By Kapil Sibal
The steady rise of the ugly Indian since 2014 has gained traction. The organs of the body politic have begun to atrophy. State-craft based on media hype, blatantly partisan electronic media channels disseminating views not news and frequent public announcements with much fanfare, have begun to sound hollow. Democracy is being tested. Vigilantism across the country has several manifestations.
The manner in which Gauri Lankesh was murdered was strikingly similar to killings in the past of rationalists who were ready to stand up and be counted. Narendra Dabholkar, out on a morning walk, was murdered in August, 2013 near Omkareshwar temple, Pune. Govind Pansare was killed in February, 2015 when he was out on a walk with his wife Uma. The miscreants came on a motorbike. M.M. Kalburgi suffered a similar fate in August, 2015 at Dharwad. The killers have not been traced till date. Either the police is inept or is not willing to effectively investigate.
The “anti-Hindu” rationalists are being taught a lesson. Similar lessons are taught by lynch brigades. They attack Dalits and Muslims for transporting cows or dealing with them as part of their occupation. Even when caught, prosecutions are few and far between. When prosecuted, the wheels of justice show no alacrity for closure. Bail is granted routinely. The ugly Indian in politics seeks blood for blood. Violence has become the norm.
We have ugly Indians on TV channels ranting and raving to further a particular mindset. Shrill opinions receive vocal support from anchors. Reason has no place and there is no virtue in dialogue. Drowning the voices of reason and seducing people to listen to senseless soliloquies makes for entertainment. Large sections of the electronic media are not interested in disseminating facts. Opinions based on fiction carry the day.
Yet another genre of the ugly Indian is the one who trolls on social networking sites. He is abusive, arrogant, muscular, intolerant, dismissive and condescending. Where he finds the discourse inconvenient, he diverts the dialogue. The uninformed do not seek truth. Repeated lies by paid trollers bury voices of sanity. Attack is the best form of defence. It is hazardous to challenge or question trollers, paid only to vilify. The ugly Indian is gaining ground and we are silent.
The death of children in Gorakhpur and Farrukhabad is yet another example of the ugly Indian symbolised by the state, apathetic and heartless. Its rationale: Encephalitis has taken lives before. If lack of oxygen is the cause of deaths, facts are twisted, the media managed. The state continues with business as usual. The ugly Indian looks on, untouched and unperturbed.
A poor man served food on the floor of a hospital does not shake our conscience; nor are we appalled when the dignity of the dead is desecrated. We see images of the dead carried to hospital in pushcarts, bicycles and on the shoulders of the grieving survivor. Despite the December 16, 2012, rape case in the capital, and the ensuing death sentence, the incidence of rape has not decreased.
Contract teachers serving the state are paid Rs 10,000 per month, or even less, as salary.
Teachers are the least regarded assets. They are ill-quipped to nurture the young. The student-teacher ratio in some instances is 90:1 in rural India. Absentee teachers are the norm. Children of Class V are only able to read books for children of Class II (ASER Report). The ugly Indian is not committed to teaching the young. Higher education is replete with issues of institutional corruption. Medical education is controlled by an ugly cabal, manipulating the system in admissions to medical colleges.
For those rolling in wealth, over-invoicing and under-invoicing is the way to heavenly riches. Statutory orders are passed overnight to declare over-invoicing legal. Over-invoicing is also a means to transfer wealth abroad. Entrepreneurs beef up project costs for loans to siphon off money for personal gain. The resultant NPAs cost the country and tax-payers. The rich get away while the cash in the hands of the poor is frozen. The country suffered a loss of at least Rs 3 lakh crore by paralysing 86 per cent of the cash economy. The ugly Indian defended it. Economists around the world considered it an unmitigated disaster. The poor lost out while the rich retained their ill-gotten wealth by banking their black money, converting it into white. The ugly banker allowed that to happen. For the ugly Indian, politics, not economics, holds sway.
The ugly Indian refuses to give the farmer his due. In times of drought, he commits suicide, unable to repay his loan to moneylenders. With excessive rainfall, his crops are flooded and he has no roof over his head. Even the few with crop insurance are caught in bureaucratic wrangles. The ugly bureaucrat makes sure that he tells his boss what he likes to hear. For the ugly professionals, making money is an end in itself.
The judicial system is often manipulated. Investigating agencies take U-turns to help the guilty. They listen to their masters in the corridors of power. Perpetrators of violence are rewarded by the state. The shameless say they don’t buckle under pressure because they are different. Morality is not a word that finds place in their political vocabulary.
Communities are being torn apart and the voices of sanity are being silenced. Women and children are the least protected. The poor and the marginalised are voiceless. The ugly Indian rules. Vigilantes are at large because they know that no harm will be done to them. I hope someone rises to the occasion to put a stop to this atrophy. Somewhere, the state is failing us and we the state. For the ugly Indian, “achhe din” have arrived.
Indian Express, September 11, 2017