January 26, 2014

AAP Kya Hai: Make Clear

R Arun Kumar

DELHI chief minister's dharna attracted widespread attention. Some have termed this dharna as an example of 'mobocracy' and said lawmakers should not come out protesting on the streets. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court against the dharna, stating that the chief minister had violated the constitution, on which he had taken an oath. For the AAP, chief minister sitting on a dharna is its way of combining 'politics with activism' and one of the means to strengthen democracy. In a democracy, it is people who are supreme. In its narrowest interpretation, democracy means only to have the right to vote and hold elections to elect representatives who legislate on their behalf. But democracy means much more. It should enable people to make informed choices on political, social, economic and cultural aspects that concern their lives. It is the duty of the State to empower the citizens and keep them 'informed' by ensuring a non-discriminatory access to all forms of knowledge and information. When the State and its institutions fail in this duty, it is also 'democratic' for the citizens to express their displeasure, discontent and seek a change. A thumb rule for any vibrant democracy is thus an active involvement of its citizens on the issues of governance, being 'informed' of them and in turn informing the government or the State of their opinions. Coming out onto the streets in protest is a way of expressing opinions and along with them, the manner in which the State responds is a barometer for democracy in that society. In a federal democratic polity as our country, there is scope for our elected representatives to feel that they are unable to fulfil the promises they had made to the electorate, the reasons for which might be many. It is their bounden duty to fight for their rights – both inside and outside the assemblies – to which they are elected. Protest is thus an inalienable right both for the aam aadmi and the elected leaders, be they members of the legislature or the leaders of the legislature. What was witnessed in Delhi is not the first instance where a chief minister sat in protest and there are umpteen such precedents throughout the country. Any view that tries to curtail this right does not augur well for democracy. Just as everyone else, the chief minister of Delhi too has got every right to protest. Similarly, as every other protest is, his protest too is political. Period. The protest and also the attention it had evinced has got a lot to do with politics. To understand these politics, we have to look at the politics behind the chief minister's protest. It started with a raid by the law minister in a locality, which according to the lawmakers, became a hub of prostitution and drug racket. Police called into action by the law minister, did not act according to his directions, but preferred to go by the rule book. This earned the ire of the law minister, who was supported by the chief minister. A demand for suspension of the police officers who did not heed to the law minister, was enlarged to encompass the long pending demand of bringing the Delhi police under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government. Police inaction and insensitivity, particularly on issues concerned with women and those who are considered as vulnerable sections in the society is well recorded. People generally tend to consider this one institute, a face of the State, with lot of scepticism and anger. Delhi chief minister wants to tap into this discontent among the people. RACIAL PREJUDICE AND GENDER INSENSITIVITY As all these events that led to the protest were unveiling, the comments made by the law minister and some of the leaders of the AAP reeked of racial prejudice and gender insensitivity. A crowd of people led by the AAP leaders misbehaved with the women and subjected them to severe humiliation. If it is really a question of safety of women in Delhi, one question that really begs an answer from the AAP is, what has the government done to ensure the safety of women in the capital? Agreed that Delhi police failed to react or ensure security, is it the enlightened view of the AAP that sexual harassment is a law and order issue and the government that does not have control over the police force cannot do anything? If this is the view of AAP, it means that they are not at all different from other parties, in particular the BJP and Congress. At least their politics are not different. Gender oppression has a material and cultural basis. It is a deep rooted malice that is afflicting the society. Attacks on women, reported daily, are expressions of this malice. Laws are needed to nab the perpetrators and punish the culprits. Police and administration need to be sensitised to act without bias on these incidents immediately. However, the recent incidents once again prove that laws alone will not act as a deterrent to check this menace. Nor does having control over the police alone can put a stop to such incidents, as we notice today in many other states. It is the duty of the government to sensitise the citizens and bring about a social change – lead the fight against patriarchy. The AAP, it seems does not have any such inclination. Is it a reflection of AAP politics? Top it with the statements made by some of its leading members, not by 'one in those crores who have joined the party'. This prominent leader is an out and out misogynist, and the party too appears to have no problems with him. All these genuinely make us doubt the politics of AAP on the question of gender equality. The other issue is the question of respecting divergences in the society – cultural, linguistic, social, caste, religious, racial, etc. This assumes all the importance as the AAP is running the government in a cosmopolitan state, Delhi. Their silence on various issues might help them mask their ambiguity, but their actions betray their innocence and speak loud. The law minister, who has come out as being completely insensitive to women, also appears to be racially prejudiced – an outright disgrace to any politician in our country. Why a politician, it is a disgrace to any citizen of this country, who takes prides in the legacy of our anti-colonial struggle. Till date, on racial issues, none had exhibited such a brazen prejudice. Many among the AAP went on their daily TV studio round-ups not only defending such a minister, but also exhibiting their own racialism. What had happened in the entire process is, India's pride as a champion in the fight against apartheid and African interests was dented. An added affront is the circulation of a letter, supposedly to be from an embassy, in support of their claims. As the day progressed the letter stood exposed as a fake. Is this the AAP way of doing politics – stoking racial hatred? Apprehensions are hence natural about how they would react on those questions pertaining to other vulnerable communities. AAP’S TAKE ON PROTESTS Lastly, about their take on protests. In front of the Delhi secretariat, there were para-teachers who sat on a dharna demanding their regularisation. Two, three other organisations too organised similar kinds of protests. Surprisingly, the chief minister of Delhi, who believes in 'activism', never thought of responding to these protests. Moreover, reports state that he had expressed his annoyance at these protests and the protesters were even lathicharged. This indeed casts a big question mark over the AAP's understanding of the very concept of democracy that it claims to espouse. What begs an immediate answer from the AAP is – whose interests do their politics and activism serve? Democracy indeed can be cruel for all hypocrites and those who want to don the cloak of a democrat according to convenience. The chief minister, defending his protest, proudly proclaimed himself to be the 'biggest anarchist', who wants to 'spread anarchy in the entire country'. An anarchist, who sits on the chair of chief minister, aspires for police force to be under his control and has an eye on 2014 general elections! Anarchism as a theory and anarchists as a group have failed to show the path for human 'freedom', 'liberty' and 'equality'. They serve the interests of the existing ruling classes and hegemonic power structures by delaying the people from following the correct path for their true and complete emancipation. Anarchists cry hoarse over many issues, but never that lie at the core. They have solutions for many, but again, never for the root, as they neither recognise it nor see it. For the ruling classes to continue with their hegemony and class exploitation, anarchists are tolerable. And during the times of crisis such as these, even desirable. Anarchists always provide a pretext for the ruling classes to further clamp down on democratic rights and trample on whatever little of democracy people enjoy. Is AAP serving this purpose?