well and subsequently only genuine representatives of all the communities share the power in their respective proportions. Alas! Mr. Gandhi and Congress started a system of political representatives being merely nominal.
If you are not convinced I leave for you some questions to answer. Why did Mr. Gandhi and Congress agree to the dominion status, if they were not struggling to grab power? It is only after the revolutionaries raised the voice for Swarajya and there was an outrage within the Congress, that they had to give up the demand for dominion status and ask for Swarajya. Next, Mr. Gandhi could have very easily saved the life of the legend, Shaheed Bhagat Singh. But he did not. Why? Recall Shaheed Bhagat Singh also wanted freedom where power is shared by the people. Also, he had given up the way of violence. Certainly, ahimsa can not be given as a reason to not save the life of the legend who united the whole of India against the British government by very intelligently exploiting the government's own machinery at the cost of his life.
Resuming the story, later on all other political parties followed the footsteps of the Congress. The politicians are ruling us rather than being our representatives. Power is in the hands of a few. The tragedy is, we as a society do not realize it. We do not know the true meaning of freedom and democracy. The government of India has projected Mr. Gandhi as a saviour and paid no attention to the views of the other revolutionaries. Was Mr. Gandhi really a saviour? This is the time to think. We are intoxicated with the opium of false notions of freedom, liberty, equality, and being the world's largest democracy on its way to become a superpower. It is a folly. We are living in a fool's paradise. We are in a deadly trap and we need to not act now.
What is the way out? The present political setup does not care, no matter how much we cry, protest and show our outrage; nothing is going to change for the reasons I have explained above. We must hold the power in our own hands, power must be shared by all the communities according to their respective proportion in the population and that our representatives must be genuine and true. How do we do that? Honestly speaking, I do not know, I'm still thinking.
Ravindra Pankaj is from Lucknow and has done his M.Sc. (Physics) from IIT Delhi. Currently, he's doing his Ph.D. in Physics from Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata.
Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.