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Friday, June 2, 2023

Modi’s authority lies in tatters

Bharat has mostly been a soft state since Hindus were driven out of Kashmir in early 1990. Discord and disorder are a constant threat to its peace from internal and external enemies. Checking the descent into chaos was among the main reasons why Narendra Modi was twice elected prime minster with a sizeable majority.

However, the anarchy allowed to be let loose in the capital on the 72nd R-Day to accommodate democratic farmer protests, and the government’s failure to rein in the scums masquerading as tillers, has left him looking weak and waffling as never before. Nothing seems to have changed in the last 30 years. Nagging doubts that the PM, howsoever nationalist his credentials, lacks the political will to take on the evil forces hellbent on uprooting his government by hook or crook stood convincingly removed.

Internal security is the responsibility of the Union Home Ministry in the charge of Amit Shah. But it will be churlish to blame him for the lawlessness because not a leaf in the Modi regime moves without the concurrence of the micro-managing PM.

Left to himself Shah would probably have devised ways and means to end the two-month long protests. Face it fair and square: the foreign funded pro-Khalistan Sikh farmers would never have been permitted to conduct a tractor march stretching 100 kms on R-Day or any other day without Modi’s tacit approval. That the filthy rich kulaks would gather in thousands at the Singhu border without a larger plan was obvious to the most obtuse observer of public affairs. Objections to the farm bills was a mere handle.

Much the same script was played out during the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh last year. The daily poison spewed from its podium by enemies of the state caused the East Delhi riots which left 54 people dead bang in the middle of Donald Trump’s visit. Still the protestors showed no signs of budging. Were it not for the pandemic it is difficult to say how much longer would Bilkis dadi and her well-fed cohorts have made the highway their home.

Here then are some key questions: who allowed the farmers to run amuck on R-Day for six hours? Why wasn’t the army asked to stay on alert? Why did the paramilitary forces not swing into action the moment the violent hordes astride tractors broke the police barricades, change their agreed route, and make a dash towards ITO and the Red Fort?

Why has Modi’s alter ego, the man who muscled in the long overdue political reforms like the Citizenship Amendment Act and the revocation of Article 370 in Parliament, been keeping a low profile for a year? Did the thought of confronting the fake Sikh farmers give him the goosebumps? Having seen the perceptional impact of inaction at Shaheen Bagh, was he oblivious of where the storm brewing at the Delhi-Haryana border was headed? This, despite the routine professions of peace by farm unions. The answer has been blowing in the wind for several weeks.

The commonest sense would suggest that Shah was neutered to bolster his boss’ image as a democrat ready to give a long rope to his critics. Blame for letting portions of Lutyens Delhi be ransacked by roving bands of criminals must necessarily be put squarely at the door of the all-powerful PM. It is doubtful if the HM has the final say in matters concerning maintenance of public law and order. Shah is no longer his old self and does not act on his own.

Only the foolishly naïve or the abjectly self-deluded would deny that the R-Day mayhem ended up constricting the size of Modi’s 56-inch chest. Not since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots have scenes of such sweeping lawlessness and violence been witnessed in Delhi. Sikhs were again at the epicenter, this time in the garb of farmers executing the violence. They vandalized public property, attacked police personnel, broke barricades, hurled teargas shells, brandished posters of guns and arms along with photos of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the slain terrorist of Operation Bluestar.

The siege of the Red Fort and the act of supplanting from its ramparts the tricolor with the Sikh religious emblem, Nishan Sahib, was the nadir of the turmoil. The 17th century structure which symbolizes the country’s anti-colonial resistance has never seen any other insignia aflutter. Posterity will now remember that the desecration first occurred during the tenure of a prime minister known abroad as a Hindu nationalist. The only egregious benefit of the seditious operation in which the tricolor was contemptuously cast away was that none, henceforth, would have the gall to deny the Khalistani hand in the agitation.

An abiding source of worry is the systematic humiliation of the police during such disturbances. Their political masters expect the police to deal with rioters without the requisite permission to use force when required. Eighty-three cops were injured on R-Day, and all they had to defend themselves were sticks and shields against a violent stone and rod hurling and sword wielding mob. Outnumbered and outgunned the police invariably have no option but to stage a retreat or just look on as spectators. Images of a cop being chased in circles by a tractor or dozens of his compatriots jumping into an empty pool inside the Red Fort to save themselves from being battered by a murderous mob will remain etched in memory.

Do the PM and HM have the moral right to endanger the lives of those charged with defending the peace of the realm? The police have a low happiness index. Throwing them into situations which impinges on their self-worth can only demotivate the force, even push them to mutiny in certain situations. Those cocooned in 24/7 security cannot be seen consigning ordinary cops to the mercy of the riffraff.

Opinion that Modi won a great tactical victory by refusing to react in the face of extreme provocation from the agitating farmers should be treated with the contempt it deserves. This is exactly the kind of dovish mindset which has reduced us to a soft state incapable of dealing with the Break Bharat forces. Inaction against violence is an invitation to more violence. The farmers have already said they have every intention to spread their agitation to other states regardless of the temporary setback.

The PM will sooner or later have to decide the precise tipping point which will impel him to unleash the full might of the state to help define the outer limits of anarchy. This is necessary to sustain his own influence within the party. But will he? Bolstering his own image in the eyes of the western liberal press at the expense of Bharat’s image cannot but bode ill for the country’s unity.

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.


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