They Are Not Interested In Talking, and It Does Not Matter
BJP supporters are telling the rest of us that they are not interested in dialogue. In fact they have been telling us for sometime now, through their trolls who subvert any discussion on social media into an abusive shouting match. Now their governments have unleashed brutality against those to dare to ask questions. Under such circumstances what should be the way forward? Is the chasm between the two world-views is so deep that we are beyond dialogue?
At a personal level, I have been told by my friends and relatives not to engage in any criticism of BJP on WhatsApp groups or social media. The message from the other side is clear.
“We, the majority, don’t accept your point of view and we are not here to negotiate.”
I would argue that these people are actually in minority (BJP vote share is only ~40% and shrinking) and terribly insecure. Their bravado is fueled by a dis-spirited and weak opposition. Their strength must be fought back by strength.
For now, let us keep the merits of various arguments aside, and just look at the actions taken by the government.
The Siege of Kashmir
The most brutal example is the siege of Kashmir. Now, for almost three months, the Kashmir region, which is home to about four million people, is a virtual prison. Political leaders of all types are under house arrest and public behaviour is tightly controlled. There is an internet blackout and commercial and academic activities are mostly shut down.
This brutal seizure of freedom of four million people is celebrated by BJP supporters as a fitting response to the rejection of Indian citizenship of many of the citizens (India had promised a plebiscite many years ago). They have effectively de-humanized the Kashmiri people and accepted that they must suffer for the benefit of greater common good.
The next example is the state terrorism against students and minorities across the country where the police is run by the BJP. People young and old have been illegally detained, arrested, abused and beaten for protesting against discriminatory act (Citizenship Amendment Act, CAA). The police have engaged in vandalism, provoked anger and retaliation instead of negotiation.
While in non BJP ruled states, hundreds of thousands of people have peacefully protested against the CAA. This shows that the intent of the protestors is to use their constitutional rights to dissent.
“Dissent is the reason why we are a poor country”, one of my relatives tells me on WhatsApp. My reply that “dissent is the reason we won freedom from the British” has few takers. By unleashing the state against its people, the message here is again loud and clear. If you don’t comply, we will crush you.
How Did We Reach Here?
Let us start with an overview of Indian demographics. On one side there are a large and increasing minority people who enjoy extremely high level of personal freedom and wealth. Most of these people belong to the privileged castes who inter-marry to maintain caste control of these assets. Even positions of lucrative employment are first available to the these castes. Let’s call them the incumbents.
On the other side are people who are workers in the global economy. They work in farms, factories, transportation, construction sites, or run micro businesses that are barely profitable. Most of these people belong to the discriminated castes or are Muslims. These are the aspirants.
Such inequitable society is supported by democracy, where elected officials engage in wealth transfer to the aspirants by welfare schemes, affirmative action (reservation) or subsidies. In spite of this, there is a lot of anger in the aspirants as transfer however happens at a very slow rate, the opportunities to rise are limited, and the quality if welfare services is very poor and often marred by corruption.
Over the last few years, this anger of the aspirants, coupled with the decay of the Congress Party has led to the rise of right wing politics led by BJP. They have sought to divide the aspirants along religious lines. This diabolical scheme, is fueled by incumbents who benefit from any fight among aspirants, plaint mainstream media and spreading of exaggerated or fake news on social media.
How Do We Fix This Problem?
The optimist in me thinks this problem can be fixed. With the massive national protests, the first step has already been taken. Over the last few years, state governments have been slipping away from the BJP as rag-tag alliances are being formed by the opposing political leadership.
Every crisis is also an opportunity. But first, we need to stop the injustice, for this I believe the ensuring international condemnation is important. India is dependent on the rich nations and oil countries for its energy and investment needs and they have leverage to make the government stop this divisive agenda. India’s broken political system means that we have very little internal leverage.
Next is to force national parties like the Congress Party to induct fresh, energetic and capable leaders into their parties. The youth of this country is better wired to understand the inter connected world and ready to shoulder the responsibility of delivering solutions to today’s problems. The older generation needs to acknowledge this and share both their wisdom and power.
The numbers are clearly on the side of the aspirants and the incumbents can try to divide, but their plan will most likely fail. People today are smart enough to know that their emotions are being manipulated and they will ask difficult questions of the current government, which has miserably failed to deliver.
We need to start building structural alternatives, to the current mainstream political parties. The Aam Aadmi Party is an example which failed to build a nationwide trust network. India is such a massive country that incumbents have a huge advantage. Fledgling political movements must stand the test of time to be of any impact. Such movements can use modern technology and social media to grow faster but need finance and structure to sustain. This is the holy grail of creating a better society.
This conflict is just the beginning, the real challenge to co-operate will come when the climate crisis explodes and the number of people requiring help and immediate solutions will expand. The current protests have shown that there is a large number of people ready to build alternatives, not the challenge is to organize and convert this into a movement structural change in society.
The time for dialogue is over, the time for action has started.